Pickering asked if Benghazi a Botched Kidnapping Plot

By Ben Barrack

Her name is Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and she sits on the House Oversight and Government Reform committee. She may have asked two of the most important questions at the September 19th hearing on Benghazi but they don’t appear to have been picked up. It was one of the lengthier hearings and her time was toward the end. Reps. Trey Gowdy, Jim Jordan, and Jason Chaffetz appeared to get the majority of what media attention there was in the questioning of the Accountability Review Board’s Co-Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, but Lummis may have gotten the better of Thomas Pickering, the lead chairman on the ARB.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)

Pickering’s responses to both questions were incredibly revealing and one response appears to be in direct contradiction to witnesses / survivors of the attack.

First, Lummis asked Pickering if the Muslim Brotherhood, along with “Egyptian operatives”, were involved in the Benghazi attack. She cites documented evidence, which likely is a reference to what we introduced as EXHIBIT B in our “Ironclad report”. Pickering’s answer is particularly noteworthy because in one breath, he concedes that an Egyptian group was involved in the attack and says it was in the ARB’s report. The ARB Chairman then catches himself and said he “hope(d)” that such information was in the unclassified report.

Indications are that Pickering’s hopes may have been dashed. There are only two references to Egypt in the unclassified report. One has to do with a small bomb thrown at an Egyptian diplomat’s vehicle. The other has to do with a general reference to the “growing crises in Egypt and Syria”. Another term that cannot be found in the unclassified report is the “Jamal network”, the one group widely acknowledged to have been involved in the attack. As we wrote back in August, the two individuals who led the Jamal network – Tarek Taha Abu Al-Azm and Muhammad Jamal Abdo Al-Kashif – are both connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Azm was trained by the U.S. Air Force.

If Pickering was talking about the Jamal network, it is official – albeit unintentional – confirmation that a group with ties to the Mursi regime was involved in the Benghazi attack. If Pickering was talking about a different group, that compounds the problems for the Mursi regime.

While that may have been a significant gaffe, it’s not the biggest of Pickering’s two. Note that Lummis asks Pickering if Benghazi was about a plot to kidnap Christopher Stevens and that it went wrong. Initially, Pickering demurred saying, “I can’t comment on that.” Then, after several minutes, he decided to address it more fully. This may have been a serious political mistake. In particular, Pickering said…

“…they (the attackers) did not make a serious attempt to go into the closed area of the villa. It is not even sure, in my view, they knew the Ambassador was there.” {emphasis ours}

He then completed his statement by conceding that a kidnapping plot could have been possible.

That does not square with witness testimony relayed in a book entitled, “Under Fire”. In a segment on Fox News Channel’s Special Report back in July, host Bret Baier read excerpts from the book that quoted witnesses to the attack. Here is video from that portion of the segment (EXHIBIT Y from our “Ironclad report”). The money quote from one of the witnesses is as follows:

“…one thing was absolutely certain in the minds of each and every one of the agents in those early and crucially decisive moments: That the U.S. Ambassador, the personal representative of president Barack Obama, was the ultimate target of the attack. They knew that they had to secure him and get him out of the kill zone.” {emphasis ours}

Further bolstering the argument that the attackers did know Stevens was inside the compound is the fact that the Islamic group contracted to provide security – February 17th Martyrs Brigade – had very close connections to Ansar Al-Sharia, the group involved in the attack. It would seem that Ambassador Pickering may have been better served to stop at no comment.

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