Investor's Business Daily: Burning Questions About Benghazi Still Abound

Originally printed in Investor's Business Daily, March 1st, 2013

Over five months ago, terrorists in Libya successfully assaulted the American diplomatic post in Benghazi. Four brave Americans died: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

On Jan. 23, I asked then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a simple question: Why didn't she just pick up the phone and call the survivors to determine what actually happened in Benghazi?

Instead of providing a simple answer, she displayed exasperation, launched into an indignant reply, and ultimately dismissed my question with one of her own: "What difference, at this point, does it make?"

This administration's behavior in the aftermath of the Benghazi terrorist attack has eroded the public's confidence. So it does make a difference when the administration purposefully misleads the American people.

And it makes a big difference whether or not the public has full confidence that the president will be honest with them in the future. We deserve answers, and we deserve the truth.

The administration seems to be hiding behind the excuses of an FBI investigation, an Accountability Review Board report and a top-secret imperative of CIA involvement.

Now I'll admit that there is some legitimacy to these excuses, particularly where national security interests are involved.

But too many questions remain unanswered:

  • Military and intelligence officials realized almost immediately that the assault in Benghazi was an organized terrorist attack, not a spontaneous event sparked by a protest over a web video critical of Islam.
    Why then did the administration begin a narrative that the video sparked the attack?
  • For two weeks, the administration continued to use this misleading narrative regarding the cause of the attack. Intelligence officials admit that talking points provided to administration members, including U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, were changed and ultimately utilized to mislead the American public.

Who changed these talking points?

    • Intelligence officials have promised to release the chain of custody on these talking points. When will they release this information?
    • The attack began at 3:40 p.m. Eastern Time. President Obama was briefed by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at 5 p.m., at which time he ordered "all necessary actions" be taken to secure our personnel.

    The president also spoke with Secretary Clinton around 10 p.m.. But with an American team from Tripoli delayed at the Benghazi airport and lives on the line, the president did not bother to call Libyan officials for assistance.

    Did President Obama speak with any other officials or take any other action during the crisis? What was he doing during that 12-hour period?

    • A complete timeline of what the president was doing that night, like we saw during the operation against Osama Bin Laden, has never been provided.

    Did he ever assemble a team in the situation room to monitor events?

    Or did he simply check out, rest up and then fly to a campaign fundraising affair in Las Vegas only a few hours after those brave Americans had died?

    • Regional American military assets were not immediately brought in to respond to the situation.

    Exactly what assets were readily available within striking distance of Benghazi?

    If they were not ready, could they have been made ready had the order been given?

    • In testimony to Congress, Panetta defended the lack of U.S. military response partly on a lack of real-time intelligence.

    Yet sources on the ground said they were on the phone constantly with their chain of command reporting the situation.

    Was there, or was there not, communication of real-time intelligence?

    • Prior to the attack, embassy personnel were highly concerned about their safety.

    Precisely what intelligence was available before the attack? And how specific was that intelligence?

    • Embassy personnel had been requesting additional security for months. Those requests were denied.Why?
    • A press report indicates that the American team inside the CIA Annex captured three Libyan attackers, but were forced to hand them over to the Libyan rescue team.

    Is that report accurate? If so, where are the terrorists now?

    • The FBI interviewed survivors of the attack on Sept. 15 and 16. Yet the administration continues to deny access to most of those survivors, their statements and corresponding evidentiary material.

    When will that information be made available to Congress and the public?

    • Who, if anyone, is being held accountable for this attack?

    A few days after the attack, the father of a young Marine from Wisconsin implored me to get to the bottom of what happened.

    He wanted to know if his son was under the command of a president who would abandon the age-old American military principle of "leave no man behind."

    I am sorry to report that after more than five months, we have made so little progress in providing him the answer he deserves.

    Mr. Johnson is a Republican senator from Wisconsin.