Barack Obama ignored the first and fundamental law of crisis management–when in a hole, stop digging. But dig away he does. First, he refuses to call the Benghazi terrorist attack and act of terrorism. Then he seizes on his off-hand comment in the Rose Garden the day after the attack as “proof” that he in fact did consider it terrorism. But then, two weeks later, while addressing the UN, he insisted the attacks were in response to some obscure video.

Yesterday the story busted wide open. Fox’s Jennifer Griffin and CBS’s SHARYL ATTKISSON are out with the story that the CounterTerrorism Security Group (i.e., the CSG) and the FEST (the Foreign Emergency Support Team) were not activated.
Here is Jennifer Griffin’s take on the FEST:

Senior counterterrorism officials felt cut out of the loop the night of the attack on the Benghazi consulate, according to emails that were shared with Fox News by military sources who are familiar with discussions of how to respond the night of the Sept. 11 attack.

Top State Department officials decided not to send an interagency rapid response unit designed to respond to terrorist attacks known as a FEST team, a Foreign Emergency Support Team. This team from the State Department and CIA has a military Joint Special Operations Command element to it and has been routinely deployed to assist in investigations — for instance, after the USS Cole bombing and the bombings at the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

That team, these counterterrorism officials argue, could have helped the FBI gain access to the site in Benghazi faster. It ultimately took the FBI 24 days.
“The response process was isolated at the most senior level,” according to one intelligence source. “Counterterrorism professionals were not consulted and a decision was taken to send the FBI on its own without the enablers that would have allowed its agents to gain access to the site in Benghazi in a timely manner.” The FBI team did not get on the ground in Benghazi for several weeks after the attack and at that point any “evidence” had been rifled through by looters and journalists.

Jennifer’s work on this is astounding. What is the FEST? Let’s look at the State Department’s own description:

The Foreign Emergency Support Team is the United States Government’s only interagency, on-call, short-notice team poised to respond to terrorist incidents worldwide. Led and trained by the Operations Directorate of the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, it assists U.S. missions and host governments in responding quickly and effectively to terrorist attacks. The FEST, which has deployed to over 20 countries since its inception in 1986, leaves for an incident site within four hours of notification, providing the fastest assistance possible.

The FEST provides round-the-clock advice and assistance to Ambassadors and foreign governments facing crisis. The Team is comprised of seasoned experts from the Department of State, FBI, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and the Intelligence Community. Once on the scene, FEST members help Ambassadors assess the emergency, advise on how best to respond, and assist in managing consequent operations. FEST provides:

Seasoned crisis management expertise
Time-sensitive information and intelligence
Planning for contingency operations
Hostage negotiating expertise
Reach-back to Washington agencies

Want to know how ignorant the State Department spokesman is about this issue? Responding to Griffin’s reporting he made the following idiotic claim:

As to why the FEST was not sent, State Department spokesman Philippe Reines responded that “the first thing to know is that it’s not a security team. It’s primarily a resource that State can send to help restore a facility. Best example is Nairobi after the bombing because the Embassy suffered such significant damage. It couldn’t function properly without resuming basic infrastructure needs like communications. In this case, that was not necessary as Embassy Tripoli wasn’t impacted and could, as it does today, continue to function normally.”

Look at the functions the FEST can provide:

Seasoned crisis management expertise
Time-sensitive information and intelligence
Planning for contingency operations
Hostage negotiating expertise
Reach-back to Washington agencies

Four of the five were relevant to Benghazi and Tripoli. At a minimum, the FEST would have made a difference in getting the FBI on scene much sooner. But, as Jennifer Griffin reports, Hillary and the White House opted to ignore established counter terrorism response procedures.

Sharyl Attkisson weighs in on the CSG:

CBS News has learned that during the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, the Obama Administration did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource: the Counterterrorism Security Group, (CSG).

“The CSG is the one group that’s supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies,” a high-ranking government official told CBS News. “They were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon.”

Information shared with CBS News from top counterterrorism sources in the government and military reveal keen frustration over the U.S. response on Sept. 11, the night Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a coordinated attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.

The CSG is an interagency group of terrorism experts. They are the people that the Principals, like Hillary and Panetta, are supposed to turn to for answers and guidance because they are the experts. Attkisson exposes the denial and incompetence of Obama.

The fact that several intelligence, law enforcement and defense officials are speaking out shows you how profound the level of disgust is among CT experts in the government. This was a total failure by Obama.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.