Jack Kelly: Why are we downplaying the Obama administration's lies in Libya attack?

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More scandals swirl about this administration than any other ever before. Most Americans don't know this, because the news media have downplayed them. The latest may be too big to hide.

The Obama administration knew within 24 hours of the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that it was the work of al-Qaida, and it had nothing to do with an obscure video posted on YouTube that mocks the Prophet Muhammad.

But for more than a week, senior administration officials -- including the secretary of state, U.N. ambassador, White House press secretary and the president himself -- lied about it.

Security at the consulate was "robust," said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. That was a lie, too. The consulate "was operating under a lower security standard than a typical consulate," State Department officials told CNN.

Our diplomatic posts customarily are guarded by U.S. Marines. The consulate in Benghazi wasn't. Security was in the hands of a handful of locals, some of whom apparently betrayed the location of Ambassador Chris Stevens to the Islamists. The consulate had only standard door locks for security. Mr. Stevens' security detail was unusually light for the region.

The lax security was puzzling, because the CIA was running important intelligence operations from an annex to the consulate. The destruction of the consulate was "a catastrophic intelligence loss," an "American official" told The New York Times. "We got our eyes poked out."

Sensitive documents -- including names of Libyans working with the Americans -- are missing, the Independent, a British newspaper, reported three days after the attack. That same day, CNN found Mr. Stevens' journal on the floor in one of the buildings in the compound.

The State Department "had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert," the Independent reported, citing "senior diplomatic sources."

"We had no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent," Ms. Clinton said in response to the story in the British newspaper.

This was a nondenial denial. State was warned diplomatic facilities in the Middle East might be targeted, and that State ignored the warning, the Independent said. Ms. Clinton denied what the newspaper did not claim. She did not respond to what the newspaper did charge.

Immediately after the attack, State ordered deletion of a memo sent five days before from its Overseas Security Advisory Council that said no Islamist attacks on the anniversary of 9/11 were anticipated. The existence of the memo lends credence to the Independent's report. It's deletion smacks of coverup.

The nondenial denial may have been an outright lie. Three days before the attacks, he warned the consulate of the presence of armed jihadis in Benghazi, Jamal Mabrouk, a local security official, told CNN.

Mr. Stevens was concerned about "neverending" security threats in Benghazi, according to his journal. He feared he was on an al-Qaida hit list. To divert attention from its import, State Department spokesman Philippe Reines said it was "disgusting" for CNN to report on what was in the ambassador's private journal. But CNN didn't quote directly from it, or divulge any private information.

"Why didn't the State Department search the consulate and find AMB Steven's diary first?" BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings asked Mr. Reines. "What other potential valuable intelligence was left behind that could have been picked up by apparently anyone searching the grounds? Was any classified or top secret material also left? Do you still feel that there was adequate security at the compound?"

Mr. Reines responded with an obscenity.

Imagine if President George W. Bush had responded to the first 9/11 attacks by "Obfuscating about what happened. Refusing to acknowledge that clear security warnings were apparently ignored. Then trying to shoot the messengers who bring these inconvenient truths to light in order to talk about anything but a stunning and deadly attack on U.S. sovereign territory," asked The Wall Street Journal.

If Mr. Bush had done that, journalists would have howled for his impeachment. Justifiably so. So why are they downplaying this story?


Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412 263-1476. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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