Benghazi returning as big scandal

The GOP may finally get its wish with three new whistle-blowers, but has it already undermined its cred?

Topics: Benghazi attack, State DEpartment, Hillary Rodham Clinton, chris stevens, Fox News, Darrell Issa,

Benghazi returning as big scandalThe U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in flames, September 11, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Esam Al-fetori)

There’s been a lot of smoke in the would-be scandal over the Benghazi attacks, but no real fire yet.

But that may change when three “whistle-blowers” give what Republicans expect to be explosive testimony this week before Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Oversight Committee. The controversy over the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in the Libyan city has smoldered, mainly on the right, but the testimony will likely push it back into the mainstream and could be an enormous distraction for an already injured second-term Obama.

Unlike the vast majority of the new information brought forward by the conservative media since the attack, the three whistle-blowers seem credible. One, Gregory Hicks, was the No. 2 State Department official in Libya before the attack and has decades of experience in the Foreign Service. Another, Eric Nordstrom, was the regional security officer in country for State. And the third, Mark Thompson, is the deputy coordinator for operations in the department’s counterterrorism bureau and was involved in Washington’s response to the Libya attacks.

While we won’t know exactly what the three will say until they testify Wednesday, some pieces have leaked. Thompson, according to Fox News, is alleging that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to cut out his counterterrorism bureau from the department’s decision-making in responding to the attack. This, Thompson will reportedly allege, was part of the administration’s attempt to downplay the terror connection to the attack.

You Might Also Like

Hicks, according to CBS News, will say that everybody in the consulate “thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning.” The administration at first said the attack grew out of a protest against an anti-Muslim video, which had sparked violence against the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and elsewhere in the Middle East, but it turns out there was never a protest and the attack was likely premeditated. According to testimony leaked to CBS, Hicks said that when he heard U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice blame protests, “My jaw hit the floor.” “I’ve never been as embarrassed in my life, in my career, as on that day,” he reportedly said.

All three say their reports were dismissed or otherwise downplayed by the Accountability Review Board, the official State Department investigation into the attack. Thompson’s lawyer says he’s even received threats and intimidation about the case from superiors.

Scrutiny is now focused on an ad hoc inter-agency working group of officials from State, the CIA and other agencies that formulated the talking points for the administration to use in responding to the attacks, according to documents obtained by the Weekly Standard. They apparently were responsible for altering the talking points to downplay the role of terrorism.

The charges seem potentially damaging and the accusers credible, but those trying to fan flames of scandal have so embarrassed and discredited themselves by pushing bogus story lines on Benghazi that it may be hard for the media and American people to take any new allegations seriously. For instance, the last time we saw a “Benghazi whistle-blower,” it was an anonymous Fox News source, but he seemed to know so little about basic special operations that military analysts called him a clown and an embarrassment.

In the Fast and Furious scandal, analogous in many ways to Benghazi in the way it played out in the media, there was real wrongdoing, but conservatives grasped at straws to make wider, unsubstantiated allegations that let the actual problems largely escape notice.

If the three new witnesses don’t get the attention they deserve, Fox News and its ilk deserve much of the blame.

Alex Seitz-Wald

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>