The attack on the U.S. Consulate, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton now admits, was part of a broader effort by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, working "with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions under way in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi."
Yet 10 days ago, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice was trotted out on every Sunday talk show to blame the massacre on a mob inflamed by the Internet video "Innocence of Muslims," which insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
As Human Events' John Hayward relates, Rice told Fox News:
"This was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. ... What happened initially was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. ... People gathered outside the embassy, and then it grew very violent. Those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons -- which, unfortunately, are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya -- and that then spun out of control."
Behind this gross misrepresentation was the need to absolve the Obama administration of all responsibility by claiming the atrocity was triggered by events -- the showing of a video, the Cairo riot -- over which it had no control.
We could not have foreseen this, Rice was saying. We could not have prevented this. We had no knowledge it was coming. It was an unpredictable, spontaneous event, like a tornado.
Rice was either ignorant of what went on in Benghazi when she was sent out to do those TV shows, or misled by her own government, or sent out to lie to ensure that America's anger was not redirected to her administration.
And this is the diplomat said to have the inside track to be secretary of state if Barack Obama is re-elected?
Rice and her handlers were relying on a friendly media to buy into her story and keep the political spotlight on the statement the Romney campaign released before it was known that Stevens had been murdered.
And this is no small matter.
As Hayward notes, Eli Lake of The Daily Beast reported that "within 24 hours of the 9-11 anniversary attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, U.S. intelligence agencies had strong indications al Qaeda-affiliated operatives were behind the attack, and had even pinpointed the location of one of those attackers."
Three separate intelligence sources confirmed to Lake that "early information was enough to show that the attack was planned and the work of al Qaeda affiliates operating in Eastern Libya."
The issues raised here are matters of extraordinary moment.