09/28/2012 [UPDATED] -- As a result of the assassinations in Benghazi, there actually may now be a behind the scenes struggle going on under the Obama tent, between the Clintonites at State, and the Obamaites in the White House. Only time will tell whether we're talking about an ordinary ongoing "debate" within the Obama team, the kind that take place in every Administration, or if this may become something more in the nature of a knife fight.
That NYT story linking an Al Qaeda affiliate to the attack which was published yesterday is primarily from right out of Hillary's camp. The Secretary of State speaks, contradicting the prior Administration story -- that the attack in Benghazi was all just an anti-movie demonstration that somehow turned violent. It followed on the heels of a piece by Eli Lake in the liberal Daily Beast, alleging that the Obama administration knew within 24 hours of the attack on 09/11 that it had really been an Al-Qaeda affiliate operation, well before Susan Rice's round trip, a few days later, to the TV "talkies."
Here is a concise and apt description of the initial Obama Administration "explanation" from a Wall Street Journal article published on September 27th:
None of the initial explanations offered by the White House and State Department since the assault on the Benghazi consulate has held up. First the Administration blamed protests provoked by an amateurish anti-Islam clip posted on YouTube. Cue Susan Rice, the U.N. Ambassador and leading candidate for Secretary of State in a second Obama term: "What happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction . . . as a consequence of the video, that people gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent."Only after several more days did the Administration grudgingly begin conceding that the attack was an act of "terrorism." And even then, they continued to insist that it was not a pre-planned attack, but rather an opportunistic outgrowth of the demonstration over the film.
Now, however, more than two weeks after the murderous attack, several senior players in the Administration are conceding that it was a planned and premeditated terrorist attack, including Sec'y of Defense Panetta, who now openly says it was "terrorism" though he will not say by whom. Asked how long it took him to arrive at that conclusion, Panetta was quoted by the Washington Post vaguely saying, "It took a while."
ABC's Jake Tapper reported yesterday that intelligence assessments right from the beginning suggested that the attack may have been a planned terror attack.
[S]ources told ABC News that intelligence officials on the ground immediately suspected the attack was not tied to the movie at all. The attackers knew Ambassador Stevens had been trying to flee — to a so-called safe house half a mile away. That building was hit with insurgent mortars — suggesting the terrorists knew what they were doing.Yet top Administration officials ignored these early assessments, and pushed the demonstration over the video story instead. Even when the fact of terrorist involvement became evident, they still clung to the story that it was an "opportunistic," rather than a pre-planned attack.
As of Thursday afternoon, officials from the Obama administration were not even 100 percent certain that the protest of the anti-Muslim film in Benghazi occurred outside the U.S. diplomatic post.
At this point, Hillary Clinton has to be most concerned that the focus of the overall Benghazi story not turn to the topic of how the security conditions for our diplomats in Benghazi and Libya were allowed to slip to the point where a planned terrorist attack could so easily result in the assassination of the Ambassador and three others. The one other "blame" assessment suggestions in the press so far, have been pieces wondering if the attacks represented an intelligence failure. A New York Times piece dated September 24th leaves little doubt that it was indeed a huge intelligence loss.
The WJS article (link above) also addressed that very issue as well.
Hillary has reacted to the attack so far by appointing an Accountability Review Board to be headed by former career diplomat, Thomas Pickering, as a group to assess the diplomatic security situation, and one that she can control. The so called FBI investigation of the "crime scene" appears to be stalled to a point of absurdity. The fatal incident took place on the 11th, and, according to CNN, the FBI has yet to visit the "crime scene" in Benghazi, despite a public claim made by Hillary Clinton that they arrived in Libya (Tripoli) early last week! She made a statement to that effect last Thursday the 20th -- that the FBI had arrived in Libya earlier in the week. In other words, they've been in Libya more than a week, and the crime scene has yet to be secured or visited by the investigators!
Hillary obviously wants the "evolving" story to be exclusively focused on her pronouncements about who did this outrageous act, and that is what this NYT story was all about -- her U.N. "declaration" was that it was clearly an AQ affiliate operation.
And notice that one little curious comment from the NYT initial story today has since mysteriously disappeared. The following lines were contained in the original NYT story, which was the reporter's way of signaling that it was a Clinton-driven story, but that there were others within the Administration who may not be fully on-board with her version of events.
. . .Curiously, those lines have mysteriously disappeared from the latest "corrected" on-line NYT version, with no explanation whatsoever offered for that change! Proof that they were there lies in the fact that the lines are still contained in other posted versions, such as the version posted today on the website of the Denver Post.
"Mrs. Clinton's comments caught intelligence and other administration officials off guard, with some saying there was not yet conclusive evidence that the operatives from the Qaeda affiliate were involved in the attacks.
A CIA spokesman declined to comment on Clinton's remarks.
. . . .
"Oooops! Clean-up on aisle six!"
If the focus of the overall story about the Benghazi disaster should now should become, "How did diplomatic security conditions deteriorate to the point where this could happen?" then Hillary Clinton will be the big loser. As the Sec'y of State, she was in charge of ensuring the safety of our diplomats and our missions there. She made the decisions that resulted in that weakened security situation.
Again, from that WSJ article:
Cell phone video footage and witness testimony from Benghazi soon undercut the Administration trope of an angry march "hijacked" by a few bad people. As it turned out, the assault was well-coordinated, with fighters armed with guns, RPGs and diesel canisters, which were used to set the buildings on fire. Ambassador Chris Stevens died of smoke inhalation. Briefing Congress, the Administration changed its story and said the attacks were pre-planned and linked to al Qaeda.And there is more. Hillary was the one who made the decision to exclude the Marines from any pre-September 11, 2012 involvement in diplomatic security in Libya -- that's right, there were no Marines at all in Libya until after the fatal attack on the Consulate in Benghazi. They were not in Benghazi, and they were not at our Embassy in Tripoli either. Hillary was the one who instead hired the British security outfit, Blue Mountain Group, to perform all the diplomatically-related security functions in Libya and who imposed those restrictive "rules of engagement" on them -- the ones that kept the Marines out, and which she will not talk about now!
You'd think this admission would focus attention on why the compound was so vulnerable to begin with. But the Administration wants to avoid this conversation. The removal of all staff from Benghazi, including a large component of intelligence officers, would also seem to hinder their ability to investigate the attacks and bring the killers to justice.
The slip-up in diplomatic security is showing, and it looks like Hillary may well have been responsible for it. The available evidence seems to be suggesting that she failed miserably, and four people are dead as a result.
The bottom line is that if it is pointed out clearly to the American public how badly she failed, Obama will fail as a direct consequence too. So, Barack Obama will not fire her, nor will he openly criticize her for the failings. But he has to be very concerned that a fight over assessing blame for Benghazi is going on inside his tent.
And when tempers are flaring, it doesn't even take too much legitimate inquiry to put certain Clinton operatives right over the edge! It was her people who initially lied to the press about the British security outfit that was pulling security for our diplomatic installations in Libya. And they were also the ones, per her spokesman, Phillipe Reines, who went ballistic on CNN when, three days after the attack, the news outfit found Ambassador Stevens' diary in the rubble and used observations he had made about security problems in Benghazi and Islamic extremism, as a basis for a story.
Finding that diary in the rubble not only exposed the fact that Ambassador Stevens himself had had serious reservations about the security situation in Benghazi, and what he observed as an uncomfortable rise in Islamic extremism in the region, but also revealed that no serious investigation of the scene itself was underway despite statements by Hillary Clinton to the contrary.
And there still in no investigation of the scene underway.
UPDATE: Jonathan S. Landay, an international correspondent with McClatchy Newspapers, has published an account detailing a late-breaking attempt via a statement issued earlier today [09/28] from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to try and take the heat for the intelligence failure that had induced Administration officials to present a false picture to the American public about the causes of the incident in Benghazi, Libya.
According to Landay the purpose of the statement appeared to be to "update" public understanding on the facts, as well as making an attempt at "shielding the White House from a political backlash over its original accounts."
Landay added, "[t]he statement did not quiet the political backlash."
There has been at least one Congressional from Cong. Peter King (R-NY) for the firing or resignation of U.N. Ambassador Rice for her active role in misleading the public about the causes of the incident. Rice is resisting that call.