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Linder Letter: We May Never Truly Know What Happened in Benghazi

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I fear that all of this subterfuge is political cover for a policy blunder and we will never know the truth.

AFP/Getty Images

The United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its report on Tuesday regarding the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the Consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Craig Stevens and three others.

We still do not know what happened.

When the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Martin Dempsey, met with the president in the Oval Office at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday Sept. 11, they knew that the event was a terrorist attack. The Secretary said that two-thirds of the meeting was taken up by a discussion of the attack then under way. The president left the meeting and was not heard from until the next day. He never checked back on the fate of the Americans under attack.

Why not? We don't know.

Benghazi In this Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 file photo, Libyan military guards check one of the U.S. Consulate's burnt out buildings during a visit by Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif, not shown, to the U.S. Consulate to express sympathy for the death of the American ambassador, Chris Stevens and his colleagues in the deadly attack on the Consulate last Tuesday, September 11, in Benghazi, Libya. Britain's Foreign Office urged U.K. nationals to immediately leave the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi in response to an imminent threat against Westerners. The Arabic on the building reads, "God is Great, and there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger." (AP) 

The next day, President Obama told the press that he was very concerned about the loss of American lives and the guilty would be brought to justice. He briefly mentioned that we must reject efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others and then he departed for a fundraiser in Las Vegas.

The following Sunday our Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, gave five television interviews blaming the incident on an amateur video about Mohammed. The Departments of Defense and State and the Intelligence Community knew it was a terrorist attack. The “talking points” they prepared for public consumption were re-written many times until they had removed any reference to terrorism. The committee asked for and was refused access to the hundreds of interagency emails during this time.

Who removed the reference to terrorism? We don't know.

Why didn’t Secretary Clinton do the interviews? We don’t know.

On Sept. 25 the president spoke at the United Nations. He repeated the story about the video and assured the assembled delegates that we would deal with the producer. He knew at that time that it was just not true.

Why did he lie? We don't know.

On Oct. 10, 2012 Charlene Lamb, the State Department official responsible for diplomatic security, told the House Oversight Committee that she knew this was a terrorist attack while it was happening.

Did she notify Secretary Clinton? We don’t know.

Was the Secretary heard from that evening? We don't know.

In May of last year, Greg Hicks, the Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, told Congress that a Special Forces team in Tripoli was prepared to go to Benghazi and were ordered to "stand down."

Who ordered it? We still don't know.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Ahmed Abu Khattala, the reported leader of the attack is living large in Benghazi and giving media interviews. Faraj al-Chalabi and Ali Ami al-Harzi are also leaders…and free. No one is under arrest.

Why? We don't know.

There are now reports that 15 people who have been cooperative in the investigation have been killed.

Who killed them? We don’t know.

The Senate report said that the tragedy could have been avoided if the State Department had responded to the requests for more security. One month before the attack Ambassador Stevens cabled Secretary Clinton asking for more security. She claims she did not see the cable. When a cable is opened a record is made of who opened it. The Senate asked to see the record. That request was denied.

Why?

On Jan. 23, 2013 Secretary Clinton appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She was questioned about what the survivors reported about that night. She famously said: "What difference, at this point, does it make?"

She, perhaps, should put that question to the families of the dead.

While much is detailed in the report, including the time-line of the battle and the testimony of many of the people involved, much is missing. The Committee blames departments not people. In the entire 58 pages of the bipartisan section of the report there is not a single mention of President Obama or Secretary Clinton.

Why? We don’t know.

Something else is missing.  What was going on in that facility in the middle of the breeding ground for terrorist activity in North Africa? The truth is known to President Obama, Secretary Clinton, the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and probably all of the leadership of our government with a Top Secret clearance. The argument over who changed the “talking points” regarding the attack is a diversion.

I believe that what was going on in that facility created deep divisions between key government agencies engaged in national security. If the truth had been told prior to the last election the president would not have been re-elected. If it were known today it would have a huge impact on our government’s policy in Syria and all of North Africa.

I fear that all of this subterfuge is political cover for a policy blunder and we will never know the truth.

There was a time when the mainstream media might have been interested in the truth. They no longer are. And we don't know why.

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