As a follow-up to the release of information from the congressional closed-door hearings on Benghazi, as reported by Fox News, there are still many unanswered questions:
Who in the administration both devised and authorized the story about the anti-Muslim video?
Was it designed intentionally as a “cover-story” and a “lie” to the American people for political reasons by the administration’s key advisers and operatives to distract and deceive in the wake of the November 2012 elections?
Who made the ultimate decision to stand down any form of military response? This is key because at the time of the initial event no one would know how long the attack was going to last, whether there were going to be multiple targets in Benghazi and whether the embassy in Tripoli would also be a simultaneous or subsequent target, as well as other U.S. facilities in Libya. So, again, the question is: Who made the recommendations and final decision to do nothing/stand down?
Based on the information available, who and how did the senior military leadership — Gen. Ham, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the secretary of defense and the president — come to the conclusion that enough time was not available to do anything? We need names and analysis that addresses how they arrived at that decision.
A final concern: In the national security hierarchy, once an attack on U.S. assets, be it U.S. citizens, facilities, interests by enemy combatants, terrorists or militias, the responsibility for a response in most cases falls to essentially the Department of Defense. The DoD takes the “lead” role. The secretary of state, however, as a senior player on the National Security Council, takes a secondary and supporting role, advising, making recommendations, coordinating assistance and support needed from foreign allies and governments. The secretary of state, nevertheless, still has a vested interest and responsibility in the protection and survivability of the U.S. ambassador, embassy staff and Americans citizens in the country.
Once it was determined by the NSC leadership that “no military action/operation” was going to executed, what was Secretary Hillary Clinton’s reaction? Did she insist something be done? Did she demand and/or vehemently and forcefully demand an immediate U.S. military response to the situation in Benghazi and Libya? What was her reaction when the decision was made to stand down? What was the intensity of her emotion or conviction toward the fact that her people might die? Did she have an impassioned plea for the U.S. to do something? What was her reaction to the decision that her people were going to die? Why did she not resign as secretary? Prior to the attacks she oversaw decisions not to provide adequate or additional protection to the facilities in Benghazi.
What were the personal reactions in hindsight by all senior members of the NSC after it was obvious that the attacks lasted nearly 9 to 10 hours?
Since we learned what we have about Benghazi, I continue to draw the reference to 1985 and the U.S. reaction and response to the Achille Lauro attack and hijacking. With the capability and level of technology and communications, again that of 1985, President Reagan reviewed the recommended course of actions, acted decisively and deployed a team and other forces. Those forces were able to coordinate and assist in the apprehension of several of the terrorists involved. No one knew how long the situation would last, and no one said, “We don’t have enough time, so stand down.”
James M. Waurishuk
The writer is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and senior career intelligence officer who served on the White House’s National Security Council and as deputy director for Intelligence at U.S. Central Command. As an independent analyst now, he has been working with several groups investigating the Benghazi debacle and has provided a significant amount of data to Congressman Frank Wolf’s committee, which is investigating.