Sunday, October 21, 2012 4:42 AM
As the Benghazi storyline clears to a point where CIA Director Petraeus' personal testimony is absolutely required to establish how the White House came to perpetuate a lie for at least two weeks -- namely, that a "spontaneous" but, we now know, non-existent protest combusted into a terrorist attack on the consulate -- diversionary tactics become inevitable. Media static ensues. One likely entry in that category was Saturday's WaPo column by David Ignatius, discussed here, in which an intelligence trial balloon went up to the effect that while there wasn't a live protest in Benghazi, the terrorists watched the Cairo protest live on TV, which is practically the same thing. (Hard to imagine such nonsense flying but you never know.)
Today, Commentary's Max Boot seems to enter this same realm of Petraeus damage control with a blog entry clarifying, postscript-style, an earlier post pointing out that reading news reports on Benghazi probably yielded more accurate information than reading classified intelligence reports.
Boot, it bears repeating, has a history of performing damage control for Petraeus.
Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press writes: “The CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington within 24 hours of last month’s deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate that there was evidence it was carried out by militants, not a spontaneous mob upset about an American-made video ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, U.S. officials have told The Associated Press.”
I don’t doubt that was the case, and that’s why I did not single out the CIA for criticism in my blog item a few days ago suggesting that readers of the New York Times or Washington Post often have better information than readers of classified intelligence products. The CIA is by far and away the best intelligence agency we have when it comes to both collecting human intelligence and analyzing intelligence. But it is overly large and overly bureaucratic. Enterprising officers are often frustrated by miles of red tape. That is even more the case in many of the 15 other intelligence agencies, and of course on top of all of them is another layer of useless bureaucracy–the office of the Director of National Intelligence.
DNI: Mr. Expendable.
Large and overly bureacratic or not, is it even conceivable that with the US outpost in Benghazi a burning ruin, the ambassador killed, the Marines called in, the CIA Director didn't call for every shred the CIA had on Benghazi, and particularly the report of the CIA station chief in Tripoli?
The result of all this bureaucracy is that even good information and analysis often gets lost in the analytical noise and it takes a long time to sort out what actually happened–whereas even in the biggest newspapers there are far fewer layers between the “collectors” (i.e., reporters) and consumers (i.e. readers). Thus it is no surprise to read in Dozier’s article: “It is unclear who, if anyone, saw the cable outside the CIA at that point and how high up in the agency the information went.”
All the more reason for the House investigating committee to call in CIA Director Petraeus and ask for this information.
In an intelligence bureaucracy as big as ours, authority is diffuse, responsibility is hard to pin down, and information often falls between the cracks. That makes disasters such as Benghazi more likely.
Nice try but no cigar.
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