The White House yesterday denied it edited talking points about the terrorist attack that killed the American ambassador to Libya — contradicting remarks made a day earlier by disgraced ex-CIA chief David Petraeus.
“The only edit that was made by the White House and also by the State Department was to change the word ‘consulate’ to the word ‘diplomatic facility,’ since the facility in Benghazi was not formally a consulate,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters aboard Air Force One.
“Other than that, we were guided by the points that were provided by the intelligence community. So I can’t speak to any other edits that may have been made.”
Possibilities include: 1) The White House is lying; 2: Petraeus is lying; 3) The CIA gave the talking points to an intermediary who made the edits before giving them to the White House; 4) The White House simply came up with their own talking points; or 5) a “combo platter” mix n’ match of any of the above.
The commanders who lead the nation’s military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus stoked the controversy over the Obama administration’s handling of the Libya terror attack, testifying Friday that references to “Al Qaeda involvement” were stripped from his agency’s original talking points — while other intelligence officials were unable to say who changed the memo, according to a top lawmaker who was briefed.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told Fox News that intelligence officials who testified in a closed-door hearing a day earlier, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Acting CIA Director Mike Morell, said they did not know who changed the talking points. He said they went out to multiple departments, including the State Department, National Security Council, Justice Department and White House.
The real postelection mystery is why we ever had a secondary consulate in Benghazi in the first place, when most nations had long ago pulled their embassies out of war-torn Libya altogether.
Why, about a mile from the consulate, did we have a large CIA-staffed “annex” that seems to have been busy with all sorts of things other than providing adequate security for our nearby diplomats?
Before the election, the media was not interested in figuring out what Ambassador Christopher Stevens actually was doing in Benghazi, what so many CIA people and military contractors were up to, and what was the relationship of our large presence in Libya to Turkey, insurgents in Syria and the scattered Gadhafi arms depots.
But the strangest “coincidentally” of all is the bizarre resignation of American hero Gen. David Petraeus from the CIA just three days after the election — apparently due to a long-investigated extramarital affair with a sort of court biographer and her spat with a woman she perceived as a romantic rival.
If the affair was haphazardly hushed up for about a year, how exactly did Petraeus become confirmed as CIA director, a position that allows no secrets, much less an entire secret life?
How and why did the FBI investigate the Petraeus matter? To whom and when did it report its findings? And what was the administration reaction?
Coincidentally, if it is true that Petraeus can no longer testify as CIA director to the House and Senate intelligence committees about the ignored requests of CIA personnel on the ground in Benghazi for more help, can he as a private citizen testify more freely, without the burdens of CIA directorship and pre-election politics?
Why wouldn’t she have had access to other information? Because Rice had no operational responsibility for anything other than relations with the United Nations. So why did the “White House,” as Obama put it yesterday, ask her to go on five talk shows on Sunday to impart this story to the media and the public? That request had to come from Obama himself, and it bypassed other more likely candidates for that assignment such as Tom Donilon, James Clapper, Hillary Clinton, or David Petraeus, all of whom had some responsibility for the incident. And here’s a related question — why didn’t those five media outlets raise that very question when the “White House” offered Rice as a spokesperson for that explanation? Didn’t that seem even a little curious – especially when the Libyan President was saying exactly the opposite?
Hillary’s not going to testify until the end of December, maybe.
The Washington Post assures its readers that “Obama [is] relatively unscathed by [the] Petraeus investigation.” In the online version, the Post goes further, describing Obama as “untouched” by the affair.
In other (unrelated) news, the Dow’s down 185.23 today, down 674,73 since before election day.
At this rate, the only way we’ll have to to make ends meet is to become “social liaisons”.
Jill Kelley, the woman who was (allegedly) threatened by Gen. Petraeus’s squeeze Paula Broadwell and who (apparently) started the FBI investigation that led to Petraeus’ ouster, who went to the FBI for help after the threats and then (allegedly) had a relationship with the FBI agent in charge of her own case, who (allegedly) sent her shirtless pics of himself, also (apparently, allegedly) had “compromising” communications with Gen. John Allen, the Big Damn Commander of our war effort in Afghanistan.
if you were thinking that what the story of the under-the-desk CIA director, the bunny-boiling biographer, the email-crazed Afghanistan commander, the CentCom socialite, and the shirtless FBI agent lacked was a “psychologically unstable twin sister” . . .
The Petraeus scandal is a sideshow. Those of us who want to know what happened and why in Benghazi need to focus. Keep asking the basic questions. I have provided some of them and you can peruse the archive log for the many pieces on Benghazi.
Why was it Rice and not Clinton who appeared before the press? Who wrote the talking points for Ambassador Rice? What was the facility in Benghazi? If it was important, why wasn’t it protected? Why was the Ambassador there on 9/11? What was the meeting with the Turkish official about? Were we “walking guns” to Syria’s rebels? If so, is there any indication of Iranian or Syrian involvement in the attack? What did Secretary Clinton know and when? What did she do about it? What did Petraeus know and when? What did he do about it? What did Panetta know and when? What did he do about it? What did President Obama know and when? What did he tell the military, et al, to do? What did they do?
In a three-page cable on Sept 11, the day Stevens and the three other Americans were killed, Stevens wrote about “growing problems with security” in Benghazi and “growing frustration” with the security forces and Libyan police. The ambassador saw both as “too weak to keep the country secure.”
Fox News asked the State Department to respond to a series of questions about the Aug. 16 cable, including who was specifically charged with reviewing it and whether action was taken by Washington or Tripoli. Fox News also asked, given the specific warnings and the detailed intelligence laid out in the cable, whether the State Department considered extra measures for the consulate in light of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – and if no action was taken, who made that call.
The State Department press office declined to answer specific questions, citing the classified nature of the cable.
Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later on the annex itself was denied by the CIA chain of command — who also told the CIA operators twice to “stand down” rather than help the ambassador’s team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.
Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a small team who was at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When he and others heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out. They were told to “stand down,” according to sources familiar with the exchange. Soon after, they were again told to “stand down.”
Woods and at least two others ignored those orders and made their way to the consulate which at that point was on fire. Shots were exchanged. The rescue team from the CIA annex evacuated those who remained at the consulate and Sean Smith, who had been killed in the initial attack. They could not find the ambassador and returned to the CIA annex at about midnight.
At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied. There were no communications problems at the annex, according those present at the compound. The team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters. In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound. The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Spectre gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights. The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours — enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.
Let’s try this again … you had your people under attack, you had drones on site, you had a spec ops guy on the roof lasing the mortar team and Panetta claims they “didn’t know what was going on?”
That says a hell of a lot more about Panetta and Obama than anyone else. Anyone worth their salt goes for over kill, not “wait and see” in a situation like that. Situations like this are why you have contingency plans and units designated as Quick Reaction Forces (QRF). You can always recall your forces. And, if you give even a stinking whit about force protection you go in and secure the area and personnel who were under attack anyway.
Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show.
The emails, obtained by Reuters from government sources not connected with U.S. spy agencies or the State Department and who requested anonymity, specifically mention that the Libyan group called Ansar al-Sharia had asserted responsibility for the attacks.
The brief emails also show how U.S. diplomats described the attack, even as it was still under way, to Washington.
Specifically, they knew terrorists were claiming credit,
The first email, timed at 4:05 p.m. Washington time – or 10:05 p.m. Benghazi time, 20-30 minutes after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission allegedly began – carried the subject line “U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack” and the notation “SBU”, meaning “Sensitive But Unclassified.”
The text said the State Department’s regional security office had reported that the diplomatic mission in Benghazi was “under attack. Embassy in Tripoli reports approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well.”
The message continued: “Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four … personnel are in the compound safe haven. The 17th of February militia is providing security support.”
A second email, headed “Update 1: U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi” and timed 4:54 p.m. Washington time, said that the Embassy in Tripoli had reported that “the firing at the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi had stopped and the compound had been cleared.” It said a “response team” was at the site attempting to locate missing personnel.
A third email, also marked SBU and sent at 6:07 p.m. Washington time, carried the subject line: “Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack.”
The message reported: “Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”
The NY Post reported on Oct 21 that the drone that monitored the final hour of the Benghazi battle was a Predator. So it’s very likely that that drone was armed, as the US used armed Predators during the Libyan revolution and uses them to dispatch terrorists as the opportunity arises. But there is no reporting that the drone fired any of its Hellfire missiles during the battle. It was relaying video back the United States where–
“They stood, and they watched, and our people died,” former CIA commander Gary Berntsen told CBS News.
The Post also reported:
Fighter jets and Specter AC-130 gunships — which could have been used to help disperse the bloodthirsty mob — were also stationed at three nearby bases, sources told the network.
The Obama national-security team had several hours in which to move forces from Sigonella to Benghazi.
Fighter jets could have been at Benghazi in an hour; the commandos inside three hours. If the attackers were a mob, as intelligence reported, then an F18 in afterburner, roaring like a lion, would unnerve them. This procedure was applied often in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Conversely, if the attackers were terrorists, then the U.S. commandos would eliminate them. But no forces were dispatched from Sigonella.
Sigonella, Sicily, was 480 miles away from Benghazi. Stationed at Sigonella were Special Operations Forces, transport aircraft, and attack aircraft — a much more formidable force than 22 men from the embassy.
The Benghazi episode is best viewed as a series of three timelines. When fully exposed, the facts of the “pre” period before the attacks will tell us how high up the chain, and in which agencies, fateful decisions were made about security precautions for the consulate and annex in Benghazi. We also stand to learn how the planning for the attacks could have been put in motion without being detected until too late.
Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb, who oversees diplomatic security, testified before the House on Oct. 10 that she and her colleagues had placed “the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11 for what had been agreed upon.” While not the stuff of a perjury charge, this testimony cannot be true, given the known outcome of the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate and the pleas for enhanced security measures that we now know Foggy Bottom to have rebuffed.
The second Benghazi timeline encompasses the five or six hours on the evening of Sept. 11 when the attacks transpired. A State Department briefing on Oct. 9 offered an account that was riveting but incomplete. When all of the facts of these hours are compiled, we will have a truer picture of the tactical capabilities of al Qaeda and its affiliates in North Africa. We will also learn what really happened to Amb. Stevens that night, and better appreciate the vulnerabilities with which our diplomatic corps, bravely serving at 275 installations across the globe, must still contend.
The third and final Benghazi timeline is the one that has fostered charges of a coverup. It stretches eight days—from 3:40 p.m. on Sept. 11, when the consulate was first rocked by gunfire and explosions, through the morning of Sept. 19, when Matthew G. Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, publicly testified before the Senate that Benghazi was a terrorist attack.
On Sept. 11 — the day Stevens and three other Americans were killed — the ambassador signed a three-page cable, labeled “sensitive,” in which he noted “growing problems with security” in Benghazi and “growing frustration” on the part of local residents with Libyan police and security forces. These forces the ambassador characterized as “too weak to keep the country secure.”
In the document, Stevens also cited a meeting he had held two days earlier with local militia commanders. These men boasted to Stevens of exercising “control” over the Libyan Armed Forces, and threatened that if the U.S.-backed candidate for prime minister were to prevail in Libya’s internal political jockeying, “they would not continue to guarantee security in Benghazi.”
“I take responsibility,” Clinton told CNN in an interview while on a visit to Peru. “I’m in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The president and the vice president wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They’re the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision.”
But she said an investigation now under way will ultimately determine what happened at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed on September 11.
“I take this very personally,” Clinton said. “So we’re going to get to the bottom of it, and then we’re going to do everything we can to work to prevent it from happening again, and then we’re going to work to bring whoever did this to us to justice.”
Carefully worded, indeed:
She alone is in charge of “60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts.”
She “takes this very personally”
And once the investigation is done [when?], ”we’re going to work to bring whoever did this to us to justice.”
Which brings to mind Tonto’s question to the Lone Ranger, “what do you mean ‘we’ kimo-sabe?”
Of course, the investigation’s not going to come up with anything until well after the election. By inauguration time, no matter who wins (unless the media can blame Romney), Benghazi will be yet another one of those disappearing story lines Jennifer Rubin writes about.
There’s a strange habit in politics of public figures declaring that they’re “taking responsibility” for something going wrong… but then not following up with any particular action, contrition, or consequence.
Absent from any of this is any kind of clearly outlined and verbalized American foreign policy, something that affects not only Libya, but our own hemisphere, Monroe Doctrine be damned.
This is the move of a political master. Consider what this accomplishes:
It is a statesman like move, going forward and not ducking responsibility in a way nobody has been willing to do.
It covers her, by taking responsibility it heads off all kinds of stories that might come up with a theme of finding fault. Why should congress investigate to pin blame when it’s already been accepted?
It supports the president, by taking the blame she shields the first Black president both showing herself a good soldier to the party and most importantly to the black community.
It undermines Obama by making her look strong, and him look weak. He is now forced to make some kind of statement second as a response. It’s the 3 AM phone call with her answering while he goes to Vegas.
It ends press coverage on what the Obama Administration should do next, blame assigned move on.
It doesn’t end coverage it changes it. What will the president do about this? It puts Obama in a box. Blame is assigned so what is the punishment? If Hillary is responsible does he ask for her resignation, does he fire her? With his electoral prospects already sinking he dare not do either, and God help him if she resigns on her own. It would be another example of her acting while he is paralyzed. It is the final act of Carterization of the president.
It makes her vulnerable as every commentator on the right calls for her head in the hope of embarrassing Obama and taking her down a peg.
It gets her in good with the base of her party. I can see the fundraising e-mails now. “She’s taken responsibility and those nasty right wingers are piling on” This will coin money for her. That doesn’t even take into account how the press will react.
It hurts her 2016 election prospects after all she is responsible for an attack on the US on the Anniversary of 9/11 no less.
Not only does this make her look presidential (Expect comparisons to JFK’s Bay of Pigs speech from the MSM) but it neutralizes her primary opponents on the subject, in fact for the second time in twelve years she will be able to paint herself as the victim of the irresponsibility of a man who should have known better.
It hands President Romney a ready-made issue in 2016 to use.
It puts Romney in a box. Every president has foreign policy failures and Mitt will have his share. Imagine the debate answer: “President Romney is right. I was secretary of state during the Benghazi debacle and I took full responsibility for it. What I would like to know is when the president will take responsibility for (insert relevant issue here)”. It will put and keep Mitt on the defensive.
The Bottom line is forgetting all the national security and moral issues involved. Hillary has done the thing that most helps her in the long run while all the time managing to undermine her foes on both the left and the right in one fell swoop.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right thing to do, it IS but as usual the right thing is generally the smart thing and this was the smartest thing anyone in this administration has done in a while.
This story may continue, but in terms of its negative impact there will be little if any on Hillary Clinton from this point on.
As for tonight’s debate, expect Obama to repeat Hillary’s words, maybe even verbatim. The media will declare him the winner no matter what.
The real issue is not whether another inch of concrete, or a few armed guards would have made the difference in Benghazi. Given the size and violence of the attack, I doubt that would have done much. The real issues are what was that facility and what was it doing that was so important given the security environment? Why was the Ambassador there on 9/11?
Even more important, note later on her garbled comments about the key matters, to wit, the attack, the Obama misadministration’s characterization of the attack, and the nature of its response to an attack that went on for some six hours. Nowhere does she say that she contacted the White House, the Libyan government, or that she proposed any particular action. Nowhere does she explain the difference between the statements put out by Rice, Obama, and herself, blaming the attack on a virtually unseen video, and the statements by State and CIA career officers that State never concluded that the attack was the result of an anti-video demonstration gone rogue.