The facts about what actually happened in Benghazi: In two organized and coordinated military attacks on the night of Sept. 11, large numbers of armed men attacked the U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA annex with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, assault rifles, diesel canisters, heavy machine guns and artillery mounted on gun trucks bearing the logo of Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamist militant group.
What did the CIA and State Department know?
“Within hours of the initial attack,” the Weekly Standard reported, an alert from the State Department Operations Center “indicated that Ansar al Sharia, an al-Qaida-linked terrorist group” claimed credit for the attacks. The next day, a cable from the CIA chief in Libya reported “eyewitnesses confirmed the participation of Islamic militants and made clear that U.S. facilities in Benghazi had come under terrorist attack.”
Yet the very first version of the talking points — created on Sept. 14 and 15 purportedly by the CIA — said that “based on currently available information,” the attacks “were spontaneously inspired by the protests” in Cairo, Egypt over an anti-Islam video “and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex.”
Incredibly, the second bullet of the first talking points referred to a “crowd” of people — virtually a cross-section of Libyan society: “The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qaida participated in the attack.” Third point: “Initial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar al-Sharia,” whose leadership denied ordering the attacks “but did not deny that some of its members were involved.” Another point: There had been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi since April.
However, the 12th and final version, the result of State Department editing (backed by a White House advisor), deleted references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi because the information “could be abused” by members of Congress “to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings.” The final version also deleted “attacks” and any reference to Islamists, instead indicating “the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired” by the Cairo protests and “evolved into a direct assault” on the U.S. facilities — and “extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”
Who signed off on these misleading statements? It’s inconceivable that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in the dark about the talking points. Why the smokescreen?
As the Los Angeles Times put it, “President Obama’s administration wrestled with what to tell the public in the wake of the September attack and in the midst of the presidential campaign.” The wrestling brought forth talking points minus references to terrorist attacks, warnings and pleas for more security in Benghazi — because that information would have hurt Obama’s chances of re-election.
Call it Benghazi-gate.