During the vice presidential debate “Jumpin’ Joe” Biden said that neither he nor the White House knew that the consulate in Benghazi had requested increased security. The State Department did not notify the top chief executives of the request for reasons that we don’t know. I won’t second guess the State Department because I don’t know what they knew. What we do know is that the State Department had requested upwards of $300 million for increased security for its embassies. The Republican congress said no, a vote that included Paul Ryan’s. I am going to wait out the results of the several investigations looking into what occurred before concluding that the State Department’s security section got it wrong in how they prioritized which embassies and consulates got what. As for not notifying the White House of the request for a security augmentation, I can only wonder how many “emergency” requests are submitted daily from the Defense Department, Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and other agencies that deal directly with national security, and what the protocols are for kicking them up to the president. Limited budgets cause organizations to do triage, something that shouldn’t happen but does in these times of tight money, and where a large segment of our population doesn’t want to pay for the services that they want and expect.
I agree with Obama’s critics that the first reports about Benghazi concerning the video were wrong. But after that I go in a different direction. Intelligence gathering is both an art and science. We all know some of the incredible technology that our spy agencies use, but sorting through the voluminous information takes people and time. And we also know that HUMINT (human intelligence) is still as important as all the gadgetry. That too takes time to gather and process. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, a lot of moving parts.
I think it is fair to put the Benghazi intelligence failure in perspective. Intelligence failures in the this country are historic ranging from completely missing the North Korean attack on South Korea on June 25, 1950, to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Considering the untold dollar amount that is poured into intelligence gathering and spy craft, it’s hard to believe that things like this could happen, but they did and still do. How about the information that was known before 9/11/2001 that some of the terrorists were taking flying lessons but only wanted training in takeoffs? The schools reported this well before that black day, but somehow it fell through the cracks. The Tet offensive caught us by surprise. Anyone recall the great intelligence failure that led to the Iraq war? The two human sources in that fiasco, Ahmed Chalabi and the German source, Curveball, were both frauds and suspected of lying well before the March 2003 invasion. Our spy satellites, which had completely saturated the land mass of Iraq didn’t pick up any evidence of nuclear weapons or their transfer to another country. President Bush later admitted that there was no WMD---this after a few thousand American lives were lost, many more permanently injured, and countless Iraqis killed.
I am not making light of what happened in Benghazi. I am making light of much of the politicized attacks on Obama for it, especially when you put it in perspective of far more serious intelligence failures that have had much larger consequences. I can only wonder if a Romney-Ryan administration would have done things differently with the same budgetary constraints, if they would have been more prescient and able to avoid what happened. Perhaps so, but the historical record of intelligence failures certainly makes it a fair, non-partisan question.