Truth an Endangered Species at State department


I don’t want yes-men around me. I want everyone to tell me the truth even if it costs them their jobs
Samuel Goldwyn

It seems clear that no important jobs were put in jeopardy by the State department’s internal investigation of the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi. Kirsten Powers noted that weeks of investigation unearthed little information that couldn’t have been learned from watching Fox News. On the plus side, it did create some investigative jobs and saved countless others.

President Obama, Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice had each stated rather emphatically that all of the relevant intelligence indicated that the attack was a spontaneous reaction to a hateful video. It was strongly suggested that it was carryover violence, inspired by a related protest in Cairo.

Discerning the motivations and actions of the assembled is always a challenge for investigators. The genesis of violence is not always clear (i.e. the events at Kent State University forty years ago). The Benghazi investigators were unable to find evidence of a protest or a crowd prior to the attack. Political spin masters labeled this an ‘intelligence failure’ or a ‘misjudgment’.

This calls to mind a ‘misstatement’ made by candidate Clinton during the 2008 campaign. The senator recalled encountering sniper fire upon her arrival in Tuzla. Had Senator Clinton confused sniper fire in Tuzla with sniper fire in Belfast, it could have been fairly characterized as a misstatement. But she confused real sniper fire with imaginary sniper fire. There was a time when an investigator or a journalist would have termed that a lie.

So I ask; if your intelligence sources cannot distinguish between a real crowd and an imaginary crowd or between a real demonstration and an imaginary one, is it bad intelligence or is it a lie?

I would have hoped this investigation would have settled some simple factual matters. If the consensus of the intelligence was as Susan Rice presented it, then the following questions should lead us to a human source: 1) Who saw and identified the crowd? 2) To whom was that information communicated? 3) Who edited away the terrorism reference? and 4) Who linked the Benghazi violence to the events in Cairo.

I suspect the explanation for this preposterous narrative is simple. An anonymous (and well-meaning) staffer speculated that perhaps the events in Benghazi occurred in the wake of the disturbance in Cairo. In the heat of the moment, it seemed like a far better story than admitting we were unprepared for an attack on our poorly secured embassy on September the 11th.

A decision was then made to proceed with the video narrative for political reasons. I believe that Senator Clinton refused to carry the ball on first down and Susan Rice was chosen to replace her. Mrs. Clinton understood the political risks and didn’t want to be the poster child for questionable information. It was her job to walk the plank, but she wasn’t willing to go first. In retrospect, most of the blowback has been directed at Susan Rice.

On one level, this is just politics. But we no longer know how or where it stops. A man from Incutel spoke to some government defense and security professionals. He said he was sure that everyone in the room was willing to take a bullet for their country, but he doubted that any of the same people were willing to put their jobs on the line.

So we should contemplate the following. Would a person recommending increased security in Benghazi be risking his or her job? How about a person who disagrees with the consensus of relevant intelligence or someone who finds evidence of dishonesty or malfeasance? This administration has mastered the narrative of wrong but never culpable. The willingness to seek and speak the truth should be a job expectation, not a career risk.

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