In March, the State Department quietly released records relevant to the Obama administration’s response to the September 11, 2012, Benghazi terrorist attack. Included were transcripts of the telephone call then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had on September 12 — only hours after the attack ended — with then-Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil.
As explained by Judicial Watch, whose Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the “most transparent administration in history” forced the belated disclosure, Mrs. Clinton flatly told Mr. Kandil:
We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack — not a protest.
You’re not kidding. Based on the information we saw today, we believe the group that claimed responsibility for this is affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Of course, “the film” Clinton was referring to is Innocence of Muslims, an obscure anti-Islamic video trailer that she, President Obama, and the administration tirelessly blamed for the attacks despite — let’s quote Clinton again — “know[ing] the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film.”
The al-Qaeda-affiliated group to which the Egyptian prime minister referred as having claimed responsibility was Ansar al-Sharia. (On ties between Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda, and between al-Qaeda affiliates and Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the only suspect charged in the Benghazi attack, read Tom Joscelyn’s Long War Journal reports: here and here.)
The fact that a jihadist organization tied to al-Qaeda had carried out the attack, in which jihadists killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans working at U.S. government facilities (the purpose of those facilities has still not been adequately explained), was also well-known to Clinton from the earliest hours of the siege.
While she and the Obama administration were publicly blaming the video.
The documents finally released to Judicial Watch by the State Department confirm that even as the attack was still raging, Clinton told Mohammed Magariaf, then-president of Libya’s stand-in government:
[T]here is a gun battle ongoing, which I understand Ansar as-Sharia is claiming responsibility for.
(See here: scroll to the transcript of the Clinton-Magariaf 9/11/12 call, finally disclosed by the State Department to Judicial Watch on March 7, 2016. In the transcript, Ansar al-Sharia is spelled “Ansar as-Sharia,” a common English rendering of the transliterated Arabic.)
Moreover, in the hours after the siege, Clinton told her daughter Chelsea that the attack had been staged by “an al-Qaeda-like group.” We know this fact only because the Judicial Watch lawsuit finally forced the administration to release Clinton’s email to her daughter.
Keep in mind the sequence of events here, which Judicial Watch rehearses in its press release and which I have previously recounted. The White House and the State Department knew from the beginning that the Benghazi siege was a pre-planned terrorist attack. But the president was then in the stretch-run of the 2012 election campaign, during which he was claiming to have both defeated al-Qaeda and liberated Libya. The latter claim was an intervention vigorously endorsed by Secretary Clinton, who was already planning her campaign to succeed Obama in the Oval Office.
Consequently, the last thing either the president or his secretary of State could afford was a graphic demonstration that al-Qaeda was alive and well and killing Americans in Libya, a country that had become a failed state and jihadist haven thanks to the Obama/Clinton policy.
So at 10 p.m., Clinton and Obama had a brief telephone conversation, the contents of which have never been disclosed. Minutes later, the State Department released a statement by Clinton that framed the attack as a protest gone awry triggered by an anti-Muslim internet video:
Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.
We now know that while Clinton was telling this to the American people, she was concurrently telling foreign officials that the attack was not a protest but a planned terrorist attack with which the “inflammatory material posted on the Internet” had nothing to do.
The administration’s lies to the American electorate continued a few days later. Another high-ranking State Department official, then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice, appeared on several Sunday political talk shows to peddle the same tale. As she told ABC News:
[O]ur current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier [on September 11, 2012], there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.
The “very offensive” internet video, which belittles Islam’s prophet Muhammad, was so obscure that it would barely have made a ripple had not Clinton and Obama publicized it so energetically when they needed a scapegoat. As I’ve previously recounted, the video appears to have played, at most, a small part in the riot at the U.S. embassy in Cairo on September 11, 2012. The uprising in Egypt was mainly the result of incitements stirred in previous weeks by al-Qaeda elements – the guys Obama was claiming to have “decimated.” The terror network was operating very freely in Egypt thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of the government (with the strong backing of Clinton and Obama).
The jihadists were coordinating protests demanding that the U.S. release the “Blind Shiekh” (who is serving a life sentence based on terrorism convictions in a prosecution I led in the mid-1990s). They had also called for violent demonstrations to mark the eleventh anniversary of al-Qaeda’s murder of nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.
Days after the Benghazi massacre, when the bodies of the four Americans killed were returned home, Secretary Clinton obscenely used the solemn ceremony to perpetuate the “blame the video” fraud:
This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.
And two weeks after the Benghazi massacre, Obama used a major international soapbox, his speech at the annual gathering of the UN General Assembly in New York City, to declare:
The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.
As Judicial Watch’s press release details, the Obama State Department’s stonewalling of the judicial process and subverting of federal law (specifically the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA) are by themselves nearly as outrageous as the administration’s “blame the video” fraud on the public.
In the FOIA case, State withheld information relating to Clinton’s September 12 conversation with Egyptian Prime Minister Kandil. State represented to a federal court that the relevant documents were “not responsive” to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request.
That is breathtaking.
Here is Judicial Watch’s request:
Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to notes, updates, or reports created in response to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. This request includes, but is not limited to, notes taken by then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton or employees of the Office of the Secretary of State during the attack and its immediate aftermath.
State now claims that, after telling the court it had no responsive documents, it managed in December 2015 to find thousands of misplaced records from Clinton’s tenure as secretary. Although the Clinton-Kandil transcript was purportedly among these miraculously recovered files, State waited another three months — until March 2016 — to disclose it to Judicial Watch.
State’s foot-dragging is even more peculiar when one recalls that, in conjunction with Mrs. Clinton’s October 2015 testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, the administration had disclosed to the committee documents summarizing Clinton’s conversation with Kandil.
Interestingly — and, I’d wager, not coincidentally — the committee received those summaries only after not one, but two federal judges ordered State to disclose more Benghazi information to Judicial Watch.
As we consider Hillary Clinton’s blatant Benghazi lies to the American people, mindful that Democrats are poised to nominate her as their 2016 presidential candidate, something else bears remembering. Much attention has been focused on the classified information aspect of Clinton’s email scandal, because that’s where she is most in jeopardy of criminal charges. But Clinton’s purpose in recklessly setting up a private email system for conducting government business was not to flout laws protecting intelligence related to our national defense. That was a foreseeable consequence — but it wasn’t the objective.
Clinton’s purpose was to escape accountability for her flawed judgment and actions. To achieve it, she quite intentionally circumvented federal laws that require government officials to maintain accessible records and disclose them to the public, Congress, and the courts.
That such a person could be a plausible major-party candidate for president is an appalling commentary on the state of our nation.