The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s final report on the 2012 Benghazi attack has restored the left’s swagger. The report, from which a variety of news organizations are deriving the headline “No intelligence failure in Benghazi attack,” largely exonerates the CIA for their role in that deadly attack and clears the White House of the charge that it intentionally misled the public in the days and weeks following that attack.
“House Republicans have insisted that it is a conspiracy,” Rachel Maddow said after throwing out the rundown on Friday to indulge her audience’s egos. “President Obama must have wanted those Americans to be killed. Hillary Clinton somehow ensured that they would be killed. It’s all some sort of crazy cover up.”
Writing for Mother Jones, the slightly more thoughtful liberal Kevin Drum fulfilled his desire to indulge in self-congratulations with a touch less condescension. “Their exoneration of the White House was sweeping and nearly absolute,” Drum wrote of the HPSCI’s report. “Late on a Friday afternoon, when it would get the least attention, a Republican-led committee finally admitted that every single Benghazi conspiracy theory was false.”
In a way, the HSPCI report is helpful in that it does dispel for good and for all some of the more offensive theories surrounding that night, the most inflammatory of which centered on the notion that there was a “stand down” order given to first responders. In fact, the personnel at the CIA annex did wait for at least 21 minutes in order to acquire a broader situational awareness before responding to the ongoing attack. While this was a costly delay, it was not the result of a political decision and likely not the result of an order from either Tripoli or Langley.
Another finding that the left can with some accuracy claim leaves conservatives with egg on their face is the commission’s findings that former United Nations Amb. Susan Rice’s “talking points” involving the attack were altered repeatedly not due to the input of White House political personnel, but because of intelligence officials. The HSPCI’s findings indicate that the CIA believed that a video was responsible for spontaneous protests that accelerated out of control and only officially revised their position on September 24, 2012 after acquiring closed-circuit television footage from the Benghazi outpost which revealed no protests had materialized. Rice appeared on five Sunday morning talk shows to discuss that attack on September 18, six days before the CIA officially revised its position on those protests.
Now, as Jazz Shaw noted, this report leads the readers to believe that “mistakes were made” in the creation of those talking points, but those mistakes were not the result of an “intelligence failure.” This, despite the fact that an intelligence failure quite clearly led Rice – and White House advisor Ben Rhodes and the State Department’s Victoria Nuland, et al — to believe this attack was something it was not.
Moreover, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway observed, if the CIA can miss a coordinated, combined assault on a diplomatic facility and a clandestine outpost conducted by al-Qaeda-linked operatives in a city like Benghazi planned for September 11th and still be cleared of culpability for an intelligence failure, the bar to judge the CIA’s efficacy is set far too low.
But what the left will seek to focus on is not the report but on the center-right media’s coverage of the Benghazi scandal which they will insist is now well behind us (despite the fact that the House Select Committee on Benghazi led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has not yet released its findings). In fact, the HPSCI’s report debunks a lot of reporting that did not originate on the right.
The notion that the CIA knew within 24 hours of the Benghazi attack (as opposed to the 13 days the HPSCI report claims) that it was a terrorist incident originated from sources within the intelligence community who said as much to The Daily Beast reporter Eli Lake.
“I can’t get into specific numbers but soon after the attack we had a pretty good bead on some individuals involved in the attack,” said one “U.S. intelligence official.”
The HPSCI also discredited the claim that CIA’s Libya personnel had undergone excessive polygraphing in the wake of the attack to make sure they were not talking to the press. HPSCI noted that witnesses testified and the CIA helpfully “confirmed” that no one had undergone undue polygraphing.
This accusation stems from the results of a CNN investigation. “Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency’s missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency’s workings,” CNN reported. “The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress.”
Sources described the practice to CNN reporters as “pure intimidation, with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career.”
As recently as December 28 of last year, The New York Times devoted a significant amount of time and resources to an investigation into the Benghazi attack only to conclude that there was “no evidence that Al Qaeda or any other international groups had any role in that assault” and that “it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.” Both of these conclusions were long ago disavowed by the administration and have been debunked in this report and a subsequent United Nations investigation which linked the attack to Ansar al-Shariah operatives.
Are the left-leaning hosts who are celebrating the fact that a GOP-led House Committee has debunked these and other reports, none of which the folks on MSNBC paid much attention to in the first place, congratulating themselves on their clairvoyance? If you take the Republican-directed HPSCI report as gospel, which many on the left seem inclined to do, it seems they have set straight more than a few dispatches that did not originate with Fox News reporters. The fact that the left never gave these stories much play to begin with — the only impetus for their embargos being their abiding faith in the competency of the administration — is not something most journalists would put on their resume, much less devote blocks of programming to publicizing.
Finally, the conclusion from this report that has been oddly overlooked by the left is the HPSCI’s finding that the State Department failed to provide their personnel in Benghazi with adequate security. Despite repeated warnings about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi from Amb. Chris Stevens, State failed to provide him with adequate protection. If the left is taking this report at face value and accepting its conclusions in whole, they must also acknowledge that Hillary Clinton’s State Department allowed the first American ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979 to die as a result of negligence and bureaucratic incompetence.
That’s some victory. These days, however, it seems the left is willing to take whatever it can get.