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Petraeus, Benghazi and Passing the Smell Test

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Washington, when the official line seems improbable, people often say, "It doesn't pass the smell test." Well, there's a lot that stinks at the moment about the Benghazigate affair, including now the circumstances involving the forced resignation of a man in the middle of it: President Obama's CIA Director and former four-star Army General David Petraeus.

Within hours of the jihadist attack in Libya on September 11th that killed four Americans, the administration started dissembling and lying about what happened. Gen. Petraeus could surely shed light on the matter. But - because of an affair the FBI knew about for months, yet we are insistently told it didn't mention to the White House until the night of the election - he's out. Consequently, the general won't testify at any of the three congressional hearings called to look into the Benghazi debacle later this week.

This really stinks, and Congress needs to find out why. Here are some lines of inquiry that cry out for no-holds-barred investigation:

According to a November 12 Fox News item, "White House Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan reportedly was aware that there was a relationship as early as the summer of 2011." That is at odds with the timeline now being fed to press outlets like the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal that were incalculably helpful to the President's reelection bid by keeping a lid on the Benghazigate story until after the election.

These news organizations are reporting that the FBI told only the Attorney General and a small number of his subordinates "last summer." The party line claims that was because guidelines promulgated during the previous administration would preclude the Bureau or Justice Department from giving a heads-up to the White House or congressional intelligence committees.

So, who in the government actually knew that the Central Intelligence Agency director had been compromised, and when did they know it?

We have learned that Gen. Petraeus' lover, Paula Broadwell, had classified information on her personal computer. She and her paramour both deny that he was its source. It is unclear whether either was polygraphed, or whether the FBI is simply taking their word for it. Either way, we need to know if the security breach (whatever its provenance) is going to be pursued? Or will it be dropped, with potentially far-reaching implications for how others treat state secrets?

Citing multiple intelligence sources who had served in Benghazi, the aforementioned Fox News report indicates, moreover, that Ms. Broadwell appears to have actually disclosed such secrets. It seems she revealed in a speech at the University of Denver in October that the so-called CIA "annex" in Benghazi was being used to detain and interrogate jihadists from around the region. The Agency vehemently denies this account, noting that the CIA has not had the authority to engage in such activities since President Obama expressly eliminated it in an executive order upon taking office in January 2009. Still, if the Broadwell revelation - which it seems reasonable to surmise came from her intimate access to a man who would have known the truth - is any indication, Team Obama would have had plenty of reason to worry about the damage Gen. Petraeus could do to its hopes for reelection.

So, for that matter, would another activity in which the CIA's Benghazi station was reportedly engaged: Covertly helping an international effort to arm the so-called "Syrian opposition" by shipping weapons recovered from "liberated" Qaddafi-era caches. If, as the New York Times has reported, the bulk of the armaments being sent thither by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are winding up in the hands of the most radical Islamist elements, some supplied by us are likely reaching al Qaeda operatives.

Thus, we potentially have a full-scale national security disaster on our hands. Imagine, for example, even a few of Qaddafi's thousands of surface-to-air missiles being used, not to shoot down Syrian air force jets and helicopters, but U.S. airliners, here or abroad. Who will be held accountable if that happens?

Presumably, CIA Director Petraeus would have been intimately familiar with the details of what his operatives in Benghazi were up to. That would certainly have been true after their station was murderously attacked and (as Ms. Broadwell suggested to her audience in Denver) he swiftly established that it was a terrorist attack. He would, therefore, have to have knowingly dissembled when, shortly thereafter in the course of hastily organized briefings on Capitol Hill, he parroted the Obama administration meme that this act of jihad was actually just a spontaneous response to a provocative video.

In light of the general's reputation for integrity, could he have been coerced by a White House determined to deflect and deceive at least until November 6th and that was in a position to destroy his career?

Sound implausible? Well, is it any more implausible than this: Newsmax reports that, "FBI agents investigating CIA Director David Petraeus's affair were shocked when told by Bureau officials that, despite the national security implications, no action would be taken on their findings until after the presidential election."

One thing is certain: Even though the election is now safely behind it, Team Obama has every incentive to obstruct congressional investigators. The effect of forcing Petraeus' resignation at this juncture is to defer his testimony - for the time being at least, if not indefinitely. With a compliant press, myriad distractions during a compressed lame-duck session and the short-attention span of both legislators and the public, the administration may be calculating that it can stonewall this inquiry as it has done with Fast-and-Furious, among other scandals. And that would not just fail the smell test. It would allow the continuation of what appears to be serious rot at the highest levels of our government.

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