David H. Petraeus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers on Friday that classified intelligence reports revealed that the deadly assault on the American diplomatic mission in Libya was a terrorist attack, but that the administration refrained from saying it suspected that the perpetrators of the attack were Al Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers to avoid tipping off the groups…
“The points were not, as has been insinuated by some, edited to minimize the role of extremists, diminish terrorist affiliations, or play down that this was an attack,” said a senior official familiar with the drafting of the talking points. “There were legitimate intelligence and legal issues to consider, as is almost always the case when explaining classified assessments publicly.”
Some intelligence analysts worried, for instance, that identifying the groups could reveal that American spy services were eavesdropping on the militants — a fact most insurgents are already aware of. Justice Department lawyers expressed concern about jeopardizing the F.B.I.’s criminal inquiry in the attacks. Other officials voiced concern that making the names public, at least right away, would create a circular reporting loop and hamper efforts to trail the militants.
Democrats said Mr. Petraeus made it clear the change had not been done for political reasons to aid Mr. Obama.
“[T]he only edit that was made by the White House and also by the State Department was to change the word ‘consulate’ to the word ‘diplomatic facility,’ since the facility in Benghazi was not formally a consulate,” Rhodes told reporters today during a press gaggle. “Other than that we were guided by the points that were provided by the intelligence community.”…
Asked why Rice’s talking points differed from Petraeus’ reported understanding of the assault, Rhodes put the blame back on the CIA.
“I can’t speak to what the process is within the CIA,” he said. “What I can say, though, is those points, and what Susan said is that we indicated we believed extremists were involved. The president himself called it an ‘act of terror,’ right?”
The “hybrid” explanation is a compromise, of sorts, between two competing narratives. The first suggested that a protest against an anti-Islam film in Benghazi led to a “spontaneous” assault on the US consulate there. We know that version isn’t true because there never was any protest in Benghazi. The second narrative points to a terrorist attack. The weaponry involved in the assault, the sophistication of the operation and, most importantly, the involvement of al Qaeda-linked terrorists all buttress this second version.
While there was no film protest in Benghazi, however, there are reasons to suspect that the events in Egypt and Libya on Sept. 11 are linked. But that link isn’t an anti-Islam film. They are linked by the fact that known al Qaeda-affiliated individuals were directly involved in both…
Let’s look at the key personalities involved in Cairo protest. The following four individuals attended the protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and helped to incite protesters.
If Susan Rice “had nothing to do with Benghazi,” why then was she sent out to represent the administration in multiple television interviews five days after the attacks?
The charitable view: The White House wanted to see her in a high-profile position as something of a tryout for her possible appointment as secretary of state in a second term.
The less charitable view: Because Rice had no independent knowledge of what happened, she could be counted on to do nothing more than recite administration talking points. And because Rice had nothing to do with Benghazi, there was no risk that she would disclose just how much of the intelligence pointed to a coordinated, planned al Qaeda attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi. Instead, Rice’s misleading talking points suggested that the deaths of four Americans in Libya came as a result of a political protest run amok—a narrative that was almost as thoroughly discredited when she delivered it as it is today…
Obama administration officials were not trying to provide an accurate picture of what happened in Benghazi on September 11. They were trying to obscure it. Notwithstanding the president’s claims to the contrary, it appears as if the goal of the White House in those early days was to hide the truth from the American people. That’s why you send out a spokesman who “had nothing to do with Benghazi.” It’s why you give her talking points that include a debunked story about a protest that never took place.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would have been the White House’s logical choice to discuss the chaotic events in the Middle East, but she was drained after a harrowing week, administration officials said. Even if she had not been consoling the families of those who died, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Mrs. Clinton steers clear of the Sunday shows.
So instead, Ms. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, delivered her now-infamous account of the episode. Reciting talking points supplied by intelligence agencies, she said that the Benghazi siege appeared to be a spontaneous protest rather than a premeditated terrorist attack. Within days, Republicans in Congress were calling for her head…
“Susan had a reputation, fairly or not, as someone who could run a little hot and shoot from the hip,” said John Norris, a foreign-policy expert at the Center for American Progress. “If someone had told me that the biggest knock on her was going to be that she too slavishly followed the talking points on Benghazi, I would have been shocked.”
[T]he idea that Rice should be disqualified because of statements she made on television in the days after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, strikes me as unfair. It seems pretty clear now that she based her statements on information the CIA provided at the time. That information proved erroneous, and why the CIA was giving faulty information to senior administration officials remains unclear. I haven’t seen persuasive evidence to support the theory that Rice’s statements were part of a coverup to hide a terrorist attack. The fact that Rice was working from information provided by the CIA would seem to undercut such a theory…
With so many potential crises staring us in the face in 2013, the country doesn’t need a nasty fight over who said what when or a brutal confirmation battle that may result in a new secretary of state wounded from the start by a partisan Senate vote. It’s hard to see what national interest would be served by such a spectacle at a time when many around the world wonder whether the United States can get its act together.
Yes, liberals and Democrats have done the same in the past, voting against Republican presidents’ nominees and buying into conspiracies much wilder, and more damaging, than this. But why don’t we try to break the cycle and make an effort to restore some comity to the foreign policy debate? Republicans should let this one go and save their energies for the real problems looming before us.