Saturday, October 27, 2012

Benghazi attack and flash traffic

By Donald Sensing

Rush military caller says that Obama ordered no response to Benghazi attack - YouTube:

A man identifying himself as a retired lieutenant colonel and 15-year special-operation planner called Rush Limbaugh's show (yesterday, I think) to explain just why President Obama absolutely was told about the attack against the US's Benghazi consulate on Sept. 11 only about an hour after the attack began.

There is some technical discussion about "flash traffic" messages being sent to Washington from the US embassy in Tripoli, but while the caller explains what (undoubtedly) happened to the flash messages once they were received, he does not really explain what flash traffic is.

I have quite a bit of experience in handling flash traffic from my days as a career officer of the nuclear-capable US Army field artillery during the Cold War. Listen to video of the call, then read below the video embed.


Some explanatory notes:

1. Flash traffic refers to a message-handling procedure, not to the content of the message. Any sort of message can be sent flash. Any message designated flash always receives the highest-priority handling. There are always specified individuals within the receiving headquarters of government agency who must be notified immediately upon receipt - even before the message is decoded.

Any officer in a Cold War artillery unit (except 105mm) would have been trained in responding to flash traffic received by the battalion communications center. There were always extremely short timelines to be met, measured from the time the message was originated until its end recipient acknowledged receipt. When I last handled flash traffic back in the 1980s, this time was significantly less than 30 minutes. This may sound like a lot today, but back then we used encoded voice telephone to send and receive messages because there were no computers as we have today, no digital transmissions. There was simply no other way to send the message within the time frame required. Today, with electronic encryption and digital transmissions, I am sure the time frames are much shorter, and they were doggone short in my day.

Our messages almost always originated from the National Security Agency or National Command Authority, either testing the system or giving certain kinds of operational instructions, about which I don't care to be more specific.

There was a small number of officers in my battalion who were always notified of incoming flash traffic, even though decoding would be carried out by staff during the duty day and by on-call designees during non-duty hours. The battalion commander obviously was one to be called. I was the S3 operations officer so I always got called, too. There were two others. I took my turn as an on-call decoder, too, and so on more than a few occasions was rung out of bed to drive to the headquarters to decode with another officer.

2. The White House's excuse that Tripoli's messages were lost in the noise of all the message traffic coming into the Situation Room is quite simply Bravo Sierra. The flash protocols are specifically designed to punch through that noise. It's like this:

Imagine you are giving a birthday party for a five year old who's invited his entire school class. All those little kids are running in out of the party room, yelling and juking around.

That's the normal message traffic of a message center.

Of a sudden, in runs Shaquille O'Neal to the middle of the room, waving his arms and yelling at the top of his lungs, "Hey! Look at me!"

Shaq is flash traffic.

There is no way that the White House Situation Room did not know it had received flash traffic. Remember, the staff of the Room are career professionals. They had received many, many flashes before and they knew what to do, how quickly, and with whom.

It is not believable that President Obama was not notified of the attack within mere minutes of the message being received.

3. Certain kinds of messages are code worded, meaning a category of message has a specific code name assigned to it that mandates specified procedures and notifications. The header of a flash message will identify the code name. The code name is not necessarily classified; back in the voice-telephone day they rarely were. The sender would simply say at the beginning, "This is a Star Cluster message," or whatever the code name was ("Star Cluster" is a pseudonym).

Whether there is a code name assigned to messages relating to threats against US diplomatic missions I do not know, of course. But I assure you that code name messages causes factors to pucker at the recipient station, especially since the recipients have memorized the code names of the categories of messages they will handle (most messages are not code named, code names are used only for the most urgent categories). I last handled such traffic in 1986, and I still remember the code names of message categories that made my pulse rate shoot for the moon, and what their categories were.

Bottom Line: The White House, the administration and the president himself are lying through their teeth about what happened in Washington that night, and especially about the orders President Obama issued or refrained from issuing.

This issue is so potentially damaging to Obama that when directly questioned about it by an intrepid local-news reporter, all Obama replied was, There's an investigation.

So Obama ordered an investigation in order to discover what he himself did and directed the night of Sept. 11.

This is a scandal of stunning proportions, and the oldline media are utterly ignoring it. No wonder Jay Leno said last night that to get in costume for Halloween, all you need is an Obama 2012 button and you'll be dressed as a reporter.

And so the question for Benghazi-gate is the same as for Watergate: "What did the president know and when did he know it?"

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