Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is slated to testify on Wednesday, January 23rd, regarding the events of September 11th and 12th in Benghazi, Libya, which were initially reported to be a riot/protest. But by the end of the second day, four Americans were dead. Among the dead was U.S. Ambassador John Christopher Stevens.
Initially, a video that was deemed “offensive to Muslims” and posted on Youtube was declared to be the cause of the eruption that drove the attack.
Yet, the idea that the attack was a spontaneous protest gone badly was quickly debunked when reports of weapons used during the attack were released. They included both rocket-propelled and hand grenades, as well as AK-47 and FN F2000 assault rifles. Gun trucks, mortars, and heavy machine guns were also reported to be in use.
On October 16th, 2011, Secretary Clinton publically accepted responsibility for the deaths of the Americans during the attack. The Accountability Review Board “did not find reasonable cause to determine that any individual U.S. government employee breached his or her duty." The unclassified report was published by the New York Times on December 19th.
The Congressional hearings that were intended to tie up the event with on-the-record testimony initially concluded without testimony from Secretary Clinton. She had fainted, it was reported, and her medical condition precluded testimony. At this point, critical whispers of a potential cover up and speculation about the timing of her illness became louder than ever. On December 31st, it was reported that she’d been hospitalized for a blood clot stemming from her earlier fainting spell and concussion. The lines were drawn on both sides regarding the timing of her condition.
Secretary Clinton, and diplomats in general, are not strangers to accusations of a cover up. In Secretary Clinton’s case, the most famous accusation of a cover up was the death of Vince Foster when she was First Lady. At that time, there were conspiracy theories that she and Mr. Foster were having an affair. After a three-year investigation, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr ruled that Foster's death was a suicide.
Now, with testimony looming on the 23rd, people are speculating on what questions will be asked and how they will be answered. Expect to see tough questions on why the administration initially supported the idea that the attack was a protest gone wrong. Expect tough questions on diplomatic security and allegations that security in Benghazi was reported on multiple occasions to be substandard. The involvement of the CIA instead of the U.S. military in securing the Tripoli embassy will be noted and questioned.
With hindsight being 20/20, we cannot assume the upcoming hearings will be full of drama. And, we cannot assume that the answers provided will stifle the questions about a possible cover up.