Seasoned counterterrorism reporter Catherine Herridge, part of a Fox News team that has been dogging the story of the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that resulted in the death of four Americans, has revealed the existence of a cable sent to the Office of the Secretary of State weeks before. The cable concluded that the consulate could not withstand a “coordinated attack.” Further, the cable identified terrorist groups that were operating in the area. The existence of this document raises some serious questions.
1. Why was the cable kept secret for so long? Even if the senior officials did not see this cable before the attack, it is impossible to believe that they would not have been able to track it down within hours after the attack. The attack occurred well over a month ago. It is difficult to believe that at least the main points could not have been made public without jeopardizing operational security or the ongoing investigation in the aftermath of the attack. There is no reasonable reason to keep this information from the public.
2. How could anyone rule out a terrorist attack? In the days following the attack, some senior Administration officials insisted the assault on the embassy was a spontaneous act. This assessment, they claim, was based on the view of the intelligence community. How could intelligence agencies not have access to this cable? If they did, how could they rule out the possibility of a terrorist attack? It just doesn’t add up.
3. Why didn’t the Administration provide any interim findings of their investigation into the Benghazi attack? Could anyone imagine after the first 9/11 that the government would say we would have to wait months before any accounting of the events on that day? Yet, the Administration expects the American people to wait months to know what the government knew before the attack and what it did in the first 24 hours after the assault commenced. That seems unreasonable.
4. Why wasn’t a coordinated rapid response force ready to go? Given this assessment, it is difficult to understand why an appropriate response force for exactly the kind of attack that happened wasn’t ready to launch at a moment’s notice—and if there was such a capability, why it wasn’t used. The claim that the U.S. government lacked sufficient intelligence to respond rings hollow when this cable laid out exactly what kind of attack to expect.
5. How long do we have to wait to get answers to obvious questions? Nothing the Administration has said to date adequately addresses the issues raised by this cable. The Administration has had more than a month to reflect on this evidence. They ought to be able to comment on it and explain how it squares with what Administration officials have said in the last weeks—and they ought to be able to do it right now.
After the first 9/11, all we asked was for a government to be better at “connecting the dots” and then sharing that information. We have a right to know why our government has failed miserably at this fundamental task.