Jonah Goldberg

The only real accountability for the Benghazi scandal will have to come in 2016.

Reading through the competing partisan reports and listening to the congressional testimony of various officials this week, it seems fair to say that no actual crimes were committed (though you never know what you don't know).

There were, in at least a figurative sense, criminal lapses in judgment by senior officials. Many of those lapses are recounted in the Accountability Review Board report. It found "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department" that "resulted in a special mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place."

Translation: U.S. officials were caught by surprise by a terrorist attack on 9/11 in a country where our ambassador had repeatedly warned his superiors -- including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- that security was grossly inadequate. That ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was vindicated in a pyrrhic sense when he was murdered by well-organized terrorists.

Clinton picked four of the five members of the "independent" board, and they were kind enough to show her a draft before they released it to Congress. The ARB assigned all meaningful blame to some mid-level officials. ARB members declined to interview Clinton because, according to testimony Thursday by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Michael Mullen (the chairman and vice-chairman of the ARB), they determined at the outset that it wouldn't be necessary. None of the people who were interviewed for the report were under oath.

For those who followed the still-unfolding scandal at the IRS, this might be significant. Initially, IRS official Lois Lerner tried to pin all of the blame of some low-level employees in Cincinnati. When employees were questioned by congressional investigators -- away from their bosses and under oath -- evidence was found to help prove Lerner's account a well-orchestrated lie.

Congressional Republicans would like to get relevant witnesses to testify under oath, but they claim that the State Department and CIA are blocking that. CNN has reported that many potential CIA witnesses have been subjected to "frequent, even monthly" lie detector tests to discourage them from leaking information. One insider told CNN: "You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation," Said another: "You don't jeopardize yourself, you jeopardize your family as well" if you talk to anyone about what happened.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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