Jus­tice for the Beng­hazi vic­tims

Fam­i­lies of the slain Amer­i­cans de­mand the truth

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Mary Claire Ken­dall

It’s been 16 months since Mus­lim ex­trem­ists sacked the Amer­i­can diplo­matic mis­sion and CIA an­nex in Beng­hazi on the 11th an­niver­sary of Sept. 11, 2001, re­sult­ing in the bru­tal deaths of four brave Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing our am­bas­sador. Since then, truth has also been dy­ing a slow death — start­ing with then-U.N. Am­bas­sador Su­san Rice’s eye-pop­ping claim on five Sun­day talk shows right af­ter the at­tack that Mus­lim anger over a video caused a spon­ta­neous protest, re­sult­ing in the death and de­struc­tion.

Let’s imag­ine the sce­nario. Ahmed Abu Khat­tala, pur­port­edly a key or­ga­nizer of the at­tack, sent his band of Mus­lim ter­ror­ists si­mul­ta­ne­ous text mes­sages to vent their rage over the video, spurring them to grab their weapons and head over to the com­pound, where they lobbed mor­tar shells pre­cisely on their tar­gets — the em­bassy com­pound and CIA an­nex a mile away — for some nine hours. They were hop­ping mad, you see. It’s pre­pos­ter­ous, of course. Com­pound­ing this ob­fus­ca­tion, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ five sep­a­rate com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­ga­tions, each with only par­tial ju­ris­dic­tion, has pro­vided bits of in­for­ma­tion — noth­ing like the com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture needed to un­der­stand the what and why of that fate­ful night.

Fed up with this Key­stone Kops spec­ta­cle, three mem­bers of the fam­i­lies who lost loved ones that night, joined by 75 other prom­i­nent Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing re­tired mil­i­tary, sent a let­ter to House Speaker John A. Boehner on Jan. 6 de­mand­ing ac­count­abil­ity.

Specif­i­cally, a Water­gate-like se­lect in­ves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee with sub­poena power is needed, they wrote, to “ex­tract the truth from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion con­cern­ing the at­tack on our diplo­matic and in­tel­li­gence fa­cil­i­ties in Beng­hazi, Libya; and, the bru­tal deaths of Am­bas­sador Christo­pher Stephens, U.S. For­eign Ser­vice Of­fi­cer Sean Smith, and se­cu­rity of­fi­cers Ty Woods and Glen Do­herty.”

Is it re­ally too much for the gov­ern­ment to have ac­cess to the same kind of in­for­ma­tion as CNN’s Arwa Da­mon, who in­ter­viewed the afore­men­tioned Mr. Khat­tala for two hours? As the let­ter notes, he was grant­ing th­ese “long in­ter­views to re­porters in Beng­hazi cafes, while the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion — and you — have done noth­ing.” What did the CNN au­dio-only in­ter­view re­veal? No Libyan or Amer­i­can of­fi­cials had con­tacted Mr. Khat­tala to in­ter­view him. As for his will­ing­ness to meet with investigators, he told Ms. Da­mon, “Yes, no prob­lem ... but not as an in­ter­ro­ga­tion, as a con­ver­sa­tion like the one we are hav­ing right now.”

The CNN re­port con­tin­ues, “He ad­mit­ted to be­ing at the com­pound the night of the at­tack, but de­nied any in­volve­ment in the vi­o­lence. When he ar­rived at the perime­ter of the com­pound, Khat­tala said he saw men car­ry­ing [rocket-pro­pelled grenades] and medium guns, but that gun­fire pre­vented him from get­ting close and en­ter­ing the com­pound.”

Later, asked about of­fi­cials’ be­liefs that he was the ring­leader of the at­tack, “Khat­tala and two of the men he brought with him to the in­ter­view ‘burst out laugh­ing,’ Ms. Da­mon said.”

The ut­ter ab­sence of a com­pre­hen­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tion must hit Mr. Khat­tala’s funny bone hard — about as hard as they hit Stevens, Smith, Woods and Do­herty on Sept. 11, 2012.

Shortly af­ter Ms. Da­mon’s in­ter­view, Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz, Utah Repub­li­can, told CNN that he had asked in a let­ter to in­com­ing FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey why the FBI had not in­ter­viewed Mr. Khat­tala. Oth­ers who signed the let­ter in­cluded Repub­li­can Sens. John McCain, Kelly Ay­otte and Ron John­son, and House Repub­li­cans Dar­rell E. Issa of Cal­i­for­nia, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Jim Jor­dan of Ohio.

Did that let­ter re­sult in an FBI in­ter­ro­ga­tion of Mr. Khat­tala? No.

Will this let­ter from 78 brave Amer­i­cans re­sult in a se­lect in­ves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee? Prob­a­bly not.

It should, though — un­less, as the let­ter sug­gests, Repub­li­can lead­ers are com­pro­mised by virtue of hav­ing been briefed about the “why” of the at­tack, which gets to “what” was go­ing on in Beng­hazi.

It sure seems like some­one is hiding some­thing fairly big. As the let­ter from the 78 notes, Rep. Frank Wolf, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can, has doc­u­mented the fact that “in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers [are] be­ing in­tim­i­dated with mul­ti­ple, puni­tive poly­graph ex­am­i­na­tions and ha­rass­ing nondis­clo­sure-agree­ment de­mands.” As Mr. Wolf told me at the Cit­i­zens’ Com­mis­sion on Beng­hazi, one in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial who re­fused to sign the nondis­clo­sure agree­ment had to hire a lawyer to pro­tect him­self.

The truth is not dead — yet.

Mary Claire Ken­dall is a Wash­ing­ton-based writer.

ILLUSTRATION BY GREG GROESCH/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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