May 6, 2013
Mark I. Thompson, the acting deputy assistant for operations in the State Department's counterterrorism bureau, will testify on Wednesday that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton willfully blocked out his department's involvement on the night of the September 11 Benghazi attacks — and that he has been threatened and intimidated by unnamed State Department officials about saying as much in public, and that al-Qaeda was involved all along. The scoop comes from sources close to the congressional investigation speaking to Fox News, two days ahead of testimony by Thompson and two other whistleblower witnesses before Rep. Darrell Issa's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Fox's sources characterize Thompson has having "concluded on Sept. 11 that Clinton and Kennedy tried to cut the counterterrorism bureau out of the loop as they and other Obama administration officials weighed how to respond to — and characterize — the Benghazi attacks."
That charge would seem to suggest that the State Department's actions that night last summer came straight from the top and allegedly without input from Thompson's Counterterrorism Security Group at Foggy Bottom. As CBS News reports, we know that the Obama administration "did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource, the Counterterrorism Security Group." And since a certain segment of Issa's Washington is (still) looking back and (still) trying to figure out what went wrong when the American diplomatic mission was attacked, one of the big questions heading into Wednesday's hearing is whether or not CSG involvement would have made a difference. As The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin insists, the two other witnesses — a regional State Department security officer in Libya and a former department deputy chair of the mission — could send the affair "into a whole different level of scandal."
But remember that this is very much an after-the-fact whistleblower affair, to the point where President Obama refuses to really acknowledge a string of Fox reports about the testimony during his press conference last week. And Thompson's claims about willful ignorance at the top levels of the State Department will not go without questioning. According to a National Security Council spokesman who spoke on the record with CBS, Thompson's group was involved: "From the moment the president was briefed on the Benghazi attack, the response effort was handled by the most senior national security officials in governments. Members of the CSG were of course involved in these meetings and discussions to support their bosses," the spokesperson, Tommy Vietor, told CBS. The network also spoke to a source in CSG who didn't exactly rebuke Vietor's claim but did say that only the top officials in the executive branch were convened about the matter — and that their top counterterrorism experts were not active decision makers.
Read more on The Atlantic Wire.
May 6, 2013