In the view of neutral observers, last week’s Benghazi hearing revealed Hillary Clinton as someone who could lie coolly and methodically in front of members of Congress and millions of television viewers—who could look family members of fallen heroes in the eye and lie about who killed their loved ones—who could frame an innocent man and put him in jail as a scapegoat—who could steal tens of thousands of pages of e-mails in order to hide those messages from the prying eyes of Congress, the FBI, FOIA-wielding journalists, and even the Obama White House—and who could store those stolen messages, containing information of great value to our enemies, on an unsecured server where they were ripe for the picking.
Some among Clinton supporters such as the news media claim the hearing was partisan. To coin a phrase, what difference does it make? If the Republicans misbehaved in some way, that in no way detracts from Hillary Clinton’s responsibility and in no way diminishes her guilt. One does not justify bad behavior by pointing to other bad behavior. If Republicans did something wrong, let voters and/or prosecutors punish them along with Secretary Clinton. Don’t let her get away with it. (Remember: The Watergate investigation was “nonpartisan” not because of anything the Democrats did, but because honest Republicans joined the effort to nail Richard Nixon. Apparently, there are no honest Democrats today to join in the effort to hold Hillary Clinton accountable for what she’s done.)
Some among Clinton supporters such as the news media claim that the hearing produced nothing new. So what if it didn’t? The allegations and findings of journalists and government investigators in Watergate and all other major scandals were repeated ad nauseum, to the point that partisans on one side or the other got sick of the whole thing, to the point that the American people were sick of the whole thing and just wanted it to be over. Yes, Americans—many of them, anyway—are “sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails,” as Bernie Sander put it to Clinton during the Democratic debate. But it’s the job of journalists to make things interesting for people who’ve been following all along, even as they fill in the background for newbies. As they tell TV writers, “Every episode is someone’s first episode.”
Besides, the hearing did produce something new. At the hearing, it was revealed that Secretary Clinton, in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack, had informed both her daughter and the prime minister of Egypt that the attack was the result of an organized attack.
“Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like [sic] group,” she wrote the night of the attack (September 11) in an e-mail to “Diane Reynolds,” the pseudonym that Chelsea Clinton used when checking into hotels. And, according to detailed notes from Clinton’s September 12 conversation with Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, she told him that “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack, not a protest.” (The document is not an exact transcript, so there may be slight variation from the actual words she spoke. However, there has been no suggestion that the notes unfairly characterize the conversation.)
Soon, the story would be that the attack was the result of an Internet video, a crude movie trailer made by a fellow named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula in which he ridiculed Mohammed. The video was made apparently in protest of the oppression by Muslims of the Coptic Christians. It had been cited in some protests as part of a long history of disrespect of Islam by the West, but it appears that only about 10 people had actually seen it—at least, until the President and the Secretary of State made it famous worldwide by blaming it for the Benghazi attack.
Why blame the video?
As we noted in this space last year (http://capitalresearch.org/2014/09/this-is-what-al-qaeda-on-the-run-looks-like/), the number of jihadist/Islamofascist individuals and groups and the number of attacks by Al Qaeda and its affiliates had been increasing steadily throughout the Obama administration, but the lie that “Al Qaeda is on the run” was critical to the President’s reelection plan, as well as to Secretary Clinton’s plans for 2016.
Also important for political reasons was the appearance of success for the Obama/Clinton policy in Libya. “We came. We saw. He died,” she joked in 2011 about the fate of Libyan dictator Muammar Khadafy.
Here’s what happened: Khadafy was, for decades, a seemingly implacable enemy of the U.S. He was a mass murderer, and an ally of anti-U.S. zealots like President Obama’s longtime minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Khadafy deserved to be overthrown; he deserved to be killed for his crimes. Yet he had been neutralized, abandoning his WMD program and, to some degree, coming over to our side. (It was one of the few good effects of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He feared that, if he continued to be an enemy of the U.S., the same thing would happen to him that happened to Saddam Hussein.) Obama and Clinton conducted an illegal seven-month war to oust Khadafy, which resulting in his overthrow and his death and the hands of a mob. That sent a message to dictators around the world: Cut a deal with the United States, and you, like Khadafy, could end up being raped to death. Meanwhile, Libya, whose eastern region was the #2 recruiting ground for Al Qaeda (after Saudi Arabia), dissolved into chaos and, as of now, a war between Al Qaeda and its even-worse offshoot, ISIS. (At the recent Democratic debate, Clinton touted Libya as
Thus, Hillary Clinton wasn’t just on the hook for the “Al Qaeda on the run” lie. She was vulnerable for the entire Obama/Clinton bull-in-a-china-shop foreign policy record, accountable (if Republicans nominate a decent candidate) for the Libya disaster, the Putin “reset button” disaster, the growth of the influence of the Communist Chinese, the Syrian catastrophe, the U.S.-backed takeover (fortunately temporary) of Egypt by the Islamofascists of the Muslim Brotherhood, the destabilizing flood of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East and even South Asia into Europe and maybe the U.S., the abandonment of Iraq and near-abandonment of Afghanistan, and other aspects of the worst foreign policy record of any presidential candidate in memory.
So the attack in Libya—on 9/11/12—had to be characterized not as a predictable terrorist attack—did I mention that it was on the anniversary of 9/11/01?—but as a response to an Internet video. Talking points to that effect were distributed, apparently the work of Ben Rhodes, brother of the president of CBS News. Obama and Clinton made announcements for Pakistani TV condemning the video, and the President declared to the United Nations that “the future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam.” (Imagine the outcry by First Amendment advocates if President George W. Bush had declared to the U.N. that “the future must not belong to those who slander the Messiah of Israel,” a.k.a. Jesus Christ.)
Hillary met with the families of the Americans killed in the Benghazi attack. As John McCormack wrote in the Weekly Standard (http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/hillary-clintons-charlie-hebdo-problem_823878.html ):
Three days after the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Benghazi, Libya, Clinton attended a ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base welcoming home the remains of the slain Americans. While flanked by four flag-draped caskets, Clinton blamed an “awful internet video that we had nothing to do with” for the “rage and violence directed at American embassies.” Clinton did not, in the course of her speech, defend the right to free speech.
What’s worse, Clinton privately told the father of one of the CIA officers killed in Benghazi: “We will make sure that the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted.” By the end of the month, an American citizen known as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man who made the anti-Islam YouTube video, was indeed arrested for violating the terms of his probation. He was later sentenced to a year in jail for using a name other than his given legal name.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist William Safire, one of the country’s top experts on both politics and language, once called Clinton “a congenital liar.” (See http://www.nytimes.com/1996/01/08/opinion/essay-blizzard-of-lies.html ) Samantha Power, now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, once called her “a monster.” In the story of Hillary and the families of the victims of the Benghazi attack, Americans saw with their own eyes, on full display at that hearing last week, what sort of person Hillary Clinton is.
The Smoking Gun, which we don’t have to look for, because we already have it
The most significant Smoking Gun in this case has been known to the public for months, thanks to the investigators, working for the Benghazi committee, who discovered what Secretary Clinton was doing with her e-mails.
That Smoking Gun is the fact that Hillary Clinton stole every single e-mail she generated in the course of her work as secretary of state. The e-mails related to her work were the property of the U.S. government. They were supposed to be protected from our enemies and, in certain circumstances, available to the people’s elected representatives, to the courts, to journalists and to the public. Secretary Clinton hid them, destroyed many of them, and claimed to have returned the ones that were work-related but, as far as she intended and believed, left no one with any way to determine whether she did so.
A Smoking Gun is overwhelming circumstantial evidence of guilt. People often use the term “circumstantial evidence” to suggest that evidence is of inferior quality—“just circumstantial evidence”—but, as every lawyer knows, circumstantial evidence is generally more reliable than other forms of evidence such as eyewitness testimony. Dogprints in the snow are stronger evidence than eyewitness testimony to the fact that a dog has walked by. As Bill Clinton pointed out, the presence of a turtle on a fencepost is proof that somebody put it there.
A Smoking Gun is overwhelming circumstantial evidence, such as when a shot rings out, and you burst into the room, and you see, standing over a body which is bleeding from a bullet wound, Colonel Mustard with a smoking (recently fired) gun in his hand. It is like just short of being caught in the act—caught “with one’s hand in the till” or in flagrante delicto (“in blazing offence”). (Being caught “red-handed”—with blood on your hands—is in between the two categories; it can refer either to being caught during the act or immediately afterward.)
Once again, we turn to the late, great William Safire (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/26/magazine/the-way-we-live-now-1-26-03-on-language-smoking-gun.html):
In an 1893 Sherlock Holmes story, “The Gloria Scott,” Arthur Conan Doyle wrote of a grisly murder by a sham chaplain aboard a prison ship: “We rushed into the captain’s cabin . . . there he lay with his brains smeared over the chart of the Atlantic . . . while the chaplain stood with a smoking pistol in his hand at his elbow.” . . . [T]that Holmes citation seems to be the start of the cliché that grips us today.
It first appeared in The New York Times on July 14, 1974 [during the Watergate investigation], in an article by Roger Wilkins: “The big question asked over the last few weeks in and around the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing room by committee members who were uncertain about how they felt about impeachment was ‘Where’s the smoking gun?’” The question was rooted in a Nixon defense strategy, to narrow the grounds for impeachment to a provable crime.
Hillary Rodham, now Hillary Clinton, worked for the Democrats who targeted President Nixon during the Watergate investigation, so she knows well the idea of using the Smoking Gun concept as a defense. (http://www.snopes.com/politics/clintons/zeifman.asp
Today, the idea of a Smoking Gun has been twisted into a Nixonian/Clintonian defense, that any politically-connected crime, if allegedly committed by a Democrat or leftist, must be provable by the standard of criminal law, which is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” And the news media define “reasonable doubt” so broadly for Democrats that they can get away with almost anything—e.g., if Hillary denies committing a crime, that constitutes a reasonable doubt that she committed it.
Indeed, one of the most damning types of evidence is the destruction of evidence itself. It’s called spoliation of evidence. For example, if there’s a hit-and-run accident at 12:55 a.m. involving a pedestrian and a car that looks like yours, and you run that car through a car wash a couple of miles away at 1:05 a.m., that may constitute evidence, absent a reasonable alternative explanation for the late-night cleaning, that you washed blood off your car. Same thing if you run a tobacco company accused of wrongdoing, and, before a subpoena can be served, you empty your file cabinets in the parking lot and set the files on fire.
That’s what Hillary did with the e-mails.
How many e-mails did Secretary Clinton steal? We can’t know for sure unless and until someone recovers the ones that Secretary Clinton thought she had had deleted, but the Washington Times reported that “Mrs. Clinton turned over to the State Department 55,000 pages containing some 30,000 e-mails from a larger collection. The remaining e-mails were deleted from her server, she said.” The total number of stolen e-mails has been reported widely at 66,000.
The Associated Press reported on October 13:
The private e-mail server running in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s home basement when she was secretary of state was connected to the Internet in ways that made it more vulnerable to hackers while using software that could have been exploited, according to data and documents reviewed by The Associated Press. “Clinton’s server, which handled her personal and State Department correspondence, appeared to allow users to connect openly over the Internet to control it remotely, according to detailed records compiled in 2012. Experts said the Microsoft remote desktop service wasn’t intended for such use without additional protective measures, and was the subject of U.S. government and industry warnings at the time over attacks from even low-skilled intruders. . . . Clinton’s privately paid technology adviser, Bryan Pagliano, has declined to answer questions about his work from congressional investigators, citing the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
A court of law, if it were considering whether Mr. Pagliano committed any wrongdoing, would be barred from inferring guilt from his taking the Fifth. As members of the public, we may infer anything we like (although, to be fair, Mr. Pagliano may have had no improper intent, and may simply have committed acts that, unknowingly on his part, had the effect of furthering Mrs. Clinton’s crooked schemes). If Mr. Pagliano were involved in a Republican or conservative scandal, his refusal to testify on grounds of self-incrimination would be seen as damning evidence of his guilt and of the guilt of higher-ups.
Changing times: We used to support Free Speech
Once upon a time, in 1988, a writer named Salman Rushdie wrote a book, The Satanic Verses, ridiculing Islam. After a fatwa authorized his murder, Rushdie became the darling of civil libertarians, a human rights hero. A few opposed him—for example, Yusuf Islam, the musician formerly known as Cat Stevens, who said, “He [Rushdie] must be killed. The Qur’an makes it clear—if someone defames the prophet, then he must die.” But the vast majority of Western elites celebrated Rushdie.
In 2004, filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered over his documentary, Submission, that was critical of oppression under Islam. And the 2005 publication of cartoons featuring Mohammed led to violent protests around the world in which a reported 200 people died.
At some point, things changed. Critics of Islam began to be characterized as bigots who deserved whatever fate the Islamofascists had in store for them.
In 2010, when a Florida preacher named Terry Jones threatened to burn a Koran on the anniversary of 9/11, he was denounced, and preemptively blamed for any violent protest of his actions, by the President, the Secretary of State, and General David Petraeus, then the allied commander in Afghanistan. The President declared that “I just want him [Jones] to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan. We’re already seeing protests against Americans just by the mere threat that he’s making.” When the pastor reported death threats against him and asked for police protection, his request was mocked by ABC’s Nightline.
A few months after the controversy around the Florida preacher, when comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held a rally in Washington to make fun of the Tea Party movement, Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens, who supported the death sentence on Salman Rushdie, was their honored guest (with Stewart explaining condescendingly that “Yusuf” is essentially the name “Joseph,” so—don’t you get it?—Muslims are just like the rest of us).
Last January, Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists killed 11 in an attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which had published cartoons featuring Mohammed; they later killed a police officer and five others. In the aftermath of that attack, the pendulum swung the other way, with world leaders joining together to defend free speech. As I wrote earlier this year (http://capitalresearch.org/2015/01/leader-of-the-free-world-not/ ):
When they held a march in Paris against “terror”—really, against the kind of terror perpetrated methodically by Islamofascists—the turnout was massive: millions of people, including presidents or prime ministers (or the equivalents) of Germany, Israel, the U.K., France, Italy, and Turkey. Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Norway, and Ukraine were represented. The king and queen of Jordan were there. Even the Palestinian president and the Russian foreign minister, hypocrites respectively on Islamic extremism and freedom of the press, were there. French Muslim leaders were there, as were the leaders of Qatar, the UAE, and Tunisia.
But not President Obama. Not Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, who was in Paris but left early. Not the secretary of state [John Kerry], so obviously proud of his ability to speak French. Not the principal designated attendee for funerals and the like, also known as the Vice President. Nobody ranking higher than the U.S. ambassador to France/Monaco, who got her job mainly because she was a big bundler of campaign contributions.
Then, when terrorists attacked a Mohammed cartoon contest in Texas, much of the media spent a lot of time attacking the sponsors of the contest rather than the terrorists. (See Media Research Center reports at http://www.mrc.org/bozells-column/hate-group-blamed-isis-attack-texas, http://newsbusters.org/blogs/clay-waters/2015/05/07/after-islamic-terrorist-attacks-tx-art-show-nyt-arrogantly-parses-free, and http://newsbusters.org/blogs/jack-coleman/2015/06/04/cnns-erin-burnett-pam-geller-do-you-relish-being-targeted-beheading.)
To be clear: I oppose such acts as the burning of the Koran, out of respect for the many Muslims who reject totalitarianism and respect human rights, including a number with whom I’ve worked in the pro-freedom cause. I also oppose book burning of any kind, as it evokes Nazism. On the other hand, I live by the sentiment expressed by biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her distillation of the views of Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The President and other public officials take an oath to the Constitution, and have a responsibility to make sure that no governmental power is used to prevent someone from having his say. No one should every have to fear violence for drawing a cartoon or be jailed for making a video.