According to the latest White House-advancing spin, the CIA thought there was a protest outside the Benghazi consulate for 11 entire days after the attack. This is amazing. Apparently the media has access to better intelligence than the CIA, since the general public found out the protest didn’t exist just two days after the attack, via McClatchy.
Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that our intelligence officials are so clueless that they clung to the idea that there were protests outside the consulate, even after savvier Obama advisors became skeptical and started raising questions:
President Barack Obama was told in his daily intelligence briefing for more than a week after the consulate siege in Benghazi that the assault grew out of a spontaneous protest, despite conflicting reports from witnesses and other sources that began to cast doubt on the accuracy of that assessment almost from the start.
New details about the contents of the President’s Daily Brief, which haven’t been reported previously, show that the Central Intelligence Agency didn’t adjust the classified assessment until Sept. 22, fueling tensions between the administration and the agency. …
That weekend, officials at the office of the Director of National Intelligence began to seriously question the accuracy of the assessment after receiving new information Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 from sources that suggested the consulate attack wasn’t preceded by a protest.
Despite the building doubts at the office of the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA stuck by its assessment during a deputies-level meeting at the White House on Sept. 17.
Even after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reportedly began to question the CIA’s account on September 15, the CIA allegedly refused to back down on the “spontaneous protest” claim until September 22. Question: The DNI compiles the presidential daily briefings from CIA intel, so how could it conclude the “spontaneous protest” line was wrong before the CIA did? And why would the CIA cling to a narrative if it had a preponderance of evidence contradicting it?
Plus — 11 days? The CIA had agents based in Benghazi. State Department officials in Washington said they were able to watch the attack unfolding in real time. The U.S. had at least one predator drone sending back footage from the onslaught. You would think eyewitnesses would have mentioned this afterward during debriefings. Are we supposed to believe the CIA questioned nobody?
Apparently. But sources assure the Wall Street Journal that the intelligence community isn’t completely incompetent. No, it just didn’t realize the existence (or nonexistence) of a protest was an important element to focus on:
CIA analysis was focused more on whether there was forewarning of the attack and who was behind it, a senior U.S. official said, adding that the question of a protest preceding the attack is the least important component of the analysis.
“What’s getting lost is how small this change actually was. … It doesn’t matter whether there were protests ongoing at the time,” the senior U.S. official said, adding that the analysis reflected from the beginning that “the attack was conducted by terrorists and most likely inspired by events in Cairo.”
If it was so trivial, you wonder why the White House spokesperson spent entire press briefings trying to convince reporters that the protest story was true. And if the DNI was allegedly so skeptical of the story the CIA was supposedly telling, why didn’t the Obama administration just keep its collective mouth shut on the protest narrative? They were the ones publicly hyping it for nearly two weeks, not the CIA.
It sounds like the White House has no good defense for its bungled response to the Benghazi attack, so it’s trying to muddy the waters before tonight’s debate. Yes, they’re probably throwing the CIA under the bus in one of the most classless and damaging ways possible. But by the time intelligence officials start anonymously refuting the charges, it will be after the debate and won’t matter (at least not politically).