By Paul E. Vallely (MG US Army – ret.), Chairman SUA
After the testimonies of Secretary Panetta, General Dempsey, and Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi tragedy, it appears the Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama was off duty and not available to make a hard decision to press the military Chain of Command to rescue Americans under attack. The cover up appears to be a White House order to “Stand Down” and not issue a rescue mission operational order. For over seven hours he did nothing; no communications with his National Security team, and then he flew to Las Vegas for a campaign stop. “Weakness and dithering and flying to Las Vegas the next day for celebrity fund-raising parties are somehow better.”
The testimony revealed that Obama stated to Panetta and Dempsey, “Do what you have to do.” Where was the order to execute a rescue mission NOW Mr. President? The investigation regarding the 9/11 al Qaeda raid on Benghazi and the deaths of four brave Americans began, but to date it has no end or acceptable findings, and provides no answers for the families of the four murdered Americans.
I have promised Charles Woods, Father of Ty Woods, and family, that at Stand up America, we will press this investigation to the end. Malfeasance and ineptitude borne from a foreign policy steeped in naiveté in the least and complete indifference to threat conditions provided by the Intelligence Community has degenerated into a massive cover up of the facts on the ground and is minimized by political corruption and ineptness by the National Security team. What we have had is myriad conflicting and/or changing stories and moving people and parts from all manner of sources, players, and decisions makers. We have internet rumors, official statements, hearings, in camera probes, an ARB report, talking heads ad nauseum, political spin and a very clear ‘circling of the wagons’ where blame encompasses all involved within the Obama circle of influence.
We have witnessed hearings that were more congratulatory than probative, and a steady parade of the changing of the guard. Facts cannot be disputed, yet access to facts has been impossible. The objective has been to obscure actions to prevent the ability to sift through the events, conjecture, political rhetoric, and the steady attempt to move beyond the elections and to the cabinet changes; especially by those of us without high clearance in ‘fly-over’ country.
The cumulative effect of all these facets is that one must suspend all manner of logic and reason to swallow the miasmic trail. This is precisely the point – there has been an obvious attempt to muddy the waters, ‘chill the mark’, and deflect focus. It expected the onlooker to be so confused they have to just look away, feel bad for the losses, and swallow that this is all a learning experience and rest assured that they will all try harder, now under newer administration.
The most cogent report to date on Benghazi was crafted by Senators Lieberman and Collins but it does not go deep enough into the weeds with regard to dereliction of duty, omissions, waivers, mission, objective, and names to hold responsible. We need to know without varnish, spin, and purposeful evasion what did and did not take place during the events as they unfolded, and an adult, clear minded understanding of what was at stake that prompted people to make poor and deadly decisions. We must first start with how the lines of communication would have unfolded, where decision making nodes occurred, what those decisions were, and why they were made.
Most important, where was the President? Was he ‘absent’? Absent, really? No, he just did not want to make himself available and have to make a difficult decision or have his actions traced with any paper trail. He seems to hide or not be available when the going gets tough? What, the President is unavailable during a crisis?
All citizens must ask the following questions and more, and demand a complete map to understand how our government is supposed to work at the highest levels in times of crisis by those who took the oath of office:
- Career professionals in the CIA, the Military, the State Department, and other integral professionals including the National Security Team are trained and expected to ensure all Americans and USA interests are protected at all costs. To many, Benghazi was likely the apex of their respective careers to prove their worth and value. How could so many fail and hide the realities of terror attacks and threats and as one Senator asked who was in charge or supposed to be in charge?
- The entire National Security apparatus was well aware of the events leading up to and including the attack(s) on Libya and beyond, so why the indifference and lack of any response?
- Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey admitted during their testimony that there is no firehouse mentality, the question is why as this is outside the scope of Rules of Engagement and historical training?
- The Benghazi annex was the largest CIA base in North Africa. The primary mission was to chase the illicit and illegal arms stream as well as the Middle East militia members. The question is how far reaching and effective was this mission for the end result to be terror attacks and death and how politically charged was this to the administration’s overall goals in the Magreb and Middle East and beyond?
- Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey clearly both revealed that the meeting with Barack Obama on 9-11 was thirty minutes long and only 20 of the thirty minutes centered on Benghazi. Just how deep was the commitment of Obama to re-election versus Foreign Service officers in Libya and beyond as more than 20 locations had demonstrations or attacks against the United States during the week of 9-11?
- Did Hillary Clinton sign a waiver to deny Marine security at both locations in Libya to include Tripoli and Benghazi despite Congressional laws against her actions (SECCA) perhaps in favor of government contractors like Blue Mountain or DynCorp and did the administration wave off rescue missions?
- While General Ham was in Washington, DC. on 9-11-12, who gave orders for any and all actions or lack of actions in Benghazi including the dispatch and re-dispatch of surveillance drones and in favor of what?
- Given that several hundred terror-related incidents occurred in Libya over the previous 24 months in Benghazi, where are the surveillance drone videos, and who assessed the conditions on the ground with regard to weapons and militias?
- The members of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) were chosen by Hillary Clinton and with the classified and non-classified publication of the ARB, the matter of the terror attack has been insufficiently addressed. Congress gave Hillary Clinton many questions, both within and without the scope of her testimony. Where are her written responses and those members of the ARB that she promised after her testimony?
The weak link also appears to be the representations made by Hillary Clinton and others about the communications protocols in the event of a most critical incident (referred to as ‘critics’ in the community) in one of the ‘hottest’ spots on Earth. It is a matter of procedure that communications between selected embassies, if not all embassies, have an Imminent Danger Alert System that is directly ‘on-hook’ with at least four destinations which include: the White House Situation Room (WHSR), the State Department Operations Center, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Pentagon. ‘Critics’ are graded with an urgency status, and in the matter of Benghazi, the ladder of escalation included the top urgency status, calling for an immediate and urgent response.
Why haven’t we seen or heard the Situation Reports (SitReps) from the witnesses from Benghazi including all those located or functioning out of either or both the compound and annex? How many non-American people were there or co-located there? Due to the nature of the attack(s), how many people in total have died or been injured and for those that died, were autopsies performed? Why haven’t the estimated 32 survivors been interviewed; where and who are they?
Secretary Clinton correctly admitted that Marine detachments are assigned to diplomatic posts to guard classified material from being compromised. So why aren’t our elected Congressmen NOW publicly discussing the “Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999” (SECCA) over her decision not to have Marines at Benghazi? In the absence of a Marine assignment how many government contractors were under contract to assume the same duties of Marines and why would we allow the Libyan government to approve our hires?
The functional security budget for Benghazi alone was $ 11 million. Blue Mountain was a ‘no bullet’ contract and the hiring of the February 17th Brigade to provide outside security to the compound was mired in a labor dispute due to the number and time of working hours, working conditions, and pay scale. Many members of the February 17th Brigade were on strike at the time of the attacks and many fled prior.
The administration allowed a well armed, well trained, 16 member security forces to be removed from Libya in August, about a month before the attack. They were to eventually be replaced by a Libya security force who Ambassador Stevens wrote could not be trusted because it was forbidden to vet the personnel under Libyan government rules.
The House Oversight Committee had documentation that the WHSR started receiving emails that the mission was under hostile surveillance as early as 1 PM, on the day of the attack. The WH/DoD/Pentagon ordered the drone to the location to video the actions at the compound. No order or permission was provided to the CIA annex to render assistance to those under attack at the mission as the attack was imminent and later under assault.
Those at the annex, without DC knowledge or approval, later did provide lethal protections and countermeasures as no other military assistance was dispatched. As soon as the attacks began, the mission sounded an audible alarm for the whole compound, alerting Tripoli and the Diplomatic Security in Washington DC. The Diplomatic Security headquarters in DC which resides in the State Department also went to the Department of Defense while DSHQ maintained opened communications with the mission during the whole attack. At this time, the CIA annex was also alerted and told to prepare to aid personnel.
Where was the President? ‘Absent’ yet?
The administration refuses to fully describe the nature of the personnel in Tripoli that were dispatched to Benghazi on a chartered aircraft. They were however, not Marines, but likely a hired substitute group FAST team of government contractors. It has been stated under oath that there were no assets within any favorable distance or within time constraints to respond to the attack in Benghazi, why? As Libya was the highest threat and greatest hotspot for attack, no proactive measures were in place for more than two years and no one took any initiative to either offer, or better still, demand rescue and safety measures for Benghazi or other locations including Cairo, Tunis, or any number of other diplomatic posts.
Where was the ‘Fire Station’ set up for any and all contingencies that were more than likely to occur? There were no contingency plans or a ‘firehouse’ set up in one of the most fire prone areas where Americans were in harm’s way. Leadership?
Given the ‘on-hook’ destinations of communications coming from Benghazi pleading for assistance, there were an estimated 300 to 400 personnel in national security positions that were receiving the emails, the encrypted mobile texts, or simply desperate phone calls via secured systems. After the dismissal of the national security officials, all actions were handed off to the NSC and the military command center – ‘nothing else to see here folks back to business as usual.’
Remember, the President of the United States is NEVER, EVER more than a few minutes from secure communications… ‘Absent’? AWOL?
Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said lawmakers viewed the video of the mission showing the post before the attack, the full set of incidents, and the exodus. These videos were a combination of surveillance cameras at the compound and the drone feed. The video(s) included the Ambassador’s body being dragged out of a building. This speaks to and proves that an ‘anti-Muslim’ YouTube video was clearly not the reason for the attack as fabricated by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice. David Petraeus did provide an immediate assessment that the attack was performed by a radical Islamists group known as Ansar al Sharia.
They knew immediately, and there never was any question despite what many surrogates have said, even during Thursday’s hearings.
It is an indisputable fact that much of the objective in Benghazi was to restore order from a pre and post Qaddafi regime. Much of the order included identifying lethal weapons smuggling, in and out of Libya, to destinations that include Turkey, Syria, Mali, Iraq, and Algeria to list a few countries. A buyback program was initiated by the CIA in the area for high grade military weapons that included manpads and stinger missiles.
The U.S. government under the Obama administration did in fact provide lethal weaponry to Libyan rebels for the eventual overthrow of Qaddafi and the same is true in Syria. So a high grade weapons pipeline was established, chased, smuggled, and transferred. This now begs additional questions that include who did the State Department and the Department of Defense hire for all parts of all missions in the Middle East? Could it be that the four dead Americans were actually killed with weapons provided by the United States that eventually went to the wrong hands?
Did the United States solicit historically recognized jihadists/Islamists of known and unknown quantity and quality via militias from the start to the finish in overthrowing Libya strongman Qaddafi and beyond? Should attention be placed on a domestic arms security company known as Turi Defense Group out of Las Vegas who was in communication with Benghazi? Marc Turi is/was an authorized GSA arms vendor that held several government contracts for providing arms that included destinations such as Qatar and other Gulf States, all at the core of providing lethal military grade weapons as directed by the Obama administration. Incidentally, Turi lives in Arizona and his home was raided by Federal law enforcement in 2012.
The State Department applied millions of dollars to Libya under the premise of grants and humanitarian aid and to what accounting have these monies been scrutinized to date and/or will be in the near future? Simple searches on open sources have shown that more than $30 million was assigned for various objectives in Libya in a post Qaddafi landscape. Have those funds or unspent funds been accounted for?
What is the status today of the FBI investigation into Benghazi? Hillary Clinton, in her testimony, said many things, one of which was that al Qaeda is a “brand.” This speaks to the matter that there are several associated militias in Libya and MENA that include Ansar al Sharia or any other factions and may also include members of the February 17th Brigade. At the time of the attack, there were only three members of the February 17th Brigade at the compound who were actually deputized by the Libyan government.
The most shocking point spoken by Hillary Clinton was “what difference at this point does it make?” She went on to say, “to be clear, it is from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice.” These two statements are key as they speak to timing, both of which point to pre-election conditions of Barack Obama and post-election conditions as the administration maintains power to ensure the facts on Benghazi remain opaque and oblique.
All deference was paid to Libyan placeholders as they demanded that any official rescue teams had to dress in civilian clothing to keep tensions at a minimum. 300 threats were provided from the intelligence community yet blame is placed back on the intelligence community saying that none of the intelligence was actionable per Panetta’s testimony. General Ham was in constant communications with the Ambassador in Libya for many months. He delivered specific reports to General Dempsey, of which Dempsey admitted he received, and was well aware of conditions, yet never offered or suggested an increase of security or military assets as a safety measure. He also did not set up any contingency plans such as the ‘Fire Station’ to handle any eventuality. This is completely against all military policy throughout the ranks and now sends a very sad message – ‘will they have my back no matter where I am assigned?’
Both Secretary Panetta and Martin Dempsey testified that after the one single meeting for thirty minutes at the White House, there were no further conversations with the President regarding Benghazi and that includes not only Barack Obama, but Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus. The matter for all involved was closed and an Executive Privilege was attached to 9-11-12 Presidential Daily Briefings (PDHs) associated to Libya for public or investigative purposes. The investigation as we are told is in the hands of the FBI and the Department of Justice to determine if there will ever be enough to build a case for future prosecution of the terrorists involved.
Panetta admitted in his testimony that the terrorists are emboldened, regardless of capture or response possibilities now, which in summary, is the most disturbing revelation of all. The threat to American safety and assets across the globe remain at high risk, yet there is no ordered readiness condition to save our brothers and sisters or sovereign locations worldwide.
Where was the President? Our sources tell us, that though he was ‘absent’, he indeed gave the ‘stand-down’ orders. Prior to that, it was his naïve approach, inept preparation and response to obvious needs that set the scene in place – the most obvious day for retaliatory action on the part of al Qaeda. What are we being asked to believe?
Research and contributing to this article are SUA Staff members Denise Simon and Monica Morrill; Edited by Scott W. Winchell.