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Senate releases scathing report on Benghazi
Question of the Day
The Senate report also addresses at some length the confusion and controversy about the way Obama administration officials characterized the attack in the days immediately afterward.
The attack took place amid a wave of deadly protests outside U.S. embassies that swept the Muslim world. The protesters were infuriated by reports about a U.S.-made, anti-Islam video.
Early analysis of the Benghazi attack by U.S. intelligence agencies assessed the possibility that it was inspired or grown out of a similar protest, the report says, partly because many local news reports erroneously reported that protests preceded the attack.
The early analysis also concluded that members of Ansar al-Shariah, a Libyan militia linked to or at least drawing its inspiration from al Qaeda, took part in the attack.
But when declassified “talking points” were prepared by intelligence officials Sept. 15, initially for members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, all references to al Qaeda were removed and the attackers were referred to variously as “extremists” or even “demonstrators,” the report notes.
The Times has reported that some of the intelligence reports about the possible involvement of al Qaeda supporters came from highly classified communications intercepts, and references to the group were removed from the talking points to “protect sources and methods,” according to U.S. intelligence officials.
But the report notes that the original drafter of the talking points, described as a veteran career analyst, “concluded that the information [about the possible involvement of al Qaeda supporters] could be made public because of the [open] claims of responsibility made by Ansar al-Shariah, which has been publicly linked to al Qaeda.”
Moreover, the report notes that by Sept. 15, the FBI had interviewed survivors of the attack and learned that there was no protest preceding it. But the bureau did not circulate that information to other agencies until almost a week later.
The talking points “were the subject of much of the confusion and division in the discussion of the attack,” the report notes, a state of affairs only “intensified” by the fact that they were issued before analysts were certain what had happened.
The report goes so far as to call on U.S. intelligence agencies to stop preparing such unclassified summaries for officials. “It is not the responsibility of [intelligence agencies] to draft talking points for public consumption — especially in the heat of a political campaign — and we therefore recommend that [they] decline to do so in the future.”
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About the Author
Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
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