Family Research Council

September 17, 2013 - Tuesday

On Benghazi, More Than Meets the Issa

If there's an upside to the President's Syrian debacle, it's that the administration's latest incompetence helped take the spotlight off of the White House's other spectacular failure:Benghazi. While the President was busy drawing his "red line," the first anniversary of the Libyan attack came and went without so much as a formal State Department ceremony for the four Americans brutally killed.

At State's headquarters in Washington, a couple dozen staffers gathered to remember the victims in a makeshift memorial service that didn't include Secretaries John Kerry or Hillary Clinton. Together staffers paid tribute to the men who would still be alive today were it not for serious failures on the administration's part. And one year later, Americans are no closer to understanding the reasons for the security lapses than they were on that tragic night. All signs point to senior State officials, who worked for Hillary Clinton and knew the embassy was vulnerable, but continued to downgrade security assets when the threat levels were highest.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), at times the lone wolf in keeping the light on Benghazi, is still trying to get at the heart of the matter. His cause is about to get new legs in a series of hearings set to kick-off tomorrow in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. With the help of Chairman Ed Royce, House conservatives plan on putting Patrick Kennedy, Undersecretary of State for Management (and the man many fault for the embassy's substandard security) in the hot seat. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will take over from there, hosting its own hearing on Thursday with Ambassador to the U.N. Thomas Pickering, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullins, and relatives of the fallen.

One of the topics of conversation will be the latest Accountability Review Board (ARB) report, which was supposed to pull back the curtain on what the administration really knew before and after the attack. The 100-plus pages, Issa says, are more of the same. Without talking to key State Department officials, all the report seems to do is feed the State Department's narrative that mid-level decision making was to blame for the September 11 attack. After barely two months of investigating, "The panel did not exhaustively examine failures, and it has led to an unacceptable lack of accountability," Issa criticized.

Part of the problem is the State Department, which is so desperate to cover its tracks that it refuses to let two security agents testify who were at the compound during the raid. Even CNN wouldn't give the agency a pass on that one. "Dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and... the agency is going to great lengths to make sure that whatever it was doing, remains a secret."

More eyebrows shot up on Monday, when Congressman Wolf announced that the CIA had suspended an agent who wouldn't sign a non-disclosure agreement barring him from talking about Benghazi. He's been advised to get an attorney. And the President says this is a "phony scandal?" The only thing phony is the White House's response. "What difference," Hillary Clinton argued, "at this point, does it make?" Well, it makes a lot of difference to the families of the fallen -- and to the American people, who deserve to know if they have a national security policy they can trust.

Secretary's Day: Senate Readies for Air Force Nominee

What can one person do about religious hostility in the military? A lot, if that person is the next Secretary of the U.S. Air Force. This week, freedom-loving Christians have plenty at stake as the Senate Armed Services Committee takes its first look at Michael Donley's replacement. The President's pick, Deborah Lee James, has spent the last several years at Science Applications International Cooperation (SAIC), where she oversaw aspects of defense policy for the private sector. "I look forward to working with her," the President's statement read, "to keep our Air Force the very best in the world and to keep faith with our extraordinary Air Force personnel and their families."

"Keeping faith" will be one of the biggest challenges of James's job if she's confirmed, especially in the Air Force, where the crackdown on Christianity has been so widespread. (FRC documented the abuses in the Update and a special report, "A Clear and Present Danger.") For members of the Committee, this is a great opportunity to apply even more pressure on the religious freedom front. James's hearing is the Senate's chance to get honest answers about what the Air Force plans to do to protect the rights of U.S. service members around the world. What kind of policy guidance would she give so that commanders don't discriminate against men and women of faith?

Another key nominee, Major General Jessica Garfola Wright, will take her turn before the same committee later this week. As the possible Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Policy, she would be a particularly relevant player in the religious freedom debate, since she would be the official dealing with the bonus leave for same-sex couples, chaplains' rights, and other staff policies. If you have a senator on the committee, call or email his office and encourage him to get key officials on the record in favor of the rights their troops are fighting to protect.

We the People... Wish the Constitution a Happy Birthday!

For 226 years old, the U.S. Constitution isn't showing its age. The yellowed paper and fading ink have withstood the tests of time and trials -- a true testament to the amazing experiment our founders called "democracy." Just a few blocks from FRC headquarters, the National Archives is the proud home to the original copy of the guiding document that 13 colonies signed more than two centuries ago, laying the keystone of American freedom and exceptionalism. Our Constitution, which some suggest is old-fashioned and out of date, has served our nation remarkably well in keeping America the united states under God through the rule of law. It was designed to transcend any one individual, any particular party, or any interest group to serve the nation as a whole. Today, as any day, we celebrate our more perfect union -- and rededicate ourselves to protecting it by upholding it.

**On Tuesday's edition of "Washington Watch," Pastor Steve Branson of Village Parkway Baptist Church drops by to talk about a meeting he had with 80 airmen from Lackland Air Force Base on religious liberty. In the second segment, FRC's Dr. Pat Fagan will join us to talk about his recent article in the Washington Times, "Getting a Buzz from God." Also, Congressman Frank Wolf stops by to discuss the busy week ofBenghazi hearings and what Americans can expect from the investigation.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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