Let's see. The United States suffered a deadly terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11, in which a sitting US Ambassador was murdered. Elsewhere, black Islamist flags were hoisted over four American embassies, following security breaches. The Obama administration lied about the cause and nature of the attack in Benghazi, misled the public about threats leading up to the massacre, and attempted to gloss over the outrageously lax security at the diplomatic outpost prior to the raid. They've dissembled and ducked tough questions, instructing journalists to stop asking about details of the massacre, and hiding behind an "ongoing FBI investigation," even though the FBI still -- almost two-and-a-half weeks later -- has not managed to gain access to the "crime" scene, which remains unsecured. At what point does this fiasco become a national scandal? For a sense of how shambolic the situation in Libya continues to be, read this New York Times piece, which reports that (a) we're now evacuating more diplomats for their safety (just in the nick of time), and (b) federal investigators have been reduced to interviewing witnesses in parked cars 400 miles away from the burned-out consulate, due to security concerns:
Sixteen days after the death of four Americans in an attack on a United States diplomatic mission here, fears about the near-total lack of security have kept F.B.I. agents from visiting the scene of the killings and forced them to try to piece together the complicated crime from Tripoli, more than 400 miles away. Investigators are so worried about the tenuous security, people involved in the investigation say, that they have been unwilling to risk taking some potential Libyan witnesses into the American Embassy in Tripoli. Instead, the investigators have resorted to the awkward solution of questioning some witnesses in cars outside the embassy, which is operating under emergency staffing and was evacuated of even more diplomats on Thursday because of a heightened security alert. “It’s a cavalcade of obstacles right now,” said a senior American law enforcement official who is receiving regular updates on the Benghazi investigation and who described the crime scene, which has been trampled on, looted and burned, as so badly “degraded” that even once F.B.I. agents do eventually gain access “it’ll be very difficult to see what evidence can be attributed to the bad guys.”
Yahoo News has quadruple confirmed Eli Lake's Newsweek scoop -- later echoed by CNN and Fox -- that US officials considered the Benghazi raid to be a planned act of terrorism from "day one." As you read this, recall the administration's repeated insistence that the attack grew out of a "spontaneous" protest:
When gunmen struck the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 of this year, the response from American officials was almost simultaneous: They immediately set about collecting information about the attackers, some of whom were quickly identified as foreigners, and tracing links from them to known extremist groups, a knowledgeable source has told Yahoo News. The source's description came as fresh news accounts cast doubt on the White House's insistence that it has been forthright all along about what it knew about the attack. (I tweeted on Sept. 21 that this same source informed Yahoo News that the administration privately labeled the attack as terrorism on "Day One.")... "In this case, the intel has been spot-on from the beginning," the source said. American intelligence reached the conclusion that the assault on the consulate was terrorism "on Day One" and "the Brits, the French, Italians all said the same thing … within 48 hours." The source agreed to detail the American response to the tragedy on condition of anonymity.
Despite this near-immediate consensus among the international intelligence community, the White House clung to its "spontaneous" assertion for well over a week, even as news reports emerged that no protest whatsoever was underway prior to the terrorist attack. Amazingly, the administration is still wedded to its debunked "spontaneous" line, to the point that they're trying to shoe-horn it into the remnants of their rapidly unraveling tale:
However, the Administration continues to believe the attack was not pre-planned, but rather was the result of extremists seizing the opportunity presented by protests in neighboring Egypt against an American-made anti-Islamic video. Members of the Benghazi al-Qaeda affiliate, Ansar al Sharia, “Saw the events in Cairo and took it upon themselves to seize that opportunity to do something,” the Administration official says. “They may have intended for some time to attack U.S. facilities, but they did so at the time they did to take advantage of Cairo.”
They'd have us believe that the timing of the attack was purely exploitive, and had nothing to do with the symbolic anniversary on which it "coincidentally" took place. This explanation strains credulity; it's constructed in an effort to salvage the wreckage of the administration's credibility on this front. Ed Morrissey raises an additional important point:
At least the White House now acknowledges that AQ had planned an attack on the Benghazi consulate and the American diplomatic presence “for some time,” a point of information that would never have come to light had CNN not found Stevens’ journal in the-unsecured wreckage of the facility. Stevens had warned the administration of the dangers, and as yet no evidence has arisen that State or the White House took any action to address his concerns. [Hyperlink added]
All the while, the Obama-proposed sequestration defense cuts (which would be "devastating" to our military capability, according to his own Defense Secretary Leon Panetta) remain on schedule. Having snubbed the Israeli Prime Minister-- and every other foreign leader -- at the United Nations summit in order to make time for 'The View,' Obama finally phoned Benjamin Netanyahu. During the call, the president reportedly refused to sign on to Netanyahu's effort to rally the international community into drawing a "red line" on Iran's nuclear weapons program. (UPDATE - The Washington Free Beacon reports that Obama's schedule was free this afternoon, the day he was supposedly "too busy" to meet with Netanyahu). To cap it all off, US officials are now admitting that they've "lost track" of Syria's chemical weapons. I guess the truly shocking thing about today's "shock poll" on terrorism is that Romney doesn't have a larger lead on these issues. Why might that be? Charles Krauthammer states the obvious:
Four years later, mid-September 2012, the U.S. mission in Benghazi went up in flames, as did Obama’s entire Middle East policy of apology and accommodation. Obama once again played it cool, effectively ignoring the attack and the region-wide American humiliation.“Bumps in the road,” he said. Nodding tamely were the mainstream media, who would have rained a week of vitriol on Mitt Romney had he so casually dismissed the murder of a U.S. ambassador, the raising of the black Salafist flag over four U.S. embassies and the epidemic of virulent anti-American demonstrations from Tunisia to Sri Lanka (!) to Indonesia.
Romney has waded very gingerly into this mess, exhibiting a studied refusal to turn up the heat on these questions himself. Maybe he's still gun shy after the media's overwhelming and insane response to his initial (correct and vindicated) Cairo statement. But the media's going to pound him no matter what he does, even if that have to make things up. If he wants to win the race, he needs to shake it up and connect on a few roundhouses. The president's naive and weak foreign policy (yes, yes, Bin Laden) is disintegrating before our very eyes. Will Romney force the American people to take notice?
UPDATE - This debacle somehow gets worse. This is a disgrace:
An intelligence source on the ground in Libya told Fox News that no threat assessment was conducted before U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team began "taking up residence" at the Benghazi compound -- describing the security lapses as a "total failure." The claim comes more than two weeks after Stevens and three other Americans were killed in what is now being described officially as a terror attack possibly tied to Al Qaeda. The source told Fox News that there was no real security equipment installed in the villas on the compound except for a few video cameras. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst, the intelligence source said the security lapses were a 10 -- a "total failure" because Benghazi was known to be a major area for extremist activity. There had been four attacks or attempted attacks on diplomatic and western targets leading up to the Sept. 11 strike on the U.S. Consulate. Based on that information, a former regional security officer for diplomatic security told Fox News, the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi had to have been classified or assessed by the State Department as a "critical threat terrorism or civil unrest posting."
No threat assessment and mind-bogglingly inadequate security measures despite four previous attempted and successful attacks, a "critical terrorism" classification, and the common knowledge that the city "was known to be a major area for extremist activity." The term "total failure" is almost an understatement. How the hell did this happen?
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography