Thursday, October 11, 2012

Benghazi security scandal may sink Obama campaign

On Wednesday, October 10, Congress began hearings on the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. In the aftermath of the attack, Obama Administration officials claimed that the attack was the spontaneous response to “The Innocence of the Muslims,” an internet video that also allegedly sparked protests in other Muslim countries.
Doubts were cast upon the administration’s story almost immediately. According to timelines compiled by CNN and USA Today, the president of Libya contradicted Obama’s movie claim on September 16. It was not until September 18 that an administration official, Director of National Intelligence Matthew Olsen, acknowledged publicly that the attack was a terrorist attack. It was not until September 26, more than two weeks after the attack, that the attack was carried out by Al Qaeda. The Obama Administration also denied that there was any intelligence that the attack was imminent and that officials had no knowledge of the impending danger.
Now State Department officials are testifying before congress that both claims were not true. According to CNN coverage of the hearings, Eric Nordstrom, the former regional security officer, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he had made repeated requests for more manpower at the Benghazi facility. At the time of the attack, there were five security officers, three who were assigned to the consulate and two who had traveled with Ambassador Stevens. Nordstrom had requested a total of twelve agents.
According to Wall Street Journal coverage of the hearings, Lt. Col. Andrew Wood of the Utah National Guard and former commander of the Site Security Team, security was actually cut at the consulate prior to the attacks. The 16 member team was replaced by Libyans trained by the State Department.
The State Department disputed Nordstrom and Wood’s testimony. House Democrats noted as well that budget cuts by Republicans had led to diplomatic security funding below what the White House had requested.
The congressional testimony is supported by Ambassador Stevens own journal, which was discovered by CNN. According a Huffington Post report, the journal showed that Stevens was concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism and Al Qaeda in Libya. Stevens noted that there were constant threats to security and even believed himself to be on an Al Qaeda hit list.
The reports of the Obama Administration’s failure to take Al Qaeda seriously and protect American diplomats are explosive. This is especially true considering that they come only a month before the presidential election. President Obama is already slipping in the polls after his lackluster debate performance last week and the new revelations about the Libya attacks present a new obstacle to his recovery.
If the matter is not pursued in the press, it almost certainly will be by Mitt Romney and the Republicans. The unfolding story of the Benghazi attacks and how they occurred will certainly be an issue in the upcoming presidential debates. The third debate between President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney is dedicated to foreign policy and will be held on Oct. 22. The subject will probably also be raised at tonight’s vice presidential debate between Vice President Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan as well the town hall debate between Obama and Romney on Oct. 16.
President Obama has largely avoided fallout from several other administration scandals. He was elected in spite of his ties to Rev. Jeremiah Wright and ‘60s radical Bill Ayres. The Solyndra scandal never totally captured the attention of the press and media. The president was able to maintain his distance from the Fast and Furious program, in which the federal government allowed illegal guns to cross the border into Mexico. One of those guns resulted in the death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. The publicity surrounding the Benghazi security scandal may mean that President Obama is unable to avoid damage to his reelection campaign.
Originally published on

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