For more than six months since the September 11, 2012 attacks on America’s diplomatic outposts in Benghazi, the Obama administration has been unwilling to turn over the names or whereabouts of any survivors. They may be hiding plain sight.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) has learned that “as many as seven Americans have been or are currently being treated,” at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center inWashington, D.C.—less than 11 miles from the U.S. Capitol. Rep. Wolf cited two independent confidential sources for his information.
And the number of survivors may be even larger than previously suspected. There may be more than 30 survivors, including State Department and CIA personnel as well as government contractors, according to a March 1, 2013 letter sent by Rep. Wolf and Rep. Jim Gerlach to Secretary of State John Kerry . As for those government contractors mentioned, they are believed to include former U.S Navy Seals and other former special-forces operators.
And it seems that the survivors have been told not to talk. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who has been in touch with the family members of Benghazi survivors, has said that the survivors have been “told to be quiet” by Obama administration officials. “The public needs to hear from people who were on the ground, their desperate situation. They need to understand from people who were there for months how bad it was getting and how frustrated they were that nobody would listen to them and provide aid.”
Responding to Sen. Lindsay‘s remarks, a White House spokesman denied that survivors or their families were told not to talk. He provided no information on when the survivors would be made available to congressional investigators or made available to the press.
Why are the survivors so important? As eyewitnesses, they are uniquely placed to tell the public about the deadliest attack on a State Department facility since the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, which claimed the lives of 224 people, including 12 Americans. The 2012 Benghazi attack also marks the first time since 1979 that a U.S. ambassador has been killed, when Iran-backed Islamist extremists killed the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.
The survivors could tell Congress, and the public, important new details. Libyan reports indicate that there were upwards of 100 attackers in Benghazi, that they were organized into machine-gun fire teams and mortar crews, and appeared to take orders from men wearing Afghan-style clothing. So far the Obama administration has provided few details about the attackers, their organization or their motivation.
Why does this matter? If these reports from Libyan sources are true, then the attack was a major al Qaeda operation. Indeed, the largest that the terror network has mounted outside the Afghan-Pakistanregion in more than a decade. In short, an act of war — not a peaceful demonstration that went awry, as the Obama Administration initially said. This has led activists, bloggers and other critics of the president to ask: Did the president ignore an act of war in order to win the 2012 election?
If this suspicion is wrong, the survivors are uniquely placed to dispel this poisonous notion.
If, on the other hand, the attack was an act of war, then the President has a real responsibility to hunt down the enemy and bring them to justice. To date, none of the attackers have been killed or captured.
Indeed, the official investigation is moving with remarkable slowness. The FBI was granted a single 3-hour interview with one “person of interest” in Libya, according to Congressman Wolf. That same individual was interviewed by a New York Times correspondent weeks before the FBI got to him. It took the FBI weeks to visit the building complex where U.S. Ambassador Stevens died, when any evidence would have long since been spoiled. By contrast, local reporters were inside the complex walls within 24 hours of the deadly attack.
Nor have any State department or intelligence personnel been fired, demoted or transferred, although three State department officials did resign. “Six months later not a single American official has been held accountable or lost their job over the inadequate consulate security, intelligence failures, or the administration’s abysmal response during the terrorist attack,” Rep. Wolf said. What Wolf is saying is that no official appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate has been disciplined for the Benghazi atrocities, despite ample warnings in the spring and summer of 2012.
Wolf is calling for a “special select committee” to investigate the tragic events in Benghazi. President Obama should head off Rep. Wolf by making the Benghazi eyewitnesses available to Congress and the press as soon as possible–before a full-scale investigation consumes his second term and tarnishes his legacy.