Find­ing the truth about Beng­hazi

It’s time to call it a 21st-cen­tury ver­sion of Water­gate

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By An­drew P. Napoli­tano

The White House re­sponded to a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act (FOIA) re­quest filed by the fear­less pri­vate watch­dog group Ju­di­cial Watch and turned over an email about con­struct­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate nar­ra­tive re­sponse to the tragedy at Beng­hazi writ­ten by Ben Rhodes, a deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser to Pres­i­dent Obama.

When in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­al­ized that they had sub­poe­naed that email and not re­ceived it, they knew that there was far more to learn about the af­fair than met the eye.

The af­fair con­sisted of an or­ga­nized fa­tal as­sault on the Amer­i­can con­sulate in that Libyan city that re­sulted in the deaths of the Amer­i­can am­bas­sador and three State Depart­ment con­trac­tors as­signed to pro­tect him. It also in­cludes a White House-or­ches­trated cover-up in­volv­ing pro­foundly mis­lead­ing state­ments af­ter the at­tack, fol­lowed by an only-in-Wash­ing­ton cover-up of the cover-up.

The as­sault on the con­sulate oc­curred on the 11th an­niver­sary of the Sept. 11, 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tack, just as the Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign be­tween Mr. Obama and Mitt Rom­ney was get­ting un­der­way. Two weeks prior to the at­tack, Mr. Obama had as­sured his po­lit­i­cal sup­port­ers for the hun­dredth time that al Qaeda was on the run, its lead­er­ship had been sub­dued, and that he was the cause of that. The last thing his cam­paign man­agers wanted to con­front in the mid­dle of Septem­ber was an al Qaeda-or­ches­trated at­tack on Amer­i­can prop­erty in the Mid­dle East in which our am­bas­sador was mur­dered.

Yet that’s what con­fronted the Obama cam­paign man­agers. So they con­cocted a nar­ra­tive that they could com­fort­ably live with and that they be­lieved the Amer­i­can pub­lic would ac­cept. Su­san Rice, then the U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, re­layed the nar­ra­tive. Miss Rice ei­ther per­mit­ted her­self to be­come a po­lit­i­cal tool or ma­te­ri­ally lied to the Amer­i­can pub­lic when she told five Sun­day morn­ing talk shows on Sept. 16, 2012, that the at­tacks in Beng­hazi were not acts of ter­ror and were not aimed at the am­bas­sador, but rather were the spon­ta­neous and un­planned re­ac­tion of a street crowd to a cheap anti-Mus­lim In­ter­net clip that some jerk in Cal­i­for­nia had made ear­lier that sum­mer.

For a while, this seemed suc­cess­ful. The pres­i­dent was able to con­tinue mis­lead­ing the elec­torate with his claim that al Qaeda was on the run, Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton was able to dis­tance her­self from the fail­ure of her State Depart­ment to pro­tect its own em­ploy­ees, and Mr. Rom­ney and the Repub­li­cans would not dis­cover the truth, or at least would not de­velop a nar­ra­tive suf­fi­cient to con­tra­dict the White House nar­ra­tive un­til af­ter the elec­tion. It worked. Now, with the dis­cov­ery of the Rhodes email, it ap­pears that the White House did use the in­stru­ments of govern­ment to aid the pres­i­dent’s re-elec­tion cam­paign by de­ceiv­ing the Amer­i­can peo­ple and tele­graph­ing that pro­posed de­cep­tion to the pres­i­dent’s cam­paign of­fi­cials. Us­ing govern­ment per­son­nel and as­sets to co­or­di­nate a po­lit­i­cal cam­paign, even if done truth­fully and above board, vi­o­lates fed­eral crim­i­nal statutes.

As if that were not bad enough, it now ap­pears that the State Depart­ment had spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces in close prox­im­ity to Beng­hazi, and the White House or­dered them to stand down rather than con­front the at­tack­ers, meet force with force and en­deavor to save the lives of the am­bas­sador and oth­ers, though at the risk of con­tra­dict­ing the pres­i­dent’s po­lit­i­cal boast.

When the truth — that the Beng­hazi at­tack was an al Qaeda-or­ga­nized as­sault com­plete with mil­i­tary hard­ware and so­phis­ti­cated plan­ning — be­came known, and when the ap­par­ent de­cep­tion by the pres­i­dent, the White House and the State Depart­ment was dis­cov­ered, Repub­li­cans were fu­ri­ous.

Then the cover-up of the cover-up be­gan, as the House Com­mit­tee on Over­sight and Govern­ment Re­form learned when it tried to de­ter­mine who told U.S. forces to stand down, who dis­patched Miss Rice to tell lies, who cer­ti­fied that the Rhodes email did not ex­ist and who then even­tu­ally re­leased it. The com­mit­tee wanted to know whether Miss Rice was duped or was part of a plot to use the in­stru­ments of govern­ment to lie and de­ceive and en­hance Mr. Obama’s chances of de­feat­ing Mr. Rom­ney.

The Over­sight Com­mit­tee is­sued sub­poe­nas and held hear­ings and con­cluded — a con­clu­sion with which even the Democrats now agree — that the Beng­hazi at­tack was part of an or­ga­nized ter­ror­ist as­sault, and the con­sulate was un­de­fended.

Then Ju­di­cial Watch re­vealed the re­ply to its FOIA re­quest of the White House, which in­cluded the Rhodes email, and a po­lit­i­cal firestorm broke loose. Speaker John Boehner ad­dressed that firestorm by ask­ing the House to form a select com­mit­tee — one whose sole goal is to get to the bot­tom of this — and to grant it a se­ri­ous bud­get and a full le­gal and in­ves­tiga­tive staff, and to set it loose upon the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ceivers.

Al­ready, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­clared that many of the doc­u­ments the select com­mit­tee will seek have been clas­si­fied as top se­cret, and the pres­i­dent is free to clas­sify any doc­u­ment he wants for any rea­son he chooses. Legally, that ar­gu­ment is cor­rect. Frus­trated con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have no one to blame but them­selves here, as they gave that le­gal power to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

Nev­er­the­less, can the select com­mit­tee sub­poena the pres­i­dent and his records to find out where he was dur­ing the eight-hour at­tack, who gave the or­der to stand down and per­mit mur­der rather than suf­fer po­lit­i­cal em­bar­rass­ment, and who con­cocted the Rice de­cep­tions? Yes. He will claim ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege, and a fed­eral judge will make the call.

Here comes Water­gate, 21stcen­tury style — ex­cept this time around, in­no­cent peo­ple died. This time around, will it have the same out­come? An­drew P. Napoli­tano, a for­mer judge of the Su­pe­rior Court of New Jersey, is an an­a­lyst for the Fox News Chan­nel. He has writ­ten seven books on the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

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