President Obama took responsibility last week for his administration's actions in Benghazi, Libya. He insisted those criticizing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for misleading the American people regarding the terror attack ought to come after him instead. This week, administration leakers are passing the buck.
Unnamed sources within the administration say that someone in the Office of Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper removed references to "al Qaeda" and "terrorism" from Mrs. Rice's talking points, with CIA and FBI concurrence. According to this version of events, Mr. Obama, his national security staff and the State Department had nothing to do with it. The reason, they say, is the evidence of terrorism was considered too tenuous to be released. CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan reported "there was not strong confidence in the person providing the intelligence" about links to al Qaeda.
Numerous unclassified reports in hours and days after the assault gave a clear picture of exactly what happened, and the links to terrorism were obvious. The attack was a planned, violently executed and anything but spontaneous. The U.S. government had all the tools at its disposal to verify this in short order, including real-time communications intercepts, on-the-scene drone surveillance video, interviews with members of Libyan intelligence agencies and analysis of terror group activity before, during and after the attack. To say the entire U.S. intelligence community was only able to base its assessment of a critical incident on a single, less-than-reliable human source is laughable. Even if the specific al Qaeda connection was tenuous, it's nearly impossible to conclude it wasn't a terrorist plot.
In congressional testimony Friday, former CIA Director David H. Petraeus revealed the intelligence community was immediately aware terrorists were behind the assault, which is as one would expect. Democratic lawmakers emerged from the closed-door hearing explaining that the specific references to terrorism were excised because the administration did not want to tip off al Qaeda that the United States was on their trail. So one story is that the talking points were sanitized because the government knew too much, while other apologists said the memos were dumbed down because the government knew too little.
Neither of these contradictory explanations sheds light on the origin of the false narrative that the Benghazi incident was a spontaneous riot over a low-budget YouTube video. There has never been any evidence of such a demonstration or mob scene outside the Benghazi consulate prior to the attack. Drone surveillance video, which Mr. Obama and other high-ranking administration officials have access to, would have quickly eliminated this possibility. The YouTube story was invented out of whole cloth, yet was considered so important that secretary of State Hillary Clinton bizarrely vowed vengeance on the filmmaker to the parents of the slain, rather than on the people actually responsible for the murders.
Questions about the source of the YouTube excuse aren't going to go away. Mr. Obama ought to demonstrate responsibility by coming clean with a full account of his administration's response to the Benghazi tragedy.
The Washington Times
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