The buzzy new story on Fox News and conservative blogs involves Republican attorney Victoria Toensing and her claim that anonymous State Department and CIA “whistleblowers” have been blocked and even threatened by the Obama administration to prevent their testifying on the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Fox News' Ed Henry even asked President Obama about the story at today's press conference (the president said he had no idea what Henry was talking about).
It's worth noting that this is not Victoria Toensing's first foray into Benghazi “cover-up” allegations. Back in November 2012, Toensing wrote an op-ed for Fox News (of course) attempting to draw a sinister link between the Benghazi attack and the abrupt resignation of former CIA director David Petraeus. “Something is rotten in Benghazi-Petraeus,” wrote Toensing, who laid out an intricate conspiracy tying the two events together which ultimately fell completely apart.
Toensing's argument was -- like most conspiracies -- dense and winding. According to Toensing, the fact that Petraeus supported the White House's initial indications that an anti-Islam video had incited the Benghazi attackers was “strange,” given that Petraeus, in her view, must have known otherwise:
Because if an administration pushes a political agenda that applauds the killing of Bin Laden as the ultimate act for eradicating the radical Islamic threat, then that same administration ignores its Ambassador's urgent pleas for more security for fear it will appear Bin Laden's demise was not the answer to that threat. Our country's chief spy is supposed to know which theory is held up by the evidence.
The question, as Toensing saw it, was what motivation Petraeus had for going along with the White House. One explanation she came up with was that Obama was blackmailing his own CIA director with knowledge of the extramarital affair that ultimately led to Petraeus' resignation. And not only was Petraeus being blackmailed, per Toensing, but the administration had likely concealed knowledge of the affair it so it could be used against him at a later date.
Consider: All candidates for CIA employment must take a polygraph. Doesn't the nominee for DCI have to do so also? And that nasty little catch-all embarrassment question is always asked by the polygrapher. Usually, the polygraphee is thinking back to college and confessing to smoking pot. In 2011, it would not take a sterling memory for Petraeus to remember a 2011 affair.
Why is the administration's handling of the affair significant? Because sloppy vetting of the country's top spy and not giving timely notice to the oversight committees was either gross incompetence or a deliberate evasion of law. Or the sticky situation was used to pressure the DCI into backing the White House theory. Or there was a much bigger secret at Benghazi that all involved were (and still are ) trying to cover up.
Toensing smelled smoke and yelled “fire,” noting that Petraeus resigned over the affair just before he was scheduled to testify before Congress on the Benghazi attack:
The two seemingly unrelated incidents are now merged. Just days before Petraeus is scheduled to testify about the first, he resigns because of the second, and cancels his Congressional appearances. The House and Senate have the authority to subpoena him. It is up to them and the media to find the rot.
Of course, we all know what happened: just a few days after Toensing's column was published, Petraeus testified before Congress as planned. And during that testimony he explained why he backed the White House's early statements on the attack. Via The New York Times:
David H. Petraeus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers on Friday that classified intelligence reports revealed that the deadly assault on the American diplomatic mission in Libya was a terrorist attack, but that the administration refrained from saying it suspected that the perpetrators of the attack were Al Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers to avoid tipping off the groups.
Mr. Petraeus, who resigned last week after admitting to an extramarital affair, said the names of groups suspected in the attack -- including Al Qaeda's franchise in North Africa and a local Libyan group, Ansar al-Shariah -- were removed from the public explanation of the attack immediately after the assault to avoiding alerting the militants that American intelligence and law enforcement agencies were tracking them, lawmakers said.
Toensing got it completely wrong, and she was so embarrassingly off-base because she disregarded basic factual information and common sense to leap to wild conclusions. It's something to keep in mind now that she's at the center of the latest Benghazi “controversy.”