James Rosen, writing in the Wall Street Journal.
Any coverup is attended by competing timelines: the acts of transgression, and the subsequent efforts to conceal or mislead or delay knowledge regarding those events. A famous theme of the Watergate hearings was the quest of investigators into the coverup to find out, as the saying became, what did they know and when did they know it?
The Benghazi episode is best viewed as a series of three timelines. When fully exposed, the facts of the "pre" period before the attacks will tell us how high up the chain, and in which agencies, fateful decisions were made about security precautions for the consulate and annex in Benghazi. We also stand to learn how the planning for the attacks could have been put in motion without being detected until too late.
Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb, who oversees diplomatic security, testified before the House on Oct. 10 that she and her colleagues had placed "the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11 for what had been agreed upon." While not the stuff of a perjury charge, this testimony cannot be true, given the known outcome of the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate and the pleas for enhanced security measures that we now know Foggy Bottom to have rebuffed.
The second Benghazi timeline encompasses the five or six hours on the evening of Sept. 11 when the attacks transpired. A State Department briefing on Oct. 9 offered an account that was riveting but incomplete. When all of the facts of these hours are compiled, we will have a truer picture of the tactical capabilities of al Qaeda and its affiliates in North Africa. We will also learn what really happened to Amb. Stevens that night, and better appreciate the vulnerabilities with which our diplomatic corps, bravely serving at 275 installations across the globe, must still contend.
The third and final Benghazi timeline is the one that has fostered charges of a coverup. It stretches eight days—from 3:40 p.m. on Sept. 11, when the consulate was first rocked by gunfire and explosions, through the morning of Sept. 19, when Matthew G. Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, publicly testified before the Senate that Benghazi was a terrorist attack.
Mr. Olsen's testimony effectively ended all debate about whether the attacks had grown out of a protest over an anti-Islam video. Three days before Mr. Olsen put a stop to the blame-YouTube storyline, U.N. Amb. Susan Rice, echoing Mr. Carney, had gone on five Sunday TV chat shows and maintained that the YouTube video has spurred the violence.
If the Obama White House has engaged in a coverup in the Benghazi case, the ostensible motivation would bear some similarity to that of all the president's men in Watergate. Mr. Obama faces a rendezvous with the voters on Nov. 6, and in a race much tighter than the Nixon-McGovern contest of 1972. In such a circumstance, certain kinds of disclosure are always unwelcome.
As with the Watergate conspirators, who were eager to conceal earlier actions that related to the Vietnam War, the Obama team is determined to portray its pre-9/11 conduct, and particularly its dovish Mideast policies, in the most favorable light. After all, no one wants to have on his hands—even if resulting from sins of omission and not commission—the deaths of four American patriots.
Who knew the truth about the attack? When? And who decided to try to obfuscate the fact that it was a terrorist attack?