There are a great many lessons to be learned from the attacks on the American ambassador and the CIA station in Benghazi, Libya. Many of those deal with the exposure of American facilities (both diplomatic and military) in countries which insist on restricting American security activities. Surprise Attack explores both diplomatic security issues and solutions, as well as the actual attacks on the two Benghazi facilities – one of which appears to have been initially unknown to AFRICOM, the military command with overall oversight for Libya and North Africa. All that is in the book so I won’t revisit that here.
But there is also a “post-Benghazi” story, which continues to resonate politically, even after the work of a host of official investigations. And I’m betting that most people who continue to read the press have not read the reports of those investigations – which being the obsessive personality that I am, I did as part of the Surprise Attack research. Several things stand out in those investigations, perhaps the first being that virtually none of them followed a straight forward line of inquiry.

By that I mean that the obvious path would be to document what should have happened in response to the initial awareness of the attacks, who had command responsibility, what resources had been designated for such contingencies and how effectively they were deployed. Proceeding down that track would quickly identify corrective actions as well as highlight any performance deficiencies. I encourage readers to pick at least one of the several investigations and compare that to the path actually followed in taking testimony.
Your options include the independent review board led by career diplomat Thomas Pickering and retired Admiral Mike Mullen, the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – of course the current Benghazi Committee is still ongoing and you can follow its “email” focus in the news. For Surprise Attack’s purpose, I primarily reference the Armed Services committee reports as well as statements from the actual security personnel involved on the ground (both those of the seeming unreliable foreign contract employees and the experiences of the highly experienced CIA paramilitary employees).

The story that emerges is actually quite clear – much more so than the reports of the various committees – and has a great deal to do with covert CIA operations. That is an aspect either missing or intentionally understated in the official investigations, either due to a lack of focus by the committee members and staff or more likely an understanding that such things are restricted to the discussions of the actual Senate and House intelligence committees – and legally restricted from discussion elsewhere.

Of course that is a considerable legal handicap for those called on as witnesses, who are forced to limit their own testimony and to stick to approved cover stories in the face of any and all questions submitted to them. That reality is almost totally ignored by the media, it’s something we discussed at length in Shadow Warfare but given that it provides immense political opportunity during such inquiries, it’s something members of neither party are likely to forego.
However once you tune in to that aspect of official government committee investigations, a very definite pattern of post-event behavior tends to emerge. It’s a pattern that stretches across the decades, from the Warren Commission and the Gulf of Tonkin “attacks” to the Liberty and Pueblo losses and on to 9/11 and Benghazi. It a pattern that I tried to capture in Surprise Attack and I will blog on it in more detail in my next post, on the subject of crisis control.

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About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

3 responses »

  1. Greg Kooyman says:

    Excellent blog Larry. I keep telling myself I need to buy your book. Now I guess is as good a time as any to do so. I was wondering if you ever read this article I found. Here is a link below. I would be interested in your comments.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/05/the-real-benghazi-scandal/275950/

    • Greg, generally the article is one of the better ones on the subject – still, it fails to really surface the CIA covert action operation in play and unless you know what’s going on you might not realize there were actually two facilities in Benghazi, one a diplomatic compound in the process of being closed down, routinely staffed by only a single rotating diplomatic staffer and a much larger CIA station facility with somewhere between 20 and 30 personnel that was quite active and whose operations were definitely ongoing. You might also not realize that three of the five deaths were at the CIA station, not the State Department compound yet none of the investigations explored that aspect and any failure of CIA security or decision making. There are a great many points I could bring up about the article, two that strike me are that the restrictions on American military personnel were not simply a budget issue but a decision of the host government (and one not uncommon globally) and that the British contracting company was hired strictly because of the horrible American security contracting reputation generated from the practices of Black Water and Dynacorp. Another point is the naivete of not understanding that a cover story is always produced immediately following such an attack, while the national security establishment is busily searching for the attackers and preparing for a counter strike. The details of what is really known and developed are classified at the highest national security levels and everybody (usually State Department) just has to fall on their swords because they cannot reveal them. I mean really, would you immediately reveal exactly what you do and do not know about the attack while you desperately work to milk out the truth and go after the attackers? I wouldn’t if I were in charge and I can assure you no administration ever has – although a few (as described in Surprise Attack) are especially heinous because they do come to understand the truth and choose to ignore it and take no action at all (or an unsupported action). Lyndon Johnson particularly comes to mind for doing that over and over. With all that said, I think you will find Surprise Attack to be something of a unique approach to the overall subject and I look forward to chatting if and when you start reading it.

      • Greg Kooyman says:

        Larry,
        Thanks for commenting on that article. As usual, you have brought considerable insight on something that few of us can get from the mainstream media regarding this event. I look forward to reading your new book and will definitely take you up on some discussions very soon!

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