“We are quite popular in Libya…” – Dr. Susan Rice
LISTENING TO Rice’s interview this morning with Jake Tapper, which will air later this morning on ABC’s “This Week,” it’s hard to think of it in any way other than an audition for secretary of state. Now U.N. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice is one of the leading contenders to take over when Secretary Clinton steps down.
Rice will be making the rounds to five Sunday shows.
Tapper was tough, drilling in to why the U.S. Embassy hadn’t had a stronger Marine force protecting it in the first place. Rice gave a strong play by play of what is known now, though there is an ongoing F.B.I. investigation.
Rice described the events, then said the attack started from a spontaneous demonstration due to the anti-Muslim film, then was gradually joined by individuals with more sophisticated weapons. There was a clear indication from Rice that the Admninistration’s line is that there is no evidence of pre-planning at this point.
But our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.
We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to — or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons, weapons that as you know in — in the wake of the revolution in Libya are — are quite common and accessible. And it then evolved from there.
Libyans contend that the attack was planned, while the U.S. continues to rebut that assertion that there was no “actionable intelligence” to prove an attack was coming, which is quite different from the attack being pre-planned. It could have been a planned attack without the U.S. becoming aware of “actionable intelligence,” but then the Obama administration would have to admit that intelligence and/or communication had slipped in Benghazi.
Perhaps everyone at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, even after warnings things were getting a bit iffy in the area from Libyans, still didn’t believe they’d be attacked. Considering how respected Ambassador Chris Stevens was by Libyans, it might have been something they just weren’t prepared to believe.
It seems clear Ambassador Stevens certainly didn’t believe there lives were in danger, which does give weight to the assertion that the attack grew out of something that no one expected to escalate to where it did.