Got an email from an old Special Ops friend today. His comment sums it up with respect to what happened at Benghazi:

[T]he leadership of the WH, NSC, State, DoD, and CIA all dropped the ball that night “big time.” They have been in a mutual protection alliance ever since, their knowledge of each other’s failures serving in essence to blackmail each other into silence. It makes me sick and very angry that no one has ever been held accountable.

Because we are in the political season it is natural to focus on the failure and culpability of Hillary Clinton with respect to Benghazi and the loss of life there almost four years ago. But she was not the only one. Others are guilty as well–President Barack Obama, SecDef Leon Panetta, CJCS General Martin Dempsey, Attorney General Eric Holder and CIA Director David Petraeus. A small group of Republicans and Democrats in the Congress also share some responsibility for the failure that night–i.e., Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and four other unidentified members of the House and Senate (I believe it was the majority and minority reps on the Intel Committees) because they were complicit in providing tacit approval for the Obama Administration to pursue a clandestine policy to help arm Syrian rebels with weapons from Syria.

Sy Hersh was the first to report on this in a 2014 article in the London Review of Books:

A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)

The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.

I want to revisit a point I raised in yesterday’s piece on the Benghazi report. I do not know if it is incompetence or ignorance (or a combination of the two) that accounts for the Gowdy Commission’s failure to press Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on the issue of the failure of the United States to respond in a timely fashion with military resources to the attack in Libya.

The Secretary of Defense does not issue a Deployment Order. Instead, he directs the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff aka CJCS to issue the Deployment Order aka DEPORD. That is how the military communicates through the Chain of Command the SecDef order to deploy. I note that the SecDef or his authorized rep must sign the order or issue a spoken command aka “VOCO” to the CJCS.

As I noted in yesterday’s piece, the DEPORD was not sent out until 8:52 pm Eastern Daylight Time. I have realized since yesterday that most of you (like most Americans) assume that once that order was issued that the Ninja warriors would start leaping from the sky. Sorry, that is just Hollywood nonsense.

The order that was sent out authorized the Commander’s In Extremis Force (aka CIF), which was operating in Croatia on a military exercise at the time, and a “U.S. based Special Operations Force” to deploy to an intermediate staging base (which was not I repeat not in Libya) to await further orders. Nothing in that DEPORD authorized any U.S. military force to enter Libya territory or air space to assist Americans that were under attack.

The principal U.S. force that should have and could have responded was under the control of General Carter Ham. He carries the nifty title of CDRUSAFRICOM aka Commander US AFRICA COMMAND. None of his forces could enter Libya without a DEPORD directing them to do so and an Execution Order aka EXORD issued, again, by the CJCS under the authority of the Secretary of Defense and the President.

Congressman Gowdy (is it impolite to dub him Howdy Doody Gowdy?) does not write a damn thing about any EXORD. His sad report fails to explain why the DEPORD was delayed and why the DEPORD did not authorize US Forces to enter Libya and why no EXORD was ever issued. He is content to report that the Deputies Committee met and that their recommendation was not to send forces into Libya.

Wiki provides a nice explanation of what the Deputies Committee is:

The National Security Council Deputies Committee is a committee of the United States National Security Council comprising the deputies to senior members of the United States Cabinet. Outside the cabinet, it is the highest level interagency committee dealing with issues of national security. The committee was established in 1989 by incoming president, George H. W. Bush, and retained by his successors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as an instrument of policy.

Council members include:[1]

and may include as required:

I have no beef with a “meeting” of the Deputies Committee (it was handled via a Secure Video Conference) but it should have happened much sooner. Howdy Gowdy’s report does indicate that the Deputies spent most of their time trying to figure out how to politically manage and spin these attacks. Little effort was devoted to figuring out how to save American lives and evacuate Americans besieged by terrorists.

It is at this point that State’s role is critical. Because Libya is a Sovereign country we cannot just send our troops in without first securing their permission. Apart from the considerations about the rule of international law, there is the more pragmatic concern–we don’t want our forces having to fight their way in and worrying about getting shot down. This does not mean, however, that we sit back and wait for, in this case, the Libyans to invite us in. Secretary Clinton and President Obama should have been on the phone immediately with the following message:

We expect you to fulfill your duty under international law to protect our diplomats in Benghazi. If you cannot do that then we “ask” your cooperation in allowing our forces to enter your territory and extricate our people.

Obama and Clinton did not do that. They completely failed in this duty. That is why the CIF and SOF forces were sent to a military base outside of Libya.

The other Elephant in the room that is not mentioned is the reason why we had a CIA “Annex” with 25 people operating in Benghazi? As noted above, Sy Hersh spelled out the reason. I cannot emphasize enough how unusual and rare it is to have a CIA base with 20 plus people operating. According to an old friend who ran a CIA base that supported one of our covert wars in the 1980s and moved weapons, he had half that number and his operation involved tens of millions of dollars.

Why is that base relevant? Understanding that question would help explain the reason for the attack. I see one possible motive in the fact that the United States informed the Government of Turkey one week prior to the attack in Benghazi (David Petraeus went to Ankara to deliver the message) that hold needed to be put on getting weapons into the hands of radical Islamists. The Obama Administration, in light of Syrian Islamists’ successes in August of 2012 in shooting down a Syrian jet and other attacks, wanted to curtail further support until after his re-election. Obama was running on an “Al Qaeda is on the run” message and did not want to run the risk of being exposed supporting with arms groups linked to Al Qaeda.

I wil give Howdy Gowdy credit for exposing in detail the failure of Hillary’s State Department to respond positively to repeated requests for security assets from Ambassador Stevens and several Diplomate Security officers. If Hillary had heeded those requests it is very likely that the attack on the night of the 11th in 2012 would have failed. But that is speculation. We can only go on what actually happened.

Hillary may not be the only person in a decision making position on that fateful night with blood on her hands, but she is the only one running for President and claiming to have the chops to lead our nation. Benghazi exposed her incompetence as a leader.

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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.