The U.S. Mission in Benghazi convened an “emergency meeting” less than a month before the assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, because Al Qaeda had training camps in Benghazi and the consulate could not defend against a “coordinated attack” . . . .
Summarizing an Aug. 15 emergency meeting convened by the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, the Aug. 16 cable marked “SECRET” said that the State Department’s senior security officer, also known as the RSO, did not believe the consulate could be protected. . . .
According to a review of the cable addressed to the Office of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Emergency Action Committee was also briefed “on the location of approximately ten Islamist militias and AQ training camps within Benghazi … these groups ran the spectrum from Islamist militias, such as the QRF Brigade and Ansar al-Sharia, to ‘Takfirist thugs.’” Each U.S. mission has a so-called Emergency Action Committee that is responsible for security measures and emergency planning.
This is yet another contradiction of the White House narrative. (“While the administration’s public statements have suggested that the attack came without warning, the Aug. 16 cable seems to undercut those claims. It was a direct warning to the State Department that the Benghazi consulate was vulnerable to attack, that it could not be defended and that the presence of anti-U.S. militias and Al Qaeda was well-known to the U.S. intelligence community.”) If the president had spent a fraction of the time he is now play-acting as Sandy disaster commander to the deteriorating situation in Libya, would the pleas from Ambassador Stevens have gone unheeded?
Cliff May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies e-mails Right Turn: “Based on this cable, one might have expected additional security to have been promptly provided, or the mission closed, at least temporarily. Instead, the mission was left open and vulnerable. In such a circumstance, why would the ambassador have gone there, least of all on the 9/11 anniversary? So many questions have been raised but it does not appear that the administration is eager to provide them, certainly not until after the election.”
While the Romney campaign has not responded directly to our request for comment, former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told me this cable reveals multiple problems. “This cable shreds the idea that pre-9/11 security concerns and requests for security enhancements were limited to Embassy Tripoli. The vulnerability of our consulate in Benghazi, particularly to armed terrorist attacks, is front and center here.” He added: “State’s refusal to answer the questions raised by the cable reflects poorly on Secretary Clinton, but explains why she may seek to stay in office at least temporarily if President Obama wins a second term. She needs to remain in control of the State bureaucracy in order to protect herself most effectively.”
But there is a bigger policy failure at work here, Bolton said: “The reference to terrorists and al-Qaeda training camps in the Benghazi area is chilling. In light of the threatening environment around the consulate, it is even more unbelievable that anyone could have propounded the theory that the deadly attack in September was caused by the Muhammad video.”
It is hard to escape the conclusion that the president either refused to accept facts that undermined his “success” in Libya or that he was so absorbed by campaigning that he was entirely disconnected from national security matters. In either case, it is the triumph of politics over policy. Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute minces no words in blasting the willful indifference to our security threats. She asserts that “presidents who want to lie about the threat we face end up sacrificing decent, hardworking Americans for their own political interests. Al-Qaeda is back, they want to kill us, and the sooner we admit that we know they’re out there, planning, working, the better off we’ll be. The first part of winning is admitting that the enemy is alive.”
In the closing days of the campaign, Mitt Romney has shied from this issue, for reasons that escape many conservatives. Whether recklessly indifferent to events in Libya or intentionally attempting to miscast events to protect his administration, Obama has failed at the task he says is his most important: keeping Americans safe. He didn’t keep four Americans safe and didn’t pay heed to a growing al-Qaeda presence in Libya and elsewhere. No amount of strolls on the beach with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is going to conceal that.