The politicization by the Republican Party of the tragic attack on the US consulate in Benghazi has been a security disaster for the United States. A document dump by Congressman Darrell Issa outed the identities of Libyans working with the US.
Now, it has come out that the annex of the Benghazi consulate was a Central Intelligence Agency HQ. Likely the consulate itself was thought safe because of the large numbers of CIA operatives at the annex, some of them with a background in military special forces. They were seen by the consulate staff as “the cavalry.”
Likewise, the reluctance to fortify the consulate may have come from fears that too much security would interfere with intelligence-gathering. State Department officials at the Beirut embassy in Lebanon have complained to me that they are virtually trapped inside the fortified complex, and can’t easily get out and mix with people, which interferes with their ability to build Lebanese contacts or do good political reporting. The CIA staff in Benghazi likely was trying to avoid a similar isolation.
So the Republicans playing politics with the complex situation on the ground in Libya, a country that overthrew its government a little over a year ago, has revealed the names of friendly Libyans working with the US embassy, and has outed the covert CIA operations in Benghazi.
It is now clear why the Obama administration has been hampered in replying to the charges of Republican gadflies. They risked outing the CIA operations there. Obama quite admirably decided not to release information on an ongoing covert operation, even though he might, by doing so, have gained some political advantage. Certainly Karl Rove and George W. Bush would not have hesitated to out their own covert operation for political gain.