Nel's New Day

October 12, 2012

Republicans Weaken Nation’s Security

During the past decade, the GOP has had serious problems with leaking national security. One was the Valerie Plame affair: the Bush administration exposed a CIA operative to punish her husband because he didn’t say what George W. Bush wanted. More than damaging one couple, this “leak” damaged past intelligence gathering and future intelligence assets.

During the Obama administration, the Republicans have falsely blamed the president and his staff for deliberately revealing classified information. The latest leak, however, can’t be blamed on the Democrats because it happened on C-SPAN. And it was done during an attempt to embarrass the president.

The confusion surrounding the death of four men, including the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, was whether the attack was because of an anti-Muslim film or because of terrorism. Disturbed by the current administration’s refusal to declare terrorism until an investigation could be carried out, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) set up hearings in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to show how weak President Obama is in foreign affairs and the country’s security. The plan backfired when it blew the cover of a Libyan CIA base.

After State Department officials showed a commercial satellite of the U.S. compound during a committee meeting, Rep. John Chaffetz (R-UT) called out, “Point of order! Point of order! We’re getting into classified issues that deal with sources and methods that would be totally inappropriate in an open forum such as this.” When a State Department official tried to shut him up by saying that the photo was from a commercial satellite, Chaffetz declaimed, “I totally object to the use of that photo. I was told specifically while I was in Libya I could not and should not ever talk about what you’re showing here today.”

If that wasn’t enough to alert everyone that the commercial satellite photo might reveal U.S. secret intelligence, Issa said, “I would direct that that chart be taken down. In this hearing room, we’re not going to point out details of what may still in fact be a facility of the United States government or more facilities.” Technology must not be Issa’s strong suit; it was already part of the record on C-SPAN.

Not content to stay quiet, Chaffetz added,  “I believe that the markings on that map were terribly inappropriate. The activities there could cost lives.” The public testimony that the Republicans insisted on eliciting was even more damning. Under questioning, State Department officials disclosed that there was a seven-member “rapid response force” in the compound the State Department was calling an annex and that it was under control of the “other government agency.” They were also forced to acknowledge that “not necessarily all of the security people” at the Benghazi compounds “fell under my direct operational control.” Still not satisfied with keeping any leftover intelligence under wraps, Issa said publicly that agency in control was not the FBI.

The end result was that the Republicans on the committee both scolded the State Department officials for not revealing information and not concealing intelligence. Republicans are determined to embarrass the administration, but they succeeded only in showing that the CIA may have let down the victims.

Issa finally suggested that “the entire committee have a classified briefing as to any and all other assets that were not drawn upon but could have been drawn upon” in Benghazi. It’s a bit late: the briefing is already on C-SPAN.

In trying to show that a similar disaster had not happened in the history of the county, the Republicans also show their ignorance. U.S. Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens is the eighth U.S. ambassador to die in the line of duty since 1950. Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and  Bush Jr. have all had attacks on embassies under their watch.  Seven different attacks in which people died happened under George W. Bush.

Republicans also tried to embarrass the administration by claiming that the State Department had turned down requests for funding at the Libyan Embassy. Regional Security officer of Libya, Eric Nordstrom, testified to that several times. He has also testified that he  that having more agents would not have prevented the assault. He also said he had sought mainly to prevent any reduction in staff, rather than have a big increase.  

The people who should be embarrassed about their position are the Republicans in Congress. They have spent the past two years slashing the budget for embassy security. Every House Republican voted for the Paul Ryan Budget that cut funding to the State Department by 20 percent, $400 million. This cut includes funding for embassy security.

When Chaffetz was asked if he voted to cut nearly $300 million from the U.S. embassy security budget, he said, “Absolutely. Look, we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have–think about this–15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, private army there for President Obama in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces? When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices how to prioritize this.”

Ryan, Issa, and other House Republicans voted for an amendment in 2009 to cut $1.2 billion from State operations, including funds for 300 more diplomatic security positions. For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program, well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security”–a charge Republicans rejected.

Instead of trying to create jobs, the Republicans will use any means at their disposal in their sole goal to tear down the Democrats—even the result is weakening the country.

Aside:  Last night  Paul Ryan managed to tell 24 myths during the 40 of the 90 minutes that he spoke.


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