Thursday, January 24, 2013

Did Hillary Answer GOP Questions on Benghazi?

If you are one of my two or three regular readers, then you remember that just last week, Rep. Frank Wolf placed a series of unanswered Benghazi questions into the Congressional Record. Let's do an experiment and see if any of them were answered by Mrs. Clinton in her testimony yesterday. What is striking is that Wolf's questions -- which are based on a similar list Lindsay Graham circulated back in November -- were not always asked by the GOP Senators.  In particular, none of the GOP Senators asked about one of the larger bones of contention in the days when it looked like this might be an active scandal -- why a military response was not requested. Also, the Senators did not ask about a possible Al Qaeda connection to the attack -- which was a key part of Rep. Wolf's demand for a Special Benghazi investigative committee.

The original Wolf questions are intalicized. The indented material includes Secretary Clinton's statements.

With the inexplicable release of suspect Ali Harzi by Tunisian authorities earlier this month, why are there no suspects in custody?
 Upon [Harzi's} release, I called the Tunisian prime minister. A few days later,Director Mueller met with the Tunisian prime minister. We have been assured that he is under the monitoring of the court. He was released because at that time -- and Director Mueller and I spoke about this at some length -- there was not an ability for evidence to be presented yet that was capable of being presented in an open court. But the Tunisians have assured us that they are keeping an eye on him. I have no reason to believe he is not still in Tunis, but we are checking that all the time <Response to Senator Risch, who asked directly about Harzi> 
Well, I believe that -- well, I know that the FBI has been briefing some committees -- I
assume members or staff of this committee are included -- I don't know that, but I would assume -- about the progress of their investigation. I got the most recent update from the director just a few days ago, when he returned from North Africa. They are following some very promising leads and putting together cases. They would have to speak to you directly about that, in a classified setting. But I think what they are trying to determine is how best to respond. And I think what the president clearly said is, we will respond and we will bring those to justice. And I don't think anybody should doubt this president at his word. We have some very good examples of that. It may take time, but he does not in any way divert attention from the goal of bringing them to justice. <Response to Senator Barasso,t great length, essentially asked why there were no suspects in custody>
Secretary Clinton, Secretary Panetta, Attorney General Holder and DNI Clapper still haven't testified before Congress--what steps did they take during the attack and in the days that followed?
 First, let's start on the night of September 11th itself and those difficult early days. I directed our response from the State Department, stayed in close contact with officials from across our government and the Libyan government. <Opening Statement>
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Regarding what I was doing on September 11th, I was at the State Department all day and late into the night. At the -- during most of the day, prior to getting notice of the attack on our compound at Benghazi, we were very focused on our embassy in Cairo. That was under assault by a group of protesters. We were assessing the security of our embassy, which is, as those of you who have been there, certainty well defensed, but there were crowds that were intent upon trying to scale the wall, and we were in close communication with our team in Cairo.
I was notified of the attack shortly after 4 p.m. Over the following hours we were in continuous meetings and conversations, both within the department, with our team in Tripoli, with the interagency and internationally. I instructed our senior department officials and our diplomatic security personnel to consider every option to just break down the doors of the Libyan officials to get as much security support as we possibly could to coordinate with them. I spoke to the national security adviser, Tom Donilon,
several times. I briefed him on developments. I sought all possible support from the White House, which they quickly provided. Tom was my first call.
I spoke with our charge in Tripoli to get situation updates. I spoke with former CIA Director Petraeus to confer and coordinate, given the presence of his facility, which, of course, was not well- known but was something that we knew and wanted to make sure we were closely lashed up together. I talked with the then-Libyan National Congress president to press him on greater support, not only in Benghazi but also in Tripoli. I participated in a secure video conference of senior officials from the intelligence community, the White House and DOD. We were going over every possible option, reviewing all that was available to us, any actions we could take. We were reaching out to everyone we could find to try to get an update about Ambassador Chris Stevens, also our information specialist, Sean Smith. So it was a constant ongoing discussion and sets of meetings. I spoke with President Obama later in the evening to, you know, bring him up to date, to hear his perspective. Obviously, we kept talking with everyone during the night. Early in the morning on the 12th I spoke with General Dempsey, again with Tom Donilon.
The two hardest calls that I made were obviously to the families of Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith. And it -- you know, they, I have to say, were extraordinary in their responses and their understanding of the pride we had in both men and gratitude we had for their -- for their service.
I would also just quickly add, Mr. Chairman, that while this was going on and we were trying to understand it, get on top of it, we were continuing to face protests, demonstrations, violence across the region and as far as India and Indonesia.  There were so many protests happening, and thousands of people were putting our facilities at risk, so we were certainly very determined to do whatever we could about Benghazi. We were relieved when we finally got the last of the Americans out of Benghazi, but then we were turning around dealing with the very serious threats facing so many of our other facilities.  <Answering Sen. Menendez who asked about her activities on 9/11> 
What were the President's activities during the seven-hour period of attack?
[Per the testimony of Clinton, she talked to the President but she (unsurprisingly) was not asked any question that would elicit an answer]
Why wasn't the U.S. military deployed to assist? On the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history, after multiple attacks this year on U.S. and Western interests, why were U.S. military units and assets in the region not ready, alert and positioned to respond? After all, two of the four people were killed seven hours after fighting began.
I saw firsthand what Ambassador Pickering and former Chairman Mullen called
timely and exceptional coordination: no delays in decision-making, no denials of support from Washington or from our military. <Opening Statement>
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 But the specific security requests pertaining to Benghazi, you know, were handled by the security professionals in the department. I didn't see those requests. They didn't come to me. I didn't approve them. I didn't deny them. That's obviously one of the findings that Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen made; that, you know, these requests don't ordinarily come to the secretary of state. <Response to Sen. Corker>
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I think you get a sense of the challenge ...from a statement that Admiral Mullen made. You know, he said, and I quote, "On the night of the attacks, Benghazi, Tripoli and Washington communicated and coordinated effectively with each other. They looped in the military right away. The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there was simply not enough time for U.S. military forces to have made a difference. Having said that," Admiral Mullen goes on, "it is not reasonable nor feasible to tether U.S. forces at the ready to respond to protect every high-risk post in the world <Response to Senator Shaheen>
Why do we still not have clear answers on the internal process that produced the inaccurate talking points on which Ambassador Rice relied several days after the attack?
And you know, I wasn't involved in the talking points process. As I understand it, as I've been told, it was a typical interagency process, where staff, including from the State Department, all participated to try to come up with whatever was going to be made publicly available. And it was an intelligence product, and it's my understanding that the intelligence community is working with appropriate committees to kind of explain the whole process. <Response to Senator Risch>
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You know, I understand -- I've been on the other side of the table. I understand trying to figure out what was going on and why were we told this, that and the other. But I can only assure you that as the information came to light and as people thought it was reliable, we shared it, but that took some time. <Response to Senator Flake>
Why were the testimonies of the U.S. personnel who were evacuated from Benghazi on September 12--eyewitnesses who knew there never was a demonstration outside the Consulate--not immediately factored in to the judgments of our intelligence community?
Well, first of all, Senator, I would say that once the assault happened and once we got our people rescued and out, our most immediate concern was, number one, taking care of their injuries -- as I said, I still a DS agent at Walter Reed seriously injured -- getting them into Frankfurt, Ramstein --
SEN. JOHNSON: Is that --
SEC. CLINTON: -- to get taken care of, the FBI going over immediately to start talking to them -- we did not think it was appropriate for us to talk to them before the FBI conducted their interviews, so -- and we did not -- I think this is accurate, sir -- I certainly did not know of any reports that contradicted the IC talking points at the time that Ambassador Rice went on the TV shows. And, you know, I just want to say that, you know, people have accused Ambassador Rice and the administration of, you know, misleading Americans. I can say, trying to be in the middle of this and understanding what was going on, nothing could be further from the truth. Was information developing? Was the situation fluid? Would we reach conclusions later that weren't reached initially?...

<Senator vs Secretary cross talk deleted.You can find it on YouTube. Why didn't Secetary Clinton drill down on whether there was a demonstration or not?? Here's her now famous answer...>
 Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this. But the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information. The IC has a process, I understand, going with the other committees to explain how these talking points came out. But, you know, to be clear, it is, from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we'll figure out what was going on in the meantime. <Response to Sen. Johnson>
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We have a disagreement about what did happen and when it happened with respect to explaining the sequence of events. We did get to talk to the DS agents when they got back to this country. We did so. It was not before September 15th. We had no access to the surveillance cameras for weeks, which helped to answer a number of questions. <Response to Sen. McCain, who took Clinton to task for her response to Johnson>
 Why wasn't Secretary Clinton interviewed by the Pickering Commission?'
[Interestingly, none of the GOP Senators asked this question]
Was the White House aware of the FBI investigation of Gen. Petraeus? If not, why not?
[Not Hillary's area of expertise. Issue never came up.]
 There are also serious questions about links of this terrorist attack to the protests at the U.S. embassies in Cairo, Egypt, Tunis, Tunisia and Sanaa, Yemen that same week--where each American compound was breached by individuals allegedly linked to al Qaeda-affiliated groups. What, if any, were the connections between these incidents and the attack in Benghazi?
Yes, we now face a spreading jihadist threat. We have driven a lot of the AQ operatives out of the FATA, out of Afghanistan, Pakistan; killed a lot of them, including, of course bin Laden. But we have to recognize this is a global movement. We can kill leaders, but until we help establish strong democratic institutions, until we do a better job communicating our values and building relationships, we're going to be faced with this level of instability.  <Response to Sen. Corker>

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