Fox News is politicizing reports that the White House is considering retaliating against those responsible for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. According to Fox News, President Obama's response is not only “too little far too late,” but it's also “exploitative” coming the day before the presidential debate.
The Associated Press reported today that the “White House has put special operations strike forces on standby and moved drones into the skies above Africa, ready to strike militant targets from Libya to Mali -- if investigators can find the al-Qaida-linked group responsible for the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya.”
The article, which noted that "[f]inding the militants who overwhelmed a small security force at the consulate isn't going to be easy," stated that members of the Libyan militia group Ansar al-Shariah are key suspects but that “U.S. investigators have only loosely linked 'one or two names' to the attack, and they lack proof that it was planned ahead of time, or that the local fighters had any help from the larger al-Qaida affiliate.”
But on Fox News' The Five, the co-hosts largely glossed over these details to claim that this “was too little far too late” and showed “an inept foreign policy” on the part of the Obama administration, as Kimberly Guilfoyle put it. Greg Gutfeld argued that the administration's possible strike “is exploitative and political” because it was announced “the day before a debate.”
In fact, the AP article outlined the complicated situation and the issues inherent with pursuing a covert operation into African countries:
The burden of proof for U.S. covert action is far lower, but action by the CIA or special operations forces still requires a body of evidence that shows the suspect either took part in the violence or presents a “continuing and persistent, imminent threat” to U.S. targets, current and former officials said.
“If the people who were targeted were themselves directly complicit in this attack or directly affiliated with a group strongly implicated in the attack, then you can make an argument of imminence of threat,” said Robert Grenier, former director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center.
But if the U.S. acts alone to target them in Africa, “it raises all kinds of sovereignty issues ... and makes people very uncomfortable,” said Grenier, who has criticized the CIA's heavy use of drones in Pakistan without that government's support.
Even a strike that happens with permission could prove problematic, especially in Libya or Mali where al-Qaida supporters are currently based. Both countries have fragile, interim governments that could lose popular support if they are seen allowing the U.S. unfettered access to hunt al-Qaida.
The Libyan government is so wary of the U.S. investigation expanding into unilateral action that it refused requests to arm the drones now being flown over Libya.
But Fox News continued to politicize the administration's decision, with contributor Monica Crowley calling this part of “Obama Oct. Surprises”:
Senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano also suggested this was an “October surprise.”