White House Officials Blame State for Not Deploying Rapid-Response Terror Unit to Benghazi
While Friday's Congressional hearings on the IRS were blowing that scandal up, the great Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News was putting another log on the Benghazi fire. In her Friday report, Attkisson was able to get a number of Obama Administration officials to open up about various aspects of the Benghazi scandal with the assurance that they would remain anonymous.
While most of the article -- and this is no fault of Attkisson's -- is butt-covering under the excuse of "us being idiots," as opposed to engaged in a cover up, there is some news. What primarily stands out is that it looks as though the White House is eager to blame the State Department for not deploying a rapid-reaction counterterror force to Libya on the fateful night of Sept. 11, 2012.
The Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) is a team created specifically to deploy quickly to anywhere in the world when a suspected terror attack is underway. Attkisson writes that their mission statement describes FEST as "a seasoned team of counterterrorism professionals who can respond 'quickly and effectively to terrorist attacks... providing the fastest assistance possible' including 'hostage negotiating expertise' and 'time-sensitive information and intelligence.'"
Obviously, FEST could have been extremely helpful in securing our consulate and whatever intelligence was there. As it was, the facility laid abandoned for three full weeks before the FBI was able to secure the area. Moreover, there were concerns that night that Ambassador Stevens had been kidnapped.
FEST was not deployed and Attkisson's White House sources blame that on Hillary Clinton's deputy at State, Patrick Kennedy:
Yet deployment of the counterterrorism experts on the FEST was ruled out from the start. That decision became a source of great internal dissent and the cause of puzzlement to some outsiders.
Thursday, an administration official who was part of the Benghazi response told CBS News: "I wish we'd sent it."
The official said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's deputy, Patrick Kennedy, quickly dispensed with the idea. A senior State Department official Thursday told CBS News, "Under Secretary Kennedy is not in the decision chain on FEST deployment" but would not directly confirm whether Kennedy or somebody else dismissed the FEST.
Regardless of who is responsible, the officials interviewed said there was no good reason not to deploy FEST.
White House critics would disagree.
One very good reason not to deploy FEST would be because the very act of deploying a counterterror unit to Benghazi would be an admission that a terrorist act had occurred in Benghazi. After the attack, the Obama Administration (which includes State) spent almost two weeks spinning a false narrative that said Libya was not a terror attack.
The fact that FEST was not deployed only helped that narrative.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC