769 words - January 24, 2013 | © DiploNews, all rights reserved.
The terrorist attack in Benghazi against the US consulate on September 11, 2012 claimed the lives of four Americans – Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, State Department information management officer Sean Smith and two former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. Since a public notice published on November 21, 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been asking Libyans and people around the world for additional information.
Consequently and "considering that the President (Barack Obama) now labels the Benghazi attack as an act of terrorism, why has he designated the search for those responsible as a criminal investigation led by the FBI?" This question is one among 14 other questions asked by United States Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) regarding last year's terrorist attack that President Obama's national security nominees started to address this week. Most important was the testimony delivered (watch the video) by the Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton before the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committee on January 23.
Secretary Clinton first pointed out that "since 1977, 65 American diplomatic personnel have been killed by terrorists," and that "of course, the list of attacks foiled, crises averted, and lives saved is even longer," she said. This way, she remembered that although "our security professionals get it right more than 99 percent of the time," every administration Democrat or Republican have suffered casualties in the ranks of US diplomatic missions abroad. Also, as Secretary of State, Ms Clinton said she trusts her security services – notably the Bureau of Diplomatic Security – with her life, the same which were in charge of protecting Ambassador Stevens and his staff in Benghazi.
She vigorously rejected accusations by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) who told she "let the consulate become a death trap," and added that controversies which spread the accusation that she or the Obama administration could have misled the Congress and the American people make no difference at this point as for "the fact that we had four dead Americans." On September 16, 2012, US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Susan Rice made statements which asserted the attack was "spontaneous" and carried out by protesters. The Secretary explained that she wasn't involved in crafting the statements and besides, that the ongoing investigation has not given a "clear picture" yet of "what happened" on that day. While taking "responsibility", she "didn't see" the requests for more security from the Libya team. Such requests were allegedly denied by State Department officials and wouldn't actually reach the Secretary level.
On suggestions that possible delays in the State Department's response to the attack participated in the fatal outcome, Ms Clinton answered that there have been "no delays in decision-making and no denials of support from Washington or from our military." Yet there is information that shows neither the Spain-stationed US Marine Corps' FAST team nor the Benghazi-stationed Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives were able to respond to the crisis situation in a timely and appropriate manner.
The investigation into the Benghazi attacks confirmed the growing threat of terrorism across North Africa. As France is currently leading a large counterterrorist operation in Mali and, Algeria is coping with the aftermath of the deadly hostage-taking staged by Islamist extremists in In Amenas, the hearings of President Obama's security team could have the virtue of underlining the seriousness of the security situation in the region. A year-long debate within the UN Security Council, between US and French representations in particular, had revealed very different assessments of the threats. Secretary Clinton finally acknowledged that her country has "got to have a better strategy (…) and cannot permit northern Mali to become a safe haven," and that the threat posed by Al Qaeda "wannabes and affiliates (… looks) reminiscent" of Afghanistan a decade ago. With modern weapons from Libya, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is likely to get promoted as the most serious terrorist threat. France had shared such concerns for several years. "We commend the French for their actions in Mali to confront an extremist threat in that country," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters yesterday.
Meanwhile, the Benghazi investigation is ongoing and the perpetrators of the attack are yet to be found and prosecuted. And the Obama administration still has much to do to quell the controversy since Senator McCain reiterated his dissatisfaction with the Secretary's testimony. "The answers lie within the State Department, the CIA, and the White House. Who changed the talking points and why?" Mr McCain told Fox News.
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