The D.C. Establishment hopes if you drag out disclosure about a scandal long enough, it loses a bit of its “wow factor” along the way. That would seem to be the view of the Obama administration regarding many of its wanton acts of mismanagement.
Among a long list that ranges from embarrassing stumbles to a flagrant disregard for the rule of law is the disaster that occurred at our Special Mission Compound in Benghazi, Libya. Adding insult to injury (and death) are the lies that were told and the foot-dragging that continues in an effort to minimize the true accountability that this administration and its alumni (such as Hillary Clinton) so justly deserve. Well, this stalling game may work on the media (which is often a co-conspirator in cover-up) and on a hapless Congress, but it doesn’t work on Judicial Watch.
In our two years’ of court battles (which include at least eight federal lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act), Judicial Watch has had yet another victory. We recently released hundreds of pages of documents about the military response to the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack.
It is extraordinary that we had to wait for over two years and had to force the release of documents that provide the first glimpse into the military response to the terrorist attack in Benghazi. Where has Congress been? We are happy to do the work of independent oversight of the government on behalf of the American people, but one must ask why the rest of Washington has broken down in providing citizens accountable government.
Altogether, the Pentagon produced a total of 486 pages to us in response to a federal court order in our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. This particular lawsuit was filed back on September 4, 2014, and you are seeing the results of that effort today. Almost all of the documents had been previously classified as secret. Much of the withheld information, we are told, concerns “military plans and operations,” “intelligence” activities, and other legitimate exemptions.
The documents, which are heavily blacked out, confirm that after the attack on Benghazi, the U.S. Military, through its U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), drafted orders for a military response, specifically “to protect vital naval and national assets.” Specifically, JW obtained an extraordinary draft document dated September 13, 2012, “US Africa Command Request for Forces,” which sought an “immediate” response from the Joint Chiefs of Staff for “additional forces” for the mission to “provide limited duration military and expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces in support of USAFRICOM commander in order to protect vital naval and national assets.” The planning document was approved by “VADM [Charles] Joseph Leidig, Deputy CDR, Africa Command.” The name of the military’s Benghazi operation was Jukebox Lotus.
But, in a questionable withholding of information, the Obama administration blacked out the specific mission information in the final deployment orders for Operation Jukebox Lotus. The orders (EXORD) detail that several components of the military, including Special Operations Forces, were deployed to support limited security and evacuation operations in Libya, including support for “BPT” (Be Prepared To) from the U.S. Army in Africa: “BPT support with mortuary affairs.” The Pentagon has previously released other orders with virtually no redactions, including an operation in Libya in 2004 and an Obama administration operation to attack Muammar Gaddafi’s government forces in Libya in 2011. So why not now?
Other documents show that, early on September 12, 2012, the day after the attack, top Pentagon leadership received intelligence briefing slides reporting that a June 6, 2012 attack on the Benghazi Special Mission Compound was tied to a group promoting an Islamic state in Libya and “came in response to the 5 June  drone strike on al-Qaida senior leader Abu-Yahya al-libi.”
The documents also confirm that the military used a photo from a Twitter post to try to ascertain the status of Ambassador Stevens. By the way, the use of Twitter for intelligence on Ambassador Stevens seems the only intelligence about the attack that the Obama Pentagon released to us under law.
Nowhere in the documents is the word “video” to be found, and the records show no communications or direction from the Obama State Department, then run by Hillary Clinton.
U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith both lost their lives. Mere hours later, a second terrorist strike targeted another facility not far away. CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed, and 10 others were injured in that attack.
The records do show that the military, contrary to public comments by President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary, was keenly aware of the terrorist threat in Libya. “The DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] terrorism threat level for Libya is significant,” one email message says. “The DOS [Department of State] residential criminal threat level for Libya is high and the non-residential criminal threat level is high. The political violence threat level for Libya is critical.”
Was Benghazi avoidable? I have no doubt. Was it caused by demonstrators outraged by a third-rate video? Most definitely not. Among the things we do know is the fact that not one scrap of evidence has been found that anyone in the Obama administration, the State Department, or the Department of Defense thought the video excuse had any foundation in reality, even as the lie was being told and retold to the American people. All these answers, frankly, are documented best by Judicial Watch’s investigative lawsuits. Not Congress.
There is no doubt that the military considered this to be a terrorist attack tied to a group allied with al Qaeda. Why does the Obama administration continue to black out history in these military documents? If there were no embarrassing facts, there would be nothing to hide. This lack of transparency is an insult to those in the military and other deployed U.S. government personnel whose morale has been decimated by the breach of trust caused by President Obama’s Benghazi lies and failures.
Judicial Watch will remain vigilant in our pursuit of all of the facts that can possibly be pried from the grasp of this administration about Benghazi. In the meantime, we’ve also posted the Vaughn index, which describes why the documents have been withheld. Feel free to pass this all along to Congress and ask if they have any interest in following Judicial Watch’s lead in getting the truth.