Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and National Security Subcommittee Chairman Jason Chaffetz yesterday sent President Obama a letter and 166 pages of documents related to security threats and the process of normalization in Libya. The letter requests that the White House respond to questions about its role in the decision to have the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya pursue a course of normalization that was intended to help create the perception of success in Libya and contrast it to U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Excerpts of the letter from Chairman Issa and Rep. Chaffetz:
"Information supplied to the committee by senior officials demonstrates that not only did the administration repeatedly reject requests for increased security despite escalating violence, but it also systematically decreased existing security to dangerous and ineffective levels. We have been told repeatedly that the administration did this to effectuate a policy of normalization in Libya after the conclusion of its civil war. These actions not only resulted in extreme vulnerability, but also undermined Ambassador Stevens and the diplomatic mission. We are likewise concerned that your administration has not been straightforward with the American people in the aftermath of the attack."
"Without a full explanation from this administration about what it knew and when, we may never know the reasons why it blamed an internet video so quickly after the attack. Suffice it to say, however, that if administration officials indeed reviewed security reports on a daily basis, they would have see the overwhelming evidence prior to the 9/11 attack that terrorists were actively targeting westerners in Benghazi."
"Multiple warnings about security threats were contained in Ambassador Stevens own words in multiple cables sent to Washington, D.C., and were manifested by two prior bombings of the Benghazi compound and an assassination attempt on the British ambassador. For this administration to assume that terrorists were not involved in the 9/11 anniversary attack would have required a willing suspension of disbelief."
"The American people deserve nothing less than a full explanation from this administration about these events, including why the repeated warnings about a worsening security situation appear to have been ignored by this administration. Americans also deserve a complete explanation about your administrations decision to accelerate a normalized presence in Libya at what now appears to be at the cost of endangering American lives. These critical foreign policy decisions are not made by low or mid-level career officials they are typically made through a structured and well-reasoned process that includes the National Security Council at the White House. The ultimate responsibility rests with you as the President of the United States."
The letter concludes by asking the President the following questions:
"1. Who made the decision to accelerate normalization in Libya?
2. How was this decision made?
3. What benchmarks were used, and were they met?
4. Was the National Security Council involved in this decision?
5. When did the National Security Council meet about this matter?
6. Who attended those meetings?
7. Did policymakers rely on all available intelligence including dissenting opinions when making this decision?
8. How much of a factor in this decision was the impact of foreign influence on this fledgling state?
9. Do you believe it was appropriate for this administration to reject requests for additional security, withdraw existing security, increase hazard pay, and, at the same time, make it appear as if Libya was normalized?
10. Was the safety of American personnel paramount as these decisions were made?"
One of the documents attached to the letter, from Research and Information Support Center, dated March 1, 2012, gives the following assessment of the presence of Al Qaeda in the Benghazi area:
"In late December 2011, reports indicated that the al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan had sent experienced jihadists to Libya to build a new base of operations in the country. Between May and December 2011, one of these jihadists had recruited 200 fighters in the eastern part of the country. Documents seized in Iraq indicate that many foreign fighters who participated in the Iraqi insurgency hailed from eastern Libya."
Another document dated Feb. 1, 2012 under the name of Eric Nordstrom, the Regional Security Officer in Libya, who testified before the House Oversight Committee, also discusses the presence of Al-Qaeda in Libya:
"Extremist groups and groups affiliated with extremist groups participated in fighting against the Ghaddafi regime. Al-Qaeda affiliated groups includng Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb and other extremist groups are likely to take advantage of the ongoing political turmoil in Libya. The U.S. government remains concerned that such individuals and groups remain in Libya, engaged in fundraising, recruitment, procurement of arms and may use Libya as a platform from which to conduct attacks in the region."