Justice for Benghazi – A Dimming Hope
The four staff members of the State Department that had been put on Administrative Leave following the ARB Report and the House Committee Hearings on Benghazi are exonerated by Secretary Kerry and instructed to return to work.
It is essentially one year since the attack on our Consulate in Benghazi and there has been no blame assessed on anyone in the State Department or Department of Defense regarding any aspect of this incident. Also there are no suspects in custody, although some paperwork has been filed on four potential suspects. This occurred after CNN had an interview with one of the suspects who acknowledged he was there during the raid and said that he had not been contacted by any agency of the U.S. government regarding the Benghazi attack.
It is hard to imagine that an attack on a U.S. facility that took the lives of four brave Americans, including our Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stephens, has been so tactfully taken from outrage and promises to obfuscation and delay. It is a common legal tactic to use delays to dull the memories and fervor of the public, but to do it so effectively with a front page story at the highest levels of government is indeed masterful. On top of it, the whole episode was broadcast worldwide.
We all felt the pain and anguish of the families of the victims and rallied in the cries for justice, never thinking that it would be denied us. In fact, some of the orchestration was so dramatic as to challenge the imagination. From invented talking points paraded blatantly by the State Department and the Executive Branch, to hearings that produced riveting testimony, but no action. Then attempts to close the investigation with a claim that it was solved, and the persistent withholding of requested information.
The establishment of an Administrative Review Board (ARB), headed by former State Department official Tom Pickering and Joint Chiefs Chairman Ret. Admiral Mike Mullen, provided another time gap with a report that found some serious deficiencies in the State Department’s security programs, but no individuals that were not performing their responsibilities. Unfortunately, the ARB did not feel it necessary to interview the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
Through all of this, some 30 CIA personnel that were on the ground during the attack, are held not available for interviews. Even some stories of Non-Disclosure Agreements being required are developed, but to this day, none of those people who knew what happened on that night have been allowed to speak.
Secretary Clinton made an animated declaration during a House Oversight Committee hearing on January 23, 2013:
“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they would go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”
This was a rather telling revelation of the overall strategy.
The most visible of these was Charlene Lamb who was in charge of security for the Libya Missions. Eric Nordstrom, who had been Regional Security Officer for the Libya region, in his passionate testimony, had described his communications with Ms. Lamb pleading to increase security, not to send a contingent home. He was denied his request.
Lamb defended her decision not to extend the missions of the MSD and SST teams, arguing that the mission of those teams had changed and that in any case they were replaced by local Libyan security personnel. The post had agreed that having only three diplomatic security agents in Benghazi was sufficient, she claimed.
“We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi on the night of 9/11.”
Secretary Clinton is replaced by John Kerry as Secretary of State on February 1, 2013. He promises to look into the Benghazi situation as a first priority. More time goes by and on August 19, 2013 he announces that the four DOS staffers who had been on Administrative Leave are now reinstated and should return to work. It is presumed they will be in different areas of responsibility, but none-the-less, they are exonerated.
So, here we are, one year after Benghazi, and no one is responsible for anything. No government official has been found accountable or lost a penny of wages and no suspect is in custody. And, it seems we really don’t know where to go from here. There is resolve to hold more hearings, but the expectations are waning.
Justice for Benghazi is an ever more distant hope and may well drift into the sunset.