Wednesday, May 14

Little things can trip up a president--like the cover story about Benghazi

It's generally known that when the cops or the DA are corrupt, a mayor or alderman or senator can be caught snorting coke with an underage girl and get clean away with it.

But conversely, when investigators are honest, smart and determined, sometimes a president can be brought down by the tiniest detail.  For example, congressional investigators were ultimately able to link the Watergate burglars to Nixon because one of the burglary crew was discovered to have a White House phone number in his billfold.

Thus it is that we've been watching Team Obama wriggle and squirm and issue various corrections about the events surrounding the Muslim attack on an American outpost in Benghazi just eight weeks before the 2012 presidential election.  The initial cover story was that the attacks were NOT planned or carried out by al-Qaeda, but were the result of a "spontaneous demonstration" triggered by a video posted on the internet.

Problem was, from the outset this explanation seemed exceedingly far-fetched.  Most obviously, people who go to spontaneous demonstrations almost never have mortar tubes and rounds with them.  In fact such weapons are pretty rare.  Second, internet analysis showed that the video in question had only been viewed a few dozen times, and no one seemed to have thought much about it at the time.

With so much information discrediting the cover story, investigators started asking government officials who was the source of the story.

Pretty much the only agencies with access to the information chain were the White House, State Department and CIA.  And all these denied being the source.

The top military intelligence official at U.S. Africa Command, whose job it was to determine responsibility for the attacks, concluded almost immediately that they were the work of al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. This view was included in a Defense Intelligence Agency assessment published two days after the attacks.  But even the Secretary of Defense can't unilaterally insert text into White House documents.

Months passed, and the Big Three agencies were all still denying being the source.  As far as the Obama administration, the story appeared as if by magic.  Aliens, maybe.

Jay Carney and others repeatedly insisted that "the intelligence community" was responsible for the "triggered by an internet video" story.  Carney insisted the White House had made just one “stylistic” change--that is, not a substantive change.

Hillary Clinton testified that she had no earthly idea about anything, due to having suffered a fall that left her memory very, very hazy, but claimed the intelligence community was the “principal decider” on the talking points. But an internal CIA email reported that the State Department had “major reservations” about the talking points and that “we revised the documents with their concerns in mind.”

In all, objections from either the White House or State resulted in all or part of four paragraphs of the six-paragraph talking points being removed—148 of 248 words.

Finally a couple of weeks ago Fox News’s Bret Baier asked former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor whether *he* had changed “attacks” to “demonstrations”--something that would surely be considered a major change, and which no honest person would undertake without strong supporting documentation.

Vietor replied “Maybe. I don’t remember.”

"Maybe.  I don't remember"?

A suggestion for the House congressional committee:  Write a letter to Vietor and ask him if, as *spokesman* for the National Security Council (i.e. not an advisory position) he had provided any advice or counsel to the president on what to say about the cause of the attacks.  I'm pretty sure he'll reply that he didn't.  At that point subpoena him, and see if Obama tries to prevent his testimony on the ground of executive privilege, as he did to prevent Eric Holder from testifying about what the president knew about the government's operation to sell military-grade weapons to Mexican drug cartels.

Earlier in that case Holder had denied telling the president "anything" about the operation, so it's hard to see how they could successfully invoke the privilege if challenged in court.  But the Republicans were unwilling to take the administration to court.

But over the intervening two years we've learned a lot more about the general lawlessness of the administration, so that a court case would have a much better chance. 

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