There are quite a few Benghazi raid-related revelations in the news today, each one uglier than the last. Let's start with a report from the New York Times. We already knew that some sensitive documents had gone missing after our consulate in Benghazi was overrun by Islamist terrorists, even though the administration is ludicrously denying that fact. What we now know is the scope of the massive blow suffered by our intelligence community, particularly in the realm of human assets. This is alarming:
The attack in Benghazi,, that killed Ambassador and three other Americans has dealt the a major setback in its intelligence-gathering efforts at a time of increasing instability in the North African nation. Among the more than two dozen American personnel evacuated from the city after the assault on the American mission and a nearby annex were about a dozen C.I.A. operatives and contractors, who played a crucial role in conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city. “It’s a catastrophic intelligence loss,” said one American official who has served in Libya and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the F.B.I. is still investigating the attack. “We got our eyes poked out.” The C.I.A.’s surveillance targets in Benghazi and eastern Libya include Ansar al-Sharia, a militia that some have blamed for the attack, as well as suspected members of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa, known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
As Katie wrote earlier, President Obama referred to the Benghazi debacle and other violence in the region as a "bump in the road" on 60 Minutes, a staggering remark that has drawn a sharp rebuke from Mitt Romney, and put the White House on its heels. Recent events probably felt like more than a "bump" to the staff holed up inside four breached US embassies over the last 13 days. The attacks certainly were not mere "bump" for Amb.Chris Stevens and his three fellow diplomats, whose lives were snuffed out by the terrorists who raided their consulate and safe house. Speaking of Stevens, a minor furor has erupted over CNN's handling of a personal journal discovered by a news crew inside the torched Benghazi consulate. In short, CNN used Steven's diary as a "source" familiar with his mindset, but didn't immediately reveal that their source was in fact his own journal. Stevens' family is also upset with the network for violating what they believed to be an agreement not to report any of the journal's contents until after the family had reviewed it. The State Department launched a blistering attack on CNN, calling their editorial decisions "disgusting." It doesn't appear as if CNN has covered itself in glory here, but the administration is huffing and puffing about journalistic process. Why? Because they'd rather blow a lot of hot air about CNN than address what CNN's actual reporting has revealed:
Three days after he was killed, CNN found a journal belonging to late U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. The journal was found on the floor of the largely unsecured consulate compound where he was fatally wounded. CNN notified Stevens' family about the journal within hours after it was discovered and at the family's request provided it to them via a third party. The journal consists of just seven pages of handwriting in a hard-bound book.
More from Buzzfeed:
On Saturday night, State Department spokesperson Philippe Reines slammed CNN for its “disgusting” handling of Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ diary. The diary helped confirm, as the network reported, that Stevens had been worried about the threat of an Al Qaeda attack, and even feared his own name was included on a hit list. The blockbuster news contradicted the line the State Department and the administration had been pushing since the horrible tragedy took place almost two weeks ago: that there was no intelligence of a coming attack. In fact, the Ambassador himself was aware of a persistent high level threat against him. “Perhaps the real question here,” CNN responded to the State Department criticism, “Is why is the State Department now attacking the messenger.” That is the real question, and State Department’s bizarre criticism of CNN gives clues to the answer. Foggy Bottom is now in full-on damage control mode, with the primary goal of keeping Hillary Clinton’s legacy in Libya — and in Washington — intact.
To recap, a CNN team found Amb. Stevens' diary -- the very existence of which the State Department was unaware -- on the floor of the unsecured consulate...three days after the massacre. It contained evidence that Stevens was frightened over growing threats of a terrorist attacks, contradicting the administration's repeated claims that no such intelligence existed. Buzzfeed writes that the administration's behavior has been part of a comprehensive ass-covering endeavor to protect the Secretary and State (and by extension, the president) from political and "legacy" fallout. This is significant information. One can quibble with CNN's deal-making and apparent deal-breaking, but there is no doubt their reportage is relevant and important. It proves that the White House and State Department have been lying about more than just the "spontaneous attack" assertions they stuck with for a full week. It also demonstrates that 72 hours after the deadly raid, the scene remained so utterly shambolic that a CNN crew managed to stroll through and find an eye-opening piece of evidence just lying on the floor. It gets worse: Remember how the White House is referring most substantive questions to the State Department, and the State Department is hiding behind the "ongoing FBI investigation" line to avoid answering those questions? CBS News reported today that the FBI still has not arrived at the "crime scene" -- nearly two full weeks after the terrorist attack:
"The State Department won't answer any questions about that attack. What happened there, they say, is off limits because it's an intelligence matter. The FBI, Charlie, isn't even in Benghazi yet. They have not secured that site, which is how journalists can wander through there."
Seriously, what the hell is happening over there? I'd bet that more than a handful of international leaders are asking similar questions today, but they won't receive any direct answers from our president. As I reported this morning, the President has decided to forgo any bilateral meetings with foreign heads of state this week, in favor of more campaigning and a chuckle-fest on The View. Parting thought: But what about Mitt Romney's gaffes?!
UPDATE - Obama administration spokesperson to reporter: "F*** off." They really don't want to answer questions about this.