TEL AVIV – A WND review of Hillary Clinton’s new book, “Hard Choices,” finds the work contains misleading statements about the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attack and the then-secretary of state’s personal role in the decision-making process.
Here are 12 problems with the Benghazi chapter of Clinton’s book.
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1) Not responsible for Benghazi security?
Denying a personal role in the decision-making process regarding security of the compound, Clinton writes that she did not see the cables requesting additional security.
She claims cables related to the security at the compound were only addressed to her as a “procedural quirk” and didn’t actually land on her desk.
Clinton writes: “That’s not how it works. It shouldn’t. And it didn’t.”
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However, the Senate’s January 2014 report on the Benghazi attack reveals lawmakers found that the Benghazi facility required special waivers to be legally occupied, since it did not meet the minimum official security standards set by the State Department. Some of the waivers could only have been signed by Clinton herself.
Some of the necessary waivers, the Senate affirmed, could have been issued at lower levels within the State Department. However “other departures, such as the co-location requirement, could only be approved by the Secretary of State,” reads the Senate report.
The “co-location” requirement refers to the unusual housing setup in Benghazi in which intelligence and State Department personnel were kept in two separate locations.
Clinton would have a lot of explaining to do if she signed waivers allowing the facility to be legally occupied without reviewing the U.S. special mission’s security posture.
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Further, the Senate found it was Clinton’s top deputies, including officials known to be close to the Clintons, who were responsible for some major denials of security at the compound.
In one example, it was Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy who canceled the use in Tripoli of a DC-3 aircraft that could have aided in the evacuation of the Benghazi victims.
Kennedy also denied permission to build guard towers at the Benghazi mission and approved the withdrawal of a Security Support Teams, or SST, that special U.S. forces specifically maintained for counterattacks on U.S. embassies or threats against diplomatic personnel.
For some lawmakers, it defies logic that Clinton was not informed, especially since she was known to have taken a particular interest in the Benghazi facility. She reportedly called for the compound to be converted into a permanent mission before a scheduled trip to Libya in December 2012 that eventually was canceled.
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2) Reason for Stevens visit to Benghazi
Clinton suggests that Ambassador Christopher Stevens traveled to Benghazi before the attacks and implies he took meetings at the U.S. special mission that ill-fated night on his own initiative.
Clinton writes: “U.S. Ambassadors are not required to consult or seek approval from Washington when traveling within their countries, and rarely do. Like all Chiefs of Mission, Chris made decisions about his movements based on the security assessments of his team on the ground, as well as his own judgment. After all, no one had more knowledge or experience in Libya than he did.”
She writes that Stevens “understood Benghazi’s strategic importance in Libya and decided that the value of a visit outweighed the risks.” She does not provide the actual reason for Stevens’ visit to the Benghazi compound.
Clinton failed to mention Stevens may have gone to Benghazi for a project that she specifically requested.
According to congressional testimony by Gregory Hicks, the former State Department deputy chief of mission and chargé d'affaires who was in Libya at the time of the attack, Stevens went to the compound that day in part because Clinton wanted to convert the shanty complex into a permanent mission in a symbol of the new Libya.
Hicks said Clinton wanted to announce the establishment of a permanent U.S. State Department facility during her planned visit there in December 2012. Apparently Stevens was up against a very specific funding deadline to complete an extensive survey of the mission so the compound could be converted.
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 to convert the compound 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 available, provided the funds transfer had been done by Sept. 30.
He further testified that in May 2012, during 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 said Stevens himself wanted to make a symbolic gesture to the people of Benghazi that the United States “stood behind their dream of establishing a new democracy.”
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.”
3) Whitewashes her own Benghazi statement
At about 10 p.m. Eastern on Sept. 11, 2012, Clinton was one of the first Obama administration officials to make a public statement about the Benghazi attacks.
In her book, Clinton writes she simply: “As the cameras snapped away, I laid out the facts as we knew them – ‘heavily armed militants’ had assaulted our compound and killed our people – and assured Americans that we were doing everything possible to keep safe our personnel and citizens around the world. I also offered prayers for the families of the victims and praise for the diplomats who serve our country and our values all over the world.”
Clinton fails to mention that in her initial statement she also first linked the Benghazi attacks to the infamous anti-Islam film.
Her brief official statement included this: “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”
4) Location of special forces
Clinton wrongly writes that the closest U.S. Special Forces that could have responded to the attacks were “standing by in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but they would take several hours to muster and were more than five thousand miles away.”
She continued: “Critics have questioned why the world’s greatest military force could not get to Benghazi in time to defend our people. Part of the answer is that, despite having established United States Africa Command in 2008, there just wasn’t much U.S. military infrastructure in place in Africa.”
It has been confirmed Special Forces known as C-110, or the EUCOM CIF, were on a training mission in Croatia the night of the attacks. The distance between Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, and Benghazi is about 925 miles. The C-110 is a rapid-response team that exists for emergencies like terrorist attacks against U.S. embassies abroad.
Instead of being deployed to Libya, the C-110 was told the night of the attacks to return to its normal operating base in Germany.
5) Best intelligence?
Clinton defended the actions of then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012, infamously appeared on five morning television programs to offer the official Obama administration response to the Benghazi attack. In nearly identical statements, Rice asserted that the attack was a spontaneous protest in response to a “hateful video.”
Writes Clinton: “Susan stated what the intelligence community believed, rightly or wrongly, at the time. That was the best she or anyone could do. Every step of the way, whenever something new was learned, it was quickly shared with Congress and the American people. There is a difference between getting something wrong, and committing wrong. A big difference that some have blurred to the point of casting those who made a mistake as intentionally deceitful.”
Clinton’s claim that the intelligence community believed the attacks were a spontaneous protest in response to a “hateful video” is called into question by numerous revelations.
Gregory Hicks, the No. 2 U.S. official in Libya at the time of the attack, testified he knew immediately it was a terrorist attack, not a protest turned violent. According to Hicks, “everybody in the mission” believed it was an act of terror “from the get-go.”
The CIA’s station chief in Libya reportedly emailed his superiors on the day of the attack that it was “not an escalation of anti-American protest.”
The claim of a popular protest also defies logic. Spontaneous protesters do not show up with weapons, erect armed checkpoints surrounding the compound and demonstrate insider knowledge of the facility while deploying military-style tactics to storm the U.S. mission.
Nor do spontaneous protesters know the exact location of a secretive CIA annex, including the specific coordinates of the building that were likely utilized to launch precision mortar strikes. Spontaneous protesters are not thought to be capable of mounting a fierce, hours-long gun battle with U.S. forces stationed inside the annex.
Interestingly, Clinton’s own description of the attacks does not contain any account of popular protests. She writes the attack began when, “without warning, dozens of armed men appeared at the gates of the compound, overwhelmed the local Libyan guards, and streamed inside. They set fires as they went.”
6) Orders to delay?
Clinton does not mention any delay in the response by the CIA officers stationed about one mile from the Benghazi mission at a nearby secretive CIA annex.
She relates: “From the moment the CIA station learned their fellow Americans were under attack, a response team prepared to launch a rescue. They could hear explosions in the distance and quickly assembled their weapons and prepared to deploy. Two vehicles of armed officers left the CIA post for the diplomatic compound about twenty minutes after the attack had begun. … When the CIA team arrived, they split up to secure the compound and joined the DS agents in the search of the burning building.”
Clinton leaves out the fact that CIA agents who were on the ground in Benghazi testified to lawmakers they were loaded into vehicles and ready to aid the besieged U.S. special mission on Sept. 11, 2012, but were told by superiors to “wait,” according to reports.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., head of the House intelligence subcommittee that interviewed the CIA employees, explained that while there was no “stand-down order,” there was a disagreement at the nearby CIA annex about how quickly to respond. Westmoreland revealed that some CIA agents wanted to storm the Benghazi compound immediately, but they were told to wait while the agency collected intelligence on the ongoing attack.
“Some CIA security contractors disagreed with their bosses and wanted to move more quickly,” the Associated Press reported, drawing from Westmoreland’s comments.
The AP reported:
Westmoreland said the CIA security contractors loaded into two vehicles, with weapons ready, the moment they heard the radio call for help from the diplomatic building. Some wanted to rush to the U.S. compound roughly a mile away, and their agitation grew as they heard increasing panic when the diplomats reported the militants were setting the compound on fire.
The CIA team leader and the CIA chief at the Benghazi annex told committee members that they were trying to gather Libyan allies and intelligence before racing into the fray, worried that they might be sending their security team into an ambush with little or no backup.
At least one of those security contractors, a former U.S. Army Ranger, was told to ‘wait’ at least twice, and he argued with his security team leader, according to his testimony, related by Westmoreland. Westmoreland declined to share the names of the officers who testified because they are still CIA employees.
The AP reported the CIA agents said a quicker response would not have saved the lives of those killed in the attacks, including Stevens.
7) Lull in fighting?
In recounting the attacks, Clinton promotes the Obama administration narrative of a lull in the fighting.
She writes: “The drone was redirected to Benghazi and arrived on station roughly ninety minutes after the attack began, providing U.S. security and intelligence officials another way to monitor what was happening on the ground. Around that time the Operations Center reported that gunfire at the compound had subsided and our security forces were attempting to locate missing personnel. That was a chilling phrase. Much of the mob had withdrawn, but for how long?”
However, witnesses on the ground, including CIA contractors who were inside the annex, said there was no lull in the fighting at all, as first reported by the Daily Beast.
The lull claim was central to the Obama administration’s explanation for why no air support or special forces were deployed to Benghazi, with the White House and State officials saying they believed the attack had finished and were taken by surprise by when it continued.
8) Ignored security requests?
Regarding security at the Benghazi mission, Clinton writes:
Though security upgrades had been made to the Benghazi compound – including extending the height of the outer wall with masonry concrete and barbed wire; installing external lighting, concrete vehicle barriers, guard booths, and sandbag emplacements; hardening wooden doors with steel and reinforced locks; and adding equipment to detect explosives – the review board determined that these precautions were simply inadequate in an increasingly dangerous city.
Clinton failed to mention her deputies were responsible for some of the most shocking security decisions made regarding the Benghazi compound.
It was State Department Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy who cancelled the use in Tripoli of a DC-3 aircraft that could have aided in the evacuation of the Benghazi victims. Kennedy also nonsensically denied guard towers to the Benghazi mission and approved the withdrawal of a Security Support Teams, or SST, special U.S. forces specifically maintained for counterattacks on U.S. embassies or threats against diplomatic personnel. The January 2014 Benghazi report found Kennedy’s withdraw of the SST was made “despite compelling requests from personnel in Libya that the team be allowed to stay.”
9) Blames talking points on the CIA
Clinton placed the blame for the controversial talking points squarely with the CIA without mentioning the State Department contributed to the manufacturing of the points.
“The extensive public record now makes clear that Susan (Rice) was using information that originated with and was approved by the CIA,” she writes. “That assessment didn’t come from political operatives in the White House; it came from career professionals in the intelligence community.”
It has been confirmed that State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland played an active role in crafting the talking points as did Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Jake Sullivan.
10) Claims she implemented all Benghazi Review Board (ARB) recommendations.
In her book, Clinton writes matter-of-factly: “The review board made twenty-nine specific recommendations (twenty-four unclassified) to address the deficiencies it found in areas such as training, fire safety, staffing, and threat analysis.”
She relates: “I agreed with all twenty-nine and immediately accepted them. I pledged that I would not leave office until every recommendation was on its way to implementation. By the time I left, we had met that goal.”
The ARB, known for minimizing Clinton’s complicity in the attacks, singled out four unnamed State officials guilty of “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies” that contributed to the “grossly inadequate” security situation in Benghazi.
Unabashed House Republicans had no problem naming the four officials, all of whom served directly under Clinton.
The four officials were revealed to be Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Diplomatic Security Scott Bultrowicz, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Diplomatic Security for International Programs Charlene Lamb and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Maghreb Affairs Raymond Maxwell.
Despite State proclamations that those responsible would be disciplined or removed, three of the officials were reassigned to new posts. Maxwell voluntarily retired, which he had planned to do in 2012 before being delayed by the turmoil of the so-called Arab Spring. Maxwell was later found to not have contributed to security decisions in Benghazi, while the other three officials were reportedly involved in the ultimately disastrous decisions.
The Senate singled out Charlene Lamb, who was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs and worked closely with Clinton, for her “unwillingness to provide additional security personnel” to the Benghazi facility.
11) Cairo protest
Clinton seeks to connect the Benghazi jihadist assaults to popular civilian protests that took place the same day outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. She claimed the Cairo protests were about the anti-Islam film, which led to the belief the Benghazi assaults were also about the film.
“Half a world away in Cairo, young men began gathering in the street outside the U.S. Embassy as part of a protest organized by hard-line Islamist leaders against the insulting video,” she writes.
However, the Cairo protests were announced days in advance as part of a movement to free the so-called blind sheik, Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is serving a life sentence in the U.S. for conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Rahman’s son, Abdallah Abdel Rahman, even went so far as to threaten to storm the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and detain the employees inside.
In fact, on the day of the Sept. 11, 2012, protests in Cairo, CNN’s Nic Robertson interviewed the son of Rahman, who described the protest as being about freeing his father. No Muhammad film was mentioned. A big banner calling for Rahman’s release can be seen as Robertson walked to the embassy protests. No such banners were seen in protest of the Muhammad film.
12) Reliance on questionable New York Times piece
Clinton writes that the New York Times later proved in an investigation that the Muhammad video was “indeed a factor” in what happened in Benghazi.
“There were scores of attackers that night, almost certainly with differing motives,” she writes. “It is inaccurate to state that every single one of them was influenced by this hateful video. It is equally inaccurate to state that none of them were. Both assertions defy not only the evidence but logic as well.”
Clinton was referring to a Dec. 28, 2013, New York Times piece by David D. Kirkpatrick titled “A Deadly Mix in Benghazi.”
WND released a series of articles questioning the veracity of Kirkpatrick’s piece, showing that details were negated by the U.S. government, Benghazi victims and numerous other previous news reports. Kirkpatrick’s piece is contradicted by his own previous reporting, WND found.
Kirkpatrick claimed, for example, there was “no evidence that al-Qaida or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.”
That claim is directly contradicted by Kirkpatrick’s own previous reporting from Benghazi. An Oct. 29, 2012, New York Times article co-authored by Kirkpatrick and titled “Libya Warnings Were Plentiful, but Unspecific” documents “Al-Qaeda-leaning” Islamic extremist training camps in the mountains near Benghazi.
Kirkpatrick’s claim is also contradicted by a Library of Congress report– released one month before the Benghazi attack – which detailed that al-Qaida established a major base of operations in Libya in the aftermath of the U.S.-NATO campaign that deposed Moammar Gadhafi and his secular regime.
The report documented that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations were establishing terrorist training camps and pushing Taliban-style Islamic law in Libya while the new, Western-backed Libyan government incorporated jihadists into its militias.
Fox News reported the U.S. mission in Benghazi convened an “emergency meeting” in August 2012 to discuss al-Qaida training camps nearby.