Four “senior Obama Administration officials” held a press briefing yesterday regarding the attacks in Libya and Egypt. For reasons we can only divine, they remain unnamed in the official transcript.
Near the end, NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston asked “whether there was any specific recent intelligence indicating that there was going to be a threat against the consulate” in Libya.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Dina, you won’t be surprised if we decline to talk about intelligence. I did speak a little bit earlier about our review of our security posture in advance of September 11th.
In other words, either the administration ignored warnings or the CIA and rest of the intelligence community hadn’t had a friggin’ clue—though as the New York Times reported yesterday, “the assailants seemed organized, well trained and heavily armed and appeared to have at least some level of advanced planning.”
That our intelligence community was yet again in the dark is terrifying to contemplate, especially given how our political moves vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program are in measure dictated by what the geniuses in Langley and elsewhere uncover.
My conclusion that this was the result of poor intelligence rather than the White House’s lack of action stems from my former acquaintanceship with a uniquely remarkable man named Jack Vaughn, who once related a story that bears directly on this subject.
There’s a great deal written about Jack on the Web, though sadly, to the best of my knowledge, he’s never penned his own memoir, which I promise you would be epic in scope. Born in 1920, he went from growing up humbly in Michigan to being a professional boxer in Mexico, then ambassador to two Latin American countries, the second head of the Peace Corps, an undersecretary of state, and a number of positions that would be career capstones for anyone else.
Jack left government service in the late ‘70s, and in the spring of 1978 began working in a senior position for an international company that, among other things, was in charge of Iran’s water resources.
Soon after touching down in-country, he recognized an old Peace Corps volunteer who’d been posted to Iran in the early ‘60s. This man, fluent in Farsi, was now a v.p. of Manufacturers Hanover Trust Bank. The two met for lunch and the man blurted out, “I want you to know the revolution is already over. All the deals have been cut and there’s a date certain when the Ayatollah’s returning.”
This was earth-shaking news that Vaughn, considering the source, believed was credible. So he set a meeting for the guy with the U.S. Ambassador, as well as a two-star general military attaché and some high-level spooks, including the CIA station chief.
Four minutes after the meeting had begun in the embassy, the guy called Vaughn to say he’d been dismissed with a sneer. And eight months later, his prediction came true. To the last, the CIA missed the big happening, which seems particularly ironic given the Agency’s role in putting the shah on the throne nearly three decades earlier.
No doubt our foreign intelligence community has some excellent and capable people in it. But keep Jack Vaughn in mind the next time you hear that there’s nothing to worry about.
(If you read only one thing about Jack, read this short NYT story.)
UPDATE: Confirmed: The attacks were preplanned. So instead of talking about what the Administration did or didn’t know and when it did or didn’t know it and why/why not on both counts, let’s keep criticizing Romney for speaking. Either that, or let’s talk about how that girl’s provocative dress forced all those nice Muslims to rape her, as our secretary of state just did. But if you think about it, Mrs. Clinton, you can’t on the one hand acknowledge that the violence was planned and on the other condemn a film for inciting the violence. Please, go ahead, think about it. I’ll wait. This rudderless ship is making me seasick.
SECOND UPDATE: Well, they’ve rounded up the usual suspects and the show trial should be over within days.
Libyan authorities have made four arrests in the investigation into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in which the U.S. ambassador and three embassy staff were killed, the deputy interior minister said on Thursday.
“Four men are in custody and we are interrogating them because they are suspected of helping instigate the events at the U.S. consulate,” Wanis Sharif told Reuters.
He gave no more details.
What more is there to say? By now they’re begging for the waterboard.