A U.S. intelligence official told The Times that the issue is partly a result of confusion.
“There was [electronic surveillance] which suggested the attackers were prompted to saddle up the posse by what they were seeing in Cairo,” said the official, who is not authorized to speak to the media.
There were more than a dozen separate intelligence reports to that effect, the official said.
But the unclassified talking points for officials prepared by the CIA could not mention those reports directly because doing so would expose intelligence sources and methods — such as the ability of U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor cellphone traffic.
Wording talking points clearly enough to reflect intelligence but vaguely enough to protect its source is “an art, not a science, and this got screwed up somewhere,” the intelligence official said.
Another source of possible confusion is terminology, the official said.
The talking points referred to “extremists” because that has been for many years the Obama administration‘s, as well as the George W. Bush administration’s, approved terminology to refer to suspected al Qaeda supporters. That’s why officials didn’t call the attackers “terrorists,” even though they were wielding heavy weapons and were supported by mortar fire, the official said.
“I don’t think anyone is suggesting these were nice guys who loved America before they saw the video,” the official said of the Libyan attackers. “But there was a lot of evidence to suggest that the timing of the attack might have been suggested because of the protests in Cairo.”
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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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