Intel sources: Video from Benghazi attack debunks administration claim about protests

posted at 1:21 pm on October 12, 2012 by Mary Katharine Ham

I can heartily recommend everything Eli Lake of Newsweek has written on the Benghazi attack. He’s been all over this story from day one and has great sources. Today, he reports that the FBI and administration are examining closed-circuit video from the Benghazi compound at the time of the attack along with video from an overhead surveillance drone.

They’re hoping to identify known jihadists among the perpetrators, but Lake reports the tapes have already made one thing clear. There was no protest at the Benghazi consulate that day:

Video footage from the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya, taken the night of the Sept. 11 anniversary attacks, shows an organized group of armed men attacking the compound, according to two U.S. intelligence officials who have seen the footage and are involved in the ongoing investigation. The footage, which was recovered from the site last week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, offers some of the most tangible evidence yet that a military-style assault took place, according to these officials…

The videos could also play into an expanding investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that is looking at whether security steps could have been taken that would have saved the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans killed that day. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who is one of the Republicans leading the House investigation, says he hasn’t been given the footage.

In addition to the footage from the consulate cameras, the U.S. government is also poring over video taken from an overhead U.S. surveillance drone that arrived for the final hour of the night battle at the consulate compound and nearby annex.

Video from the compound’s cameras debunk the initial line from the Obama administration that there was a protest in front of the consulate on the night of the attacks, according to one of the U.S. intelligence officials who has seen the footage, and a senior Obama administration official familiar with what they show.

The FBI just collected this footage from the site last week, almost a month after the attack. I’ll send you over to read the rest.

Flashback: The Washington Post reviews the changing statements from the administration on the Benghazi attack as it went from spontaneous video-inspired melee to admission of a coordinated terrorist attack.

CNN presented Stephanie Cutter with a montage of many of those statements Thursday, starting at about 1:30, below:

And yet Vice President Joe Biden and Obama campaign mouthpieces Cutter and Ben Labolt have said in the past day that those changes in story were simply a result of changing intelligence, given swiftly and forthrightly to the American people, despite copious reporting to the contrary.

Campaign manager Jim Messina doubled down on that specious defense last night while attempting to defend Biden’s erroneous statement on Benghazi security requests, which Ed covered here.

Update: TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro caught up with Obama campaign manager Jim Messina after the debate and asked him about Biden’s Libya answer as to whether the administration was asked for more security.

“We have been honest with the American people repeatedly on what we knew, when we knew it and we’ll get the facts and make sure if there’s things we need to improve in the future, thats what we’ll do,” he said.

A couple of exit quotations (Allahpundit™) from security forces in Libya, from Thursday’s hearings, which Biden was apparently unable to watch:

“All of us at post were in sync that we wanted these resources,” the top regional security officer in Libya over the summer, Eric Nordstrom, testified. “In those conversations, I was specifically told [by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb] ‘You cannot request an SST extension.’ I determined I was told that because there would be too much political cost. We went ahead and requested it anyway.”

Nordstrom was so critical of the State Department’s reluctance to respond to his calls for more security that he said, “For me, the Taliban is on the inside of the building.”

Another one:

“We felt great frustration that those requests were ignored or just never met,” testified Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, a Utah National Guardsman who was leading a security team in Libya until August.

Nordstrom again:

“Once the first team of [temporary personnel] expired, there was a complete and total lack of planning for what was going to happen next,” he said. “There was no plan, there was just hope that everything would get better.”

And, Wood again:

“It was instantly recognizable as a terrorist attack. We almost expected the attack to come. It was a matter of time,” Wood said. “[Al Qaeda's] presence grows there every day. They are certainly more established there than we are.”

Now, investigators and lawmakers will be able to go to the tape on that.


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