Yesterday, President Obama nominated a new ambassador to Libya to succeed Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the terrorist attack in Benghazi last September 11. Six months after that attack—and two federal investigations later—we still have an alarmingly small amount of information about it.
The Obama Administration made quite a mess in the media with its conflicting accounts of the attack, originally blaming a controversial YouTube video for sparking protests abroad.
After it came out that it was, in fact, a terrorist attack with ties to al-Qaeda, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shocked Americans with her statement, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
As Heritage expert James Phillips said, Clinton’s brush-off “indicates that the Administration misunderstands the nature and scope of the Islamist terrorist threat.”
With a new Secretary of State and a new Libya team on the way, Benghazi can’t just be swept under the rug—because the safety of all of our diplomats is at stake.
Both the State Department and the Senate have tried to figure out what went wrong in hopes of ensuring that such a tragedy would not happen again. So far, they have failed.
Heritage experts note in a detailed new paper that “Fully understanding the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi is vital to preparing for future security threats to American embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions.” Lives depend on what the government learns from this attack.
Scott G. Erickson, Jessica Zuckerman, and Steven P. Bucci explain that four key questions remain unanswered:
- Which counterterrorism and early-warning measures were in place to address security threats?
- Which risk assessments were performed and which risk-mitigation measures were adopted before the attack?
- What kind of contingency planning was undertaken and exercised to respond to armed assaults against U.S. facilities in Benghazi?
- How was the interagency response to the incident organized and managed?
These are fundamental questions—questions that should have been answered by now. And as the authors note, the conflicting accounts produced by the Obama Administration have made this inquiry unsettling from the start:
Given the conflicting narrative produced by the Obama Administration, there are two possible explanations. One possibility is that officials within the White House were uninformed, meaning communication with the State Department was woefully lacking. The other is that individuals within the White House consciously and deliberately promoted a public explanation of the Benghazi attack that was at odds with reality.
Our experts recommend that Congress establish a Congressional Select Committee to find answers. This type of committee steps in when there are sensitive issues relating to security—Select Committees investigated both Watergate and the Iran-Contra affair.
When dealing with the lives of American personnel abroad, it is not enough to issue a committee report. The State Department needs thorough answers, and then it needs to put the recommendations into action.
The life of the new ambassador to Libya may depend on it.
Today at 1:45 p.m. ET, Ernest Istook—Heritage Distinguished Fellow and host of Istook Live!—will moderate a panel on “Benghazi and Its Aftermath: U.S. Middle East and Southwest Asia Policy” at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). You can check out a live stream of the conference here.
Read the Morning Bell and more en español every day at Heritage Libertad.