Obama administration sources explain Benghazi: “It’s actually closer to us being idiots”

posted at 12:01 pm on May 17, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Sharyl Attkisson hinted last night on Twitter that she would have something “interesting” on Benghazi today.  The CBS reporter didn’t disappoint.  Although it’s not exactly a blockbuster revelation, the change in tone in White House trial balloons in its defense of the Benghazi debacle is stunning:

Obama administration officials who were in key positions on Sept. 11, 2012 acknowledge that a range of mistakes were made the night of the attacks on the U.S. missions in Benghazi, and in messaging to Congress and the public in the aftermath.

The officials spoke to CBS News in a series of interviews and communications under the condition of anonymity so that they could be more frank in their assessments. They do not all agree on the list of mistakes and it’s important to note that they universally claim that any errors or missteps did not cost lives and reflect “incompetence rather than malice or cover up.” Nonetheless, in the eight months since the attacks, this is the most sweeping and detailed discussion by key players of what might have been done differently.

“We’re portrayed by Republicans as either being lying or idiots,” said one Obama administration official who was part of the Benghazi response. “It’s actually closer to us being idiots.”

Be sure to read it all, but this effort to push a new storyline for Benghazi is both broad and striking.  It was easy to see how problematic the release of the e-mails was this week when the White House sent them out — and then had Barack Obama deliver a live speech on the IRS scandal less than an hour later.  The distraction didn’t help, and the media seemed a lot less interested in Obama-administration apologetics after the raid on the AP’s phone records.

Now, more than eight months later and nine days after State Department whistleblowers embarrassed the White House, administration officials are beginning to admit that they botched Benghazi before, during, and afterward:

Thursday, an administration official who was part of the Benghazi response told CBS News: “I wish we’d sent it [FEST].”

Mark Thompson, who ran the counterterrorism unit at State, testified last week that after he insisted on dispatching FEST, he got excluded from any further meetings on the immediate response.  Who shut him out? Wouldn’t that have to have come from the highest levels of the department?  Well, that depends on who you ask:

The official said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy, Patrick Kennedy, quickly dispensed with the idea. A senior State Department official Thursday told CBS News, “Under Secretary Kennedy is not in the decision chain on FEST deployment” but would not directly confirm whether Kennedy or somebody else dismissed the FEST.

But:

As soon as word of the Benghazi attack reached Washington, FEST members “instinctively started packing,” said an official involved in the response. “They were told they were not deploying by Patrick Kennedy’s front office… In hindsight… I probably would’ve pushed the button.”

Don’t forget that another whistleblower, Eric Nordstrom, claimed that the ARB board deliberately protected Patrick Kennedy.  Looks like those days may be over.

One reason for this incompetence was that the people making the decisions were, er, idiots when it came to understanding FEST capabilities.  Why?  State never convened the Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) — even though the Benghazi situation is exactly why CSG exists.  Tommy Vietor, who was in the e-mail chain on the talking points, told CBS in October that “I don’t know what [FEST] is… it sounds antiquated.”

But once again, the question is why Thompson got shut out of the meetings.  Had he been included, he could have explained FEST to Vietor and everyone else.

The issues aren’t just confined to the White House, either.  Who made this brilliant decision?

In an unfortunate turn of events, on Sept. 11, a special U.S. military force based in Europe, designed specifically for quick reaction to unforeseen emergencies, was off on a training mission in Croatia. By the time the so-called Commander’s In-extremis Force was diverted to an airfield at Sigonella, Italy, an hour’s flight from Benghazi, the attacks were over.

Let’s just ponder that a moment.  We took our quick-response team offline on the anniversary of 9/11? Who made that call?

Oh, and as for being idiots instead of liars, consider this from Attkisson:

Even today, nobody will say on the record, or even off the record to CBS News, who was at the Deputies meeting on the morning of Sept. 15, where the talking points were drastically pared down for Rice’s use. The approved version called the attacks “demonstrations” that “evolved” after being “spontaneously inspired” by protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. All mentions of terrorism, al Qaeda and previous warnings given by the CIA had been excised.

Bob Woodward was right.  This story is far from over.  A few more whistleblowers in the same vein we saw last week and we might finally get around to the truth, which is that the question isn’t a choice between idiots and liars, but whether we have both.

Update: I buried one lede here that Mediaite catches, emphasis mine:

According to Attkisson’s report, a FEST team was ready to intervene in the Benghazi attack and was preparing to respond but were never given the approval to engage.

“With U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens reported missing shortly after the Benghazi attacks began, Washington officials were operating under a possible hostage scenario at the outset,” Attkisson’s report reads. “Yet deployment of the counterterrorism experts on the FEST was ruled out from the start.”

Probably at the same time Thompson found himself locked out of the confabs.

Update: This seems to indicate that Patrick Kennedy might go under the bus on FEST.  What will that do to the credibility of the ARB report? I wonder if Thomas Pickering will be as anxious to testify about that to Congress, especially given Nordstrom’s earlier criticism.


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Incompetency is just a liable as Malevolence…

Doctors are held accountable for incompetence…so should those in Government.

workingclass artist on May 17, 2013 at 2:29 PM

“…and it’s important to note that they universally claim that any errors or missteps did not cost lives…”

Here is the crux of the matter. The Obysmal administration was so intent on portraying Libya as a great success in the flourishing of democracy and that Al Qaeda was “on the run” that they hadn’t prepared for the jihadists’ attack. Sending in help or a rescue might have cost even more lives, and they didn’t want the body count to even go higher. The O-team was content to keep the “collateral damage” relatively small for their own cynically political purposes.

onlineanalyst on May 17, 2013 at 2:31 PM

I consider them both but if they are publicly saying this as their excuse, then you can bet they are worried that the actual info is about to come out. For all those not paying attention, that would be Fast and Furious 2; The benghazi edition.

Boehner should step up and say, “ok, we are all in agreement that you are idiots, now we are going to find out just what the hell you were doing over there!”

can_con on May 17, 2013 at 2:32 PM

Regarding the Rush caller near the end of his program just now wondering why all the focus on the coverup of the Benghazi matter and not the cause of it: it’s because if you look at the factors that led to the attack you’ll find McCain, Rubio and Graham were promoters and the GOP establishment would prefer people only focus on the aftermath and Democrat coverup rather than the bi-partisan cause.

FloatingRock on May 17, 2013 at 2:43 PM

Their best defense: We’re horribly incompetent and shouldn’t be allowed to run a hamburger stand. But we still don’t think our incompetence caused anyone to die.”

And even there, we can point to 4 people who died, and many more that would have died if 2 of those 4 hadn’t responded without waiting for orders and staged a rescue action.

So it’s not really, “incompetence that didn’t cost any lives.” It’s “incompetence that cost 4 lives.

And this is their best defense. Which almost certainly means they’re lying, and there really was deliberate malice and/or neglect behind it.

There Goes the Neighborhood on May 17, 2013 at 3:01 PM

Here’s a crazy thought. Earlier in the day, the Cairo embassy had been besieged. Why not put fast-response forces on standby THEN?

Basically the U.S. response on 9/11/12 was the same as a rabbit when it notices a nearby wolf. Hold very still and hope the threat passes by.

hawksruleva on May 17, 2013 at 3:01 PM

Do a google map search of Sigonella and tell me what type of aircraft (and the number) that you see there.

blink on May 17, 2013 at 2:41 PM

That’s definitely a non-zero number of aircraft. For that matter, I hear there are aircraft all over the world. I’m thinking if the US REALLY wants to get somewhere, we can probably pay enough to charter a flight/commandeer a helicopter, etc.

Too bad we don’t have any naval capabilities available in the Middle East. Or an air base in the Middle East. Or a friendly well-prepared regional ally who could send in some forces on our behalf.

hawksruleva on May 17, 2013 at 3:07 PM

Is that going to be Hillary’s campaign slogan?

Hillary 2016: “I’m Not Corrupt, Just Incompetent!”

AZCoyote on May 17, 2013 at 4:05 PM

Is that going to be Hillary’s campaign slogan?

Hillary 2016: “I’m Not Corrupt, Just Incompetent!”

AZCoyote on May 17, 2013 at 4:05 PM

“I can’t answer the god*!mn 3am phone call…cause I’m too drunk to find the f*#kin’ phone…@#$%&*$#@!!…” – Hillary Clinton

workingclass artist on May 17, 2013 at 4:18 PM

“We’re portrayed by Republicans as either being lying or idiots,” said one Obama administration official who was part of the Benghazi response. “It’s actually closer to us being idiots.”

The GOP should use that quote in every political ad against Dems from here on out.

Of course they won’t…they don’t want to “alienate moderates” or something limp-wristed akin to that.

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 17, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Weapons To Syria.

Libyan weapons to Syria, Mali and Gaza Strip – US Security Council Report.

We were in Benghazi for the weapons.

oldroy on May 17, 2013 at 4:39 PM

“US” – Should be UN Security Council

oldroy on May 17, 2013 at 4:39 PM

So it seems that the real clusterfark of idiocy is that no accounting was made for how to deal with Libyan weaponry and we have essentially armed a whole region of terrorists militias and rebels.

oldroy on May 17, 2013 at 4:51 PM

Stevens was probably in Benghazi to review weapons “applications” from different bidders. As long as you didn’t have anything like “Tea Party” in your militias name, you could buy sell or trade weapons.

oldroy on May 17, 2013 at 4:55 PM

OK let’s see

An idiot would say here, “I was an idiot”

A liar would say here … “I was an idiot”

In other words, these remarks are devoid of any information content

rightmind on May 17, 2013 at 1:11 PM

If I remember the logic puzzle correctly, the right question to ask would be something like “If I asked you yesterday whether you were an idiot or a liar, which would you have answered?”. Idiot still says “idiot”, liar would have said “idiot” yesterday, but must now lie about that so must say “liar”.

WTF, correct answer is “progressive”.

bofh on May 17, 2013 at 4:59 PM

WTF, correct answer is “progressive”.

bofh on May 17, 2013 at 4:59 PM

Correct answer is “Regime Changer without a plan to deal with 40 years of Quackadaffy weapons left behind.”

oldroy on May 17, 2013 at 5:02 PM

Oops.

oldroy on May 17, 2013 at 5:02 PM

When incompetence merges with complete corruption you have a perfect storm.

MaiDee on May 17, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Do a google map search of Sigonella and tell me what type of aircraft (and the number) that you see there.

blink on May 17, 2013 at 2:41 PM

Those maps are old, but ok, One sec…

Ok I did that. There are a number of jets on the tarmac. I knew there would be.

That’s definitely a non-zero number of aircraft. For that matter, I hear there are aircraft all over the world. I’m thinking if the US REALLY wants to get somewhere, we can probably pay enough to charter a flight/commandeer a helicopter, etc.

Too bad we don’t have any naval capabilities available in the Middle East. Or an air base in the Middle East. Or a friendly well-prepared regional ally who could send in some forces on our behalf.

hawksruleva on May 17, 2013 at 3:07 PM

That was my point. Any adult would know this. There is no excuse for letting those men die.

dogsoldier on May 17, 2013 at 6:27 PM

hawksruleva on May 17, 2013 at 3:07 PM

We can either charter one or if necessary we have people that can borrow one.

dogsoldier on May 17, 2013 at 6:29 PM

I think “lying idiots” pretty well covers it!

Another Drew on May 17, 2013 at 6:35 PM

I keep going back to Hillary’s 3:00 A.M. Phone Call ad. It seems that everybody in the administration failed that test. They’ve sunken below even my lowest expectations, and I don’t see anyone in the GOP bullpen likely to rise above ideological squabbles and lead us out of this.

flataffect on May 17, 2013 at 7:06 PM

The challenge was issued above by an obvious Obama apologist, to look at a Google map of Sigonella and report whether any aircraft were seen there.

The question would be, “why not”. Actually, if there are no aircraft there now, there soon will be because the Italian government has just reported that 200 U.S. Marines plus two aircraft are being based at the joint U.S. Italian base at Sigonella, Sicily. (Just across a short stretch of water from Benghazi.) “Quick, the horse is galloping down the lane, close the barn door.”

Oldflyer on May 17, 2013 at 7:48 PM

Let’s just ponder that a moment. We took our quick-response team offline on the anniversary of 9/11? Who made that call?

This is why I do not believe it was stupidity. I believe whoever left the ambassador isolated, wanted to make sure he was not covered

I am a minority, but I believe there was to be an event to lead to a glorious hostage exchange – but it was foiled by the brave men who refused to stand down. Whoever started the evil chess game was left hanging and they had to run with the video fast, precisely because no one, no one, would be able to explain withholding cover from the victims. If I am right, I will never be vindicated, because the scandal will be too great so they have to fall back on stupidity

IMHO stupidity in such a case implies a total contempt for the lives of the victims. This is why we need an IRS scandal.

In any case, there is no way Obama can justify flying off the next day to a fund raiser. That in itself demands an IRS scandal. Since the Whistleblowers were coming, the guilty ones had to start a chicken dance, fast.

AP scandal was the one and only way to get the MSM willing to beat up on Obama’s IRS

entagor on May 17, 2013 at 10:11 PM

My vote goes to: you are lying idiots.

ghostwalker1 on May 17, 2013 at 11:18 PM

One theory has it that the whole thing was a charade to set up a prisoner exchange – Stevens for the Blind Sheik. It would explain:

1. Why there was reduced security.

2. Why the platoon on the way within Libya was told to stand down.

3. Why it was called a hostage situation.

The men who fought back apparently weren’t in on the plan. This enraged the attackers, who thought they’d been lured into a trap or betrayed. So they went and got more friends and made a second attack.

Akzed on May 17, 2013 at 12:58 PM


This is a theory that makes all the pieces fit. It’s true they’re incompetent, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t also up to no good.

Cara C on May 18, 2013 at 1:05 AM

Wonderful article by Sharyl A. The administration appears to be conceding they have lost the debate and are plea bargaining for the lesser charge of idiocy over malice. This won’t do. In the entire piece, no explanation was given for the arrival of the video onto the scene.

Don’t fall for that hangdog expression, Repubs. Those watery eyes are shifting about.

MaxMBJ on May 18, 2013 at 3:30 AM

The challenge was issued above by an obvious Obama apologist, to look at a Google map of Sigonella and report whether any aircraft were seen there.

The question would be, “why not”. Actually, if there are no aircraft there now, there soon will be because the Italian government has just reported that 200 U.S. Marines plus two aircraft are being based at the joint U.S. Italian base at Sigonella, Sicily. (Just across a short stretch of water from Benghazi.) “Quick, the horse is galloping down the lane, close the barn door.”

Oldflyer on May 17, 2013 at 7:48 PM

There were people in Tripoli, who could have gotten to Benghazi. All of that came out in direct testimony from a variety of sources.

dogsoldier on May 18, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Wonderful article by Sharyl A. The administration appears to be conceding they have lost the debate and are plea bargaining for the lesser charge of idiocy over malice. This won’t do. In the entire piece, no explanation was given for the arrival of the video onto the scene.

Don’t fall for that hangdog expression, Repubs. Those watery eyes are shifting about.

MaxMBJ on May 18, 2013 at 3:30 AM

You are correct, but it’s malice when you deliberately leave someone in a precarious position ( I mean 9/11 really? ) and ignore their pleas for help<<<<< And then HE.WENT.TO.BED.

That is the most malicious thing ever. Oh wait! Then HE.LIED.ABOUT.IT

Then he got everyone around him to lie about it. And go on five shows to lie about it and he made a lying ass commercial about it and had some poor slob who made a youtube video locked up and lied about it.

Geez he's STILL lying about it.

dogsoldier on May 18, 2013 at 10:31 AM

I’m surprised that the Regime is claiming the “idiot defense”. I thought Team Obama were the smartest guys in the room. The MSM has told us Obama is the best thing since sliced white bread. What happened to his 2008 campaign slogan “Judgement To Lead”? But I guess in their minds, claiming to be idiots is better that self identifying as marxist enemies of America.

SpiderMike on May 18, 2013 at 11:23 AM

Hillary 2016: “I’m Not Corrupt, I’m Just an Idiot!”

AZCoyote on May 18, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Personally I believe they were let to die so this admin could cover their arses, i.e….the gun running similar to f&f; what other reason could there honestly be? Idiots? No. Calculating Bastards with no morals at all? YES!
This is a far more corrupt admin than we may ever know… I hope they all die a slow painful death….SOON!

OldWeaselKeeper on May 18, 2013 at 10:15 PM

Obama voters were idiots, so it’s apt they ushered in a cabal of the same.

But abandoning Americans to be slaughtered by terrorists on 9/11 is a bit more serious than mere idiocy.

It’s un-American to the core.

profitsbeard on May 20, 2013 at 12:29 AM

IDIOTS?! NO! CRIMINAL?! ABSOLUTELY!!

http://patdollard.com/2013/05/flashback-hillary-clinton-fired-from-watergate-investigation-for-lying-unethical-behavior-conspiracy-to-violate-the-constitution/

HILLARY IS TOTALLY TRUSTWORTHY…RIGHT?!

The now-retired general counsel and chief of staff of the House Judiciary Committee, who supervised Hillary when she worked on the Watergate investigation, says Hillary’s history of lies and unethical behavior goes back farther – and goes much deeper – than anyone realizes.

Jerry Zeifman, a lifelong Democrat, supervised the work of 27-year-old Hillary Rodham on the committee. Hillary got a job working on the investigation at the behest of her former law professor, Burke Marshall, who was also Sen. Ted Kennedy’s chief counsel in the Chappaquiddick affair. When the investigation was over, Zeifman fired Hillary from the committee staff and refused to give her a letter of recommendation – one of only three people who earned that dubious distinction in Zeifman’s 17-year career.
Why?
“Because she was a liar,” Zeifman said in an interview last week. “She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.”

“As soon as the impeachment resolutions were introduced by (then-House Minority Leader Gerald) Ford, and they were referred to the House Judiciary Committee, the first thing Douglas did was hire himself a lawyer,” Zeifman said.

The Judiciary Committee allowed Douglas to keep counsel, thus establishing the precedent. Zeifman says he told Hillary that all the documents establishing this fact were in the Judiciary Committee’s public files. So what did Hillary do?

“Hillary then removed all the Douglas files to the offices where she was located, which at that time was secured and inaccessible to the public,” Zeifman said. Hillary then proceeded to write a legal brief arguing there was no precedent for the right to representation by counsel during an impeachment proceeding – as if the Douglas case had never occurred.

The brief was so fraudulent and ridiculous, Zeifman believes Hillary would have been disbarred if she had submitted it to a judge.

** Eric Holder was also caught hiding files when he worked to get the terrorist group FALN a pardon (which they did not want/did not ask for).

easyt65 on May 20, 2013 at 2:11 PM

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