Benghazi attack still has holes, but extra security might not have been an option

10/25/12 Janelle Irwin
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GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been using the attack in Benghazi last month in his campaign against President Barack Obama. Republicans supporting Romney claim Obama withheld information about the attack that killed four Americans.

Speaking before a U.S. Global leadership Coalition event this month in Tampa, former head of the Republican Party of Florida and current chair of the American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas said the President has some explaining to do.

“And so the American people have the right to ask, Mr. President, how many times was Benghazi discussed in your intelligence briefings and what did you say or do about it? The Vice President said that he was unaware – and not he, that we were unaware that requests had been made for additional troops, do you agree with that and is that a true statement?

More than a month after the attack that claimed the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens, there is still news surfacing. In the days following, the Obama administration supported claims that the attack was the result of a demonstration gone bad. Since then Americans have learned that the incident had nothing to do with protests of an anti-Islam film that surfaced on YouTube. Former commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command Anthony Zinni was a panelist at the same event as Cardenas. Zinni said Americans have the right to know exactly what went wrong and how the President is going to fix it.

“What did we know and what didn’t we know? Why didn’t we get the intelligence we need? What’s our means of collecting intelligence? If there was any indication or intelligence, why didn’t it get into the right places? So, I think the intelligence place is one place that we need a very detailed assessment and evaluation.”

There has been speculation that Ambassador Stevens himself requested extra security around the consulate in Benghazi that was not delivered. Zinni said there are a number of reasons why extra forces might not be an option.

“When we have a threat, we deploy a different kind of Marine unit – it’s called a Fleet Anti-terrorist Support team, very heavily armed. But then again, you have to have the permission of the host country to bring them in. For example, Darfur refused to let us bring them in. So, when we can’t do things like that we have to think about extracting our people or closing down and I’ve seen that happen – it happened in Saudi Arabia for a while with some of our consulates, but we can’t accept external security or host nation security that is insufficient for our job and if we can’t provide the support for ourself, I think then we have to make an assessment as to whether the mission staying open jeopardizes our people too much.”

Zinni didn’t say whether he agreed with how Obama handled the Benghazi attack. But the American Conservative Union’s Cardenas did have an opinion.

“We don’t fully understand his rules of engagement in the Middle East.”

A man suspected of being involved in the Benghazi attack was killed yesterday in Cairo during a clash with security forces. The man was identified only as Hazem. Another Tunisian man is also suspected of being involved in the attack. Two other Tunisians suspects are being detained in Turkey.

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