Here’s how long the long and winding road of Benghazi news has gotten. When I saw this story earlier, I tweeted my surprise that the White House would have actually tried to quasi-censor a movie by leaning on its online distributor to do something about it while Islamist mobs were rampaging in the Middle East. Nothing to be surprised about, Gabe Malor reminded me: Not only have we known that was true since the first few days after the attack, I myself blogged it at the time. I had honestly forgotten. We’ve reached the point of Benghazi saturation where politically motivated government censorship is just a footnote to the who-knew-what-and-when debate.
But yes, your leaders “asked” their friends in the tech industry to suppress an inconvenient bit of speech because it was making people overseas very, very angry. Maybe Trey Gowdy will manage a few minutes for that topic during the select committee’s hearing. In the meantime, though, Issa’s still on the who-knew-what-and-when trail. If the White House was thinking about the video while the attack in Bengazi was still ongoing, is that incriminating or exculpatory?
The subject line of the e-mail, which was sent at 9:11 p.m. Eastern Time on the night of the attack, is “Update on Response to actions – Libya.” The was written hours before the attack was over…
“White House is reaching out to U-Tube [sic] to advice ramification of the posting of the Pastor Jon video,” the e-mail reads, according to Issa.
Asked about the document, a senior White House official told ABC News it demonstrates that the White House genuinely believed the video sparked the attack all along, a belief that turned out to be incorrect…
Issa has an entirely different view. He contends the document contradicts the White House assertion that it was the CIA who first pinned blame for the attack on protests in response to the anti-Islamic video.
The “Pastor Jon video” is, I believe, a garbled reference to Pastor Terry Jones, who was publicizing the Mohammed movie to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11. But anyway: Does the e-mail prove the White House’s good faith by showing that the YouTube video was on their radar from the beginning and not something they cooked up to make Susan Rice’s spin that Sunday a bit easier? Or does it prove that the YouTube video did indeed come from a political outfit like the White House, not intelligence agents? Actually, you don’t need the new e-mail to ask that question. At 10:08 p.m. on the night of the attack, less than an hour after the e-mail was sent, the State Department issued this statement from Hillary Clinton:
I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.
This evening, I called Libyan President Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation.
Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.
There’s no question that the video was on the White House’s radar from the beginning. The questions are (a) who put it there, the CIA or some political actor, and more importantly, (b) why was it still there three days later after information had begun flowing in that a jihadi group was behind the whole thing? The “spontaneous protest” theory was more durable than it should have been, it seems, to the point where it took weeks for Obama to start calling the attack an, er, attack. Figuring out why it was durable is one of Gowdy’s core tasks, along with that pesky government-suppressing-speech thing.