No Hiding Disgrace As Indicted Benghazi Perps Celebrate 9/11 Anniversary In Plain Sight
Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
At a press conference in Stockholm, a defiant President Obama declared his credibility was not on the line when it came to that “red line” in Syria. Instead, he said, it was the credibility of the international community, America and Congress that hung in the balance. So how is all that credibility standing up with regard to another line he drew one year ago… a commitment to bring perpetrators of the deadly assault on our Benghazi consulate to justice?
The morning after the consulate attack, President Obama vowed: “Make no mistake; we will work with the Libyan government to bring justice to the killers who attack our people.” One month later after the attack, he again pledged: “My biggest priority now is bringing those folks to justice, and I think the American people have seen that’s a commitment I always keep.”
At an August 9th press conference, Fox News correspondent Ed Henry reminded the president of his words last year, asking, “Eleven months later, where are they sir?” Obama replied: “I said that we’d get bin Laden, and I didn’t get him in 11 months. So we have informed, I think, the public that there’s a sealed indictment. It’s sealed for a reason, but we are intent on capturing those who carried out this attack, and we’re going to stay on it until we get them.”
According to an article at The Daily Beast, several suspected Benghazi ringleaders were indicted in absentia in a New York court, and evidence of their involvement has been shared with Libyan authorities. Still, the Libyan government has made no moves to apprehend them. It is believed that American officials have identified five men who might have been involved, and the FBI has released photographs of three.
And what is the administration waiting for in acting upon that indictment? As the AP reported last May, “The U.S. has identified five men who might be responsible for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year, and has enough evidence to justify seizing them by military force as suspected terrorists, officials say. But there isn’t enough proof to try them in a U.S. civilian court as the Obama administration prefers.”
Yes, just as the president and his attorney general wanted to try Khalid Sheik Muhammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attack on New York City and Washington, D.C. …the fellow who now enjoys free digs furnished by generous taxpayers in a civil court just blocks away from Ground Zero death and carnage he wrought.
As the anniversary of that attack approached, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough why those perpetrators hadn’t been brought to justice despite the fact that one who is charged, Ahmed abu Khatala, has given interviews to several news outlets including the AP, the New York Times and CBS News. “Why is it that reporters seem to be able to find this guy, who the government is charging with involvement in Benghazi, but law enforcement can’t find him?”
Wallace then asked, “It’s been a year, sir.” McDonough replied: “The United States government does what it says, and we will do what we say in this instance, as we do in every other instance.”
Hiding in Plain Sight
Now, one year after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission, Khattalah continues to live openly in Benghazi. Apparently oblivious to any fear of capture by the U.S. and Libyan governments, he was recently seen in a crowded Libyan luxury hotel sipping strawberry frappes with Ali Ani al-Harzi, another leading suspect. Ani al-Harzi is believed to be a brother of Tariq Abu Ammar, a mid-level al-Qaida planner in Iraq.
Consulate security cameras imaged others alongside Khattalah who are believed to be members of his militia. Admitting last fall that he was at the scene on the night of the attack, he has repeatedly denied a personal role in the violence. He told CBS News “I went to help four men who were trapped inside.” Khattalah claims that when he arrived, the men were gone.
At the time of that interview, Libya’s government had already pointed to Khattalah as a “prime suspect” in the attack. When asked about the accusation, the militant simply smiled and said, “if that’s what the president is saying, then he should come to my house and arrest me.”
That’s something Libya’s government security forces wouldn’t have dared do against the chief of the ferocious Abu Ubaidah Brigades, a sub-group of the larger Ansar al-Shariah militia. Having acted at the time of the consulate attack as both military and police in parts of Benghazi, his forces were heavily armed with weapons looted from deposed dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s arsenals. The Benghazi government’s security forces were simply too weak to push them out.
Although candidly no fan of democracy, Khattalah has suggested that those attackers were merely ordinary people who just happened to have rocket-propelled grenades in their pockets. He warned, however, that he expected a fight to ensue if the government moved to arrest Islamist militia members suspected in the attack.
Some Appropriately Angry and Frustrated Americans
Two weeks after Obama’s Justice Department announced charges against the suspects, much of the response team that was hunting them and trained Libyans to help capture or kill them were withdrawn. Adam Housley at Fox News reported that special operators in the region told the network that while Benghazi targets have been identified for months, officials in Washington could “never pull the trigger.”
One source had insisted that much of the information on Benghazi suspects had been passed along to the White House after being vetted by the Department of Defense and the State Department – and that at least one recommendation for direct action on a Benghazi suspect was given to President Obama as recently as August 7th.
Since then, prison breaks have eroded Libyan security, causing U.S. Special Forces to be relegated to a “villa” as stopover before being shipped out of the country entirely. Lawlessness continues to increase, including militia-on-militia clashes in the capital of Tripoli, drug smuggling, armed robberies, and car-jackings.
On August 19th, a group of gunmen attacked a convoy carrying the EU ambassador to Libya not far from Prime Minister Ali Zidan’s main office. The EU delegation was robbed at gunpoint. On September 11th, a powerful car bomb exploded near Libya’s Foreign Ministry building. No group immediately claimed the attack.
Citing an instance where 1,200 prisoners recently escaped, one source told Fox News: “We put American special operations in harm’s way to develop a picture of these suspects and to seek justice, and instead of acting, we stalled… It’s already blowing up. Daily assassinations, bi-weekly prison escapes, we waited way too long.”
According to multiple sources, one frustrated Special Forces leader “literally yelled” at former Libyan Chief of Mission William Roebuck and told him, “So you’re willing to let these guys get away with murder?” Sources said that the outburst was “met with crickets.”
Fox News reported that meanwhile, some of the same suspects in the Benghazi attack are continuing to help the Muslim Brotherhood in eastern Libya and are directly aligned with the militant group Ansar al-Sharia, which has already begun operations to undermine the fledgling Libyan government.
Eight Republican congressmen sent a message to recently-confirmed FBI Director James Comey pressing him to take action. A letter initiated by Senator Lindsey Grahan (R-SC) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) called the Obama administration’s Benghazi response so far “unacceptable” and called for an “aggressive” investigation.
While charges filed against Khattalah and others are under seal, House and Senate members and staff have reportedly held two classified hearings. They have conducted more than 25 hours of formal, transcribed interviews with witnesses. They have also spoken informally with several dozen others, including some “whistleblowers”. Lindsey Graham told CBS News that his office has been hearing from frustrated officials within military Special Forces and intelligence committees who say they have good leads on whereabouts of suspects, but can’t get approval to take action.
Officials have confirmed to Fox News and other media outlets that several suspects have been charged. This confirmation occurred just days after Republicans complained directly about lack of progress to FBI Director Comey. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a statement: “If our government knows who perpetrated the attack that killed four Americans, it is critical that they be questioned and placed in custody of U.S. officials without delay.”
Issa pointed out in the written statement that delays are dangerous: “Osama bin Laden had been criminally charged long before the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks, but was not apprehended. Delays in apprehending the suspected Benghazi killers will only put American lives at further and needless risk.”
What Difference Does it Make?
On the occasion of the return of his son’s casket, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged to Charles Woods that the U.S. would “make sure that the person who made that film was arrested.” Hillary, herself a parent, said this knowing full well at the time that the terrorist attack that murdered Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods and three other Americans had nothing to do with an anti-Muslim YouTube video which was being blamed for provoking it.
At that same ceremonial event, Hillary, Vice President Biden and Leon Panetta all looked Patricia Smith, mother of slain son Sean, directly in her eyes, promising to find out what had happened and to report back to her. One month later a clerk sent her a letter with no new information. We now know, without any doubt, that even much of that information had been willfully concocted to cover up what had really happened, a campaign of deception that continues.
Hillary famously asked, “What difference, at this point, does it make? One good answer came from former embassy security chief, Eric Nordstrom. He said that it matters because “the truth matters.”
Another reason it matters is because we are supposed to be able to trust our president when he pledges: “My biggest priority now is bringing those folks to justice, and I think the American people have seen that’s a commitment I always keep.” Unfortunately, the only one brought to “justice” is Mark Basseley Youssef, the designated scapegoat who created the offensive “Innocence of Muslims” video. He was arrested and jailed on an “unrelated probation violation” right after the attack.
It also matters when known individuals suspected of killing our citizens on U.S. territory are allowed to roam free in plain sight to [allegedly]engage in other terrorist plots and kill more Americans while administration leaders and bureaucrats hide in empty rhetoric.
During the last presidential campaign, Press Secretary Jay Carney said “Benghazi happened a long time ago.” So after all, since it occurred before Obama’s successful reelection, doesn’t that prove American voters really don’t care?
Maybe some don’t Mr. President, but there are also many who still do. For your own credibility, and for America’s, you should also.