Beng­hazi could turn into crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Cover Story - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN AND DAVE BOYER

House Repub­li­cans ac­cused the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion Thurs­day of “per­haps crim­i­nal” be­hav­ior for hav­ing with­held for months key email that sheds light on how the ad­min­is­tra­tion framed its post-Beng­hazi talk­ing points, po­ten­tially vi­o­lat­ing a con­gres­sional sub­poena.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Repub­li­can, said Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry will have to come be­fore Congress to ex­plain why his depart­ment re­fused to re­lease the email un­til forced to do so by a judge.

Mean­while, a re­tired Air Force bri­gadier gen­eral who was in the U.S. Africa Com­mand’s head­quar­ters the night of the 2012 at­tack on the Amer­i­can diplo­matic post in Beng­hazi tes­ti­fied that he and oth­ers quickly re­al­ized the as­sault was spawned by ter­ror­ists. The gen­eral said it was ei­ther neg­li­gence or will­ful ig­no­rance that led the White House, amid a re-elec­tion cam­paign, to say the vi­o­lence was ig­nited by anger over a video.

Sev­eral high-pro­file Repub­li­can sen­a­tors said the rev­e­la­tions, com­bined with ques­tions still unan­swered, should spur Congress to cre­ate an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee to get the an­swers.

“If the White House won’t ex­plain it, Sec­re­tary Kerry should come to the Capi­tol to ex­plain why he de­fied an of­fi­cial con­gres­sional sub­poena. And the White House needs to un­der­stand that this in­ves­ti­ga­tion will not end un­til the en­tire truth is re­vealed and jus­tice and ac­count­abil­ity are served,” Mr. Boehner said.

Ju­di­cial Watch, a pub­lic in­ter­est law firm, ob­tained the email un­der an open-records re­quest en­forced by a court or­der. The email shows a top White House na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cial shap­ing how U.N. Am­bas­sador Su­san E. Rice should talk about the at­tack on a round of Sun­day po­lit­i­cal talk shows. The email said blame should be placed on an In­ter­net video.

The White House dis­missed the rekin­dled ques­tions.

“This is a con­spir­acy the­ory in search of a con­spir­acy,” press sec­re­tary Jay Car­ney said.

But he al­tered his ex­pla­na­tion from Wed­nes­day, when he said the rea­son the email wasn’t turned over in re­sponse to re­quests was that it wasn’t about Beng­hazi. In­stead, Mr. Car­ney said it was a State Depart­ment de­ci­sion and Mr. Kerry’s depart­ment would have to pro­vide the an­swers.

Mr. Car­ney did ac­knowl­edge Thurs­day that the email men­tioned Beng­hazi once, in a ques­tion about how ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials should re­spond to a re­port in a Bri­tish news­pa­per that the U.S. ig­nored a warn­ing 48 hours be­fore the at­tack.

Mr. Car­ney said Repub­li­cans in Congress should drop the Beng­hazi in­ves­ti­ga­tion and in­stead fo­cus on the econ­omy. He also said the pres­i­dent is fo­cused on find­ing the per­pe­tra­tors who killed four Amer­i­cans in Beng­hazi.

“If any­one doubts that, they should ask … any friends and fam­ily mem­bers of Osama bin Laden,” Mr. Car­ney said.

Repub­li­cans in Congress counter that Mr. Obama also promised to bring the per­pe­tra­tors of the Beng­hazi at­tack to jus­tice, yet no­body has been ap­pre­hended more than 18 months later. The govern­ment has se­cured a sealed in­dict­ment in federal court that re­port­edly names a num­ber of sus­pects

“This is a con­spir­acy the­ory in search of a con­spir­acy.” — Jay Car­ney, White House press sec­re­tary

in­clud­ing Ahmed Abu Khat­ta­lah, the founder of An­sar al-Sharia.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the at­tack, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said it was a mob protest spawned by an In­ter­net video mock­ing Is­lam. Such a protest broke out in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012.

But Repub­li­cans said the CIA, the De­fense Depart­ment and parts of the State Depart­ment quickly re­al­ized that the Beng­hazi at­tack was not a protest. They ques­tion why the White House de­ployed Ms. Rice to the talk shows nearly a week later to re­peat that mes­sage.

Rep. Dar­rell E. Issa, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can and the House’s top in­ves­ti­ga­tor of Beng­hazi, said Thurs­day that it was “per­haps crim­i­nal” of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to with­hold the email.

“The facts are com­ing out that this ad­min­is­tra­tion has know­ingly with­held documents pur­suant to con­gres­sional sub­poe­nas,” Mr. Issa said as he opened a hear­ing into the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s han­dling of the deadly at­tack, which killed U.S. Am­bas­sador J. Christo­pher Stevens and three other Amer­i­cans.

Tes­ti­fy­ing at the hear­ing was Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell, who was over­see­ing in­tel­li­gence for Africom the night of the at­tack and said the mil­i­tary knew early on that the vi­o­lence wasn’t about a video.

He also said the de­ci­sion not to re­spond with mil­i­tary ac­tion likely was made out­side of the De­fense Depart­ment. He said the mil­i­tary was wait­ing on a re­quest from the State Depart­ment — a re­quest that never came.

“Ba­si­cally, there was a lot of look­ing to the State Depart­ment for what they wanted and the def­er­ence to the Libyan people and the sense of def­er­ence to the de­sires of the State Depart­ment in terms of what they would like to have,” the gen­eral tes­ti­fied.

House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, said Gen. Lovell’s role didn’t give him re­li­able in­sight into the scope of op­tions avail­able to com­man­ders.

“The Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee has in­ter­viewed more than a dozen wit­nesses in the op­er­a­tional chain of com­mand that night, yield­ing thou­sands of pages of tran­scripts, e-mails, and other documents. We have no ev­i­dence that Depart­ment of State of­fi­cials de­layed the de­ci­sion to de­ploy what few re­sources DoD had avail­able to re­spond,” Mr. McKeon said in a state­ment.

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