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Dan Liljenquist: Chaffetz's search for truth in Benghazi paid off

Published: Thursday, May 16 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

The facts about the Benghazi tragedy are breaking through, thanks, in large part, to the tireless efforts of Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

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This week could mark the end of the Obama administration's second term. While the President and his allies will continue to occupy the executive branch for the next three years, they will be hard pressed to move public opinion and advance a legislative agenda. They have severely damaged their own credibility with the American people and with the press.

In addition to the disturbing revelations that the Internal Revenue Service and Justice Departments abused their power (the one by targeting and harassing political opponents with tax audits and the other by seizing phone records from the Associated Press), the Obama administration's narrative of the Benghazi consulate attack unraveled this week. The facts about the Benghazi tragedy are breaking through, thanks, in large part, to the tireless efforts of Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz.

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks, which killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans, the Obama administration took to the airwaves and characterized the event as a spontaneous demonstration that spun out of control. The administration blamed a YouTube video for prompting the attack.

When a Utah National Guard lieutenant colonel who had served in Libya raised questions about the administration's narrative, Chaffetz personally flew to Libya to look into the situation. He met with Greg Hicks, the top U.S. diplomat in Libya, and Eric Nordstom, the regional security officer for the State Department. These men told Chaffetz that the administration had denied repeated requests for additional security, that the YouTube video had nothing to do with the attacks and that they had been warned by their State Department superiors not to cooperate with a House investigation. Immediately upon his return to Washington, Chaffetz called for congressional hearings on Benghazi.

Those hearings discredited the Obama administration's now infamous YouTube video narrative. In response to congressional pressure, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted that the administration's Benghazi talking points reflected "the intelligence community's best assessment of what they thought had happened." Carney emphatically stated that the only adjustment to the talking points made by the White House or the State Department involved changing the word "consulate" to "diplomatic facility."

Over the last several months, Chaffetz and other members of Congress have kept up the pressure on the Obama administration, arguing that it ignored security warnings and covered up its failures in Benghazi.

This week, Chaffetz's efforts were vindicated. ABC News published leaked emails that show the State Department intervened aggressively in the drafting of the Benghazi talking points. The CIA's first draft reported that it had "produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to Al-Qaida in Benghazi" and that there had been "at least five other attacks" in Benghazi since April. In an email exchange with the CIA, Victoria Nuland, State Department spokeswoman, objected to the inclusion of this info in the official talking points because "it could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings." By the 12th and final draft of the talking points, the State Department had scrubbed all references to al-Qaida and the security warnings from the talking points.

It is obvious now that the State Department and the White House conspired to cover up the careless mistakes that resulted in the murders of Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues. An administration that is willing to lie to protect itself from criticism is unworthy of our trust and support.

I am grateful that Congressman Chaffetz and his colleagues are asserting their constitutional prerogative to investigate and police the abuses of the executive branch.

Dan Liljenquist is a former state senator and U.S. Senate candidate.

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