For a full week following the deadly ambush at the US consulate in Benghazi, the Obama administration told the American public that the incident was triggered by a "spontaneous protest" over an anti-Islam video that spun out of hand. They've equivocated over recent days, as the himself president has begun to hedge -- finally allowing that other forces may have had a hand in the destruction. Today, national security correspondent Eli Lake has a bombshell exclusive in Newsweek/The Daily Beast that destroys the administration's official story and points to an intentional cover-up:
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 U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said the early information was enough to show that the attack was planned and the work of al Qaeda affiliates operating in Eastern Libya. Nonetheless, it took until late last week for the White House and the administration to formally acknowledge that the Benghazi assault was a terrorist attack. On Sunday, Obama adviser Robert Gibbs explained the evolving narrative as a function of new information coming in quickly on the attacks. "We learned more information every single day about what happened,” Gibbs said on Fox News. “Nobody wants to get to the bottom of this faster than we do.”
The intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast did so anonymously because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press. They said U.S. intelligence agencies developed leads on four of the participants of the attacks within 24 hours of the fire fight that took place mainly at an annex near the Benghazi consulate. For one of those individuals, the U.S. agencies were able to find his location after his use of social media. “We had two kinds of intelligence on one guy,” this official said. “We believe we had enough to target him.” Another U.S. intelligence official said, “There was very good information on this in the first 24 hours. These guys have a return address. There are camps of people and a wide variety of things we could do.” A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment for the story. But another U.S. intelligence official said, “I can’t get into specific numbers but soon after the attack we had a pretty good beat on some individuals involved in the attack.”
Here's the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, telling the American people that the administration's "best information" indicated that the attack began as a "spontaneous, not a premeditated" response to a YouTube clip. These statements were made five days after Amb. Stevens' murder:
Rice recited this version of events on all five Sunday chat shows. Seven days later (and 12 days after the event), former White House Press Secretary and Obama campaign strategist defended Rice, saying that she simply gave the best answers she could, given the intelligence available at the time:
The Newsweek bulletin contradicts both Rice's initial statements and Gibbs' apologia. Meanwhile, the Libyan president appeared on NBC today and stated the obvious -- that the 9/11 Benghazi attacks had "nothing to do" with any protests or Islam-demeaning internet videos (indeed, various news outlets have reported that no protests even existed in the area prior to the attack):
Perhaps Obama could have learned something if he'd bothered to meet with Magarief at the UN earlier this week, rather than grinning and waving for The View's cameras. The lethal raid that led to the murders of four American diplomats, including a sitting ambassador, was a carefully-planned terrorist attack timed to take place on a conspicuously symbolic date. The administration claimed for days that this was not the case, even though they had intelligence to the contrary. Our consulate had comprehensively inadequate security and our safe house was compromised. The administration has not explained why, apart from noting that the diplomatic mission was granted a waiver (!) from minimum security requirements. Our ambassador's private journal, discovered several days after the attack by journalists at the unsecured compound, made clear that he was worried about terrorist threats -- which the administration has said did not exist. Now Mitt Romney wants to know why the White House has been giving American citizens the run-around:
"I think they want to do their very best to keep the people of America from understanding exactly what happened. We expect candor, we expect transparency, particularly, as it relates to terrorism," Romney said. "Why is he (Obama) not on the same page with his own administration officials who are saying that this is a terrorist attack? We'll leave it up to you to decide whether it's a coverup or not," Ryan said.
Good luck getting many answers useful from this president. Politico reports he's being deliberately sheltered from difficult questions as part of an explicit campaign strategy:
Obama’s team has always been wary of the beat reporters who cover him most closely in the West Wing, but seldom has access been so pinched. He’s been less available to the working national press than Romney — who has suddenly increased his accessibility to the media. When Obama’s team makes him available, it’s not to the political press but to state and local media more likely to give him unfiltered access to battleground voters. And his few national appearances are tightly controlled. Over the past several weeks, Obama has delivered a series of light-on-news appearances on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “60 Minutes.” His most serious grilling came at the hands of a Univision anchor — a necessary risk to capture the critical Hispanic vote. But most of the time, his staff has safeguarded his reputation, going so far as to request clearance of some quotes from author Michael Lewis, who interviewed Obama for a Vanity Fair profile. If one day exemplified the risk-averse strategy, it was Monday. In New York, Obama decided to skip the usual round of potentially messy one-on-one meetings with world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly but had time for a joint appearance with first lady Michelle Obama on “The View” with Barbara Walters and the gang.
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