Tuesday, September 10, 2013

White House, State Department Silent on Benghazi Attack on Eve of Anniversary [with Update] [Updated again]

UPDATE: It occurs to me the White House and State Department have every reason to downplay the Benghazi anniversary and not just because of the fiasco it was for the Obama administration.  Since the situation in Libya has spiraled into chaos since our intervention there in 2011, President Obama's current plans to intervene in Syria could only suffer from closer look at Libya.
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UPDATE 2: Coincidence?  Around 8:30 Tuesday night, about six hours after this article was posted at The Weekly Standard, the White House posted this:

Statement by the Press Secretary on the President’s Meeting with Senior Administration Officials on Our Preparedness and Security Posture on the Twelfth Anniversary of September 11th 
Earlier today the President met with key national security principals on our preparedness and security posture on the eve of the twelfth anniversary of September 11th. Over the past several months, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco has convened numerous meetings to review security measures in place for this anniversary, as well as other global threats, including the recent threat emanating from the Arabian Peninsula. 
The President’s National Security team is taking measures to prevent 9/11 related attacks and to ensure the protection of U.S. persons and facilities abroad. The President reiterated that protecting the American people, both at home and abroad, is the Administration’s top national security priority. 
September 11th has been a day of remembrance for 12 years for Americans and others around the world. The events of last year, losing four brave Americans – Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods – brought home the reality of the challenges we face in the world.  As we near this day of remembrance, we continue to mourn the death of our cherished colleagues and honor their dedication to public service.  We remain committed to bringing the perpetrators of the Benghazi attacks to justice and to ensuring the safety of our brave personnel serving overseas. 

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Original post:

    Though the White House posted its annual President Proclamation of National Days of Prayer and Remembrance commemorating September 11th, 2001, there is no mention of the Benghazi attacks of 2012.  One day before the 12th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks and the first anniversary of the Benghazi attacks, there are no travel alertscautions, or other warnings on the State Department website related to the anniversary.  A search of the State Department website so far in September turns up just one reference to Benghazi, and that was in a reporter's question to President Obama at the G-20 summit about the U.S. attack on Libya in 2011.
    The State Department's most recent Worldwide Travel Alert resulted in the temporary closure of almost two dozen embassies due to credible threats from al-Qaeda and its affiliates, but that alert expired on August 31, and has been removed from the website (cached here.)  The 2013 hurricane season is the top travel concern based on the current travel headline of the State Department's travel page.
    While the main State Department website is silent about the upcoming anniversary, some individual embassies around the world have posted local warnings, for instance Nigeria and Libya.  The notice from the embassy in Tripoli reads in part:
Security Message for U.S. Citizens:  Anniversary of September 11 Attacks
September 2, 2013
Embassy of the United States of America
Tripoli, Libya

As the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, the U.S. Embassy in Libya reminds U.S. citizens of the need for caution and awareness of personal security.  During the days surrounding September 11, the embassy plans to restrict movement of embassy personnel to essential travel only.  Only emergency American Citizen Services will be offered from September 5-15.
    The Benghazi attacks from 2012 are not mentioned, and the Country Specific Information about Libya for travelers on the Travel.State.Gov website does not list this embassy warning.
    On a related note, President Obama had no Presidential Daily Briefing from Thursday, August 29, until Monday, September 9, according to the official White House schedule.  The president has of course had numerous well-publicized meetings with cabinet members, national security staff, and members of Congress over the proposed action against Syria that may have obviated the need for the regular daily briefing, but the focus of those extra meetings is likely to have largely been Syria, not the upcoming anniversary or related security matters.  The president's overseas trip to Sweden and the G-20 meeting may have interfered with the regular briefings as well.
    The president received some criticism in the wake of the Benghazi attacks in 2012 since the White House schedule reported his most recent Daily Briefing had come six days before the attacks on September 5.  Additionally, statements and notices from the State Department before those attacks seemed to downplay or discount the significance of the anniversary date relative to further terrorism.  Events in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Middle East soon showed otherwise.

Note: A version of this article first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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