Friday, September 28, 2012

Deliberate and Organized Attack in Benghazi

This is the latest spin on the administration's FUBAR response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

See the Washington Post, "In statement, spy chief’s office defends evolving accounts of Benghazi attack, cites shifting intelligence":

The office of the nation’s spy chief issued a statement Friday defending the Obama administration’s accounts of the siege of U.S. missions in Libya, saying it only became clear in the aftermath that it was “a deliberate and organized terrorist attack.”

The statement appeared aimed at quieting criticism, mostly from Republicans, of the administration’s shifting characterizations of a Sept. 11 assault that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Officials initially described the attack as spontaneous but in recent days have said it was an act of terrorism with links to al-Qaeda.

The release from the office of Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. came as lawmakers sought more details about the siege in Benghazi. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to the State Department on Thursday posing questions about intelligence leading up to the attack and the adequacy of the security at U.S. compounds.

Shawn Turner, spokesman for Clapper, said that U.S. agencies have altered their assessments based on intelligence that has emerged through an ongoing investigation.

“In the immediate aftermath, there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo,” Turner said. That information was conveyed to administration officials as well as members of Congress.

But analysts have since “revised our initial assessments to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists,” Turner said. “Some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al-Qaeda.”

The release marks a rare instance in which the intelligence director’s office has weighed in through a public statement on details of an event overseas, let alone one that remains under investigation during a presidential campaign. In an e-mail, Turner indicated that the director’s office, while seeking to stay out of the political fray, became convinced that it should clarify the intelligence community’s position.

“I put out the message because I think it’s important that people understand that early reports are often wrong or incomplete, but our intelligence community continues to work around the clock to gather details and understand exactly what happened in Benghazi,” Turner said.
And here's the editorial at WaPo, "Stop playing politics with the Benghazi attack":
THE OBAMA administration’s descriptions of what happened Sept. 11 in the Libyan city of Benghazi have evolved in a way that some — including congressional Republicans — find suspicious. Initially, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described an “attack” in which “heavily armed militants” assaulted a U.S. compound, leading to the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Four days later, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said that “extremist elements” had joined a demonstration outside the U.S. Consulate against an anti-Muslim video.

By the end of last week, White House spokesman Jay Carney was calling the incident a “terrorist attack” but adding that it was likely “the result of opportunism” and not planned. But then Wednesday, Ms. Clinton suggested that al-Qaeda’s North African branch, operating from a safe haven in Mali, could have had a hand in the assault. Al-Qaeda and other terrorists, she said, “are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions underway in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi.”

Critics see in this a deliberate attempt by the administration to portray the Benghazi violence as a spontaneous response to the video, as opposed to a terrorist attack that was timed for Sept. 11 and possibly planned by al-Qaeda. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and three other Republicans have demanded in a letter that Ms. Rice explain how she “could characterize an attack on a U.S. consulate so inaccurately,” while a group of congressmen accused the administration of adopting “a pre-9/11 mind-set — treating an act of war solely as a criminal matter.”

In fact, political calculations appear to have infected the rhetoric of all sides. The White House was slow to place the modifier “terrorist” in front of the word “attack,” at a time when President Obama claims credit on the campaign trail for the “decimation” of al-Qaeda. He continued to focus on the offending video — which also provoked demonstrations outside U.S. embassies in Cairo and around the Muslim world — long after it became clear that the Benghazi attack was the work of well-organized combatants who, among other things, accurately aimed mortar fire at an unmarked U.S. compound located half a mile from the consulate...
I'll have more later...