Friday, May 10, 2013

Benghazi Goes Mainstream

A dung beetle would strain himself pushing around a misdirection so massive.

Even Jonathan Karl of ABC News has taken notice, and he has nothing kind to say about Obama administration “talking points” on Benghazi. Mr. Karl, it should be said, is not part of the putative conservative conspiracy against progressive Democrats.

Concerning the CIA “talking points” that then Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice pushed on several news outlets shortly after the American Consulate was overrun and destroyed by Islamic terrorists, Mr. Karl notes that “ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack.”

According to Mr. Karl, the initial CIA report noted that “The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qaeda in Benghazi and eastern Libya.  These noted that, since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador’s convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has (sic) previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks.”

This intelligence displeased State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland who, perhaps feeling pressure from higher-ups in the Obama administration, objected to the inclusion of such intelligence because such inconvenient truths, as she wrote in an email to officials at the White House “could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either?”

In a final revision, the offending paragraph was entirely deleted.

The CIA’s first draft had noted that the attack on the embassy appeared to be “spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” – later found to be an incorrect assessment -- but pointedly noted as well, “That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qaeda participated in the attack.” The first draft specifically identified the al Qaeda-affiliated group as Ansar al-Sharia, occasioning yet another objection from the State Department’s Ms. Nuland, who did not want to “prejudice the investigation” by the mention of specific terrorist groups.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes concurred and dispatched an email stressing that State Department’s concerns needed to be addressed: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.  We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.”

What no one will say about the several visions and revisions of a CIA document that certainly was more complete and accurate than the truncated final product at last given the nod at Foggy Bottom is this: The procrustean editing was necessary because a more accurate depiction of true events at Benghazi did not support presidential campaign election rhetoric which suggested falsely that al-Qaeda had been sufficiently degraded by Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Most of the hard data and all of the insufficient explanations seem to point a finger in that direction. And it now becomes possible to ask: Is it possible that an embassy and the lives of those in it were put at risk because a president did not want his fictional campaign narrative to be overthrown by the truth?

In the days following the murderous assault on the American consulate in Benghazi by an invigorated and deadly al-Qaeda connected offshoot, presidential spokesman Jay Carney rose to a defense of the misleading remarks made by Ms. Rice at several media venues. Apparently not under oath, he told reporters at the White House press briefing on November 28, 2012:

“Those talking points originated from the intelligence community. They reflect the IC’s best assessments of what they thought had happened. The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because ‘consulate’ was inaccurate.”

Mary McCarthy once said of Lillian Hellman that every word she spoke was a lie, including “and” and “but.” That may more appropriately have been said about Jay Carnie’s media fish bait.

Mr. Karl’s report may be the first indication that, at least on Benghazi, mainstream reporters and commentator have had their fill of worms.
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