Who’s in charge?

Benghazi, Petraeus affair another black eye for administration

On Nov. 8, two days following the re-election of President Obama, General David Petraeus, director of the CIA, resigned his post over an extramarital affair. The affair would be notable on its own — a CIA director having a covert affair that may have led to a security breach is certainly newsworthy — but when viewed in the context of the ongoing investigation of the 9/11 Benghazi terror attacks it is just another example of the degree to which the administration has lost control.

To be sure, the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attacks can either be described as sheer incompetence or a deliberate campaign of misinformation. It has been widely reported that there were intelligence reports from Libya hours before the attack indicating that an attack was perhaps imminent and that security was compromised. From there the timelines provided by the CIA and the Pentagon have sharp discrepancies. In both narratives, however, it becomes clear that for over an hour, no one told the Secretary of Defense nor the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the attacks taking place on sovereign U.S. soil.

Furthermore, according to reports, officers at the CIA annex down the street from the consulate asked twice for permission to aid the consulate. Twice they were told to stand down. Defying orders, a former Navy SEAL headed to the consulate, where he was killed protecting consulate personnel.

It is still unclear who ordered the directives to stand down, but even more disturbing was that for almost five hours no orders were given pertaining to a security intervention in Libya. Only an unarmed drone was sent to observe the fighting that was taking place. The attack on the consulate lasted over two and a half hours, and then moved to the CIA annex. Despite another distress call no armed intervention was given to aid the CIA annex, despite ample opportunity and assets that could have done so. A security force arrived almost 20 hours after the attacks began.

The most pressing question last week pertaining to Benghazi was “who knew what, and when did they know it?” It is clear now that despite over two weeks of public denial, intelligence officials were fully aware that there was a coordinated terror attack. Yet who was informed, and of what, is still sketchy even two months after the fact. Who issued the directives and why? How far up the chain of command did the orders come from and if the President was not monitoring events, who failed to brief him?

CIA Director Petraeus was supposed to testify before Congress about the timeline of events but his resignation has thrown his testimony into question. While Petraeus’ resignation was a loss for the country and its security, it is further illustrative of an administration that has displayed a total lack of competence where matters of intelligence and the chain of command are concerned. Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder testified that he was not made aware of many of the elements of the gunwalking operation “Fast and Furious”, which resulted in the walking of thousands of weapons into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, weapons that were recovered at many crime scenes — including the scene of a murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

Even more curious was that according to White House Spokesman Jay Carney, President Obama was not even aware of the investigation of General Petraeus and the impending resignation until after the Nov. 6 election. How is it possible that the President was not made aware of an FBI investigation into a senior administration official, let alone the CIA director? The president is a close friend of, and had frequent meetings with, FBI Director Robert Mueller. How is it that the subject of an FBI investigation never came up? As Representative Peter King has stated: “If [Obama] was told and did nothing about it, that reflects on him … If he wasn’t told then that reflects on the people who should have told him, the FBI and Attorney General [Eric Holder].”

The Petraeus affair is a sad occurrence not only for those directly involved, but for the citizens of the U.S. as well. However it further serves to underscore what is quickly becoming a theme in the Obama administration — that either the administration’s handling of matters of intelligence is grossly incompetent, and the chain of command has failed on numerous occasions, or there is a continuing effort on the part of senior officials to cover up the decisions that were made to negative effect. The house has begun its investigation into the Benghazi attacks, and the Senate is due to begin its own investigation in the near future. The scope will inevitably be widened to include the Petraeus affair. The Obama administration would do well to set its house in order and fix the problems it faces, for the sake of America’s national interests.

1 Comment
Steve \'88 almost 11 years ago

The explanation for the administration's handling of the Benghazi attacks has a much simpler explanation. It is a war zone, and information was not instantaneously and unambiguously provided to the decision makers. In addition, it is not always prudent to release all the intelligence to the public. Should more information have been presented sooner? Probably. Is it fair to call it incompetence or misinformation? Not likely.

"According to reports" is not a source I tend to put much faith in. The "reports" about CIA officers being ordered to stand down for more than about 20 minutes are false.

Finally, the reason the President was not told about the FBI investigation is that government policy discourages it, based on the Bush-era US attorney firing scandal, where the White House improperly interfered with the investigation. Had Obama been told, the same people criticizing his ignorance would be accusing him of influencing the investigation.