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In their zeal to manufacture something -- anything -- to try and erode President Obama's national security credentials, Darrell Issa and his Utah pal Jason Chaffetz had a little hearing yesterday on the Libya Embassy attacks.
Sadly, they had to admit that Republicans cut the funds for embassy security. They also, according to Dana Milbank, managed to out the CIA in Benghazi.
Through their outbursts, cryptic language and boneheaded questioning of State Department officials, the committee members left little doubt that one of the two compounds at which the Americans were killed, described by the administration as a “consulate” and a nearby “annex,” was a CIA base. They did this, helpfully, in a televised public hearing.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was the first to unmask the spooks. “Point of order! Point of order!” he called out as a State Department security official, seated in front of an aerial photo of the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, described the chaotic night of the attack. “We’re getting into classified issues that deal with sources and methods that would be totally inappropriate in an open forum such as this.”
As soon as Chaffetz had his hissy fit in public, Darrell Issa jumped in, making it even worse:
Now that Chaffetz had alerted potential bad guys that something valuable was in the photo, the chairman, Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), attempted to lock the barn door through which the horse had just bolted. “I would direct that that chart be taken down,” he said, although it already had been on C-SPAN. “In this hearing room, we’re not going to point out details of what may still in fact be a facility of the United States government or more facilities.”
May still be a facility? The plot thickened — and Chaffetz gave more hints. “I believe that the markings on that map were terribly inappropriate,” he said, adding that “the activities there could cost lives.”
You know, if that's the case, don't you think it might have been prudent to recess the hearing and turn off the cameras before telling anyone who is bothering to watch C-SPAN that there's a CIA operation in that area?
Most people familiar with diplomatic operations know the CIA operates near and sometimes within consulates and embassies. This isn't exactly news. But if you know that, and you are aware that one of the installations being put on the overhead projector is one of those facilities, do you jump up and signal that in the middle of a public hearing?
Only if you're stupid or intentional.
Here's what Mitt Romney's campaign spokesman said in response:
Lanhee Chen, Romney's policy director, said in a statement. "On an issue of this importance, nothing short of full and complete candor is acceptable."
Which proves that Romney isn't qualified to be Commander-in-Chief. If he and his spokespeople think it's a great idea to identify and out CIA operations in unstable foreign countries, I urge them to think again.
Also, remember that Republicans, and Mitt Romney in particular, have been relentless about criticizing the administration for so-called security leaks. Yet just last week there was a conveniently leaked cable just ahead of the hearings about Ambassador Stephens' concerns about security in Libya. The Daily Beast was given exclusive access to review it. Who would have granted such access, hmmmm?
Understand what this means. This hearing focused on the complaints of two security whistleblowers, complaining, credibly, about State trying to shift security responsibilities to State resources, which in this case meant relying on Libyan militia (though the February 17 Brigade appears to have acquitted itself credibly). But that part–the part Romney’s surrogate is trying to make a campaign issue–is only a part of what what went wrong on September 11. Yet Chaffetz went out his way to shield the other failures–the ones made by CIA, which traditionally has close ties to the linguistically skilled Mormon Church.
Outing CIA personnel and operations is never acceptable. I don't care if you don't agree with their purpose or mode of operation. You do not out them in order to make political hay. What a Cheney-esque thing to do.