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Obama Official: It Was a Terrorist Attack

Josh Rogin reports that a top administration official conceded what had long become obvious during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing yesterday:

The Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was in fact “a terrorist attack” and the U.S. government has indications that members of al Qaeda were directly involved, a top Obama administration official said Wednesday morning.

“I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy,” Matt Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said Wednesday at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in response to questioning from Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT) about the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

At the White House press briefing yesterday, Jay Carney softened his language from last week, when he had insisted the violence was prompted by the film and had nothing to do with 9/11. While he wouldn’t confirm reports of terrorism, Carney referred to the “precedent in the past where bad actors, extremists who are heavily armed…have taken advantage of and exploited situations that have developed in order to either attack westerners or western assets or Americans or American assets.”

Still, Carney maintained that there was no indication the attack was planned in advance. “Based on the information we had at the time and we have now, we do not yet have indication that it was preplanned or premeditated,” he said.

In other words, a group of terrorists may have just lucked out and come across a spontaneous U.S. embassy protest on September 11, while they were transporting mortars and rocket-propelled grenades through Libya. Not ones to let an opportunity go to waste, they decided to take advantage of the situation. See? A completely reasonable explanation.

The White House is now hastily backtracking on the previous claim that this wasn’t a terrorist attack. But they still won’t acknowledge the advance planning, because that would mean they could have potentially prevented it, but failed to do so.

At the Daily Witness, Ivan Kenneally writes:

Of course, it is infuriating to be bombarded with attempts to spin the sad events of September 11th as feckless as the precautions taken to prevent it. The cavalier abuse of the truth, besides its grinding condescension, sullies the memory of those who died for their country, men already dishonored by the lack of effort devoted to their safety, by the incompetence that compromised their lives. The Obama administration is so singularly obsessed with pursuing every avenue that leads to their own exculpation that they have sacrificed even the bare appearance of coherence, no longer make common cause with the demands of common sense. The families of those brave Americans slain have surely noticed this disrespect with sadness, and our enemies have surely noticed, too, with an emboldening.

Good points. Some may dismiss this messaging debacle as a minor concern, but what signal does our government send to the world when it responds to terrorist attack by condemning fringe anti-Islam YouTube videos and trying to get them pulled from the internet? It looks either completely clueless or completely spineless. This was an enormous blunder by the White House.