EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third part in a series documenting the misinformation in the newly released e-book “The Benghazi Hoax” by Media Matters for America executives David Brock and Ari Rabin-Ravt. To read the first story click here. The second story can be read here.
JERUSALEM – In their new e-book, “The Benghazi Hoax,” Media Matters for America executives David Brock and Ari Rabin-Ravt absolve Hillary Clinton of any wrongdoing related to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.
The progressive activists hail the State Department’s Accountability Review Board report on Benghazi as thorough, fair and accurate despite major reported flaws.
The ARB failed to investigate the alleged main activities transpiring at the facility, including reports of weapons transfers to jihadist rebels. Those activities, the aiding of jihadist rebels battling Middle East regimes, may be relevant in determining why the Benghazi facility was attacked.
The ARB probe did not formally interview key Benghazi witnesses, including Clinton and the mission’s second-in-command, Gregory Hicks.
Hicks would later testify that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens went into the doomed compound the day of the attacks to complete paperwork on tight deadline. His task was to secure funds to transform the compound into a permanent mission, in compliance with Clinton’s expressed wishes.
Brock and Rabin-Ravt further failed to report Clinton may have provided misleading testimony on Benghazi.
The authors deem the ARB a “fair and accurate account of what took place in Libya.”
“The Obama administration had done exactly what any citizen would expect of its government – investigated an overseas security breach in depth,” they write.
They praise ARB authors former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen as “two figures with resumes beyond reproach.”
The Media Matters activists do not report Pickering has largely unreported ties to the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, as WND revealed.
Pickering is linked primarily through his role as a member of the small board of the International Crisis Group, or ICG, one of the main proponents of the international “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine.
The doctrine is the very military protocol used to justify the NATO bombing campaign that brought down Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya.
The ARB did not formally interview Clinton, who was in a key leadership position the night of the attacks.
Brock and Rabin-Ravt do note Pickering attempted last May to explain his decision not to formally interview Clinton.
“We had a session with the secretary,” Pickering said. “It took place very near the end of the report. It took place when we had preliminary judgments about who made the decisions, where they were made, and by whom they were reviewed. We felt that that was more than sufficient for the preponderance of evidence that we had collected to make our decisions.”
The Media Matters activists, however, fail to report the ARB investigators also did not interview Hicks, the former State Department deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affairs who was second in command in Libya at the time of the attack.
In congressional testimony, Hicks provided key details about the attacks, including a possible explanation for why Stevens went to the facility on Sept. 11, 2012.
Under questioning from Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., Hicks explained: “According to [Ambassador] Chris [Stevens], Secretary Clinton wanted Benghazi converted into a permanent constituent post. Timing for this decision was important. Chris needed to report before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, on the physical and the political and security environment in Benghazi to support an action memo to convert Benghazi from a temporary facility to a permanent facility.”
Hicks revealed the directive came from the State Department Office of Near Eastern Affairs, headed by Acting Assistant Secretary Beth Jones. Money was available to be transferred to Benghazi from a State Department fund set aside for Iraq, provided the funds transfer was done by Sept. 30.
He further testified that in May 2012, in a meeting with Clinton, Stevens promised he would give priority to making sure the U.S. facility at Benghazi was transformed into a permanent constituent post.
Hicks also explained Stevens wanted to make a symbolic gesture to the people of Benghazi that the United States “stood behind their dream of establishing a new democracy.”
Additionally, he wanted to have the Benghazi complex upgraded to a permanent constituent post, so Clinton could make the announcement in her planned visit to Libya before the end of 2012.
Toward the end of the hearing, the chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked Hicks to summarize his testimony on why Stevens went to Benghazi.
“At least one of the reasons Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi was to further the secretary’s wish that that post become a permanent constituent post and that he was also there because we understood the secretary intended to visit Tripoli later in the year,” Hicks reiterated. “We hoped that she would be able to announce to the Libyan people the establishment of a permanent constituent post in Benghazi at that time.”
More ARB problems
Pickering’s report makes no mention of any of the activities that transpired at either the Benghazi mission or the CIA annex.
According to numerous Middle Eastern security officials speaking to WND, the U.S. diplomatic mission served as a meeting place to coordinate aid for the jihadists fighting insurgencies in the Middle East.
Among the tasks performed inside the building was collaborating with Arab countries on the recruitment of fighters – including jihadists – to target Assad’s regime in Syria.
The distinction may help explain why there was no major public security presence at what has been described as a “consulate.” Such a presence would draw attention to the shabby, nondescript building that was allegedly used for such sensitive purposes.
In February 2012, the New York Times described Clinton as one of the driving forces advocating a plan to arm the Syrian rebels. At the time, the newspaper quoted White House officials stating they rejected the plan.
Brock and Rabin-Ravt dedicate a chapter to Clinton’s testimony on Benghazi in January.
They write “Clinton’s testimony grounded what had happened on September 11, 2012, back in reality – reminding people that Benghazi was viewed by those in the State Department and the administration not as a time of political calculation but a moment of anguish over losing friends and co-workers.”
The authors do not mention any potential problems with Clinton’s testimony.
Firstly, she testified that no one within the government ever recommended the closure of the U.S. facilities in the Libyan city.
In her Jan. 23 testimony, Clinton stated: “Well, senator, I want to make clear that no one in the State Department, the intelligence community, any other agency, ever recommended that we close Benghazi. We were clear-eyed about the threats and the dangers as they were developing in eastern Libya and in Benghazi.”
Clinton was responding to a question from Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
However, WND has found that Clinton’s testimony is contradicted by Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who led the U.S. military’s efforts to supplement diplomatic security in Libya.
Wood testified that he personally recommended that the Benghazi mission be closed, according to the 46-page interim House Republican report probing the Benghazi attacks.
Page six of the report cites security concerns, including over 200 attacks in Libya, 50 of which took place in Benghazi, including against the U.S. mission there. One of those attacks even was carried out by disgruntled Libyan contract guards hired by the U.S. who allegedly threw a small improvised explosive device over the perimeter wall.
States the Republican report: “These developments caused Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, who led the U.S. military’s efforts to supplement diplomatic security in Libya, to recommend that the State Department consider pulling out of Benghazi altogether.”
Continued the report: “Lieutenant Colonel Wood explained that after the withdrawal of these other organizations, ‘it was apparent to me that we were the last [Western] flag flying in Benghazi. We were the last thing on their target list to remove from Benghazi’.”
The report was quoting from Wood’s testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Oct. 10, 2012.
Clinton also may be called into question for her repeated insistence in her Benghazi testimony that the Obama administration did not conclude finally until days after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks that there were no popular protests outside the U.S. mission.
Hicks said he knew immediately the attacks were terror strikes, not a protest turned violent.
“I thought it was a terrorist attack from the get go,” said Hicks.
“I think everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning,” he said.
Further, according to scores of news media reports, video and intelligence evidence that was immediately available to the government had demonstrated there were no popular protests outside the Benghazi facility and that the attacks were carried out by jihadists.
The Obama administration blamed a YouTube video for sparking what it claimed were popular protests that engulfed the Benghazi mission.
Clinton’a claim that she did not know whether the U.S. mission in Libya was procuring or transferring weapons to Turkey and other Arab countries also is questionable.
The goal of the alleged weapons shipments was to arm the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
In the hearings over the Obama administration’s handling of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, Clinton was directly asked about alleged U.S. weapons shipments out of Libya.
The exchange took place with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Paul asked Clinton: “Is the U. S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?”
“To Turkey?” Clinton asked. “I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody has ever raised that with me.”
Continued Paul: “It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that may have weapons, and what I’d like to know is the annex that was close by, were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons, and were any of these weapons being transferred to other countries, any countries, Turkey included?”
Clinton replied, “Well, Senator, you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the annex. I will see what information is available.”
“You’re saying you don’t know?” asked Paul.
“I do not know,” Clinton said. “I don’t have any information on that.”
Clinton’s claims may have unraveled when the New York Times reported last March that since early 2012, the CIA has been aiding Arab governments and Turkey in obtaining and shipping weapons to the Syrian rebels.
Middle Eastern security officials speaking to WND have said U.S.-aided weapons shipments go back more than a year, escalating before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi.
The details of the New York Times’ reporting open major holes in Clinton’s sworn claims to be in the dark about the alleged weapons shipments.
U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity told the Times that American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons and then helped to vet rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive.
The plan mirrors one the Times reported in a separate article that was proposed by Clinton herself. The Times described Clinton as one of the driving forces advocating for arming the Syrian rebels.
In February, the New York Times reported Clinton and then-CIA Director David Petraeus had concocted a plan calling for vetting rebels and arming Syrian fighters with the assistance of Arab countries.
The Times article from March reports of U.S. arms shipments and vetting that seem to be the Clinton-Petraeus plan put in action.