National Security & Defense

Why Didn’t the Obama Administration Tell the Truth about Chris Stevens’s Death?

Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, April 2011 (Reuters photo: Esma Omran Al-Fetori)
The late ambassador’s former fiancée reflects on Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton’s false Benghazi narrative.

“Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?”

—Sai Baba

When a person you love dies, you want to know why. At least I do. Often, it is easy to know the answer. Someone who dies of cancer in the hospital receives a death certificate stating the disease. A soldier killed in the line of duty receives a posthumous commendation explaining the circumstances of his death, and a mother who dies during childbirth has this written up in her medical records before being sent to the morgue.

When Chris Stevens died, I wanted to know why, when, how. I did not try to assess blame; I needed the answers to process my grief. Many people who have lost loved ones will understand this. I suppose that is one reason why we have accountability for death caused by criminal intent. When a loved one is the victim of a hit-and-run driver the authorities and public do everything to locate the killer and provide other details about what occurred. But when a U.S. ambassador was murdered in a remote city in the Middle East, the president did not allow that to upset his plans. Instead, he flew from Washington to Las Vegas the next day for a fundraiser. We should not be surprised then that no one has been helpful at getting to the truth about what happened to Chris Stevens and why.

In the days immediately following the attack, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who was then serving as the ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on national television multiple times to reinforce the position that the deadly violence in Benghazi was the result of protests and an anti-Muslim video, “The Innocence of Muslims.”

In one of the interviews for Fox News Sunday, Rice said:

Based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is at present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy, sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that . . . in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it had spun from there into something much, much more violent.

We do not — we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned. I think it’s clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al-Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al-Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we’ll have to determine.

Although Secretary Rice took most of the heat as the designated face of the administration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in charge of the compound at Benghazi and was Chris’s boss. So it is significant that Rice’s repeated appearances reinforced the following statement made by Clinton at 10:08 p.m. EST, while the attack was still going on: “Some have sought to justify the vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.” Under questioning by Congress, Secretary Clinton tried to emphasize the ambiguous words in this statement, but she never explained why she did not call a halt to Secretary Rice’s forceful and repeated reinforcement of her original explanation of what had occurred when she knew that it was simply false.

During nearly two years following the attack, Secretary Clinton testified under oath to both houses of Congress without revealing that she was sitting on piles of e-mails that were relevant to Benghazi, because she had conducted all her e-mail correspondence on a private server, not on the usual State Department server as required by every spy service in the federal government. After her private server was discovered almost by accident by a hacker, and long legal battles forced production of the e-mails, it was learned that within the same hour Secretary Clinton released her public statement blaming the “inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” she reported to her family that “two officers were killed today in Benghazi by an al-Qaeda–like group.”

During frustrating research to discover the truth, most of us noticed early on that Rice’s account was directly contradicted by that of Libyan president Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf, who said that he had “no doubt” the attack was pre-planned by individuals from outside Libya. As it turned out, this was evident when Secretary Clinton told him, “Ansar al-Sharia is claiming responsibility.” So once again, Secretary Clinton blamed a terrorist group, not protesters.

I did not go through these details to choose sides in the political debate, which rages on as I write these lines. I only point out that no one seems interested in digging for the facts to learn the truth about what happened to Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty, who died tragically and needlessly that day. Instead, they either want to obscure the truth to protect a political position or learn enough to bring down an opponent. Neither is true to the American spirit of pursuing truth for its own sake.

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