Thanks to the testimony of whistle-blowers last week, and subsequent reporting of how "talking points" were systematically scrubbed of every reference to the truth, we know for sure President Barack Obama and senior aides were lying when they blamed a YouTube video for the attack on our consulate in Benghazi.
More important is what is being covered up. To get to the bottom of what may be more a looming national security crisis than a scandal in the past, we must have answers to these critical questions:
• In only 14 of 264 diplomatic posts was the threat of terrorist attack deemed "high" or "critical." Two were our embassy in Tripoli and the consulate in Benghazi. Despite this -- and despite the fact the CIA was running an op out of the annex there -- security at the consulate was well below the minimum standard set by the State Department. There had been 14 Special Forces soldiers assigned to guard the embassy in Tripoli. That was cut to four last July.
Why was security in Benghazi so lax? Why did the State Department ignore pleas from Ambassador Chris Stevens and Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom for more? Why was the number of Diplomatic Security Service officers assigned to Libya reduced?
Who decided to put security for the consulate chiefly in the hands of an Islamist militia with ties to al-Qaida? Why?
It was routine in the Bush administration to beef up security as the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approached. Why wasn't this done on the eve of the 10th anniversary?
• Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission in Libya, testified that a small Special Forces team was set to go to the rescue of the consulate, but was ordered twice to "stand down." This contradicts the assertion by the Pentagon no "stand down" orders were issued. Who issued the stand-down order? Why?
Former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, now part of a CIA security team, were in Tripoli when the attack began. They told their superiors they were going to help, were ordered to stand down, but went anyway, according to "sources who were on the ground," reported Jennifer Griffin of Fox News. Who ordered them to stand down? Why?
Woods and Doherty were pointing a laser at the terrorist mortar team and calling in coordinates when they were killed by a mortar round. Did they think there was an aircraft overhead that could take out the mortar?
A "special operator," whose identity the network concealed, told Fox News April 29 there was a force training in Croatia that could have gotten to Benghazi in time to save Woods and Doherty. Is this true? If so, why wasn't it sent?
• There were sensitive documents kept in both places, but the burned and looted sites of the consulate and annex were unsecured for days afterward. Journalists -- including the CNN reporter who found Ambassador Stevens' diary -- wandered through them unmolested, so it doesn't seem plausible that safety concerns would justify this neglect.
Journalists have conducted in-person interviews with the ringleaders of the attacks, so why can't the FBI find them? Why did the FBI wait until last week to send out photos of the suspects?
Why have the 31 Americans who survived the attack been prevented from telling their stories to Congress?
When a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans are killed, we must hold those who were negligent (or worse) to account. But the more urgent reason for finding answers to these questions is because they likely are tied to Mr. Obama's policy of outreach to Islamists. It's failing.
• The result of the president's use of military force (in apparent violation of the War Powers Act) to oust Moammar Gadhafi is a security situation so bad that Britain and the U.S. are withdrawing diplomatic personnel. Libya has become al-Qaida's main base in Africa, according to "a top Libyan intelligence official."
• In Egypt, pro-American President Hosni Mubarak has been replaced by Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammed Morsi, largely because Mr. Obama abandoned Mr. Mubarak.
• The president's clumsy efforts to erase the "red line" he drew in Syria last August have drawn scorn from world leaders.
• "Obama has handed Iraq over to Iran," charges Mithal al Alusi, a former member of the Iraqi parliament. Iran is drawing ever closer to possession of a nuclear weapon.
Learning the truth about Benghazi may give Congress the leverage to force Mr. Obama to change course before we suffer a calamity of enormous proportions.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. email@example.com, 412-263-1476. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/ First Published May 14, 2013 12:00 AM