In a stunning report, the UK Independent quotes several "senior diplomatic sources" who allege that American intelligence officials had some advance knowledge that an event like the Benghazi raid could be imminent. If true, this revelation would somehow manage to make the lethal fiasco even worse than first thought:
The killings of the US ambassador to Libya and three of his staff were likely to have been the result of a serious and continuing security breach, The Independent can reveal. American officials believe the attack was planned, but Chris Stevens had been back in the country only a short while and the details of his visit to Benghazi, where he and his staff died, were meant to be confidential. The US administration is now facing a crisis in Libya. Sensitive documents have gone missing from the consulate in Benghazi and the supposedly secret location of the "safe house" in the city, where the staff had retreated, came under sustained mortar attack. Other such refuges across the country are no longer deemed "safe". Some of the missing papers from the consulate are said to list names of Libyans who are working with Americans, putting them potentially at risk from extremist groups, while some of the other documents are said to relate to oil contracts. According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and "lockdown", under which movement is severely restricted.
Not so, the White House insists:
The Obama administration is flatly denying a blaring British newspaper report that the U.S. diplomats in Libya were killed as a result of a “continuing security breach,” and that “credible information” about possible attacks had been ignored. A U.S. official told POLITICO: “There’s no intelligence indicating that the attack in Benghazi was premeditated.”… Shawn Turner, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, emailed: “This is absolutely wrong. We are not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent.”
But as Allahpundit points out, the Independent story doesn't allege that there was specific or actionable intelligence about the Benghazi consulate in particular. Their reporting simply stated that there were credible threats against US diplomatic missions in the region, so those parsed denials swat down a narrow charge that wasn't in the story. I'm also interested by the claim that there is "no intelligence indicating that the attack in Benghazi was premeditated." Hmm. There may have been no intelligence that led to that conclusion beforehand, but there's certainly evidence after the fact, isn't there? Let's flash back to an NBC News story I quoted and linked on Wednesday night:
Capt. Fathi al-Obeidi, whose special operations unit was ordered by Libya's authorities to meet an eight-man U.S. Marine force at Benghazi airport, said that after his men and the Marines had found the American survivors who had evacuated the blazing consulate, the ostensibly secret location in an isolated villa came under an intense and highly accurate mortar barrage. "I really believe that this attack was planned," he said, adding to suggestions by other Libyan officials that at least some of the hostility towards the Americans was the work of experienced combatants. "The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries."
This disaster involved: (1) A catastrophic security breach, perpetrated by men with rocket-propelled grenades -- which generally aren't brought along to spontaneous street protests, (2) a compromised US safe house, and (3) highly accurate mortar attacks against said safe house. Plus, there's the mysterious case of the security team photographer. USA Today reports the region-wide riots were coordinated and choreographed for "days." All things considered, "premeditated" doesn't seem like a leap at all. In fact, it strikes me as a rather likely and sensible conclusion. Or am I missing something? In any case, we know how this story ended: With four slaughtered American diplomats, including our ambassador. Our consulate was swarmed and overrun by killers, who killed. We're already aware that there were no Marines guarding the place, even with the top diplomat in the house on a highly-charged and symbolic day. Mind-boggling. So what did the security picture look like? This is disgraceful and breathtaking:
“I told him the security was not enough,” Fathi Baja, a political science professor and one of the leaders of Libya’s rebel government during last year’s revolution, told TIME on Thursday. “I said, ‘Chris, this is a U.S. consulate. You have to add to the number of people, bring Americans here to guard it, because the Libyans are not trained.” U.S. officials told reporters on Wednesday that the Benghazi consulate had “a robust American security presence, including a strong component of regional security officers.” ... Yet Baja described a very different picture from his visit on Tuesday morning, even remarking at how relaxed the scene was when he returned to the consulate building a short while after leaving Stevens, in order to collect the mobile phone he had accidentally left behind. “The consulate was very calm, with video [surveillance] cameras outside,” Baja said. “But inside there were only four security guards, all Libyans—four!—and with only Kalshnikovs on their backs. I said, ‘Chris, this is the most powerful country in the world. Other countries all have more guards than the U.S.,’” he said, naming as two examples Jordan and Morocco.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography