Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Obama Administration and the Bengahzi Talking Points

Mike L.

{Originally published at the Times of Israel.}
Stephen F. Hayes, of the conservative Weekly Standard, just published a piece entitled The Benghazi Talking Points and how they were changed to obscure the truth. Hayes writes:
Even as the White House strove last week to move beyond questions about the Benghazi attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2012, fresh evidence emerged that senior Obama administration officials knowingly misled the country about what had happened in the days following the assaults.
This is an exceedingly serious charge.  If it is factual, one would think that Obama supporters would reconsider their support for this president and this administration.   I wouldn't count on that, however, because emotional attachments often override common sense or basic human decency, but let's examine this a little.
Concerning a flurry of emails between the State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the White House which took place directly after the Bengahzi attack "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," Hayes writes:
If the House report provides an accurate and complete depiction of the emails, it is clear that senior administration officials engaged in a wholesale rewriting of intelligence assessments about Benghazi in order to mislead the public.
The basic charges are that American president Barack Obama, and his administration, failed to protect Ambassador Stevens and his staff when they had the opportunity to do so and then sought to cover it up.  Furthermore, Obama and his administration apparently lied to the American public about the source of the attack, blaming it on an excessive and spontaneous reaction to some third-rate internet video concerning the life of Muhammed.
According to Hayes the House report indicates that:
Within hours of the initial attack on the U.S. facility, the State Department Operations Center sent out two alerts. The first, at 4:05 p.m. (all times are Eastern Daylight Time), indicated that the compound was under attack; the second, at 6:08 p.m., indicated that Ansar al Sharia, an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group operating in Libya, had claimed credit for the attack. According to the House report, these alerts were circulated widely inside the government, including at the highest levels. The fighting in Benghazi continued for another several hours, so top Obama administration officials were told even as the fighting was taking place that U.S. diplomats and intelligence operatives were likely being attacked by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. A cable sent the following day, September 12, by the CIA station chief in Libya, reported that eyewitnesses confirmed the participation of Islamic militants and made clear that U.S. facilities in Benghazi had come under terrorist attack. It was this fact, along with several others, that top Obama officials would work so hard to obscure.
If this is true it exceedingly damning.  The charge by Obama critics is that the administration could have saved Ambassador Stevens and his staff, yet chose not to.  Hayes demonstrates that the White House prevailed upon the CIA to alter its assessment that the attack was a Jihadi attack in favor of some vague notion that it was "demonstrations" taking place in Benghazi.
There is little information about what happened at that meeting of the Deputies Committee. But according to two officials with knowledge of the process, Mike Morrell, deputy director of the CIA, made broad changes to the draft afterwards. Morrell cut all or parts of four paragraphs of the six-paragraph talking points—148 of its 248 words (see Version 2 above). 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.

What remained—and would be included in the final version of the talking points—was mostly boilerplate about ongoing investigations and working with the Libyan government, together with bland language suggesting that the “violent demonstrations”—no longer “attacks”—were spontaneous responses to protests in Egypt and may have included generic “extremists” (see Version 3 above).

If the story of what happened in Benghazi was dramatically stripped down from the first draft of the CIA’s talking points to the version that emerged after the Deputies Committee meeting, the narrative would soon be built up again. In ensuing days, administration officials emphasized a “demonstration” in front of the U.S. facility in Benghazi and claimed that the demonstrators were provoked by a YouTube video. The CIA had softened “attack” to “demonstration.” But as soon became clear, there had been no demonstration in Benghazi.

More troubling was the YouTube video. Rice would spend much time on the Sunday talk shows pointing to this video as the trigger of the chaos in Benghazi. “What sparked the violence was a very hateful video on the Internet. It was a reaction to a video that had nothing to do with the United States.” There is no mention of any “video” in any of the many drafts of the talking points.
I honestly do not want to leap to conclusions on this story, but it certainly looks fishy to me.  We now have strong evidence that the Obama administration knew what was happening in Bengahzi in real time and chose not to act, thus resulting in the murder of Ambassador Stevens and three of his staff.  We have further strong evidence that the administration sought to downplay the role of political Islam in the attack in favor of some made up story about an internet video.
They did all this, furthermore, directly before the last election after claiming that Qaeda was, if not defeated, very much on the run.
The main thing that United States citizens can reasonably do is insist upon an independent investigation.  If Bill and Hillary Clinton's real estate dealings were worthy of an independent investigation, surely this does so by a factor of many, many times more significance.


  1. You have ventured beyond the pale. You really need to change your mast head to "A blatantly partisan political blog....".

    1. To take it further, Jonathan Karl of ABC News, also has information that helps to show who the real partisans are in this matter.

      It was pretty clear from the start that the Administration was not truthful, but that matters not one whit to supporters.

    2. No oldschool, it's not that it doesn't matter a bit. But calling politicians on doing politics is hardly a serious charge. Is there any important "truth" that is being covered up? Is there something about the actual attack itself that we should know, have the right to know, and we don't?

      From both sides, this is nothing more than politicians doing politics. There was a tragedy. Preventing future tragedies should be at the top of the list of important things. Identifying mistakes should be at the top of the list.

      But the fact of the matter is, these new emails reveal no major new details about what transpired in Libya. Who influenced changes to the talking points is nothing more than political fodder. It's not "they have WMD so we have to attack them", it's not even "mission accomplished".

      So there was nothing specious about my reply. Specious is claiming to be non-partisan, when there is no attempt to be non-partisan.

    3. Your cynicism is astounding.

      The Administration hid the truth and misled the public because to reveal it may have changed the dynamics of the election.

      This was not a lie about a blow job.

      If Bush had done this, there would have been apoplexy.

      It just shows how much the media is in Obama's pocket, more concerned about access and the Correspondents' Dinner than news. This Administration has some serious transparency issues and is adept at punishing any sign of apostacy. If you cannot see it, then you are blind.

      The cavalier indifference shown by the Administration for its negligent behavior, bordering on reckless, is also astounding.

      Any liberal minded person should be embarrassed and angry that we were told, intentionally, that a film was responsible, not to mention the failures to provide adequate security and to silence the witnesses.

      The problem now is that the truth comes out and we see that it was Obama that abused his power.

    4. the media is apoplectic about it. It's just about everywhere. With republicans going on hyperbolic frenzy "it's bigger than Watergate!", it is being covered. I'm not sure how it would have changed the dynamics of the election. It's unclear to me what the profile of the undecided voter would have been at that time that would have decided based on a different description of events. Beyond that, by 10 days after the event, pretty much everything was pretty clear. That was still six weeks before the election. I'm still yawning.

    5. Are you serious? It was clear 10 days afterward? Yes, most who follow knew the truth, but the negligence was not at all known, nor the machinations that were occurring SOLELY for political gain to hide the fact that it was the very forces we supposedly had vanquished.

      I know all this causes you to yawn, that you think it's just the Republicans making hay. You can put your head back in the hole again. I just wonder if, "even if others have done the same," there is any level of deception or coercion that will affect you.

    6. Who ever said vanquished?

    7. I said it.

      So did the Administration, which told us that al-Quaeda had been decimated, an exercise in word games.

      What is the point of your reply anyway, except to nitpick and divert from the issue that, over and above the tragedy, this was a clear abuse of power that needs be exposed in its own right.

    8. So I'm playing word games, and you're ignoring words.

      Libya is not Pakistan.

      Politics is an abuse of power? Were you making that same argument from 2001 to 2008?

    9. You engage in sophist arguments. Your reply was a glib remark about "vanquish," a tangent with regard to the issue raised, an act of obfuscation.

      It was the Administration that did not make the distinction, and tried to create the inference that al-Quaeda itself was impotent.

      Politics is an abuse of power? More sophistry. What is the purpose of this question that you already know the answer to? I said NOTHING of the sort. Your technique to argue is to twist, rationalize, and even, like here, to put words in the mouths of others.

      Politics can and often is used to abuse power, like here. That does not mean all politics is an abuse of power.

      Of course I made the same arguments when Bush lied. At least I am consistent, but it appears you are not.

    10. No, i'm pretty consistent. I never thought it was a big deal then either. I follow politics pretty closely and have for quite awhile. When politicians do politics, sometimes it's worth an eye-roll, sometimes a hat-tip. I'm not sure this warrants either.

    11. As I said, your cynicism is astounding.

      Doing politics is one thing, deceiving the American people is another.

      That you see doing politics as involving hat tips and eye rolls is revealing. You seem to be saying that anything done for politics is acceptable and even fair.

      What did Watergate, which was "doing politics," or Iran-Contra, deserve?

      Are you seriously saying that these talking points were not changed in what appears a clear deception for the purpose of shutting down further inquiry where it may have seriously diminished Obama's electoral standing?

    12. I don't know what the process was which changed the talking points. That you see it as "clear deception for the purpose of shutting down further inquiry" is revealing. It couldn't have been deception for some other purpose? Was there ever any chance with the current acrimony in Washington that a few words by a spokesman on national TV would shut down further inquiry? Is there anything that this administration has ever done that shut down further inquiry? Nobody is that stupid.

      Was there intentional deception and if so, was there a good reason for it? I don't know the answer to either one.

    13. Deception for some other purpose than the most obvious one, the coming election in the context of what occurred, parenthetically on 9-11.

      Why do you doubt so the obvious? There are, of course, other reasons, but none that I know of put Obama in a good light.

      If you do not think that the Administration tried to shut down inquiry, then I suggest your knowledge of politics is much less than you profess.

      The President must, on occasion, withhold information, but this does not even look like a close case, and I will repeat was an abuse of power.

      The ironic thing is that you went from calling this "beyond the pale" and "blatant partisan" to saying you
      don't know if the deception was intentional or if there was a good reason for it.

    14. "Partisan"?

      I am not a Republican, nor am I a conservative.

      Stuart, what you seem to think of as "partisan" is anyone who criticizes the Obama administration. But you are not alone.

      That much is certain.

      I voted for Barack Obama.

      I phone banked as a liberal Democrat for Barack Obama.

      I gave money and time to the Democratic party.

      The partisan one here is quite clearly you, not me.