Crucial questions continue to emerge nearly two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya. President Obama has yet to give a full account of his Administration's response to the violence that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Americans deserve to know what happened and what is being done to bring those responsible to justice. Leadership -- not election-year politics -- is required from the country's commander-in-chief.
Conflicting statements from the CIA, Defense Department, and the White House have reinforced the call for answers and accountability. Much of the scrutiny surrounds the failure to provide additional security as the situation in Benghazi worsened. According to news reports, requests by Americans in Benghazi for military help were denied and CIA officers were told to "stand down" while the consulate was attacked.
The President continues to sidestep questions about the nature of his orders to ensure that personnel were secure -- instead pointing to investigations that will end after the election. The CIA has said none of its officials made any decisions to refuse assistance, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defended the decision not to deploy military forces because of the uncertainty about what was happening on the ground.
The reported timeline of the Benghazi attacks, which lasted all night, indicates that backup from nearby military bases could have arrived before the firefight was over. We now know that the consulate was not the only target; Americans Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed when a mortar hit the CIA annex several hours later. Meanwhile, surveillance drones sent to Benghazi after the violence began were capable of providing real-time information to Washington.
The lack of transparency from the Obama Administration can be traced to the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks, as the President and others cast blame on an inflammatory YouTube video. Five days after the siege, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice appeared on a series of talk shows describing the bloodshed in Benghazi as a "spontaneous" reaction. More than a week after Ambassador Rice's comments, President Obama noted the anti-Islamic video several times in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
The Administration's shifting narrative continues to unravel as details surface. It has become clear that the Administration had evidence suggesting that the violence was premeditated and timed to the Sept. 11, 2001, anniversary. Official e-mails reveal that the White House and State Department were advised within hours that an Islamic terrorist group had claimed credit for the raid.
Recently released documents show that Administration officials had long been warned about rising violence in the area. In some of his last reports to Washington, Ambassador Stevens had described a "security vacuum" and "not random crimes of opportunity but rather targeted and discriminate attacks."
It is time for President Obama to address what happened in Benghazi with a complete timeline of events and detailed explanation of his executive actions. His silence stands in stark contrast to the clear details that the Administration released about the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan last year.
The Benghazi tragedy cost lives of brave Americans and was the first assassination of an American ambassador in more than three decades. Understanding the circumstances of the attacks and the Administration's response is critical to the fight against terrorism. The families of those killed in Benghazi and the American public deserve answers without delay.