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The Omertà Administration

Nov 5, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 08 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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At a speech in Davenport, Iowa, on October 24, with 13 days left in the presidential election, Barack Obama introduced a new closing argument: “Trust matters,” Obama said.

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“There’s no more serious issue on a presidential campaign than trust.”

We agree. It’s a good way—among the most important ways—to evaluate a leader.

On October 18, five weeks after terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing four Americans, President Obama told television host Jon Stewart that his administration had moved quickly to share all of the intelligence with the public. “Everything we get, every piece of information we get—as we got it we laid it out for the American people.”

The president reiterated this point in an interview with Philadelphia talk radio host Michael Smerconish on October 26. “This is something that the American people can take to the bank .  .  . my administration plays this stuff straight. We don’t play politics when it comes to American national security. So what we consistently have done throughout my presidency and what we did in this circumstance is as information came in we gave it to the American people. And as we got new information we gave that to the American people. And that includes, by the way, members of Congress.”

This is false. We know this because senior members of the Obama administration have spoken about the need to keep information from the American people. From the White House to the State Department to the FBI, administration spokesmen have said that they are withholding information until the completion of the several administration-backed investigations into the matter.

On September 14, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declared that the department would no longer answer questions related to the Benghazi attacks. “It is now something that you need to talk to the FBI about, not to us about, because it’s their investigation.” The FBI, not surprisingly, won’t answer questions about an ongoing investigation.

What about the White House? Last Wednesday, a spokesman for the White House’s national security staff refused to answer very basic questions about the president’s schedule during and after the attacks, telling reporter Fred Lucas: “We decline to comment.”

And the secretary of state? When reporters asked Hillary Clinton last week about emails that the White House received as the assault was unfolding, indicating possible terrorist involvement in the attacks, she refused to provide details. “The independent Accountability Review Board is already hard at work looking at everything, not cherry-picking one story here or one document there, but looking at everything—which I highly recommend as the appropriate approach for something as complex as an attack like this.”

And the president himself? Late Friday, Kyle Clark, a reporter for a Denver television station, attempted to get answers directly from Obama in an interview at the White House. Did the president committed to sharing everything make good on his promise? Here is how Clark’s report of the interview began: “President Barack Obama would not directly address repeated questions from 9NEWS on whether Americans under attack in Libya were denied requests for assistance during the September 11th terror attack.”

Basic questions. No answers.

We know this much: What Barack Obama said is unambiguously false. Members of his administration have not provided information to the American people about Benghazi as they have received it. And in many instances, the opposite has been true. The Obama administration has used every means at its disposal to avoid sharing information about the Benghazi attacks—not only with the American people, but with Congress, too.

Sources tell The Weekly Standard that the administration is ignoring—or denying—routine requests for information from the congressional committees with oversight on national security. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” says one congressional Republican. “Basic questions—unanswered for literally weeks.”

One could argue that this is good news. An administration refusing to provide information about the attacks is an administration that isn’t providing misleading information about those attacks. And that’s what the American public got for the better part of four weeks.

• There was “no evidence” of a planned terrorist attack. At his briefing on September 18, a full week after the attacks, Jay Carney said this: “I’m saying that based on information that we—our initial information, and that includes all information—we saw no evidence to back up claims by others that this was a preplanned or premeditated attack.” (Emphasis added)

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