There’s a lot of end zone dancing going on this weekend among Democrats and their supporters in the media after the release of a report from the House Intelligence Committee on the tragic events in Benghazi. Noah talked about some of the New York Times coverage of related stories yesterday, but there’s a lot of digging to be done here. To be clear, the report of the committee – chaired by Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan – paints a far less dark picture than some previous accounts from various actors involved in the events seemed to indicate. But at the same time, the less than conclusive results don’t paint the same pretty picture that you’ll be hearing from Rachel Maddow, either.
The media interpretation of the findings is also flatly contradictory in places. Take for example this declaration of a lack of any culpability. (Emphasis added.)
Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.
So, nothing to see here. Move along. Except for one problem. The coverage also seeks to make it clear that Susan Rice couldn’t possibly be to blame for her blatantly false portrayals of the attack on the Sunday morning shows. Watch what happens to the analysis on this score.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.
Keep in mind, these are not two paragraphs separated by miles of text. They’re back to back. And somehow, in the space of four sentences, we went from there was no intelligence failure to reading it was intelligence analysts… who made the wrong call. If you’re making the wrong call – particularly one which turned out to be so incredibly far off base – then that sounds like an intelligence failure to me.
Also rather stunning is the way that a complete vindication of the White House is somehow constructed out of these conclusions. Susan Rice was either lying or she was wrong. Neither possibility paints the administration in a very competent light. And if there was a failure of intelligence, how does that clear the White House? The last time I checked the CIA reports to the Director of Intelligence who, in turn, reports directly to the President… or has that changed? A better translation of this hopeful sounding article would be to say that the report cleared the political arm of Obama’s team of any wrongdoing, while allowing him to throw his intelligence team under the bus.
But if these findings stand the test of time, some of the worst possibilities may have been eliminated, with deliberate coverups being replaced by run of the mill government incompetence. That’s still a rather big if, however, because the committee report directly contradicts the testimony of several key figures in the events of that night. For now, though, it’s what we have.