Bring on the racks of “pants on fire” fact checks. Unload an army of Pinocchios to debunk the most egregious of the many untruths we’ve heard since the 9-11-2012 attack in Libya. In what is surely the most jaw-dropping of the many fudges, misrepresentations and outright lies by the Obama administration in handling the Libya attack that killed four Americans, we now hear from the State Department that it never linked the attack and death of four Americans in Libya to the anti-Muslim movie. I bet this comes as a bit of a surprise since you saw U.S. officials say just that for days. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama even went on Pakistani TV to express regret about the movie, an odd thing to do if it wasn’t linked in any way to the attack.
But here is the Associated Press report:
The State Department says it never concluded that an attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya was simply a protest gone awry, a statement that places the Obama administration’s own foreign policy arm in sync with Republicans.
That extraordinary message, appearing to question the administration’s initial description of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, came in a department briefing Tuesday — a day before a hearing on diplomatic security in Libya was to be held by the Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has accused the State Department of turning aside pleas from its diplomats in Libya to increase security in the months and weeks before Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi. One scheduled witness Wednesday, Eric Nordstrom, is the former chief security officer for U.S. diplomats in Libya who told the committee his pleas for more security were ignored.
Briefing reporters Tuesday ahead of the hearing, department officials were asked about the administration’s initial — and since retracted — explanation linking the violence to protests over an American-made anti-Muslim video circulating on the Internet. One official responded, “That was not our conclusion.” He called it a question for “others” to answer, without specifying.
Moreover, the State Department now confesses there was no protest at all outside the Libyan installation before the attack.
That’s awfully problematic, given that Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice went on five talk shows suggesting in fact that the movie did provoke the attack. Mitt Romney’s top foreign policy adviser, Richard Williamson, told Right Turn, “Last time I checked, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was part of the U.S. State Department.”
The spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told me, “The State Department has an obligation to explain how the Secretary’s public comments linking the attack to a video comport with the Department’s recent comments that it never drew such a conclusion.”
Meanwhile, Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are out with a statement and letter to the secretary of Defense:
“As we’ve seen in recent weeks with attacks against our embassies in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen our diplomatic personnel are at the mercy of daily threats in hostile regions of the world, and their safety and security must be our top priority,” said Portman. “While the State Department is ultimately responsible for ensuring their protection, it’s vital that we conduct thorough oversight of the Defense Department, which plays an important role in supporting the protection of our U.S. missions overseas.”
The recent attacks against American embassies in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen have called into question whether improvements are needed to ensure the State Department can fulfill its responsibility to protect American personnel and property overseas. In the letter, both Sens. Portman and McCain request that the Defense Department provide a thorough review of any additional support that can be provided for the State Department.
The letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requests answer to these questions:
1.Prior to the attack on September 11, 2012, did the Defense Department conduct any security assessments in support of the diplomatic mission in Libya, and if so, what were the findings and recommendations of those assessments?
2.Did the State Department request the fielding of a Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG) Detachment to assist with security in Libya, and if so, what was the planned timeline for fielding that detachment? What factors determined the planned timeline and structure of that detachment?
3.Beyond assessment teams and a MCESG Detachment, did the State Department request any other Defense Department resources to aid in diplomatic security in Libya? If so, what resources were provided and what was not provided?
4.What, if any, intelligence existed from Defense Department agencies regarding threats to U.S. personnel or our diplomatic mission in Libya and what intelligence was disseminated to the intelligence community?
5.In light of the recent threats to our U.S. personnel and missions abroad, what changes do you plan for Defense Department support for diplomatic security?
Plainly, this latest State Department briefing is an attempt by Clinton and her department to finger the White House, laying blame for the misrepresentation over days and days about the attack at the doorstep of the Oval Office, not at Foggy Bottom. Romney adviser and former U.N. ambassador John Bolton tells Right Turn: “I think we are seeing a split between the State career bureaucracy and the White House, a real blue moon event under a Democratic president. Both Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice publicly endorsed the movie explanation in the days after the attack, aligning them with the White House.”
This certainly reveals the extent of the mendacity by those scrambling to avoid blame and the degree to which the “movie made them do it” lie is now politically toxic. Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute reacted this way via e-mail to Right Turn: “I’ve always been an admirer of Hillary Clinton’s willingness to set herself apart from the Obama political machine; but the fact that she was willing to double down on the White House’s deliberate lie regarding the genesis of the terrorist attack in Benghazi isn’t just disappointing, it’s appalling. And lying about the lie pushes the State Department into the realm of farce.” She observed, “By the way, if anyone’s wondering whether Hillary has been pressganged into Obama’s lying game, note that on the day of the attack when the White House was pushing the ‘it’s just a movie’ meme, she refused to highlight that version. Only afterwards, when she had time, apparently, to consult with the White House, did she suddenly start talking up the fictional story that it was a film that caused the attack.” But now, she’s back to denying anyone ever said it was all about a movie.
A senior Republican foreign policy adviser on the Hill had a similar reaction, telling me, “It’s pretty clear the State Department, now caught in a lie, is responding with yet another lie. Every part of the administration — from the White House on down — connected the movie with protests in Cairo and the attack in Libya. These statements were crystallized by Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice — straight to camera — words that cannot be erased as if they were never spoken.” He added, “ The truth is pretty simple — four weeks before a presidential election, the Obama administration knows it cannot afford to tell the American people that its foreign policy is plagued by a knee-jerk, blame-America-first mentality that sought to blame America’s freedom of speech for the first terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11th.”
This will certainly become, if it hasn’t already, a major campaign problem for the sinking Obama reelection bid. This American Crossroads ad created and released before the State Department briefing is now all the more compelling:
It is long past the time for the president to come clean, explain what he knew, why his administration was putting out a false story for days, why proper security was not in place, why he went on Pakistani TV to express regret about a movie and why no one has been fired for lying to the American people.
The State Department has not responded to my inquiry as to why Clinton would go on TV to distance America from a movie that had no part to play in the death of its ambassador and other citizens.