WASHINGTON – For a highly accomplished lawyer, one who notched significant victories in the war on terror as a federal prosecutor, Andrew McCarthy can make a compelling case in plain English without resorting to legalese.
And when it comes to Benghazi, his case against the Obama administration boils down to this: It is the president's worst scandal because it was a dereliction of duty, one that led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.
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McCarthy is not alone in his assessment of the gravity of the scandal.
On the two-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told an Oklahoma radio station he believed the Obama administration's Benghazi cover-up would become the biggest scandal in U.S. history.
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McCarthy is a New York Times bestselling author, Fox News analyst, contributing editor at National Review and a former adviser to the deputy secretary of defense. As chief assistant U.S. attorney in New York, he successfully prosecuted the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing.
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He put the case against the administration's handling of Benghazi in terms that are clear and simple but also comprehensive, and in a way the jury in the court of public opinion may find compelling.
He told WND, "To me, the most offensive of the president's derelictions involves Benghazi," which, he said, goes back to the war on Libya when, "the president really initiated, unprovoked, a war on a regime that was then being represented by our government as a key American counter-terrorism ally."
That error was compounded, McCarthy stated, because the administration "switched sides" in a way that inevitably empowered the jihadis in Eastern Libya, about whom Gadhafi was actually giving the U.S. intelligence.
"They follow up that with a really shocking failure to provide security for Americans who, for some reason, still not explained, are assigned to Benghazi, which is one of the most dangerous places on the planet for Americans," he observed.
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Following that, McCarthy noted, as the jihadis continued to hit Western targets and other countries removed their diplomatic personnel, "we not only leave our people in, but we reduce security. That, inevitably, leads to the September 11, 2012, attack, which is an act of war in which our ambassador is killed. "
"The enemy, who we are at war with already, attacks an American installation and the administration responds to that with this ridiculous story about how it was generated by an anti-Muslim video under circumstances where it's clear that they knew it was a terrorist attack."
Inhofe emphatically drove that point home, saying four key members of the administration – former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, CIA Director John Brennan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey and National Intelligence Director James Clapper – had said the proof that the attack on the consulate was a planned, terrorist operation was "unequivocal."
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"All four of them used the word 'unequivocal,'" the senator insisted. "It was unequivocal, on that day we knew that it was an organized, terrorist attack."
"The president," insisted the senator, "had all of that knowledge and deliberately lied to the American people for one reason: It was right before his re-election. He wanted the American people to think there was not organized activity in the Middle East."
"So I'm glad that they're finally having the hearings," he said, referring to the Select Committee on Benghazi chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., due to begin Wednesday.
WND asked McCarthy if a dereliction of duty that caused the loss of life would be considered an impeachable offense.
"Yes, dereliction of duty is one of the more profound impeachable offenses," he succinctly replied.
The former federal prosecutor used both his legal acumen and knowledge of history to explain why that was the case.
"There's a common misconception that 'high crimes and misdemeanors' means criminal offenses like we find in the penal code, like I used to have to try to enforce when I was a federal prosecutor," he said.
"But, what the framers meant by high crimes and misdemeanors, which was a British term of art, was gross maladministration of the government. And it entails not only things which would be indictable offenses, but a broad range of things.
"It's actually much more like military justice concept where dereliction of duty, failure to follow an oath, and the like, are pretty straight-forward impeachable offenses. I think it's unfortunate that people think a president has to be indictable before he is removable."
McCarthy detailed that contention in his recent book, "Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama's Impeachment."
In an interview last week, he told WND there is no question about Obama' lawlessness. But, as he outlines in the book, it is not feasible to impeach the president without public support.
That public support might grow with an increasing stream of new revelations about Benghazi, as, even two years after the attack, evidence is quickly mounting to support McCarthy's assertion there was a dereliction of duty.
Just last week, three survivors of the Benghazi attack, members of a security team at the secret CIA annex, told Fox News a top CIA official prevented them from responding to the attack at the compound, a mile away, even though they were getting calls from State Department employees begging for help.
Thirty minutes later, the team defied orders and went to the compound, but it was too late.
They believed the delay cost the lives of Ambassador Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service officer Sean Smith.
The team members said they also requested air support, but it never arrived.
Additionally, the government watchdog group Judicial Watch has just revealed it has obtained documents it said show the State Department was warned nearly three months before the attack the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi was not only unsafe, it was likely a death trap.
Using a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, lawsuit to obtain the documents, Judicial Watch said it found top State Department officials were explicitly warned that security guards were abandoning their posts "out of fear of their safety."
Furthermore, the groups said the documents also warned that an explosion outside the compound wall had "created a fear factor when it came to working the night shift."
The documents showed Department of State Contract Specialist Neal Kern was warned that the number of local security guards leaving their posts had put the U.S. Benghazi Mission at risk.
Judicial Watch noted that two months before the attack Ambassador Stevens himself requested more help but the request was refused by both the Departments of State and Defense.
The group also pointed out how Chris Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, told the Wall Street Journal almost two years ago how security personnel had dropped from 30 in July 2012 to only 11 diplomatic security agents under Steven's authority on the night of the attack.
Judicial Watch also said "additional emails confirmed that in the months leading up to the terrorist attack, State Department officials were repeatedly informed of the Benghazi security staffing problems."
It also found "the State Department's local militia 'security' feared for their own safety and wouldn't even show up to provide necessary protection."
Accusations of State Department responsibility for the deaths at Benghazi, and dereliction of duty on the part of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were detailed last week with the release of investigative journalist Aaron Klein's new work from WND Books, "The REAL Benghazi Story: What the White House Doesn't Want You to Know."
Klein said Clinton misled the public about her role in helping to secure the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi and may have even deceived lawmakers during her public testimony probing the attacks.
The author asked: “[By signing the waivers,] did Clinton know she was approving a woefully unprotected compound? If not then at the very least she is guilty of dereliction of duty and the diplomatic equivalent of criminal negligence.”
Also said to be revealed in the book:
- Clinton, together with then-CIA Director David H. Petraeus, were the architects of a plan to arm the Libyan and Syrian rebels.
- Public sources in a systematic connect-the-dots exercise indicate both the U.S. mission and the nearby CIA annex in Benghazi were involved in coordinating U.S. aid transfers to rebels in the Middle East, with particular emphasis on shipping weapons to jihadis fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
- The compound itself was deliberately set up with minimal security so as not to attract attention to what the author reports were secretive activities taking place inside the mission, activities for which Clinton herself was a central player.
- 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.
- 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.
- Clinton wrongly wrote 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.”
- Klein notes 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 attack. 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.
- Clinton's assertion "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” was contradicted by her top deputies, including officials known to be close to her who were responsible for some major denials of security at the compound, such as 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 denied permission to build guard towers at the Benghazi mission and approved the withdrawal of a security support team, or SST, that special U.S. forces specifically maintained for counter-attacks on U.S. embassies or threats against diplomatic personnel.
- Clinton's contention she was not informed of the general nature of security at the Benghazi facility, even though she was known to have taken a particular interest in the compound.
- Clinton 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.
- Clinton failed to mention Stevens may have gone to Benghazi for a project that she specifically requested, what Hicks called Clinton's wish to convert the shanty complex into a permanent mission in a symbol of the new Libya, so she could announce the establishment of a permanent U.S. State Department facility during her planned visit there in December 2012.
Follow Garth Kant @DCgarth