Opinion

It’s Now Clear The Stunning Negligence That Led Up To Chris Stevens’ Death In Benghazi

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Geoffrey Ingersoll Editor in Chief

Two smoking guns hit the news streams this week: The U.S. indeed had a gun-running program pipelining Libyan weapons to Syrian rebels through a port in Benghazi; and at least some “intelligence” on action in Libya passed through not one, but at least two of Hillary Clinton’s “homebrew” email addresses.

It’s Clinton’s reliance on her civilian email servers for seemingly classified communications (indeed, all Department of State communications), coupled with the real nature of the mission in Benghazi, that lay bare the negligence leading up to the attack that took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens and two former Navy SEALs.

In the November following the attack, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. mission in Benghazi was “at its heart, a CIA operation.” It turns out the CIA Annex that had its cover blown during the attack was more than likely the central hub of an international gun running operation.

A source told Fox News two weeks after the attack that Stevens was in Benghazi meeting a Turkish diplomat to “negotiate a weapons transfer, in an effort to get SA-7 missiles out of the hands of violent extremists.” One hour after Stevens showed him the door, local Libyan guards “abandoned their posts” and the assault began.

We know that Moammar Gadhafi’s stockpile of SA-7 man-portable surface-to-air missiles concerned Western intelligence agencies, so much so that they quickly set up programs to locate and supposedly destroy these weapons in Libya. We also know that these weapons had, since Gadhafi’s fall, appeared in Mali in the hands of members of al-Qaida in the Islamic Meghreb through somewhat shady weapons deals.

So the alleged purpose of the CIA Annex was to rob extremist Peter of his heavy weapons and deliver the weapons to Syrian rebel Paul, putting the agency in direct competition with the same militia that attacked the consulate.

Perhaps coincidentally, some of the concern about the SA-7 market came through in emails to Clinton from Sidney Blumenthal. We already know how easily hackers scooped his information.

What we don’t know is to what degree Clinton discussed the Benghazi mission’s plans over unsecured lines on her private email. The lead of Michael Schmidt’s report in The New York Times says Clinton “exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state.”

That would certainly indicate there might be some exposure.

Of course, the State Department’s email is not without its holes. Neither is the White House’s network. Nevertheless, Clinton, unlike Colin Powell, who used civilian email for minor “housekeeping,” clearly peddled the type of intelligence that she herself deemed actionable.

“FYI,” she writes to Jake Sullivan, her well regarded deputy chief of staff, on a forwarded Blumenthal memo, “The idea of using private security contractors to arm the opposition should be considered.”

The importance of talking government talk over government lines is accountability. No one knows if Clinton’s emails were hacked, and no one knows exactly what information she passed over that server.

Just as a source at the State Department told me following the attack, “We need to look real hard at who knew Stevens was going to be there [at that mission in Benghazi].”

Without a detailed, unadulterated analysis of Clinton’s email server, we have no idea what kind of information was compromised.

Christopher Budd, a 10-year veteran at Microsoft Security Response Center who now works at Trend Micro, wrote of Clinton’s email use that “You can liken this to the CFO of Chase taking billions of dollars in cash home and storing it in the mattress. It’s so inadequate to meeting the risks that it would be laughable if it weren’t so serious.”

And finally, an editor at Red State about summed it up when he tweeted, “Don’t worry, despite Hillary Clinton’s grossly negligent email security practices, nobody’d actually try to hack us,” dropping a link to news of the President Barack Obama’s compromised email over unclassified networks.

The difference is that federal techies can forensically dissect the White House’s hack to at least have some idea who was behind it and what their intentions were (Russia, intentions clear). We can’t even do that with Clinton’s emails.

Perhaps the Justice Department needs reminding that this kind of negligence bracketed the loss of life on Sept. 11, 2012.

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