By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
It was the political hot potato of the 2012 election season. Did the White House place Americans on the ground in a dangerously volatile situation where Al Qaeda agents could get to them and did weakness on the part of the administration lead to those Americans dying without aid? or was this just the unfortunate natural result of some anti-Islamist movie? This issue was such a political hot potato that Republican presidential nominee Governor Mitt Romney ultimately chose not to use it as a focus of his campaign. Investigating the Benghazi situation fell on Second term Congresswoman (R) from Montgomery and her Subcommittee.
Representative Roby quoted a recent Fox News report on her Benghazi investigation, “These revelations emerged in some 450 pages of closed-door testimony taken from Dempsey, and other key military officials, by the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The panel, chaired by Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., conducted nine classified hearings and briefings on Benghazi and is drawing on the transcripts of the testimony to complete what staffers call an “interim” report on the subject… ‘It was misleading,” Roby said of the Sept. 10 press release, “and quite frankly, as demonstrated on September 11th, it was wrong.’”
CNN and Fox News have continued their coverage of Rep. Roby’s Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee investigation into the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya (which has been largely ignored by most of the mainstream media). Rep. Roby was recently interviewed by CNN’s Elise Labott. Rep. Roby told Labott, “We very clearly established that we were unprepared,” for the attack which left four Americans dead. Rep. Roby said on Facebook, “I spoke with CNN’s Elise Labott today about my Benghazi investigation and why our military was so unprepared and out of position. The responsibility for the lack of preparedness and communication rests at the very top, with President Obama and his national security team at the White House.”
Fox News’s James Rosen has done a two part report on the 450 pages of testimony that was given before Congresswoman Roby’s Subcomittee.
Rep. Roby said on Facebook, “Did you catch the second part of Fox News’s report on our #Benghazi investigation? Testimony revealed that, when the White House sent out a press release on September 10, 2012 assuring Americans we were prepared for the anniversary of 9/11, it did so without having consulted the commanders in the North Africa region. This is particularly concerning after developments in Egypt and Libya made North Africa among the most dangerous regions on the globe.”
The full interim report on Benghazi from the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations was scheduled to be released on Thursday.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has also released their own report. 15 Libyans who cooperated with the Senate Investigation have since been assassinated.
The transcript of James Rosen’s Fox report is below:
The Benghazi Transcripts: Did White House exaggerate Obama’s preparation for 9/11 anniversary?
By James Rosen
Special Report w/ Bret Baier – Fox News Channel
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
On the eve of the terrorist attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, the Obama White House may have exaggerated the scope and depth of President Obama’s preparation for such attacks, newly declassified documents show.
On Sept. 10, 2012 — the day before Al Qaeda-linked terrorists carried out the bloody assault on the U.S. consulate and a related annex in Benghazi — the White House Press Office issued a press release entitled “Readout of the President’s Meeting with Senior Administration Officials on Our Preparedness and Security Posture on the Eleventh Anniversary of September 11th.”
A set of “Top Secret” documents obtained by Fox News reveals that the nation’s highest-ranking uniformed military officer, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified to Congress in executive session last year that the Sept. 10 meeting “was actually a conference call.” Moreover, Dempsey testified, Libya was never even discussed during the call, despite a persistent and increasingly worrisome stream of threat reporting from that country, and from Benghazi in particular.
The Sept. 10 press release stated that the session had covered the “specific measures we are taking” and “steps taken” to protect Americans and U.S. facilities abroad. It also related an order from President Obama for all agencies to “do everything possible to protect the American people, both at home and abroad.”
Yet the declassified documents show that Dempsey testified to the Congress last year that not a single directive had been issued by him or Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to adjust American military force posture anywhere in the world as the 9/11 anniversary loomed just hours away.
These revelations emerged in some 450 pages of closed-door testimony taken from Dempsey, and other key military officials, by the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The panel, chaired by Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., conducted nine classified hearings and briefings on Benghazi and is drawing on the transcripts of the testimony to complete what staffers call an “interim” report on the subject.
Fox News reported in October the panel’s preliminary finding that U.S. forces were postured on Sept. 11, 2012 in such a way as to make military intervention or rescue impossible.
“It was misleading,” Roby said of the Sept. 10 press release, “and quite frankly, as demonstrated on September 11th, it was wrong.”
Asked on Tuesday about the declassified testimony, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, whose office issued the Sept. 10 document, accused Fox News of trying to “color outside the lines” and brushed aside the fact that neither Panetta nor Dempsey took action to adjust force posture after the conference call with the president. “Our military and our other services devoted to our national security don’t wait until September 10th to prepare for contingencies on an anniversary like September 11th – of any year,” Carney said.
He did not specify what other measures may have been taken. At a White House briefing held six days after the Benghazi attacks, on Sept. 18, 2012, Carney had told reporters, also without elaboration: “There were numerous steps taken, as there have been every year on the anniversary of 9/11.”
At the Armed Services subcommittee’s fifth “Top Secret” hearing, conducted behind closed doors on Oct. 10 of last year, second-term Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., asked Dempsey about any adjustments to force posture that he or the Pentagon might have made on the eve of the Benghazi attacks. In framing the question, Scott employed military lingo (“N plus six,” “N plus four”) that refers to reaction times in the event of a crisis. In framing his response, Dempsey referenced a classified set of slides the Pentagon had created for the briefing, showing where major military assets had been positioned on the eve of 9/11.
SCOTT: “When you were going into September 11th, there were meetings at the white House discussing the fact that we were going into September 11th. Did we actually shorten any of the [response] times? Did we move anybody from, say, an N plus six to an N plus four, knowing that the September 11th anniversary was coming up?”
DEMPSEY: “Do you have that slide? Let me take a look at that slide. I don’t recall directing that from the national level. Now there were, as you know, the combatant commanders have the authority to do that based on their assessment. So there was no direction to do that from me or the SecDef [then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta].”
Scott pressed the chairman further:
SCOTT: “[Did] you anticipate that September 11th being the date that it is, going forward we would [have wanted to] drop those notification times?”
DEMPSEY: “Let me just check my slide here. Recall that in the runup to September 11th, the threat streams took us other places other than Libya.”
In fact, one of Dempsey’s top officers told the same panel he and Panetta had been gravely concerned about the security situation in Libya, a fact that raises anew the question of why the country never came up during the Sept. 10 conference call. The officer providing that testimony, however — Gen. Carter Ham, head of AFRICOM, the combatant command with jurisdiction over Libya — was excluded from the Sept. 10 conference call, and from the series of lower-level meetings that had been convened by then-White House Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan (now director of the Central Intelligence Agency).
“I believe [Secretary Panetta] agreed with my assessment that the [Libyan] militia who were operating largely outside of central government control continued to pose a very significant threat because they weakened the central authority,” Ham testified in executive session before the Armed Services subcommittee on June 26 of last year. “And by weakening the central authority it created opportunities for al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremist organizations to in some cases reinsert themselves or operatives into Libya, which I think all of u saw that as a dangerous environment.”
What’s more, Dempsey himself acknowledged in open session before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 7 of last year that the threat stream had taken him and his colleagues directly to Benghazi. When Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked Dempsey if he had been aware of a cable that slain U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens had sent back to Washington on Aug. 12, 2012, warning that the Benghazi compound could not survive a sustained attack, Dempsey replied: “I was tracking that intelligence.”
Still another high-ranking military officer with relevant jurisdiction also told the House Armed Services subcommittee that his own expressions of concern about Libya were effectively ignored in that critical period. Marine Corps Col. George Bristol, commander of AFRICOM’s Joint Special Operations Task Force for the Trans Sahara region, testified before the panel in executive session on July 31 of last year that he warned State Department officials in Tripoli that “if [the terrorists] were going to try something … this would be a day.”
Asked by Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., if he had seen “any intelligence” that led him to believe “there was an increased threat on 9/11,” Bristol replied, “Yes, sir.”
BRISTOL: “Did they take individual security measures inside of the Libyan embassy [sic]? Sir, that I do not know.”
WITTMAN: “But you did have conversations with folks there [at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli]?”
BRISTOL: “Yes, sir.”
WITTMAN: “In your professional opinion, based on that, were you somewhat uncomfortable maybe, knowing about the threat, that that was the posture then that was going to be there within that theater?”
BRISTOL: “Sir, I — yes, and that wasn’t the only country that I was worried about that.”
In crafting the Sept. 10 press release, the White House appears to have tiptoed around the fact that the subject of the 9/11 anniversary had been relegated to a conference call, as the opening sentence alluded to the auditory manner in which the commander in chief had digested the session’s substance: “Earlier today the President heard from key national security principals on our preparedness and security posture on the eve of the eleventh anniversary of September 11th.”
Jones says Senate race a choice between “substance and leadership, and nothing”
“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said.
Speaking outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters in Anniston on Friday, Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, told a group of supporters that Alabamians haven’t gotten a look at what his Republican opponent might do if he wins the Nov. 3 election.
“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said. “They’re getting a choice between substance and leadership, and nothing — nothing. We have not heard anything from Tommy Tuberville about what he really wants to do.”
While Jones has held numerous interviews with the media, and regular web briefings over the summer and in recent weeks, Tuberville’s campaign seems to prefer the safety of keeping Tuberville from making possible gaffs or damaging statements in interviews.
Tuberville hasn’t agreed to interviews with traditional media outlets, or to debate Jones, and instead has focused on conservative talk radio spots, speaking to smaller Republican groups and at private parties.
Tuberville’s campaign has ignored or denied our numerous attempts to interview Tuberville, including another request on Friday. He also declined to attend a student forum held at Auburn University on Wednesday, which Jones attended. The forum was sponsored by the Auburn College Republicans and College Democrats.
“If you ever hear something Tommy Tuberville says, it is just simply this: ‘Build a wall. No amnesty. Drain the swamp.’ That ain’t him. That’s Donald Trump,” Jones said. “He cannot think for himself. He doesn’t think for himself.”
Jones spoke of his record of working to help veterans through legislation. And he referred to Tuberville’s nonprofit for veterans and reporting that indicates, through tax records, that less than a third of the money raised for Tuberville’s charity went to help veterans.
“I don’t just create charities and send only pennies on the dollar. I do things for the veterans of this state and this country,” Jones said.
Jones also made a case for Alabamians to remember the contributions past Democrats made in the state. Jones said it was Democratic Sen. John Sparkman who helped build Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal.
“It was a Democrat, Lester Hill, who built the rural hospitals around here that Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell and Tommy Tuberville are trying to destroy,” Jones said. “It was Howell Heflin who built up agriculture in this state. Those are the Democrats. It was Franklin Rosevelt that put electricity in this state. We’re going to do the same thing for broadband. People forget those things. They forget those things because we’ve let other people define us with lies.”
Jones plans to visit Jefferson County on Saturday, then on to the Black Belt and Mobile on Sunday with another stop in Birmingham on Monday afternoon.
“The goal is to get everybody out. That’s the thing if we want to continue to ensure Alabama moves forward — moves forward and not backwards, to continue to have somebody, if I do say so myself, somebody that’s just not going to damn embarrass us,” Jones said.
“We’ve had too much of that in Alabama,” Jones said, “and I bet you it won’t be a year that Tommy Tuberville would be an embarrassment to this state because he doesn’t know the issues. He doesn’t know what to do, and he’s dang sure not going to know what to do when Donald Trump is not president of the United States.”
Jones encouraged supporters to be skeptical of recent polling. One such recent poll, by Auburn University at Montgomery, puts Tuberville ahead of Jones by 12 percentage points, 54 to 42.1. An internal poll by Tuberville’s campaign puts Tuberville ahead by 15 percentage points, while an internal poll from the Jones camp put Jones ahead by one percentage point.
“Don’t listen to these polling folks that come in, and they don’t know Alabama, and they don’t know what they’re doing. We’re tracking this race, and I can tell you, everything has been moving in our direction the last two months,” Jones said.
People standing along roadsides holding his signs and showing support, Jones said, is “the energy we’ve got out there. That’s what you can’t poll.”
Ellen Bass of Anniston, standing outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters just after Jones spoke, told APR that she has numerous Republican friends who are voting for Jones.
“My hat’s off to them because they’re coming out,” Bass said. “They recognize that he is a better candidate.”
Ciara Smith, 21, newly elected to the Anniston City Council, told APR outside the headquarters building that Jones is the better candidate.
“I think that he’s educated. I think that he speaks with passion and heart,” Smith said. “And he knows what he’s talking about, which is important, and which is more than we can say about the other candidate.”
Speaking to APR after his speech to supporters, Jones said that he feels very good about the state of his campaign.
“Everything we’re seeing is moving in our direction,” Jones said. “And the more he stays hidden, the better it is for us.”
Inmate assault injures two St. Clair prison correctional officers
The assaults happened at approximately 7:30 p.m. and both officers were taken to a local hospital and treated for those non-life-threatening injuries.
Two correctional officers at St. Clair Correctional Facility were injured in an inmate-on-officer assault on Monday, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed to APR.
Among the two officers who sustained non-life-threatening injuries was a basic correctional officer (BCO), a position created in May 2019, who are not Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (APOST) certified and who cannot transport inmates, work perimeter fencing or in towers.
The other officer injured was a full correctional officer, Alabama Department of Corrections spokeswoman Samantha Rose told APR in a message Friday. The assaults happened at approximately 7:30 p.m. and both officers were taken to a local hospital and treated for those non-life-threatening injuries and subsequently released, according to Rose.
“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the actions taken by the inmate against ADOC staff are being thoroughly investigated,” Rose said. “As the investigation into this incident is ongoing, we cannot provide additional detail at this time. More information will be available upon the conclusion of our investigation.”
The ADOC created the new basic correctional officer position to bolster the state’s woefully understaffed prisons. The creation of the position was also at the suggestion of experts ordered by a federal court to study the department’s staffing problems, ADOC attorneys wrote to the court in a filing in 2019.
The ongoing lawsuit is over the state’s handling of mental health in prisons.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disability Advocacy Program filed the 2014 suit arguing the state was indifferent to the health of inmates dying by suicide in greater and greater numbers.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in June argued that ADOC was far behind on the court-ordered hiring new additional officers. It has been more than two years since U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ordered the Alabama Department of Corrections to hire an additional 2,000 correctional officers by 2022.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in a previous opinion wrote that prison understaffing “has been a persistent, systemic problem that leaves many ADOC facilities incredibly dangerous and out of control.”
“Taken together, ADOC’s low correctional-staffing level, in the context of its severely overcrowded prisons, creates a substantial risk of serious harm to mentally ill prisoners, including continued pain and suffering, decompensation, self-injury, and suicide,” Thompson’s previous opinion continued.
The SPLC in court filings late last year expressed concern over the use of basic correctional officers in Alabama’s overcrowded and understaffed prisons. ADOC attorneys have argued to the court, however, that BCO’s are adequately trained to do their jobs and are needed for the department to hire the necessary number of officers per the court’s timeline.
In a court filing on Thursday, attorneys for the plaintiffs asked the court not to again delay site visits to Alabama prisons by two experts who are tasked by the court to determine which positions should be filled by correctional officers and which by BCO’s and which by another new position, called cubical correctional officers, who are to have no direct interaction with inmates.
Those visits were to begin in May, but both parties in the suit agree to wait due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat it posed to the experts, who are particularly vulnerable to the disease due to “age and other factors,” according to court records.
Both parties again agreed to postpone those visits in June for those same reasons, those records show. ADOC seeks a third extension but attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the experts can visit the prisons while keeping themselves, prison staff and inmates safe from harm of COVID-19 and that thousands of employees and contractors enter Alabama prisons daily.
The plaintiff’s attorneys argue in the court filing that the expert guidance is needed because ADOC wishes to use BCO’s and cubical correctional officers to comply with the court-ordered hiring of additional staff by Feb. 20, 2022.
“Ensuring adequate staffing is of upmost importance to address the constitutional violations underlying mental health care within ADOC,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote to the court Thursday.
ADOC in May was employing 494 BCO’s, a 57 percent increase in the number of BCO’s employed in Oct. 2019, according to ADOC’s staffing numbers. The number of correctional officers working in Alabama prisons fell by two percent during that time, dropping from 1,319 to 1,287.
Slow absentee voting in Tuscaloosa sparks outrage, possible legal action
Among the issues were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours.
Long lines and slow absentee ballot processing in Tuscaloosa County have left voters outraged and incumbent Sen. Doug Jones’s campaign threatening legal action.
On Wednesday, Jones’s campaign attorney, Adam Plant, sent a letter to Tuscaloosa County Circuit Clerk Magaria Bobo, outlining a number of issues with ongoing absentee voting and promising to take legal action if Bobo doesn’t improve the process on the final day, Friday. Among the issues documented by Plant were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours.
Additionally, Plant noted that Bobo has hired her family members to help process absentee ballots and at least one family member had made disparaging remarks on social media about voters.
“You and those acting on your behalf are suppressing the vote of qualified Alabama voters,” Plant wrote in the letter. “If you are unable or unwilling to execute your duties competently, and allow Tuscaloosa voters to exercise their voting rights without undue burdens, we will take further action.”
In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser on Wednesday, Bobo noted that her office had received more than 13,000 requests for absentee ballots — a remarkable uptick from the 3,000 or so her office usually receives — and there had been problems in managing that number of ballots while also adhering to social distancing guidelines within the office.
However, as Plant’s letter notes, the massive increase in absentee ballots for this election shouldn’t have been a surprise. Also, Secretary of State John Merrill had made additional funds available to absentee managers to facilitate hiring extra staff, purchasing additional computers and staying open for longer hours to accommodate the anticipated increase.
In a press release on Wednesday, the Alabama Democratic Party criticized Bobo and her family members, and the release included screenshots of Facebook posts from Bobo’s daughter lashing out at voters who complained about the long wait times.
“No voter should have to wait in line for hours to exercise their rights,” said ADP executive director Wade Perry. “We should leverage every tool we have to make voting easier, not harder. Also, it should go without saying that election workers should not insult the very people they are employed to serve. If Ms. Bobo is incapable of processing voters quickly, someone else needs to do the job.”
Jones campaign calls Tuberville a “coward” after no-show at Auburn forum
“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” Jones’s campaign said.
There are only four days left before election day, and incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’s re-election campaign is slamming Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville, accusing him of “hiding” and calling him a “coward.”
On Wednesday, Jones addressed an Auburn University forum. Tuberville did not attend.
“Tonight, the College Democrats and College Republicans at Auburn University co-hosted a debate between Doug Jones and Tommy Tuberville, offering students a chance to ask the candidates about the issues that matter most to Alabama,” the Jones campaign said in an email to supporters. “But Tuberville never showed up – he’s too scared to face Doug… even on his own home turf. Tuberville has repeatedly refused to debate Doug Jones. He’s consistently refused to be interviewed by the press. He’s refused to tell Alabama the truth about who and what they’re voting for – and it’s clear why.”
“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” the campaign continued. “If he won’t tell the truth, we will. Tuberville expects to win this race off of his blind allegiance to the President and his party affiliation. But Alabamians know better.”
“People deserve to know who they’re really voting for if they vote for Tuberville: someone who … won’t protect our health care, doesn’t believe in science, has no idea what the Voting Rights Act is, and doesn’t care about the lives and livelihoods of Alabamians,” the Jones campaign concluded. “Alabama will never elect a coward. Pitch in now and help us spread the truth about the man hiding behind the ballot.”
“I am disappointed that Tommy Tuberville is not here,” Jones said. “I think it is important that people see two candidates side by side answering the same questions.”
Tuberville meanwhile is canvassing the state, speaking to rallies and Republican groups to turn out the Republican vote for himself and President Donald Trump. Tuberville spoke at Freedom Fest in Madison County on Thursday and at the Trump Truck Parade rally in Phenix City.
“It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who represents our conservative beliefs and traditional values,” Tuberville said in Phenix City. “It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who supports the Second Amendment, the right to life, and putting God back in the classroom.”
Polling consistently shows Tuberville with a commanding lead over Jones. Real Clear Politics lists the race on their current board as a likely Republican win. FiveThirtyEight’s election model gives Tuberville a 79 percent chance of defeating Jones.