All Eyes on Benghazi: The Petraeus Affair, Allen’s e-mails, and other distractions

Marcellus; “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
–Hamlet, Act I, Scene 4, 87-91

If President Barack Obama had schemed with his closest confidantes to come up with a set of diversions that could distract journalists’ and the nation’s attention from the colossal national security failures which occurred at Benghazi on September 11-12, he could not have come up with a better narrative than the Petraeus affair, including the latter’s liaison with Paula Broadwell and General John Allen’s relationship with Broadwell’s nemesis, Jill Kelly.

Yet as salacious and suspenseful as the unraveling of the downfall of David Petraeus may be, the gravity of matters of state requires that we maintain our attention intently focused on what happened before, during, and after the events in Benghazi on September 11-12.

Petraeus’ testimony to Congress about Benghazi would have been riveting. Instead, he was forced out between Tuesday, November 6, and Friday, November 9.

Why? Who did the pushing? Are we to really believe that James Clapper prevailed on Petraeus to resign without running it by Obama first?

Observe closely the following chronology of events:

1.  Petraeus traveled to Libya within the last few weeks to meet with the CIA station chief, and would have brought this first hand information to the Congressional hearings at which he was to testify this week, beginning November 13, had he not been forced out.

2.  The FBI concluded that no security issue arose and no crime had been committed by either David Petraeus or Paula Broadwell, and communicated to them in late October that there would not be any further pursuit of the investigation.

3.  Nonetheless, around 5:00 p.m. on the evening of November 6, someone at the FBI reportedly called James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence and Petraeus’ immediate superior, to inform him that Petraeus had had an affair with Broadwell.

Who made this call? Why, and on whose direction was the call made?

4. Clapper then called Petraeus later Tuesday evening (November 6), and informed him of the call from the FBI. In that call or in a subsequent call on Wednesday morning, Clapper urged Petraeus to resign.


“Timeline of events surrounding CIA Director Petraeus’ resignation”, Reuters, November 11, 2012.

P. J. Tobia, “Timeline of Events Revolving Around Gen. David Petraeus’ Resignation,” PBS Newshour, November 12, 2012.

Heidi Moore, “Petraeus scandal: a readers’ guide to the clandestine soap opera and its cast; As the story entangles more characters, use our guide to keep track of the details that would make a TV writer’s head spin, ” The Guardian, November 14, 2012 (11:23 EST).

Clapper, as Director of National Intelligence overseeing 16 intelligence agencies, including the CIA, the FBI, the DIA, and the NSA, was Petraeus’ immediate superior.

5.  On Wednesday, Clapper called an official at the National Security Council (probably Donilon) and told him of the affair and that Petraeus was likely to resign.

6.  On Wednesday Petraeus reportedly called Tom Donilon, the President’s National Security Adviser, and requested an appointment with the President.

7. Petraeus met with President Obama on Thursday and offered his resignation.

8. On Friday, November 9, Obama called Petraeus and accepted his resignation.

Aside from the palace intrigue surrounding Obama and his national security team, the central importance of Petraeus is that he promised to be a witness before Congress who could tell the nation what really happened at Benghazi before and on the night of September 11-12.

The following questions are of critical importance, and deserve the highest priority from investigative reporters–and urgent answers:

1. Did the CIA alone prepare the talking points to prepare Susan Rice before she went on the Sunday talk shows on October 16, to give the impression the government believed the attack in Benghazi grew out of a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim film which, as the administration knew then, never occurred?  What was the motive behind providing this information? Who in the CIA, at the direction of whom, prepared and presented these talking points to Rice?  Did Whit House officials have a hand in preparing the talking points?

Are we to believe that Rice, now reported on background to be Obama’s choice for Secretary of State, blindly relied on these talking points, and did not check with officials in the State Department to learn their version of events? Was Obama involved in any way with the decisions that led her to present the story to the talk shows that the attack grew out of a demonstration against the anti-Muslim film?

2. Did Petraeus and/or President Obama participate in the decisions about whether the CIA security forces at the Annex should come to the rescue of the Ambassador and others at the consulate? What was the precise timing of those decisions? Did Obama make other decisions not to send more robust assistance to defend the consulate? At what time did the attack on the consulate begin?

3. What role did Africa Command (Africom) commander General Carter Ham play in efforts to send backup security or military forces to defend the consulate and annex in Benghazi? Why was the fact that he was to be replaced suddenly and unexpectedly announced on October 18, only a year and a half after beginning the assignment? What were the reasons that led General Ham on October 30 to announce his retirement? If, as has been rumored, he disobeyed an order to stand down, why wasn’t he immediately fired, and then prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice?

4. Were there naval units in the region that might have dispatched forces to defend the consulate and annex in Benghazi? If so, why were they not used to come to the aid of Christopher Stevens and the other Americans at the consulate and the Annex?

5.  What is the explanation for the rescue force arriving at the airport and being held for hours before they were able to get through immigration?

6.  Finally, the elephant in the room, which journalists seem afraid to touch:  What were the CIA agents at the annex doing there?

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and 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. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , 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, Dr. Rowles 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. Dr. Rowles 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.=LL.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, Dr. Rowles 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 some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.