Just after the Benghazi attack on our consulate and the murder of four Americans, including our ambassador to Libya, I explained in a post titled Lack of Intelligence Community why I blamed our nation’s intelligence apparatus and not the White House for this colossal failure.
Now comes this confirmation:
Extremists from groups linked to al Qaida struck the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in a “deliberate and organized terrorist attack,” the top U.S. intelligence agency said Friday, as it took responsibility for the Obama administration’s initial claims that the deadly assault grew from a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam video.
So I was right, right?
Actually, no. I’ve changed my mind and am putting this directly on the Obama administration.
The unusual statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence appeared to have two goals: updating the public on the latest findings of the investigation into the assault, and shielding the White House from a political backlash over its original accounts.
NIE country’s intelligence apparatus is not an apolitical animal—and its politics are not on the political right. Remember the NIE’s 2007 report on Iran’s nuclear ambitions?
“We judge with high confidence that in Fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”
This was logically and transparently false, and should have embarrassed everyone working in intelligence. But the report served its purpose. To the degree that President Bush was considering joint action of some kind with Israel, the report left him with no political cover to pursue it. And it left Israel stranded on an attenuated limb, where it remains today.
What’s fascinating is that the left still trots out the infamous August 6, 2001 presidential daily briefing memo to Bush that supposedly proves he ignored warnings of Al Qaeda’s plot to fly planes into buildings, even though there was nothing in it more specific than a confirmation of the group’s plans to terrorize the U.S.
That much was known in 1998, when Bin Laden declared war on America and the west—six months before President Clinton decided not to take him out. (Too bad Clinton didn’t have Obama’s stomach for anonymous drone attacks.)
Did the intelligence community take the hit for failing to ferret out the 9/11 attacks? Well, no. They were too busy pointing fingers at the “wall” that Clinton appointee Jamie Gorelick had constructed between the CIA and FBI.
As recently as a few weeks ago, former NYT reporter Kurt Eichenwald published an op-ed in the Times asserting:
The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.
This is a particularly rich accusation in light of the New York Times’s categorical refusal to publicize any part of the Gary Hart-Warren Rudman report on national security published January 2001. Though the report concluded that the U.S. was in imminent danger of a terrorist attack, a Times reporter walked out of a press conference given by the two former senators and the paper turned down an op-ed signed by both.
That dismissal on the part of the so-called paper of record set the tone for the rest of the media’s ho-hum reaction to the prescient warnings, and of course the country’s political will, or lack thereof, followed.
In any event, the date of Eichenwald’s op-ed blaming Bush was September 10, meaning that the news hook for publication was the 9/11 anniversary the following day.
Apparently the only people in this country who didn’t anticipate that anniversary were in the White House and State Department, because September 11 was the day of the Benghazi and Cairo attacks.
Oh, wait, I forgot. It was a failure of intelligence.
As Glenn Reynolds likes to say, the country’s in the very best of hands.