Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Judith Miller tells Newsmax that the U.S. probe into the killing of American diplomatic personnel in Benghazi is a “mess.”
Miller also says she is troubled by the signal President Barack Obama is sending by nominating Chuck Hagel as Defense secretary due to his previously stated stance on Iran.
And she warns that the Obama administration might be forced to put “boots on the ground” in Syria if Islamist radicals seize chemical weapons or uranium stockpiles there.
Miller, formerly with The New York Times, is an author, Fox News commentator, frequent Newsmax contributor, and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
A Tunisian man suspected of involvement in the Benghazi attack, one of just a few suspects, has been released by Tunisian authorities. In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Millers says the release of Ali al-Harzi “is a reflection of the mess that is this FBI investigation into the killing of Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi.
“This attack happened in September on the anniversary of 9/11 and in October, Harzi was detained and now he’s being released on lack of evidence. So I think we can see how problematic it is to try to conduct an investigation into this killing from Tripoli, 500 miles away from Benghazi, which is now under Islamic militia virtual control."
Asked why there hasn’t been more progress in the case, Miller says: “I worry that a pre-9/11 mindset is slipping back into the consciousness of the American people and also the government that they have elected. Right now we have a situation in which you have a CIA nominee, John Brennan, who is known to be one of the officials who resists linking ‘Islamist’ and ‘terrorist’ in the same sentence.
"We have a president who bends over backwards to say that this is not terrorism in many instances, but violent extremist activity. We are slipping into a ‘let’s prosecute them after an event’ rather than ‘prevent the attack’ mentality.”
Some Republican senators say they will hold up John Brennan’s confirmation as CIA director until he reveals what he knows about Benghazi, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to testify in the next couple of weeks.
Miller comments: “I hope we begin to have some of the questions about Benghazi answered that many journalists, or not enough journalists, have been asking about why four Americans died in Libya. This information should have been made available to the Congress long before now. It should have been made available to the American people before they voted in the election.
“It’s really kind of mind-boggling at a time when the administration is grappling with a lot of issues that require cooperation with the Congress. Why would [Obama] continue to stonewall them on the Benghazi investigation?”
Miller does not think the Senate will block Brennan’s nomination, however.
“I think there is an assumption on Capitol Hill still, despite how polarized things have become, that the president is entitled to the people that he wants to surround himself with, that the Senate’s role is one of advice and consent, not of second-guessing or of nominating people they would like to see surround the president.
“What [the Senate] can do is put a hold on the nomination until questions about Benghazi are answered. But that’s a kind of tricky action. If anything happens that required immediate CIA attention and a prompt response, they could always say that the Senate has interfered with national security affairs, and I don’t think Republican senators want to be blamed for delaying any kind of CIA action or any kind of presidential action.”
Miller believes Chuck Hagel will also be confirmed by the Senate, but she adds: “What troubles me is the signal that the president may be sending right now with the nomination particularly of Hagel, a man who believes neither in a military response to Iranian prevarication and obfuscation about its nuclear record” nor in sanctions.
“I understand a foreign policy wonk or official who doesn’t want to strike Iran militarily, who doesn’t think that that’s a way to deter Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon,” Miller continues. “But what puzzles me is why the same individual would then also oppose sanctions against Iran which most analysts see as an alternative to the military route.”
The Financial Times is reporting that Syria might have 50 tons of enriched uranium stockpiled. Asked how this changes the dynamics of the conflict there, Miller tells Newsmax: “Syria is one of the most vexing foreign policy challenges facing the new administration. It’s also a problem which challenges the president’s desire to have a ‘light footprint’ everywhere.
“We know his preference for killing through drones and for not putting American soldiers at risk on the ground. However, with Syria’s possession of chemical weapons at 40 different locations, and now an acknowledgement that there also may be some uranium stockpiled there, the desire to prevent such material from getting into the hands of Syrian radicals, Islamists, and others who are fighting there is going to be a very important mission for the United States. And I don’t know how the president is going to be able to avoid putting troops on the ground if in fact those weapons are at risk of being confiscated by the worst of the worst of the Islamists.”
The Obama administration is suggesting that it might leave no troops in Afghanistan after 2014 despite concerns that thousands of troops might be needed to contain al-Qaida and strengthen Afghan forces there.
“This is a bit of a negotiating position,” Miller says. “Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan, not a perfect leader by any means, is due in Washington very soon to begin a discussion about the number of forces that will remain in Afghanistan. He has, for the moment, insisted that he’s not going to grant immunity to American forces operating in Afghanistan. This is a nonstarter as far as the administration and any administration, Republican or Democratic, is concerned.
“So the president saying that we would go down to zero forces is a way of applying the pressure on President Karzai to make him think seriously about what not granting immunity to American forces there would mean.
“I don’t really see this as a serious position by President Obama. His pledge to the American people to defeat al-Qaida and to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan and prevent their return almost automatically requires the continuation of some kind of armed American presence in Afghanistan.”
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