The Obama Administration’s continually evolving narrative about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, prompted the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to conduct a hearing today on the adequacy of security arrangements.
Representative Darrell Issa (R–CA), chairman of the committee, bridled at the State Department’s reluctance to turn over documents related to the issue and stated that “our challenge is to identify things that clearly went wrong and what—with the benefit of hindsight—should have been done differently.”
Although two high-ranking State Department officials—who had not visited Libya—defended the security arrangements in place there, two whistleblowers, who had been deployed to Libya to provide security to American diplomats, strongly argued that more resources should have been allocated to bolster security in an increasingly threatening environment.
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Undersecretary for Management, and Charlene Lamb, the Deputy Assistant Secretary responsible for diplomatic security, maintained that security arrangements were adequate. Lamb said, “We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11 for what had been agreed upon.” She denied that budget cuts had affected decision making on security arrangements, as some had charged.
But Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, who had been deployed to provide security in Libya, testified that “diplomatic security remained weak” and that requests for additional security forces were denied by officials in Washington. “We were fighting a losing battle. We could not even keep what we had,” he said.
Representative Jason Chaffetz (R–UT), who visited Libya last weekend on a congressional trip, displayed a series of pictures of previous terrorist attacks in Benghazi and charged that the U.S. government did not respond adequately. “I believe personally, with more assets, more resources, just meeting the minimum standards, we could have and should have saved the life of Ambassador Stevens and the other people,” he said.
The Benghazi attack underscores the weaknesses of the Obama Administration’s approach to handling terrorist attacks as a law enforcement issue rather than as a national security threat. The new Libyan government, which faces major challenges from a host of independent militias, is not strong enough to enforce laws, apprehend the terrorists responsible for the attack, or prevent those and other terrorists from establishing a foothold inside Libya.
Moreover, the Administration was slow to admit that the attack even was an act of terrorism, despite early indications that that was the case. What is needed—beyond an investigation into the attack to ensure that American diplomats are adequately protected in the future—is a comprehensive counterterrorism policy that recognizes the nature of the terrorist threat and proactively addresses it.
Sadly, the Obama Administration still has not drawn the appropriate conclusions from the first 9/11 attack, let alone the second one.