Monday, October 26, 2015

Truth Search: Benghazi

I spent some hours over the weekend listening to Thursday’s Benghazi hearing testimony of Hillary Clinton. I’m just a curious American. I’ve been waiting for three years so far to find out what happened in Benghazi, why it happened, and why we got told things that weren’t true about what happened.

I’m not a prosecutor, but I have some confidence in Rep. Trey Gowdy’s abilities to get at the truth. At last. Yes, there have been multiple hearings. As the Democrats on the committee told us multiple times. In fact, in these hearings, the Democrat committee members refrained from asking questions to Hillary Clinton and instead directed attacks at the committee head, Trey Gowdy—reminding us how many previous investigations there have been, and that this one has spent millions of dollars, and so far has found nothing, they claim. Rep. Elijah Cummings, pointed out in his opening comments, before questions had been asked of Ms. Clinton, that the committee hadn’t learned anything. Not helpful.
Rep. Trey Gowdy during committee
hearing Oct. 22, 2015
image from C-SPAN

During the entire questioning, no Democrat asked Hillary Clinton a useful question, with the possible exception of one that allowed her to go through the timeline of what happened in Benghazi that fateful night. Not that the committee needed her testimony for that; she wasn’t there, and the timeline of what happened on the ground was fairly well established—there’s a movie on the subject about to come out. But at least it showed that she was aware of enough details at this point, three years after the fact, to relate them.

There are a few points I noticed, and I’m wondering about. Sometimes I wonder why the media took no notice. Sometimes I wonder what Trey Gowdy knows.

One thing Rep. Gowdy said in an interview afterward, which I didn’t realize, was that he hadn’t subpoenaed Hillary Clinton to testify. She had been asked, and was willing. But that may mean that Trey Gowdy didn’t need her testimony at all, but was willing to use the opportunity as backup to what he knows from other sources. And there's always the chance he can add a perjury charge or two.

He also said that he had given her the option to do the testimony in private or public. Since her testimony wasn’t essential, he could go either way. But he prefers private for several reasons. One is that the testimony can cover classified information safely—in fact, if such questions come up in a public hearing, they must be held and asked later in private. Another is that the person testifying is often more likely to be candid in private, so the committee gets better information. 

In addition, in private hearings, the Democrats do none of the pontificating they do in public; they ask questions. It may be that their questions are designed to allow the testifiers to show themselves in the best light, but at least they’re questioned. They don’t, at all, direct criticism at the committee chair. When they do that in public, therefore, it is merely Democrat theater, and in no way relates to an attempt to find the truth, which is pretty obvious if you’re watching for reasons like mine.

So, if you want to go through this (links below), or any future, public hearing more quickly, simply fast forward through any Democrat questioner; you will miss nothing germane.

I was surprised to see that Hillary Clinton still claims the anti-Muslim video, which was never relevant to Benghazi, a fact known the day of the attack, was a possible cause they were concerned about with good reason. She emailed her daughter, and she told the President of Libya and the Prime Minister of Egypt, indicating clearly within 24 hours that she knew the video had nothing to do with the attack. They knew the attack was planned ahead, by an al-Qaeda-like organization, with names (Ansar al-Sharia) that proved to be involved.

She carefully parsed her words, and made sure the committee understood how carefully she had parsed them, when she said, “Some say…” that the video was the cause. She didn’t say she said so, just that some straw man said so. She and the administration did lead Susan Rice to declare on five TV interviews that the video was the cause, and spokesman Jay Carney to say the video was the cause. And the President said it multiple times, and Clinton herself said it several times—including when she met with families of the deceased and assured them that the makers of the video would be prosecuted, but did not promise that the actual known attackers would be prosecuted. So, using the phrase “some say…” doesn’t exactly explain why this known falsehood kept getting repeated.
After three years, we still don't know
what happened at the Benghazi consulate compound
Map found here

She kept trying to make it sound like that possibility was worth pursuing.[i] The video was claimed to be the cause of a spontaneous demonstration in Egypt—that’s what we were told that day—by the administration in response to that event, prior to the Benghazi attack hours later. In fact, Clinton claimed in her testimony Thursday that the video had been shown on Egyptian television, and that is why they feared it had farther reach and might spread.

But, if I remember correctly, that obscure video wasn’t the cause of the riot in Egypt; that was a preplanned event, weeks ahead, and announced the day before in the Egyptian press, in an attempt to release the Blind Sheikh. That the administration went video shopping was revealed in emails obtained in 2014 through a FOIA request persisted by Judicial Watch.

So the planned riot in Egypt had nothing to do with a video. And therefore it was an absolute known fact that the video had nothing to do with the Benghazi attack. Hillary Clinton knew this without question, and she just lied about it under oath.

One of the questions is why the ambassador was in Benghazi, known to be unsafe, when he had repeatedly requested greater security, since his installation as Libyan ambassador in May 2012. If it wasn’t safe in Tripoli, and was much less safe in Benghazi, what was he doing there? Hillary Clinton claims it was his call, but he was looking into whether a consulate should be opened in Benghazi.

Since within a month after the attack I’ve heard speculation that the administration was involved in gun running, and that was the purpose for the ambassador and the CIA to be in Benghazi, to see to a deal. This was verified in testimony in June, with the speculation Clinton could be subject to treason charges. 

I was surprised when this came up in the hearing. It was a blip. Clinton claimed that of course the administration wanted to see that weapons got into the right hands; all administrations would do so. So, in essence, she admitted that what had until recently been called a bizarre “conspiracy theory” is true, but she said it with an “of course” that led the media to let it go, as if we all knew and accepted this detail all along.

I don’t know what to make of this. I don’t know what Trey Gowdy makes of it either. But gun running is not a normal duty of an ambassador, and is particularly unwise in a country without an established secure government.

Speaking of lack of secure government, she admitted that the security personnel at the consulate were unarmed. She claimed this was normal. It is practice for consulates to trust security of the perimeter to the host country. But why would this would be the practice in a country in which even the citizens wouldn’t trust a weak or non-recognized government to protect them?

She kept saying that it was never recommended that the Libyan embassy be closed. She was sure if Ambassador Stevens had thought it necessary, he would have said so. But she fails to take responsibility for the ignored requests for increased security. 

In an uncomfortable moment, she laughed at the enterprising spirit of the ambassador for “fire sale” shopping—collecting barricades and other safety equipment from nearby closing embassies, since he wasn’t getting anything in response to his requests. (I think there were around 800 requests.) Despite her opening statement that she took responsibility, she said handling security requests was below her pay grade; underlings were tasked with handling security, and they never saw it necessary to bother her about the ambassador’s requests. We do not yet know why these people over security failed to answer the calls. Clinton tried blaming Congress for failing to provide funding, but that seems pretty empty. I'm assuming the committee is following up with the security division she referred to. There's may be among the subpoenaed materials the State Department has yet to provide.

She claims that Ambassador Stevens was a personal friend of hers. But there were zero emails between him and Clinton. She answered that by saying that she didn’t provide him an email address. And she didn’t do much business by email; she didn’t even have a computer in her office. The line of questioning about emails to her from Sidney Blumenthal (which were her emails, only recently revealed, and all related to Benghazi and Libya) showed that he had full and complete access to the Secretary of State, even though he had been refused any official status by the White House. But her “friend,” Chris Stevens, got no access.

She said she used phonecalls and other communications. So she was asked whether she had talked with Chris Stevens by phone after he was made ambassador to Libya. She answered that she was sure she had. On what occasion? When? She couldn’t recall. She was reminded that her phone logs show no calls between her and the ambassador. She shrugged that off as meaningless. He had a direct line to the State Department and could have called at any time. Again, ignoring the 800 or so requests for increased security.

It might be that acquiescing to increased security in Libya would have shown Obama's claim that al-Qaeda was weakened and nearly dissolved to be a lie. That’s an alternative to believing in the gun running scheme. I suppose both could be true simultaneously.

The reason she used a private email server is that private communications (i.e., unrelated to State Department work) are not subject to FOIA requests. She does not choose transparency, even when required by law. But what has been obtained is evidence that she did official work on that server, including classified work.

So she is known to have broken the law concerning making her State Department actions public. And she is known to have allowed multiple examples of classified information outside of a secure government location—a serious law every person with a security clearance understands. She is subject to jail time. 

She didn’t have to testify for this to be known. If there were an explanation that would have exonerated her, she would have provided it. That she did nothing but pretend it was all legitimate may play well in the press, but it will not convince a thorough prosecutor.

We know that many of the emails and resources subpoenaed have yet to be provided. The failure to provide requested information is the main reason the investigation continues. It may also continue because, if she were indicted and convicted in the near future, the president would pardon her, and there would hardly be an inconvenience in her campaign for president. She must be indicted, with rock solid evidence to convict. And it must come before she has any chance of becoming president but close enough to the end of the Obama reign to prevent him from pardoning. Otherwise she gets away scot-free. And the blood of those who lost their lives continues to cry out for justice.

If you want to experience the testimony yourself, C-Span has provided the entire day in four parts:

[i] Note Hillary Clinton’s testimony at 27:50 minutes in Part 3 of C-Span’s recording. 

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