NBC's Chief White House Correspondent and MSNBC anchor Chuck Todd doesn't see any rationale for the formation of a select committee on Benghazi. The inquiry is pointless, Todd asserts, because "all" questions* pertaining to the 2012 terrorist attacks have already been asked and answered:
"I'll hear from Republicans who will say, 'but there are unanswered questions.' Well no, all the questions have been answered. There's just some people who don't like the answers -- that wishes [sic] the answers were somehow more conspiratorial."
Yes, there have been a number of investigations into the deadly raid, including revelatory House hearings, a Senate report, and a State Department-mandated review. The House proceedings answered some questions, but raised others. The Senate Intelligence panel's report concluded that the attacks were preventable, and rebuked the Obama administration for "unnecessarily hamper[ing] the committee's review." The State Department's "Accountability Review Board" declined to interview key players, including Secretary Clinton. None of the Benghazi survivors have testified publicly. Furthermore, new information and perspectives have come to light within the last few weeks. A court-ordered document release turned up a relevant, previously-withheld email that further undermines the White House's official version of events regarding their post-attack talking points, and an Air Force General who was on duty at AFRICOM that night said the military never received a request for help from the State Department during the eight-hour ordeal. He went on to suggest that the US government should have attempted a rescue mission, which other military officers have testified wouldn't have been logistically feasible. A majority of the House of Representatives -- including a handful of Democrats -- clearly believes that unanswered questions remain. A large majority of the American public is skeptical of the White House's veracity and supports keeping the investigation open and ongoing. Two former top CIA officials have endorsed the proceedings. Most Beltway Democrats, and apparently Chuck Todd, dissent. Todd is a journalist. It's therefore a bit jarring to hear him declare that "all" questions pertaining to a controversial matter have been answered, thus intimating that the issue is settled -- particularly after previously-unseen evidence has just recently emerged. What follows is a sampling of questions that have yet to be adequately resolved:
(1) Why were multiple requests for additional security assets denied by the State Department in the lead-up to the Benghazi attacks? Indeed, why was a security team removed from Libya, over the objections of our security personnel on the ground?
(2) Why did the State Department renew its inadequately-protected diplomatic mission's lease with special security waivers in the summer of 2012 -- following previous attempted attacks against the compound, and as other Western nations and organizations began to withdraw from the rapidly-deteriorating city?
(3) At what point was it determined that the US could not have deployed a (full-scale) rescue mission in time to save American lives in Benghazi? How could this determination have been made when the duration of the attack was unknown? (Nobody could have forecast in advance that the siege would "only" last eight hours). Was the Commander-in-Chief consulted on this decision? Is Gen. Lovell misguided in his insistence that the military should have launched a mission that night? And even if we accept the premise that a rescue would have been impossible within the established time frame, how was it that our government was so egregiously unprepared to defend its people against a hostile action in an extremely dangerous city, in an unstable country, on the symbolic anniversary of a major terrorist attack?
(4) Where was the president during the hours-long raid? A former administration official recently revealed that Obama was not in the White House situation room. With an ambassador missing, a consulate under attack, and American lives hanging in the balance, why wasn't he actively managing the US response?
(5) During the attack, a rapid-response, investigative "FEST" team was reportedly told to stand down. Is that true, and if so, why? After the attack, why did it take American investigators weeks to access the burned-out compound? How could it be that the media first discovered Amb. Stevens' personal journal -- again, weeks after the event?
(6) When the administration's post-attack talking points were being formulated, who within the State Department's "building leadership" objected to references to Al Qaeda and previous attempted attacks on the facility? Who was "very upset" about initial (accurate) versions of the talking points, and why? Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland fretted in an email that including certain elements might lead to members of Congress criticizing the State Department for "not paying attention to warnings." Is that not an overtly political concern?
(7) Since the CIA never linked the Benghazi bloodshed to an internet video, how and why was that false linkage repeatedly cited by top administration officials days, and even weeks, later? As the attacks were definitively determined to have been a coordinated terrorist operation within hours, why did top officials continue to invoke the video, and hedge on the terrorism angle? Why was the creator of that video arrested and jailed? Does the administration stand by its claim that the White House and State Department only requested a single cosmetic change to the talking points, even after its been proven to be false?
(8) Why was there such a heavy CIA presence in Benghazi (as reported by CNN), and why has the agency taken "unprecedented" action to maintain radio silence about it? Might it have anything to do with the US government quietly trying to clean up this mess?
(9) More than 20 months have elapsed since the fatal event, in response to which the president vowed that justice would be served. Why have zero arrests been made? How is it that news organizations have managed to track down and interview suspected Benghazi terrorists, yet the US government's pursuit has reportedly "stalled"? Is this a result of evidentiary concerns relating to potential civilian trials for the terrorists?
(10) Nobody in the federal bureaucracy lost his or her job over the self-evident failures in Benghazi, which cost American lives. This includes individuals such as State Department official Charlene Lamb, who astonishingly testified that the United States had the "correct" number of security assets in Benghazi. Is that an acceptable level of accountability?
If Chuck Todd has detailed answers to "all" of those questions -- I count more than two dozen within the ten bullet points -- let's hear them. If not, perhaps he ought to be seeking them rather than dismissing them.
*It's true that Todd goes on to say that there are other, larger questions that might be explored, perhaps an indication that he was tailoring his critique to GOP questions about the talking points. Then again, he begins the clip by pooh-poohing the entire rationale for a select committee. Only two of my enumerated points above dealt with the false White House narrative, so I agree that many other aspects of the scandal are worthy of more scrutiny. But I also disagree that the book is closed on the talking points element, as the administration's latest revisionist excuse is preposterous on its face. For what it's worth, Rep. Gowdy has stated clearly that although the talking points issue isn't resolved, his committee's inquiry will have a much broader scope. So "their focus" isn't as "off" as Todd says.
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