It may now be laughable for anyone to suggest that the Libyan attack was spontaneous, but that’s a question for the CIA, which made spontaneity its first and most durable claim that weekend. An intelligence failure is a different thing than a lie, and it should lead to a different set of questions about the underlying policy and skills of administration officials to accurately understand the world. You could also ask whether it’s possible to make good policy when engaged in one-foot-in and one-foot-out operations like the U.S. attack on Libya. But those are policy questions, not cover-up questions. – John Dickerson
ONE MORE time with feeling. The Benghazi obsession that’s gripped Republicans reaching a fever high on Friday, now including Secretary Kerry being subpoenaed by Rep. Issa, before an invitation to testify was extended, and Speaker Boehner announcing the formation of select committee, because midterms happen.
Whatever anyone thinks of the political messaging out of the White House on Benghazi, the latest Ben Rhodes email is not a smoking gun, with the talking points not even the smartest point to attack in the endless Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi drumbeat. On “Fox and Friends” today Geraldo Rivera took his own network to task, thoroughly debunking the malarkey that there was ever any order for the military to stand down or that they could have made a daring rescue attempt to save lives.
Going back to 2013 first, the timeline that Zeke Miller put together is getting re-analyzed. Dave Weigel assesses the Ben Rhodes “smoking gun” email, as does John Dickerson, coming to the same conclusion that I’ve been drilling home since this debate began.
It all boils down to U.S. policy, but Republican neocons like Senators McCain and Graham don’t want to talk about that, nor do Democrats. It should be noted that McCain wanted boots on the ground in Libya, which is likely his contention to this day and that may have stopped what happened in Benghazi, which was not happening in a vacuum.
The journey of the Benghazi talking points began at the CIA, one Friday in 2012.
Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, 11:15 a.m.
11:15 a.m.: The Office of Terrorism Analysis at the CIA gets a request from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence asking for talking points on Benghazi.
2:23 p.m.: The general counsel office of the CIA inserts “inspired by the protests” as unproven.
3:04 p.m.: Talking points sent to Obama White House aides that include Ben Rhodes.
4:42 p.m.: New talking points omitting any mention of al Qaeda are distributed by the CIA.
6:21 p.m.: Tommy Vietor adds detail about social media chatter that called for a demonstration, which the the White House warned about on September 10, the day before the Benghazi attack.
Just last night Tommy Vietor told Bret Baier that he also wasn’t exactly sure what he added to the talking points in another section.
7:39 p.m.: This is where the State Department began to push back, specifically Victoria Nuland, fearing they’d be blamed for ignoring CIA warnings. From Zeke Mller’s 2013 report:
Nuland e-mails again, this time raising concerns about giving the media and Congress information that the State Department isn’t making public because they don’t want to prejudice the investigation, including a reference to the extremist group Ansar al-Sharia.
Additionally, Nuland objects to the second-to-last bullet point because it would “feed” congressional criticism of the department by potentially creating the impression that it did not heed CIA warnings.
8:09 p.m.: Ben Rhodes sends the so-called “smoking gun” email, which isn’t anything of the sort.
This is what happens when U.S. policy to sort of intervene across the globe meets protests in a region that go from simmer to boil in a hot minute, where the country we’ve bombed has no leader and guns and militants rule.
Feed into this the new media landscape and the appetite for instant explanations that should never, ever apply to complicated developments that involve a catastrophic attack on a U.S. consulate that’s not even an embassy yet, while countries nearby are seeing massive protests over a video that’s gone viral.
Add a general election atmosphere and requests for the White House to deliver on the all important Sunday political shows, while intelligence is being analyzed, talking points written then blasted from Libya to Washington that then have to be re-written and okayed across a departments with vested interests… as new information keeps flowing.
Toss into it the Molotov cocktail that is the hyper-partisan reality we live in and what you’ve got is politics from all sides colliding in an unseemly display that inspires media talking heads to be dragged into opine, many of whom don’t have the faintest clue of the details, but feel the need to ride the wave, compelled to regurgitate instead of deliberate.
Everything is connected and it moves too fast to stop once talking points get started. When additional information is added to update what was initially believed, the new information is not going to erase what’s already been embedded in the social media and cable universe.