What we know about the attack in Benghazi one year after the fact is that it is an example of the Obama administration’s incompetence and mendacity. More worrisome still is what we don’t know.
We do not know how or why the State Department would send Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team to work at a facility with almost comically insufficient security, in a city that was growing more dangerous by the week — in Libya, dangerous territory for Americans at the best of times.
Shortly after the attack, Hillary Clinton called for an internal Accountability Review Board to examine the decisions surrounding security in Benghazi. The ARB report faulted four midlevel officials, conspicuously absolving of all responsibility the secretary herself and her closest advisers. Whether Secretary Clinton’s thinking on the events was unclear or mistaken at the time, we do not know, since the so-called accountability panel unaccountably did not even bother to interview her.
The four found to be at fault were placed on paid administrative leave, but Secretary of State John Kerry returned them to regular duty in August; they will not face any formal disciplinary action, which is to say they were punished with extra vacation time.
Secretary Clinton may not have wanted to speak to the accountability panel; strangely, it also refused to interview those who did desire to share their testimony. The State Department inspector general’s office announced in May that it would investigate why the review board had “failed to interview key witnesses who had asked to provide their accounts of the Benghazi attacks to the panel.” The decision to willfully ignore State Department employees who were volunteering information about the murder of an American ambassador suggests that the board began with a conclusion and avoided any possible contact with evidence that might contradict that conclusion.
Then there is the great mystery about why Stevens and his team were in that dangerous city to begin with. We know Washington was deeply concerned about dangerous Islamists obtaining “stinger” surface-to-air missiles that were smuggled into Libya during the civil war by Qatar — with the secret blessing of the Obama administration. On August 1, CNN reported that “dozens” — as many as 35 — CIA personnel were in Benghazi the night of the attack and that seven were injured, a figure out of line with any previous government explanation of those bloody events.