New details on Benghazi attack on consulate, American response

New details about the attack on the American consulate and annex in Benghazi and the American response on the ground on the evening of September 11-12 have been made public.

See AP/The Huffington Post, “New Details From Libya Consulate Attack: State Department Abandons Claim Of Protest Outside Gates,” The Huffington Post, October 9, 2012 (Updated: October 10, 20, 2012 8:58 pm EDT).

For a chronology of events at the American consulate and “annex”  based on interviews with eyewitnesses, some of whom were present throughout the attack, see Thierry Portes, “Benghazi : le récit de l’assaut anti-américain,” Le Figaro, 16 septembre 2012.

Following requests by U.S. government officials to the press to withhold certain information, there has been little discussion in the American press of the CIA black operation in Benghazi and its relationship, if any, to he attack on the consulate and the “annex”.  Nonetheless, the location of the annex was revealed by apparent error at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on October 10, 2012. (Obama’s foreign policy has been characterized, among other things, by the sloppiness of its execution. This revelation was another example of “the gang who couldn’t shoot straight” bungling an intelligence matter.)

See “U.S. intelligence hurt after ‘CIA base’ in east Libya abandoned,” Al Arabiya News, October 13, 2012.

Dana Millbank (op-ed), “Letting us in on a secret,” Washington Post, October 10, 2012.

Analysis

The key questions here are the following:

1. Was the plan to replace highly-trained U.S. security personnel with local guards an intelligent policy decision, in a former war zone and an increasingly insecure area?

2. Were Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the U.S. personnel provided with adequate security in the light of the circumstances known before September 11? Were requests for additional U.S. and private contractor personnel denied in Washington for essentially bureaucratic reasons?

3. What was the precise relationship between the CIA “black operation” in Benghazi and the attack on the consulate? Did the government of Libya know at the highest levels about this operation? Has its unmasking contributed to government instability in Libya since September 11-12?

4. Did the Obama administration knowingly make misleading statements suggesting that the attack was related to the anti-Muslim film and a demonstration at the consulate against the film, when such an assertion had no factual basis and was contradicted by the known facts?

The critical issue is whether the Obama administration deliberately attempted to mislead the public with its early accounts of a spontaneous demonstration. 

If it did so, was it attempting to divert attention from the black operation in Benghazi, or to defend the narrative, for essentially political purposes, according to which Obama has been successful in fighting Al Quaeda and Islamic terrorists?

If the former is the case, we are dealing with ineptness.  If the latter is the case, the issue assumes much greater importance in terms of Obama’s character and that of his administration.

The Trenchant Observer

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The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.