Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Benghazi Cover-up, And Why It matters


“Terrible. I cry every night. I don't sleep at night. I need answers… Why was there no security for him? When they were supposed to have security and the security that they did have was called back. It just -- things do not add up and I'm just told lies.” So said Pat Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, a State Department information officer, one of four Americans murdered in Benghazi. The enduring agony of Mrs. Smith recalls the advice given by the blind prophet Tiresias to an obdurate King Creon in Sophocles’ “Antigone.”


Self-will must bear the guilt of stubbornness.
Yield to the dead, and outrage not a corpse
 

So long as the truth is scorned, Ambassador Chris Stevens and the brave people who died with him at the consulate in Benghazi will not be quiet in their graves. Honor must have a voice. The shattering truth about Benghazi will be told; blood will tell it. Whether the telling will change much is quite a different question. Power does have its privileges, and the Obama administration, in an attempt to subvert the truth, has buried it  behind a literal wall of obfuscation.
The recent testimony of three direct witnesses before a Congressional committee, as well as prior news accounts of the assault by terrorists on the consulate in Benghazi, utterly destroys the order of operative assumptions churned out by the Obama administration, then in a campaign mode, before, during and after the murderous assault.
 
Even today, the Obama administration insists on the following discredited narrative: 1) Early real-time reports indicated that the assault on the consulate was a spinoff of a protest occasioned by a video that defamed the prophet Mohammed; 2) As the administration gained more access to accurate information, it abandoned an earlier view that Al-Qaida elements were not involved in the assault.

The truth is just the opposite. The earliest report – indeed, the very last words of Ambassador Stevens to his second in command, “Greg Hicks, who testified recently before a Congressional panel] we are under attack” – indicated right from the get-go that the embassy was under assault. No early on the spot report mentions a protest.

Even before the assaults had ended, intelligence officials had concluded, according to a report in the Weekly Standard written by Steven Hayes, “that al Qaeda-linked terrorists were involved. Senior administration officials, however, sought to obscure the emerging picture and downplay the significance of attacks that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. The frantic process that produced the changes to the talking points took place over a 24-hour period just one day before Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, made her now-famous appearances on the Sunday television talk shows. The discussions involved senior officials from the State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the White House.”

Mr. Hayes’ report includes reproductions of two critical e-mails not previously made available to the general public.

The Weekly Standard story shows two revisions to an initial e-mail that provided the foundation of the Obama administration “talking points” on the Benghazi assaults.

An early cable sent by the CIA station chief in Libya on September 12, immediately after the attack on the consulate on September 11, a propitious day for terrorists, clearly stated that U.S. facilities in Benghazi had come under terrorist attack. It was this intelligence – very inconvenient to an administration that was in the process of insisting during a presidential campaign that the effectiveness of  Al-Qaida had been degraded “that top Obama officials would work so hard to obscure,” according to the Weekly Standard report: “The frantic process that produced the changes to the talking points took place over a 24-hour period just one day before Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, made her now-famous appearances on the Sunday television talk shows. The discussions involved senior officials from the State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the White House.”

The laundering of accurate information – indeed, the tailoring of data to make the talking points conform to an Obama campaign procrustean bed – began after
Democrat Dutch Ruppersburger, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, requested unclassified guidance on what members of Congress could say in public comments on the assaults.

An initial draft prepared by the CIA’s Office of Terrorism Analysis asserted that the U.S. Government “know[s] that Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda participated in the attack.” The same draft noted that press reports “linked the attack to Ansar al Sharia. The group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks, but did not deny that some of its members were involved.”

This first draft, prepared in response to Mr. Ruppersburger request and widely distributed internally for comment at 11:15 a.m. on Friday, September 14, (Version 1) was itself subject to revision (Version 2).

According to The Weekly Standard report: “This initial [Version 1] CIA draft included the assertion that the U.S. government ‘knows[s] that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qaeda participated in the attack.’ That draft also noted that press reports ‘linked the attack to Ansar al Sharia. The group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks, but did not deny that some of its members were involved.’ Ansar al Sharia, the CIA draft continued, aims to spread sharia law in Libya and ‘emphasizes the need for jihad.’ The agency draft also raised the prospect that the facilities had been the subject of jihadist surveillance and offered a reminder that in the previous six months there had been ‘at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador’s convoy.’”

A second [Version 2] CIA amended draft provided more information concerning the jihadist threat in both Egypt and Libya: “On 10 September we warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration in front of the [Cairo] Embassy and that jihadists were threatening to break into the Embassy… The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al Qaeda in Benghazi and Libya.” Tellingly, the second draft no longer specified “Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda” but mentioned only “Islamic extremists.” And the mention of “attacks” in the first more accurate draft was changed to “demonstrations.”

An hour after the amended version was distributed to officials in the interagency vetting process, an official identified in the official House report only as a “senior State Department official” raised “serious concerns” about the draft. The senior official, since identified as Victoria Nuland, was concerned that members of Congress might use the talking points to assail the State Department for “not paying attention to Agency warnings.”

Addressing Ms. Nuland’s concerns, the CIA made some minor changes and cut all references to Ansar al Sharia. But Ms. Nuland was still not appeased.  She advised that the changes did not “resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership.” Her unnamed superiors, Ms. Nuland, wrote, were unhappy.

“In an attempt to address those concerns,” according to The Standard report, “CIA officials made minor tweaks. But in a follow-up email at 9:24 p.m., Nuland wrote that the problem remained and that her superiors—she did not say which ones—were unhappy. Moments later, according to the House report, ‘White House officials responded by stating that the State Department’s concerns would have to be taken into account.’ One official—Ben Rhodes, The Weekly Standard is told, a top adviser to President Obama on national security and foreign policy—further advised the group that the issues would be resolved in a meeting of top administration officials the following morning at the White House.”

The final snipping of the initial and more accurate CIA report fell to deputy director of the CIA Mike Morell, who made broad changes to the draft, according to sources cited in The Standard report: “Morrell cut all or parts of four paragraphs of the six-paragraph talking points—148 of its 248 words. Gone were the reference to ‘Islamic extremists,’ the reminders of agency warnings about al Qaeda in Libya, the reference to ‘jihadists’ in Cairo, the mention of possible surveillance of the facility in Benghazi, and the report of five previous attacks on foreign interests.”

In a series of revisions, the truth was rung out of the data available to the Obama administration. It was left to the hapless Susan Rice to present the limbless, truncated version of events to the general public in a series of television appearances, during the course of which it was stressed that the attack on the consulate and the murder of Ambassador Stevens and other American defenders of the consulate was inspired by a video that had enraged protestors.

For anyone who has bothered to examine the data now available, this convenient fiction, serviceable to the Obama administration as campaign filler, is more than preposterous; it is the wall of misinformation behind which Ambassador Stevens and other brave American yet lie, immured and silent.         

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