On September 21, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to reporters before a meeting with the Pakistani foreign minister. She addressed the September 11 assault on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. “What happened was a terrorist attack, and we will not rest until we have tracked down and brought to justice the terrorists who murdered four Americans.”
Clinton’s statement was notable. It was the strongest and most direct assessment of the attacks from any Obama administration official in the first 10 days after the deaths. By calling the incident a “terrorist attack,” Clinton acknowledged what President Obama had gone out of his way to avoid.
The second part of Clinton’s comment generated little interest. Her vow to bring to justice the perpetrators of the attacks was the kind of perfunctory promise we expect to hear from any politician after any attack, particularly one so brazen. Of course it would be a top priority of the Obama administration and its lead diplomat to understand the attacks and punish those who committed them.
Yet four months later, Clinton’s promise is notable precisely because it has gone unfulfilled. No one has been “brought to justice”—a fact that seems unlikely to change anytime soon. “We’re not even close,” says one U.S. official involved in the investigation.
And jihadists in the region, no doubt emboldened by the lack of U.S. response to the attacks, have taken to taunting the American investigators and celebrating U.S. feebleness. Washington has very little to show for its investigation of the Ben-ghazi attacks. One leading suspect is in custody—Egyptian custody—and we’re being denied access to him. Another sipped a strawberry frappe in the lobby of a luxury hotel in Benghazi as he told a New York Times reporter that he felt no need to hide from the United States. And when a third suspect was freed from a Tunisian prison earlier this month, the U.S. government was given no warning, but extremists belonging to an al Qaeda-linked group apparently had advance notice.