We know that on September 14 and 15, 2012, the State Department altered the administration’s talking points on Benghazi to eliminate references to “Islamic extremists” and “al Qa’ida,” and instead substituted language about how the incident was a “spontaneously inspired . . . violent protest.”
We know that at Dover Air Force Base on September 14, 2012, when the coffins of the four dead Americans came home, Secretary Clinton attributed the attack to “an awful videotape we had nothing to do with.”
And, in the aftermath of the attacks, we know of no effort to mount a counterattack that would deter similar acts of terrorism in the future. In the intervening months, we have seen additional attacks on our personnel abroad, including the attempted suicide bombing of our embassy in Ankara, Turkey, and the brutal attack on the natural-gas facility in Algeria in which two Texans, Victor Lovelady and Frederick Buttaccio, lost their lives.
What we know today has come only as a result of sustained inquiry by Congress. Officials have been exceedingly reluctant to share information and have insisted that all relevant questions were asked and answered in the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) report completed in December 2012.
“What difference at this point does it make?” Secretary Clinton responded in January to questions about the nature of the Benghazi attack. “Let’s put this behind us,” Secretary of State John Kerry complained last month. Last week, White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed press inquiries about the attack by saying, “Benghazi was a long time ago.”
But many more questions remain. Here are a dozen:
- Why was the State Department unwilling to provide the requested level of security to Benghazi?
- Were there really no military assets available to provide relief during the seven hours of the attacks? If so, why not? During the attacks, were any military assets ordered to stand down?
- If the secretary of defense thought there was “no question” this was a coordinated terrorist attack, why did Ambassador Susan Rice, Secretary Clinton, and President Obama all tell the American people that the cause was a “spontaneous demonstration” about an Internet video?
- Why did the State Department edit the intelligence talking points to delete the references to “Islamic extremists” and “al Qa’ida”?
- Why did the FBI release pictures of militants taken the day of the attack only eight months after the fact? Why not immediately, as proved so effective in the Boston bombing?
- Why have none of the survivors testified to Congress?
- Why is the administration apparently unaware of the whistle-blowers who have been attempting to tell their stories? Is it true that these career civil servants have been threatened with retaliation?
- Did President Obama sleep the night of September 11, 2012? Did Secretary Clinton?
- When was President Obama told about the murder of our ambassador? About the murder of all four Americans? What did he do in response?
- What role, if any, did the State Department’s own counterterrorism office play during the attacks and in their immediate aftermath?
- Why was Secretary Clinton not interviewed for the ARB report?
- And why, if all relevant questions were answered in the ARB report, has the State Department’s own inspector-general office opened a probe into the methods of that very report?
It is time for some answers. Let us hope that the House hearing this week will finally shed some light, and that the inquiry continues until the facts are fully understood.
Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods deserve justice, and our brave men and women who continue to put their lives on the line every day in similar, dangerous situations deserve to know we are doing everything possible not only to protect them in the event of a terrorist attack, but also to deter these attacks from happening again. Better late than never.
— Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee.