If cover-up there is, it seems directed at the Obama administration’s failure to take action when the lives of Americans were in extreme danger.
After all, Obama is presenting himself to American voters as the man who ordered the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. Surely, he deserves all due credit, but, as with all heroic actions, the real issue is whether it was a lucky shot or whether it bespeaks his character.
We know that the administration did nothing during the assault on the Benghazi Embassy. We do not know what it could have done. We certainly do not know whether any action would have been effective.
The question has now moved into Congressional investigations and the mainstream media.
Witness Sharyl Attkisson on the CBS website.
By Attkisson’s reporting, a drone was flying over the site during the attack, but the Pentagon claims not to have had the time to prepare and organize a counterattack.
In her words:
CBS News has been told that, hours after the attack began, an unmanned Predator drone was sent over the U.S. mission in Benghazi, and that the drone and other reconnaissance aircraft apparently observed the final hours of the protracted battle.
The State Department, White House and Pentagon declined to say what military options were available. A White House official told CBS News that, at the start of the attack, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta "looked at available options, and the ones we exercised had our military forces arrive in less than 24 hours, well ahead of timelines laid out in established policies."
But it was too late to help the Americans in Benghazi. The ambassador and three others were dead.
A White House official told CBS News that a "small group of reinforcements" was sent from Tripoli to Benghazi, but declined to say how many or what time they arrived.
The Pentagon says it did move a team of special operators from central Europe to the large Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Italy, but gave no other details. Sigonella is just an hour's flight from Libya. Other nearby bases include Aviano and Souda Bay. Military sources tell CBS News that resources at the three bases include fighter jets and Specter AC-130 gunships, which the sources say can be extremely effective in flying in and buzzing a crowd to disperse it.
The military had started planning for an operation. Today, it is saying that it did not have the time to put it into motion.
We do not know who recommended what or who ordered what.
One former CIA officer disputes whether the problem was the timing:
Retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen believes help could have come much sooner. He commanded CIA counter-terrorism missions targeting Osama bin Laden and led the team that responded after bombings of the U.S. Embassy in East Africa.
"You find a way to make this happen," Berntsen says. "There isn't a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments. They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died."
Finally, Attkisson reports that Secretary of State Clinton sought permission from the Libyan government “to fly in their airspace.”
We do not know whether permission was granted. We do not know whether a possible mission was aborted out of respect for the wishes of the Libyan government.
If, for whatever reason, President Obama refused to intervene when American soil was being invaded and when the lives of American officials were being threatened he surely does not want the information circulating before an election.