As we have written more than once, the news media’s collaboration in the Obama administration’s coverup of the Benghazi scandal is a scandal in itself. There are, of course, a few exceptions, most notably Fox News. But in general, Benghazi has not received anywhere near the attention it deserves from journalists. I think most voters are generally aware that the administration provided inadequate security prior to the terrorist attack on September 11. I would guess that around one-half of voters understand that the administration tried to pass off a terrorist attack as a spontaneous protest over a YouTube video. And maybe 25% or so are aware of the charge that the besieged Americans at the Benghazi consulate called repeatedly for help, but were ignored by President Obama. Moreover, beyond any bare awareness of the facts, there is a big difference between what we see today–Bengahzi consigned to the back pages or not reported on at all, as in the case of the New York Times–and what we should be seeing, i.e., questions about Benghazi featured on every front page and the evening news.
So, despite the mass media blockade, is public awareness of the magnitude of the Benghazi scandal deepening? There are signs that to some degree, it may be. The best evidence is a joke that Jay Leno told last night:
Well, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is back. Not for gays in the military. It’s President Obama’s new policy for questions about Libya. Don’t ask. Don’t tell.
Late-night comedy can be a useful barometer because mainstream comics like Leno don’t tell jokes their audience won’t get. Leno’s joke assumes that most Americans know that there is some kind of coverup going on with respect to Libya. It does not, however, presume specific knowledge of the explosive allegations that have emerged on Fox over the last few days.
A group of former special operators have set up a Facebook page called SOS: Special Operations Speaks. SOS posted this graphic on their Facebook page:
Facebook took the graphic down twice on the ground that it violated their terms of service, but it is now back up on the SOS site. Apparently Facebook thinks criticism of Barack Obama is somehow beyond the pale. Keep that in mind next time someone tells you that liberals are in favor of free speech.
Earlier today, four senators-John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte and Ron Johnson– wrote to President Obama to demand answers on Benghazi. Here is their letter in full:
Dear Mr. President:
The American people deserve to know all the facts surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, that resulted in the murder of four Americans—including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Unfortunately, you and your senior administration officials have not been forthcoming in providing answers to the many questions that have emerged.
On October 9, 2012, we sent a letter to the senior intelligence officials in your administration in an effort to obtain answers to these questions. More than three weeks have passed, and we still have not received a response. To make matters worse, since that original letter, we sent several subsequent letters to you or to your senior administration officials asking a number of questions, and we have failed to receive a single letter in response.
The American people and their representatives in Congress need to understand what you knew about the Benghazi terrorist attack and when you knew it. We also have a right to know what steps you and your administration took—or failed to take—before, during, and after the terrorist attack to protect American lives.
In order to facilitate an immediate response to our important questions on behalf of the American people, below are the questions from the letters we have sent over the last three weeks.
In our October 9, 2012, letter that we wrote with Senator Saxby Chambliss, we asked the following questions of Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, Jr.; Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David H. Petraeus; and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and Deputy National Security Advisor, John Brennan:
• Within 48 hours of the attack, was there credible information and reporting to suggest that the assault on our Consulate and other U.S. facilities in Benghazi should be characterized as a terrorist attack?
• At what time did intelligence community agencies or elements first assess that the events in Benghazi were a terrorist attack?
• What information did the intelligence community provide to senior policymakers that led some of them to draw the conclusion as late as five days after the attack in Benghazi that it was the result of a spontaneous demonstration, not a terrorist act?
• Was there no credible evidence at that late date that was compelling enough for the intelligence community and the senior policymakers to draw a conclusion with at least moderate confidence that the attack in Benghazi was a terrorist act?
On October 15, 2012, Senator Graham sent letters to Mr. Brennan, Director Clapper, Director Petraeus, as well as National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon. The letters highlighted the fact that on June 6, 2012, assailants placed an improvised explosive device (IED) on the north gate of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. The IED detonated and ripped a hole in the security perimeter that was described by one individual as “big enough for forty men to go through.” This attack was preceded by an earlier IED attack against the Consulate in April 2012. Based on these facts, the letter included the following questions:
• Were you aware of these attacks?
• Did you inform the President of these attacks?
• If so, what action was taken to protect our Consulate?
• If you did not inform the President, why not?
On October 15, 2012, Senator Graham sent you a similar letter asking the following questions:
• Were you informed of these attacks on our Libyan Consulate?
• If not, why not?
• Did you consider these serious events?
• If you were informed, what action was taken to protect the Consulate?
On October 19, 2012, we sent a follow-up letter to the same three senior intelligence officials in your administration noting that ten days had elapsed since we sent the October 9 letter.
On October 24, 2012, we sent a letter to you asking the following questions:
• Why did your administration insist that a spontaneous demonstration was responsible for the attack on our Consulate, but as the State Department later divulged, no demonstration even occurred in Benghazi?
• Why were requests for greater security assistance by officers on the ground not fulfilled, especially in light of the fact that there had already been two attacks on our Consulate in Benghazi this year and an attempt to assassinate the British Ambassador-events about which you should have known?
• In light of the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi and the escalating series of attacks in the preceding months, why were there not rapid reaction forces or other military assets available in the region to deploy to Libya in the event of an emergency on September 11, 2012-a day that our intelligence agencies consistently cite far in advance as a moment of heightened security threat for the United States and our citizens and interests abroad?
On October 26, 2012, we sent a letter to Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta; Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David H. Petraeus; and Attorney General, Eric H. Holder requesting the immediate declassification of the surveillance video in and around the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi for the two days-September 11 and 12, 2012-that it and related U.S. facilities were under attack.
On October 27, 2012, Senators McCain and Portman sent a letter to Secretary Panetta asking the following questions:
• What military forces were available to provide support to U.S. personnel in Libya?
• What military forces were requested to provide support to U.S. personnel in Libya, by whom, and what forces were provided?
• What communication and coordination did you have with the President and other members of the National Security Council regarding possible Defense Department support in Libya?
Your failure to answer these important questions will only add to the growing perception among many of our constituents that your administration has undertaken a concerted effort to misrepresent the facts and stonewall Congress and the American people. We look forward to a prompt and thorough response to these questions. The American people deserve a full accounting of what happened in Benghazi where four brave Americans were murdered.
John McCain , United States Senator
Lindsey Graham, United States Senator
Kelly Ayotte , United States Senator
Ron Johnson , United States Senator
Copies of the letter were sent to Leon Panetta, Eric Holder, James Clapper and David Petraeus.
Obama won’t respond, of course. His strategy, as always, is to stonewall, and his objective is to run out the clock by keeping a lid on the story until November 6.
Hurricane Sandy has had, I think, a mixed impact on the presidential race. It has, of course, given Obama an opportunity to look more or less presidential, but that was inevitable. More important, perhaps, is that it gives reporters and editors an excuse for ignoring Benghazi. At this point, it seems clear that the only way Benghazi will assume a prominent role in the presidential campaign is if Romney himself raises it, forcefully and repeatedly. Romney did not go after Obama on Benghazi in the last presidential debate, and there is no reason to think he intends to start now. That is probably a wise decision; Romney wants attention focused on the economy during the last week of the campaign, and while major news outlets would be forced to talk about Benghazi if he brought it up forcefully, the thrust of their coverage would be to criticize Romney for “politicizing” the issue. So for now, at least, information about Benghazi will continue to leak out slowly in a more or less underground fashion.