The Corner

Benghazi Blowback

The apparent disarray in the Intelligence Community over the now-you-see-them, now-you-don’t “talking points” has moved beyond farce and into crisis. Sure, it seems like a small thing, but it’s not — if this is how our intelligence services operate under political pressure, then at some point we have to ask: What good are they? I addressed the administration’s preposterous shifting explanations the other day in my New York Post column

More than two months after an Islamist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, we still don’t know what really happened that night — and, thanks to a secretive White House and an incurious Washington press corps, we probably never will. Not officially, that is.

But there’s no real mystery about it. From the evidence that’s emerged in dribs and drabs since the Sept. 11 calamity, it’s clear that Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan al Qaeda-affiliated group coordinating with its allies elsewhere in the Muslim world, used the cover of riots in Cairo to launch a preplanned assault on our lightly guarded Benghazi consulate and a CIA safe house that may have been doubling as a secret prison.

That much was clear to our intelligence community almost immediately — and, in any case, should have been the working hypothesis from the jump.

The Arab Spring, falsely painted by a soft-headed US media as a purely pro-democracy movement, has in fact prompted seizure of power by Islamists. Benghazi, an armed hotbed of radicalism, was a fine target of opportunity for a strike at the Great Satan.

What’s also heart-rendingly clear is that our diplomats and security personnel understood the danger they were in, repeatedly requested more resources — and were left to die, as US military and intelligence assets monitored their deaths in real time, lacking the orders to protect them.

Benghazi was a first-class military and moral disgrace, and one that the Democrats paid absolutely no price for in the recent election.

As usual, I’m on board with Andy in thinking that Benghazi may well be an impeachable offense, as highly unlikely as that is. And why Mitt Romney chose to accept his second-debate whipping at the hands of the Obama/Candy Crowley tag team and never once mention this national disgrace in the third debate is something known only to the defeated candidate and his krack kadre of kampaign konsultants. But unless this country has completely gone to the dogs, it’s inconceivable to me that a majority can stomach the notion that four Americans were murdered on sovereign American territory while the president of the United States took note, then rolled over and went to bed before flying to Las Vegas on a campaign swing, secure in the knowledge that the truth would never come out because it didn’t fit his media protectors’ beloved “narrative” that GM was alive and Osama bin Laden was dead.

But it’s not supposed to be the IC’s function to protect the executive’s reputation — it’s supposed to protect the country. Consistently wrong in its threat assessments, the CIA has long been both a political plaything and a national embarrassment, and as for the absurd Office of the Director of National Intelligence headed up by James Clapper, the less said the better. Oh, what the hell:

Finally, to turn farce into insult, hapless Director of National Intelligence James Clapper scuttled forth from his let’s-pretend lair to claim that his office — nominally, the highest rung of the intelligence-community ladder — had edited the CIA’s early talking points memo to remove all references to al Qaeda and terrorism.

That claim was met with peals of incredulous laughter within the IC, where Clapper (like Petraeus, a retired general) is regarded as a buffoon and his office (created as part of the ham-fisted Bush response to 9/11) as a useless, money-sucking bureaucratic appendage that does nothing to increase national security — but is easily manipulated by a cynical president with a domestic axe to grind.

But other, more effective agencies (NSA/CSS, the DIA, and the Pentagon’s in-house analysts) ought to know better. And the FBI ought to be royally frosted as well, now that it’s been sucked into the protect-Obama maw. The Feydeau farce that was the Petraeus directorship should not be the theatrical smokescreen that obscures the real actions of the players. Unless some patriotic whistle-blower in the IC steps forth with the smoking gun, the GOP will have just one last chance — the Susan Rice confirmation hearings, if they happen — to blow away this man-made fog of war and bring some measure of justice to the fallen.

Michael Walsh — Mr. Walsh is the author of the novels Hostile Intent and Early Warning and, writing as frequent NRO contributor David Kahane, Rules for Radical Conservatives.


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