Psaki Runs from Question About ‘Vanity Fair’ Benghazi Article


State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked by a reporter to reconcile former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s famous Benghazi question with claims in a new Vanity Fair article Tuesday in a State Department press conference.

Psaki’s response was a predictable State Department refrain, stating “this has been all addressed” by the Accountability Review Board before quickly moving on:

REPORTER: And when Secretary Clinton famously asked about Benghazi, “was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they would go kill some Americans,” this article clearly suggests that this was not the case and that the consulate was under careful observation for some time. Can you comment on that and maybe about outsourcing security to other host nations?

JEN PSAKI: This has all been addressed –

MATTHEW LEE: Maybe you should put that quote in context.

JEN PSAKI: Fair enough, but it’s all been addressed in the ARB report.

Clinton’s January testimony casted uncertainty on the identity and motivation of the Benghazi attackers, well after the publication of the State Department’s ARB report:

Vanity Fair‘s Fred Burton and Samuel M. Katz write the participants in the Benghazi attack seemed extremely familiar with the compound and likely received detailed intelligence, suggesting immediately their motivation was not spontaneous or the subsequent attack unplanned:

They were not members of a ragtag force. Split into small groups, which advanced throughout the compound methodically, they employed military-style hand signals to direct their progression toward their objectives. Some were dressed in civil-war chic—camouflage outfits, black balaclavas. Some wore “wifebeater” white undershirts and khaki military trousers. A few wore Inter Milan soccer jerseys—Italian soccer is popular in Libya. Some of those who barked the orders wore mountaintop jihad outfits of the kind worn by Taliban warriors in Afghanistan. Virtually all of the attackers had grown their beards full and long. According to later reports and shadowy figures on the ground in Benghazi—organizers and commanders from nearby and far away—foreigners had mixed in with the local contingent of usual suspects. Many were believed to have come from Derna, on the Mediterranean coast between Benghazi and Tobruk. Derna had been the traditional hub of jihadist Islamic endeavors inside Libya and beyond.

It was clear that whoever the men who assaulted the compound were, they had been given precise orders and impeccable intelligence. They seemed to know when, where, and how to get from the access points to the ambassador’s residence and how to cut off the DS agents as well as the local guard force and the February 17 Martyrs Brigade militiamen on duty that night. As is standard procedure, in the days leading up to the arrival of the ambassador, the regional security officer and his team had made a series of official requests to the Libyan government for additional security support for the mission. It appears that the attackers either intercepted these requests or were tipped off by corrupt Libyan officials. According to one European security official who had worked in Benghazi, “The moment notifications and requests went out to the Libyan Transitional National Council and the militias in advance of Stevens’s arrival, it was basically like broadcasting the ambassador’s itinerary at Friday prayers for all to hear.”

The attackers had seemed to know that there were new, uninstalled generators behind the February 17 Martyrs Brigade command post, nestled between the building and the overhang of foliage from the western wall, as well as half a dozen jerry cans full of gasoline to power them. One of the commanders dispatched several of his men to retrieve the plastic fuel containers and bring them to the main courtyard. A gunman opened one of the cans and began to splash the gasoline on the blood-soaked floor of the February 17 command post. The man with the jerry can took great pains to pour the harsh-smelling fuel into every corner of the building before setting fire to one of the DS notices and igniting an inferno.