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Libya security problems will erode Clinton’s legacy

Secretary State Hillary Clintspeaks Oct. 3 State Department. She appointed an independent panel examine attack U.S. consulate Benghazi Libywhich U.S.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks on Oct. 3 at the State Department. She appointed an independent panel to examine the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed. | EVAN YU

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Updated: November 17, 2012 6:10AM

Poor Hillary Clinton. Either the secretary of state is being thrown under the bus by the White House for the security failure in Libya leading up to the Sept. 11 killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens or she was a partner in the Obama administration’s misleading campaign to initially deny the murder was a calculated terrorist attack. Either way, it’s hard to see how Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, once universally acclaimed, can escape potentially serious damage to her reputation.

Exhibit 1 in the case for her being thrown under the bus was Joe Biden’s assertion in the vice presidential debate the other night: “We weren’t told they wanted more security again. We did not know they wanted more security again.”

Only the day before in sworn testimony before Congress, State Department personnel detailed the concerns of the security people on the ground in Libya about the increasingly dangerous environment there and their appeals for strong security. In a journal found in the wreckage of the U.S. consulate by a CNN reporter, Stevens wrote of his worry that he was on an al-Qaida hit list.

When a president or vice president uses the word “we,” he refers to the administration. But the White House and political operatives for President Barack Obama jumped in to say Biden referred only to himself and Obama. Of course, security issues for embassies and consulates are handled by the State Department, but national security is the top responsibility for a president.

The White House says that Obama receives daily intelligence briefings in person or on paper — which he “religiously reads,” according to ABC News. Since the overthrow of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was a signature success of Obama’s “lead from behind” foreign policy strategy, it’s difficult to imagine that the deteriorating situation in Libya and the growing hazards from militias linked to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb somehow escaped our intelligence-gathering agencies briefing the president on national security threats.

Biden’s remark sounded suspiciously like he was saying that when it comes to the Libyan problem, the buck stops at Foggy Bottom, not 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

And on Monday, Clinton, being a good soldier, said the buck did stop with her, giving the White House a big break and adding to the case of her being a partner in the Libyan misadventure.

Exhibit 1 in the case that Clinton was an accomplice — either willingly or dragooned into it by the Obama political honchos — were her statements echoing the false refrain that the Benghazi killings of Stevens and three other Americans stemmed from a spontaneous demonstration over an obscure Internet video.

The problem with this position is that State personnel had direct contact with the Benghazi consulate when the attack came and knew that it had not been preceded by any demonstration. A week ago, a top State Department official told reporters in briefing that State personnel never asserted that the video was the cause of the attack.

Still, as recently as last week Clinton defended the video claims as relying on the best intelligence available at the time. That would be intelligence clearly in contradiction of what State officials knew. Doesn’t she talk to the people who work for her?

Morale among folks laboring in the department must be pretty low. Either their boss ignores their work and counsel as part of a political agenda to deny the failure of Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world, or she — and the department — are being set up to be the scapegoat for Benghazi.

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