Election 2014: 100 days to go
Developing: U.S. Embassy in Libya evacuates personnel
**Posted by Phineas
Last November, in a post about the Benghazi consulate massacre and the question of military relief, I wrote about the question of “cross-border authority” – that is, who has the power to order our military to enter another country without their permission, per force an act of war. Quoting an article at PJM by Matt Bracken, we learned that only the President -Barack Obama- has that authority. Here’s the relevant information, again:
Once the alarm is sent – in this case, from the consulate in Benghazi — dozens of HQs are notified and are in the planning loop in real time, including AFRICOM and EURCOM, both located in Germany. Without waiting for specific orders from Washington, they begin planning and executing rescue operations, including moving personnel, ships, and aircraft forward toward the location of the crisis. However, there is one thing they can’t do without explicit orders from the president: cross an international border on a hostile mission.
That is the clear “red line” in this type of a crisis situation.
No administration wants to stumble into a war because a jet jockey in hot pursuit (or a mixed-up SEAL squad in a rubber boat) strays into hostile territory. Because of this, only the president can give the order for our military to cross a nation’s border without that nation’s permission. For the Osama bin Laden mission, President Obama granted CBA for our forces to enter Pakistani airspace.
On the other side of the CBA coin: in order to prevent a military rescue in Benghazi, all the POTUS has to do is not grant cross-border authority. If he does not, the entire rescue mission (already in progress) must stop in its tracks.
Today in an article at Fox News, Adam Housely reports that, because of a “communication breakdown” between the White House, State, and the Department of Defense, the military never received permission to enter Libya:
On the night of the Benghazi terror attack, special operations put out multiple calls for all available military and other assets to be moved into position to help — but the State Department and White House never gave the military permission to cross into Libya, sources told Fox News.
The disconnect was one example of what sources described as a communication breakdown that left those on the ground without outside help.
“When you are on the ground, you depend on each other — we’re gonna get through this situation. But when you look up and then nothing outside of the stratosphere is coming to help you or rescue you, that’s a bad feeling,” one source said.
Multiple sources spoke to Fox News about what they described as a lack of action in Benghazi on Sept. 11 last year, when four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.
Read the whole thing. It describes a lack of contingency planning, largely centered on Hillary Clinton’s State Department, and surely they (and she) bear a lot of blame for the lack of proper security at Benghazi and the failure to recognize the dangers in that part of Libya. Four Americans died because of it. The Diplomad, a former Foreign Service Officer with direct experience of Clinton, has often described how she seemed utterly uninterested in the job, thus this failure seems all too plausible.
But, if Bracken is right, at the moment of crisis itself, responsibility for a rescue operation that night was not Clinton’s. Nor was it Defense Secretary Panetta’s, nor that of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, nor of anyone else… except President Barack Obama, who, like the dog in “Silver Blaze,” did nothing. The Fox article itself, relying on unnamed albeit multiple sources, looks almost like an effort to either shift the blame to someone no longer there, Clinton, or disperse blame by showing how everyone screwed up, so no one person is responsible.
And yet, when we read:
Sources said that shortly after the attack began around 9:40 p.m., special forces put out the calls for assets to be moved into position.
“What that does is that enacts … every asset, every element to respond and it becomes a global priority,” one source said. “I would tell you that was given and the only reason it was given is because of special operations pack.”
However, the source said, “Assets did not move.”
The key question regarding a rescue effort remains: Who had “cross-border authority” and, if it wasn’t given, why?
Unlike Bob Owens, I’m not ready to say that Obama himself denied a rescue operation is “confirmed,” particularly when sources are unnamed, but it’s awfully plausible if Bracken is right about the president’s sole authority to grant CBA, and if we imagine a diffident Obama, who loves to campaign but hates to govern, voting present by simply not making a decision.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) will be holding hearings next week at which whistle-blowers with direct information about what happened at Benghazi and with our reaction are expected to testify. Maybe then we’ll finally get an answer about why the most powerful military in human history couldn’t couldn’t come to the rescue.
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)