The White House is throwing Hillary Clinton under the 2012 election bus.
Top officials have already claimed the nation’s intelligence agencies did not alert the White House to the growing danger facing the State Department’s facility in Benghazi, Libya, which was destroyed Sept. 11 by a jihadi attack on the 11th anniversary of the atrocities in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The claim was repeated Oct. 11 by Vice President Joe Biden during the vice presidential debate in Danville, Ky. “We weren’t told they wanted more security,” he announced.
Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser for communications, extended the claim Oct. 11 by telling told Foreign Policy magazine that neither Biden nor President Barack Obama knew of the growing danger.
“Biden speaks only for himself and the president and neither of them knew about the requests at the time,” Rhodes said, according to Foreign policy.
“These kinds of issues are handled in the State Department by security officials,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said during Friday’s press briefing.
Security matters “are decided at the State Department,” he said, amid tough questioning from Fox News Channel’s Ed Henry.
The White House’s statements leaves Hillary Clinton on the hook, because she runs the Department of State.
The widening breach between Clinton and the team of Obama and Biden comes as the president is being outpolled by Gov. Mitt Romney.
Both Biden and Clinton would likely be front-runners to compete for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016, should they decide to run.
Clinton has cooperated with a congressional inquiry by allowing senior State Department officials to attend a Wednesday hearing gaveled by Rep. Darrell Issa, the GOP chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The witnesses boosted media coverage of the administration’s policy, but were forced to answer Issa’s questions about the department’s reasons for rejecting multiple requests for extra security at the Benghazi site.
They also described their efforts to reduce security at the facility from five U.S. guards to three U.S. guards.
Two whistle-blowers gave testimony at the hearing to describe the department’s opposition to extra security.
“For me, the Taliban is on the inside of the [State Department] building,” Eric Nordstrom, the department’s chief security officer for the region, told Issa’s hearing.
Republicans have argued that the lack of security at the Benghazi facility was caused by the administration’s desire to downplay the risks of Obama’s 2009 outreach policy to Islamist groups in the Middle East.
The policy has prompted the administration to support Islamist groups in several countries, including Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Tunisia and Libya.
But Islamist parties such as the multinational Muslim Brotherhood, have close personal and ideological ties to jihadi groups.
For example, al-Qaida is now led by an Egyptian, Ayman Al-Zawahari. On Sept. 11, his brother led a protest at the U.S Embassy in Cairo. The protesters rioted, burned the embassy’s flag and hoisted the black jihadi flag on the embassy’s wall, while the government’s police declined to intervene.
Zawahiri’s brother was jailed by Egypt’s former government, and was released by the new administration-backed Islamist government.
Numerous reports say the attack on the Benghazi facility was led by a Libyan affiliate of the multinational al-Qaida group.
Under the administration’s so-called “normalization” policy, White House officials sought to downplay security danger of the Islamists’ rise to power.
The policy apparently impelled lower-level officials at the State Department to replace American embassy-guards with local Muslim guards, leaving only three U.S. guards on that facility on Sept. 11.
Some of those guards belonged to a local Islamist armed group, the “17th of February Martyrs Brigade.”
The group is named after a February 2006 controversy over an Italian politician’s refusal to comply with Muslim demands that Islam’s reputed prophet, Mohammad, not be subject to criticism. Following the politician’s criticism of their prophet, Libyans rioted, prompting Italy’s prime minister to fire the minister.
Obama wanted strong embassy security, Carney claimed.
“The president sets his priorities in his budget,” he said. That focus on the budget downplays Obama’s role in setting U.S. foreign policy strategy, which is then implemented by the the secretary of state.
Carney also urged Republicans and reporters to hold their criticism and questions until the completion of an internal administration investigation, which will not be completed before the Nov. 6 election.
Democrats are complaining that the GOP is “politicizing” the crisis, amid new election-season polls that show declining public trust in Obama’s handling of Islamic security threats.
Carney also repeated the White House effort to blame the intelligence agencies for the Benghazi attack. “There was no actionable intelligence indicating there would be an attack on the Benghazi facility,” Carney said.
The issue “should not be politicized,” Carney complained.
Carney also sought to blame the Republicans for the Benghazi defeat. “I find it rich that charges have been made about concerns over diplomatic security by those who routinely slash diplomatic security to pay for tax cuts,” he declared.