Obama ducks Beng­hazi

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Pres­i­dent Obama took re­spon­si­bil­ity for his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­tions in Beng­hazi, Libya. He in­sisted those crit­i­ciz­ing U.S. Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions Su­san Rice for mis­lead­ing the Amer­i­can peo­ple re­gard­ing the ter­ror at­tack ought to come af­ter him in­stead. This week, ad­min­is­tra­tion leak­ers are pass­ing the buck.

Un­named sources within the ad­min­is­tra­tion say that some­one in the Of­fice of Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence James R. Clap­per re­moved ref­er­ences to “al Qaeda” and “ter­ror­ism” from Mrs. Rice’s talk­ing points, with CIA and FBI con­cur­rence. Ac­cord­ing to this ver­sion of events, Mr. Obama, his na­tional se­cu­rity staff and the State De­part­ment had noth­ing to do with it. The rea­son, they say, is the ev­i­dence of ter­ror­ism was con­sid­ered too ten­u­ous to be re­leased. CBS News cor­re­spon­dent Mar­garet Bren­nan re­ported “there was not strong con­fi­dence in the per­son pro­vid­ing the in­tel­li­gence” about links to al Qaeda.

Numer­ous un­clas­si­fied re­ports in hours and days af­ter the as­sault gave a clear pic­ture of ex­actly what hap­pened, and the links to ter­ror­ism were ob­vi­ous.

The at­tack was a planned, vi­o­lently ex­e­cuted and any­thing but spon­ta­neous. The U.S. government had all the tools at its dis­posal to ver­ify this in short or­der, in­clud­ing real-time com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­ter­cepts, on-the-scene drone sur­veil­lance video, in­ter­views with mem­bers of Libyan in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and anal­y­sis of ter­ror group ac­tiv­ity be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the at­tack.

To say the en­tire U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity was only able to base its as­sess­ment of a crit­i­cal in­ci­dent on a sin­gle, less-than-re­li­able hu­man source is laugh­able. Even if the spe­cific al Qaeda con­nec­tion was ten­u­ous, it’s nearly im­pos­si­ble to con­clude it wasn’t a ter­ror­ist plot.

In con­gres­sional tes­ti­mony Fri­day, former CIA Di­rec­tor David H. Pe­traeus re­vealed the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity was im­me­di­ately aware ter­ror­ists were be­hind the as­sault, which is as one would ex­pect.

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers emerged from the closed-door hear­ing ex­plain­ing that the spe­cific ref­er­ences to ter­ror­ism were ex­cised be­cause the ad­min­is­tra­tion did not want to tip off al Qaeda that the United States was on their trail.

So one story is that the talk­ing points were san­i­tized be­cause the government knew too much, while other apol­o­gists said the memos were dumbed down be­cause the government knew too lit­tle.

Nei­ther of th­ese con­tra­dic­tory ex­pla­na­tions sheds light on the ori­gin of the false nar­ra­tive that the Beng­hazi in­ci­dent was a spon­ta­neous riot over a low-bud­get YouTube video. There has never been any ev­i­dence of such a demon­stra­tion or mob scene out­side the Beng­hazi con­sulate prior to the at­tack. Drone sur­veil­lance video, which Mr. Obama and other high-rank­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have ac­cess to, would have quickly elim­i­nated this pos­si­bil­ity. The YouTube story was in­vented out of whole cloth, yet was con­sid­ered so im­por­tant that sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton bizarrely vowed vengeance on the film­maker to the par­ents of the slain, rather than on the peo­ple ac­tu­ally re­spon­si­ble for the mur­ders.

Ques­tions about the source of the YouTube ex­cuse aren’t go­ing to go away. Mr. Obama ought to demon­strate re­spon­si­bil­ity by coming clean with a full ac­count of his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­sponse to the Beng­hazi tragedy.

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