What did they know and when did they know it?
ABC News yesterday:
Panetta today said that the attack that killed four Americans on the anniversary of 9/11 was not only carried out by terrorists — it was pre-meditated.
“As we determined the details of what took place there and how that attack took place,” Panetta told reporters, “it became clear that there were terrorists who had planned that attack.”
For nine days, the Obama administration made a case that virtually everyone understood was untrue: that the killing of our ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, was a random, spontaneous act of individuals upset about an online video—an unpredictable attack on a well-protected compound that had nothing do to with the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.
These claims were wrong. Every one of them. But the White House pushed them hard.
Intelligence officials understood immediately that the attacks took place on 9/11 for a reason. The ambassador, in a country that faces a growing al Qaeda threat, had virtually no security. The two contractors killed in the attacks were not part of the ambassador’s security detail, and there were not, in fact, “many other colleagues” working security with them.
The nature of the attack itself, a four-hour battle that took place in two waves, indicated some level of planning. “The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous,” Libyan president Mohammad el-Megarif told National Public Radio. When a reporter asked Senator Carl Levin, one of the most partisan Democrats in the upper chamber, if the attack was planned, Levin said it was. “I think there’s evidence of that. There’s been evidence of that,” he responded, adding: “The attack looked like it was planned and premeditated, sure.” Levin made his comments after a briefing from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
Representative Adam Smith, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, agreed. “This was not just a mob that got out of hand. Mobs don’t come in and attack, guns blazing. I think that there is a growing consensus it was preplanned.” And according to CNN, Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy “has said that the attack appeared to be planned because it was so extensive and because of the ‘proliferation’ of small and medium weapons at the scene.” Not only was the attack planned, it appears there was no protest at all. Citing eyewitnesses, CBS News reported late last week: “There was never an anti-American protest outside the consulate.”
So we are left with this: Four Americans were killed in a premeditated terrorist attack on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, and for more than a week the Obama administration misled the country about what happened.
The White House first suggested the attack was spontaneous — the result of an anti-Muslim video that incited mobs throughout the region.
“Let’s be clear, these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on September 14.
When ABC News pressed Carney on whether that included the Benghazi attack, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American men were killed, Carney said, “we certainly don’t know. We don’t know otherwise. We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack.”
On THIS WEEK on September 16, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said, “our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated. We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to – or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons… And it then evolved from there.”
White House officials acknowledge that assessments have changed over time as intelligence has been confirmed, but they insist that no information was given in bad faith and there was no attempt to downplay the attack.
Yet that seems to be exactly what took place. If they didn’t have enough information to comment, then they should have simply said so. Instead, they misled the public into the “blame-video” belief that the Benghazi attack was not an act of terrorism on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, but a spontaneous, angry reaction to the YouTube video, “The Innocence of Muslims”, by the Perpetually Outraged. Those who planned the attack which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, and Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, are said to have taken opportunistic advantage of the video flare-up; but this isn’t really known. What does appear to be the case, however, is the Obama Administration seizing political opportunism to blame the consulate attack on the video protest and divert attention.
But sources told ABC News that intelligence officials on the ground immediately suspected the attack was not tied to the movie at all. The attackers knew Ambassador Stevens had been trying to flee — to a so-called safe house half a mile away. That building was hit with insurgent mortars — suggesting the terrorists knew what they were doing.
As of Thursday afternoon, officials from the Obama administration were not even 100 percent certain that the protest of the anti-Muslim film in Benghazi occurred outside the U.S. diplomatic post.
In a closed-door briefing with top officials, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the mortar attack on the safe house as suggesting that the terrorist attack was one of opportunity, not pre-meditation, since the mortars were not used to attack the consulate earlier in the day.
Campaigning in Virginia Beach today, President Obama seemed eager to paint the terrorist threat as waning. “Al Qaeda’s on the path to defeat,” he said. “Bin Laden is dead.”
Oh, I see: Bin Laden dead, we win. They lose. The days of Islamic terror and al Qaeda were buried at sea with bin Laden’s body.
The war we find ourselves in, from the very beginning, has always been more than about one terror network carrying the name brand, “al Qaeda”. It’s not just al Qaeda, but the al Qaeda network and affiliates. A global jihad movement that is larger than simply Osama bin Laden.
But did you know that President Obama got bin Laden?
Regarding those “on the path to defeat”:
But the Daily Beast’s Eli Lake on Wednesday reported that intelligence officials said “the early information was enough to show that the attack was planned and the work of al Qaeda affiliates operating in Eastern Libya.” “There was very good information on this in the first 24 hours,” one of the officials told Lake. “These guys have a return address. There are camps of people and a wide variety of things we could do.”
It’s certainly possible that intelligence officials wouldn’t want the terrorists to know that the U.S. knew about them, but that does beg the question as to why White House officials seemed to strongly suggest the attack was merely the work of an unruly mob.
Were they afraid a successful post-9/11 terror attack on America would harm them politically?
It certainly counters the narrative that President Obama has been strong on foreign policy.
More from Jack Tapper:
President Obama has repeatedly said the investigation is on to find the killers and bring them to justice. But as first reported by CNN, ABC news has learned that the FBI — which has been dispatched to Libya to take the lead in the investigation — has not even reached Benghazi yet.
This is largely due to safety concerns. Indeed, as of Thursday, senior State Department officials said that the diplomatic presence in Libya – which was already down to emergency-level staffing – would be further reduced.
A spokeswoman for Ambassador Rice, Erin Pelton, issued a statement to ABC News regarding her appearances on THIS WEEK and other Sunday shows on September 16, saying Ambassador Rice’s comments in those interviews “were prefaced at every turn with a clear statement that an FBI investigation was underway that would provide the definitive accounting of the events that took place in Benghazi. At every turn Ambassador Rice provided — and said she was providing — the best information and the best assessment that the Administration had at the time, based on what was provided to Ambassador Rice and other senior U.S. officials by the U.S. intelligence community.”
More like the best possible spin.
I think there’s no question that the administration was covering up from day one,” Giuliani told Fox News Channel’s Fox and Friends. “I mean putting out a totally phony story to try and block the political criticism that the president took his eye off the ball. The President in his haste made himself a tremendous hero over getting Bin Laden. He deserves credit, but my God he wanted to make himself into a superhero.”
“It’s also a president who’s been euphemistic about Islamic extremist terrorism from the very beginning,” he said. “This is the man who said, ‘We’re not going to say War on Terror anymore,’ except he forget to tell them they’re at war with us. So, we end up getting caught by surprise.
“This is a major scandal,” Giuliani continued. “The only reason it isn’t played as a major scandal is because the president has about three quarters of the media in the tank. I mean it’s a disgrace. It should be a scandal for The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News, CBS News, why the hell aren’t they covering it?”