The Benghazi hearing — before the attack

Last night, I watched the replay of the House Oversight Committee hearing on Benghazi. The hearing enhanced my knowledge of key events before, during, and after the attack. This post focuses on events before the attack.

We already knew that the embassy in Libya had requested that the State Department beef up security, and that, instead, the number of people providing security had been slashed. And we already knew that the relevant directives were sent out under Hillary Clinton’s name.

The Clinton defense has been that all directives from State went out under her name, per Department policy. But if Clinton elected to put her name on all directives, then all directives become her directives, whether or not she bothers to become involved in the underlying decision.

The hearing provided additional insight into the question of Clinton’s involvement. Gregory Hicks, State’s number two man in Libya when the attack began, testified that Ambassador Stevens told him he was going to Benghazi in part because Secretary Clinton wanted to make the temporary facility there into a permanent post.

Eric Nordstrom, who had been in charge of embassy security in Libya until a few months before the attack, also testified that Clinton had signaled her intention to make Benghazi into a permanent post. In addition, Clinton was planning a visit to Libya later in 2012. Clearly, then, Benghazi was on Clinton’s radar.

Moreover, during 2012 there had been a series of attacks and threatening behavior against Western interests in Benghazi. These incidents had been reported to Washington and, if Clinton was operating her Department properly, would have come to the attention of the Secretary and/or her staff.

Given Clinton’s plans to visit Libya and to make Benghazi a permanent post, she knew or certainly should have known about the deteriorating situation in Benghazi and the security concerns of her embassy. As Nordstrom testified, there is “a reasonable expectation that her staff would have briefed [Clinton]” on the request for addition personnel and resources.

Witnesses also testified that under Department rules, only the Secretary of State can authorize personnel to work at diplomatic outposts where security is deemed inadequate. According to the testimony yesterday, the security at the Benghazi facility was deemed inadequate.

Thus, only Clinton, as a non-delegable duty, could authorize State Department personnel to work at Benghazi. If she was ignorant about the situation in Benghazi, as her supporters implausibly claim, this was a dereliction of duty.

For these reasons, I consider Hillary Clinton hugely culpable for the fiasco at Benghazi. She also bears major responsibility for the subsequent cover-up, which I believe stemmed in part from the desire to mask her original culpability.

The cover-up will be the subject of the third post in this series.