Yesterday, we learned specifically that the CIA station chief in Tripoli reported to Washington within 24 hours that the consulate attack was executed by terrorists and was not a spontaneous demonstration over a video that turned violent. The President, of course, would continue to weave a narrative blaming the video for two more weeks, hitting that narrative's climax in his UN address on September 25. Citing the video six times in his address, Obama declared: "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam." It seems clear that the video, not the jihad, simply had to be driver in all of the 9/11/12 Islamic rampaging or else Obama's big pitch for the Islamic anti-"blasphemy" movement wouldn't have been, even in his world, feasible.
We now know there was no demonstration in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. And we know also that this fact was apparent to the State Department in real time.
Another thing we know -- helpfully pointed out by the AP, I must add -- is that the Obama administration has a history of downplaying terrorist attacks on its watch. Regarding the Benghazi controversy, AP reports:
Obama has weathered similar criticisms before. After both the failed bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 and the attempted car bombing in Times Square in 2010, the Obama administration initially said there were no indications of wider terrorist plots. The Christmas Day bomber turned out to be linked to al-Qaida and the Times Square bomber was trained by the Pakistani Taliban.
Since Benghazi has become a resonating campaign issue for Romney-Ryan, Obama's pivot is much more difficult this time. A concerted effort seems to be underway to power that pivot on faulty or, maybe better, conflicting intelligence. Sure enough, David Ignatius brings us CIA pushback today in his WaPo column headlined online: "CIA documents support Susan Rice's description of Benghazi attacks".
These documents, "provided by a senior US intelligence official," include "talking points" prepared by the agency on September 15, the day Susan Rice taped her notorious Sunday TV talk show appearances. Ignatius writes that they
support her [Rice's] description of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate as a reaction to Arab anger about an anti-Muslim video prepared in the United States. According to the CIA account, “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”
To repeat, there were no demonstrations in Benghazi -- known by State in real time -- so either somebody got something so wrong they should be fired, or somebody inserted into the intell something so wrong they should be fired. The column now begins to wiggle:
The senior intelligence official said the analysts’ judgment was based in part on monitoring of some of the Benghazi attackers, which showed they had been watching the Cairo protests live on television and talking about them before they assaulted the consulate.
So, the "attackers" -- not terrorists, not militants, not even evil-doers -- weren't protesting outside the US consulate, they were watching protests on TV. How did that get turned into protests outside the consulate?
“We believe the timing of the attack was influenced by events in Cairo,” the senior official said, reaffirming the Cairo-Benghazi link. He said that judgment is repeated in a new report prepared this week for the House intelligence committee.
Sounds as if this senior intell official is digging in for the duration (until new intelligence emerges or Election Day, whichever comes first). Ignatius continues:
Here’s how the senior official described the jumble of events in Benghazi that day: “The attackers were disorganized; some seemed more interested in looting. Some who claimed to have participated joined the attack as it began or after it was under way. There is no evidence of rehearsals, they never got into the safe room . . . never took any hostages, didn’t bring explosives to blow the safe room door, and didn’t use a car bomb to blow the gates.”
This shines a flare onto another unresolved question. Without a car bomb to blow the gates, how, pray tell, did the "attackers" start "flowing into the compound," as the signal State Department background briefer put it on October 9? Could "bad apples" in the February 17 Martyrs Brigade stationed inside the compound have opened the gates? This October 9 briefing is also where the American peoples learned definitively that all was quiet on the Benghazi front until 9:40 pm -- almost exactly one month after the attack.
The political debate has focused on whether the attack was spontaneous or planned, but the official said there’s evidence of both, and that different attackers may have had different motives.
The intell official admits to having evidence the attack was "planned"? Later, he casually slips in that this "flash mob with weapons" -- RPGs, mortars -- "included members of the Ansar al Sharia militia, about four members of al Qaeda in the Mahgeb, and members of the Egyptian Muhammd Jamal network, along with other unarmed looters."
Big news, buried, about what is now retro-described as the act of terror Obama supposedly always said it was. Ignatius writes:
There’s no dispute, however, that it was “an act of terror,” as Obama described it the next day.
Reality check #1: The phrase "acts" -- plural -- "of terror" crossed Obama's lips in his famous Rose Garden remarks but he was in no way describing or explaining to the American people that what happened in Benghazi was more of the same jihad terrorism the US has been experiencing for more than a decade. As the days and weeks went by, it was all about the video.
Reality check #2: On September 14, ABC established that a bifurcated narrative was emerging from different wings of the administration. On the one hand, CIA Director David Petraeus was putting out the (non-existent) protest story; on the other hand, the Pentagon was already talking terrorist attack.
(Worth tucking away as background from an earlier Ignatius column is that the CIA Director "is also said to have pushed hard in Libya, rushing case officers there to work with the opposition" -- a.k.a. al Qaeda.)
The attack that killed four Americans in the Libyan consulate began as a spontaneous protest against the film “The Innocence of Muslims,” but Islamic militants who may have links to Al Qaeda used the opportunity to launch an attack, CIA Director David Petreaus told the House Intelligence Committee today according to one lawmaker who attended a closed-door briefing.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intel committee, said Petraeus laid out “a chronological order exactly what we felt happened, how it happened, and where we’re going in the future.”
“In the Benghazi area, in the beginning we feel that it was spontaneous – the protest- because it went on for two or three hours, which is very relevant because if it was something that was planned, then they could have come and attacked right away,” Ruppersberger, D-Md., said following the hour-long briefing by Petraeus. “At this point it looks as if there was a spontaneous situation that occurred and that as a result of that, the extreme groups that were probably connected to al Qaeda took advantage of that situation and then the attack started.”
This is key. On September 14, the top Democrat on the Intell Committee comes out of the Petraeus briefing and tells the press the Benghazi "protest" went on for two or three hours, and how very important that protest was to the conclusion that this was a "spontaneous" attack.
This is the same Petraeus briefing, Fox New reported, that some members found "shocking" given that they saw the intelligence pointing not to a "spontaneous" movie-riot but to a planned terrorist attack.
Today, Ignatius's source isn't talking about that protest lasting "two or three hours" anymore; all of that, presto, is forgotten. Instead, he says the "attackers" watched protests on TV -- which is, gosh, practically the same thing. In fact, the official adds that "the only major change he would make now in the CIA's September 15 talking points would be to drop the word `spontaneous' and substitute "opportunistic.' He explained there was `some pre-coordination but minimal planning.' "
Nice manipulation of facts, perception and language. If no protest took place -- which neither Ignatius nor the intell official ever frankly addresses -- what opportunity were those pre-coordinating but minimally planning members of Ansar al-Sharia, AQIM, and the Egypt-based Muhammad Jamal network being "opportunistic" and not "spontaneous" about?
Ignatius: "One obvious lesson is that the United States could use much better real-time intelligence from places such as Libya." Or, next time, call the State Department.
Now back to September 14 when Petraeus briefed the Intell Committee about that protest lasting "two or three hours," according to Rep. Ruppersburger, "shocking" some members who thought the evidence supported the conclusion that the US had suffered a terrorist attack. The Pentagon, meanwhile, apparently offered a completely different brief.
Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were also briefed today by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs Admiral James Winnefeld. But senators emerging from that private briefing reported that they believed the attack in Libya was premeditated.
“It was a terrorist attack organized and carried out by terrorists,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the top Republican on the committee said, adding that about 15 “al Qaeda or radical Islamists” were armed with rocket propelled grenades and other lethal weapons.
“This was a calculated act of terror on the part of a small group of jihadists, not a mob that somehow attacked and sacked our embassy,” McCain said. “People don’t go to demonstrate and carry RPGs and automatic weapons.”
“I don’t think any of us are clear yet about who carried out these attacks in Libya, but from all that I’ve heard the murderous attacks on Libya that resulted in the death of four Americans were not accidental,” Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., added. “They were not just some kind of coincidental protests to this film, this anti-Muslim film. They were a well-planned and professional terrorist attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.”
That Obama adminstration sure spoke with a forked tongue. It's time for CIA Director Petraeus to be asked why.