WASHINGTON – Chris Wallace continued the Fox News barrage on Benghazi today with David Axelrod. He didn’t get anywhere.
WALLACE: “Simple question. Did the President make a calculated decision to run out the clock ’til the election and not answer questions about Libya?”
It comes after Fox News Channel’s coverage has been rebutted and proven wrong on the CIA, while the entire network continues to hamper the transparent need to understand what happened, how mistakes were made, and just what is the story with the recently reported DCIA David Petraeus and Secretary Clinton’s “secret” security arrangements.
Before the weekend all sorts of new information was revealed.
A few meters to the right is the safe haven’s bathroom. Everything here is blackened by smoke. One of the two white toilets is covered with bloodstains. On the mirror in the bathroom, an unknown person has written a macabre text in a thin layer of ash. “I am Chris from the dead,” it reads. [Foreign Policy]
We recently learned what was suspected by many, which is that both Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty were C.I.A. security officers, identified as such for the first time in the New York Times. Multiple reports now reveal a complex security arrangement, with no centralization of communication in case of an attack, with another denial from the CIA on the Fox News report that caused such a stir.
A new report in The Wall Street Journal is being widely quoted, because for the first time we’re beginning to get answers on a question I asked back in September, which began with why CIA Director David Petreaus was being allowed to fly under the radar.
When the bodies of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya, arrived at Andrews Air Force Base after the Sept. 11 attack, they were greeted by the president, the vice president and the secretaries of state and defense. Conspicuously absent was CIA Director David Petraeus.
Officials close to Mr. Petraeus say he stayed away in an effort to conceal the agency’s role in collecting intelligence and providing security in Benghazi. Two of the four men who died that day, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, were former Navy SEAL commandos who were publicly identified as State Department …
The Washington Post picks up on other parts of the WSJ report that need to be emphasized:
Congressional investigators say it appears that the CIA and State Department weren’t on the same page about their respective roles on security, underlining the rift between agencies over taking responsibility and raising questions about whether the security arrangement in Benghazi was flawed.
The CIA’s secret role helps explain why security appeared inadequate at the U.S. diplomatic facility. State Department officials believed that responsibility was set to be shouldered in part by CIA personnel in the city through a series of secret agreements that even some officials in Washington didn’t know about.
David Petraeus and Hillary Clinton have a long-standing and good relationship, making the agreements a natural fit as far as relationships go, but gets complicated when trouble erupts. Buzzfeed’s Michael Hastings was quick to relish pointing the finger at Secretary Clinton, while completely ignoring the intelligence issues screaming from the Benghazi attack, which by definition have to involve DCIA Petraeus.
An important read from Foreign Policy:
“Finally, early this morning at 0643, September 11, 2012, one of our diligent guards made a troubling report. Near our main gate, a member of the police force was seen in the upper level of a building across from our compound. It is reported that this person was photographing the inside of the U.S. special mission and furthermore that this person was part of the police unit sent to protect the mission. The police car stationed where this event occurred was number 322.”
The account accords with a message written by Smith, the IT officer who was killed in the assault, on a gaming forum on Sept. 11. “Assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures,” he wrote hours before the assault.
And yet again, officials are denying an earlier Fox News report that CIA was ordered to stand down.
“There were no orders to anybody to stand down in providing support,” said the official. The official’s comments appeared to be a direct rebuttal of a Fox News report that CIA teams on the ground had been told by superior officers to “stand down” from providing security support to the consulate. According to the official, upon learning of the attack at the consulate, the security team at the annex responded “as quickly and effectively as possible.” The official described how the security team tried to rally additional support from local Libyan forces and heavier weapons, but that when that could not be accomplished “within minutes” they moved out to the compound. [Martha Raddatz, ABC News]
Fox News Channel, whose reporting has been good and solitary in much of the case, made a huge error in sandwiching these reports in partisan commentary meant to throw the whole blame on President Obama. It colored the information they were reporting. It turned the entire efforts of FNC into what at times looked like a get out the vote spectacle geared in revving up emotion on the issue against Obama, which was seen particularly through Sean Hannity’s disgraceful coverage. Focusing so intently on President Obama’s perceived failings hid the importance of some of what FNC’s security reporters were breaking, most of which revealed real intelligence failures that were far more important than political implications, because there is simply no evidence that President Obama hasn’t been fully engaged and competent on national security during his first term.
Eli Lake adds more important details:
On the night of the 9/11 anniversary assault at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, the Americans defending the compound and a nearby CIA annex were severely outmanned. Nonetheless, the State Department never requested military backup that evening, two senior U.S. officials familiar with the details of military planning tell The Daily Beast.[…] “The State Department is responsible for assessing security at its diplomatic installations and for requesting support from other government agencies if they need it,” a senior U.S. Defense official said. “There was no request from the Department of State to intervene militarily on the night of the attack.”
The president, however, would have the final say as to whether or not to send in the military. By 11 p.m. Benghazi time, 90 minutes after the assault began on the U.S. mission, Obama met with the National Security Council to discuss the attack. NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor said the president “ordered Secretary Panetta and Chairman Dempsey to begin moving assets into the region to prepare for a range of contingencies” at that meeting.
SecDef Panetta said last week that “real-time information” was lacking at the time of the attack, so he wasn’t going to send military into harm’s way without more information. However, it has been confirmed that unarmed intelligence drones were present, though not at the moment the attack began.
Taylor Marsh, a veteran political analyst and former Huffington Post contributor, is the author of The Hillary Effect, available at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon. Her new-media blog www.taylormarsh.com covers national politics, women and power.