“Al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat.” — President Barack Obama: Sept 6th, 2012, at the Democratic Convention.
Late yesterday afternoon, in an obvious attempt to rescue President Obama from what could and should be a brutal round of Sunday shows examining the cover up the White House is currently engaged in with respect to the sacking of our consulate in Libya, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released a statement revising its assessment of the attack. It is now the official position of the American intelligence community that what happened in Benghazi was a pre-planned terrorist attack.
The statement comes from Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for National Intelligence — the office that speaks for the intelligence community as a whole:
As we learned more about the attack, we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists. It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attack, and if extremist group leaders directed their members to participate.
This is not news. In the last few days, the White House and State Department have both made statements saying exactly that.
This, however, is news and should be read carefully:
In the immediate aftermath, there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo. We provided that initial assessment to Executive Branch officials and members of Congress, who used that information to discuss the attack publicly and provide updates as they became available. Throughout our investigation we continued to emphasize that information gathered was preliminary and evolving.
There’s no question that what we have here is the DNI (Obama appointee James Clapper) attempting to fall on his sword and to put an end to the drumbeat of scandal coming mostly from Republicans and right-of-center media. What’s been exposed, just weeks before a presidential election, is the fact that in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, the White House and State Department knowingly misled and lied to the American people about what they knew and when they knew it.
But what the DNI statement is really meant to do is muddy the waters.
The statement deliberately omits any information as to exactly when the determination was made that Benghazi was indeed a terrorist attack. Most importantly, nothing in the statement contradicts numerous news reports that U.S. officials were certain within 24 hours that they were dealing with a terrorist attack and not a spontaneous protest gone bad.
In other words, the DNI statement is so intentionally vague that it could read as confirmation that our government knew within 24 hours that Benghazi was a terrorist attack and still lied about it for days afterward.
And this, my friends, is how a cover up works.
And so, the only response to this cynical muddying of the waters is a 30,000 foot approach that might help connect some dots.
Standing on the shoulders of those who have done the admirable work of digging into and investigating this story (most notably, Brett Baier of Fox News, Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard, Jake Tapper of ABC News, and the Daily Beast’s Eli Lake), what I want to do is lay out a timeline of known facts that answer a very simple question:
What did our government know and what were we told when they knew it?
What you’ll see below was inspired by the vitally important video-report Brett Baier closed “Special Report” with last night, but this will hopefully go into even greater detail. We’ll also look into three specific areas: 1) Security failures. 2) The lies. 3) The attempted cover up of numbers one and two.
In an attempt to justify that the security at our Libyan consulate in Benghazi was “adequate,” the White House laid a narrative along two tracks. The first, obviously, was that there was no way anyone could’ve predicted that a “spontaneous” protest would go bad. In fact, that defense would be the White House position for a full eight days, until Sept 20th, when White House Spokesman Jay Carney would finally admit it was “self-evident” Benghazi was a terror attack.
The second narrative track, however, is as shaky as the first. Essentially, the Administration’s line is that, based on what we knew, security was adequate.
That’s a judgment call, I guess, but let’s look at what we did know for a fact prior to the sacking of the consulate and determine if having no Marines, no bullet-proof windows, no threat assessment, and no real security other than locks on the doors was indeed adequate…
1. We’ll start with what is the most underreported fact of this entire episode: the fact that this very same consulate had been targeted and attacked just a few months earlier, on June 6, in retaliation for a drone strike on a top al-Qaeda operative:
The United States diplomatic office in the Libyan city of Benghazi was attacked Tuesday night, the embassy in the capital Tripoli said Wednesday.
A Libyan security source told CNN a jihadist group that is suspected of carrying out the strike, the Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades, left leaflets at the scene claiming the attack was in retaliation for the death of Libyan al Qaeda No. 2 Abu Yahya al Libi.
“Fortunately, no one was injured” in the improvised explosive device attack, the embassy said.
2. It was the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, a date that should mean heightened security regardless of what our intelligence says.
3. In the days just prior to the Benghazi attack (September 9 and 10), al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri….
….posted a 42-minute video on Jihadist forums urging Libyans to attack Americans to avenge the death of Abu Yahya al-Libi, the terror organization’s second-in-command, whom U.S. drones killed in June of 2012 in Pakistan.
In the video, al-Zawahri said al-Libi’s “blood is calling, urging and inciting you to fight and kill the Crusaders,” leading up to a date heralded and celebrated by radical Islamists.
Another version of the video was actually posted on YouTube on September 9[.]
4. Just a couple of months prior to the Benghazi attack….
…an unclassified report published in August that fingers Qumu as a key al Qaeda operative in Libya. The report (“Al Qaeda in Libya: A Profile”) was prepared by the research division of the Library of Congress (LOC) under an agreement with the Defense Department’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office.
The report details al Qaeda’s plans for Libya, including the growth of a clandestine terrorist network that has attempted to hide its presence. The U.S military has concluded that al Qaeda is in the final phase of a three-step process for developing a full-blown al Qaeda affiliate.
5. Our assassinated Ambassador, Christopher Stevens, feared al-Qaeda’s growing influence in Libya and believed he was on a hit list.
6. Sean Smith, one of our diplomats killed along with Stevens, also feared for his life prior to the attack:
One of the American diplomats killed Tuesday in a bloody attack on a Libyan Consulate told pals in an online gaming forum hours earlier that he’d seen suspicious people taking pictures outside his compound and wondered if he and his team might “die tonight.” …
But hours before the bloody assault, Smith sent a message to Alex Gianturco, the director of “Goonswarm,” Smith’s online gaming team or “guild.”
“Assuming we don’t die tonight,” the message, which was first reported by Wired, read. “We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures.”
Within hours of posting that message, Smith, a husband and father of two, was dead. Gianturco, who could not be reached for further comment, got the word out to fellow gamers, according to Wired.
What we have here are six concrete, non-speculative red flags that indicated our consulate and Ambassador were in danger, vulnerable to attack, and targets.
To justify a lack of adequate security, the Obama administration spent a week blaming the attack on a “spontaneous” demonstration they couldn’t have possibly predicted would occur. We now know that’s simply not true. But here are two more justifications we were told:
1. CNN Sept 21: Clinton says Stevens was not worried about being hit by al-qaeda:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday she has “absolutely no information or reason to believe there is any basis” to suggest that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens believed he was on an al Qaeda hit list.
The remark came after a source familiar with Stevens’ thinking told CNN that in the months leading up to his death, Stevens worried about constant security threats in Benghazi and mentioned that his name was on an al Qaeda hit list.
So Clinton is saying that Stevens wasn’t on a al-Qaeda hit list. Stevens’ diary says he was. Oh. Okay.
2. White House Spokesman Jay Carney on Sept 14: [emphasis added]
ABC NEWS’ JAKE TAPPER: One of my colleagues in the Associated Press asked you a direct question, was there any direct intelligence suggesting that there would be an attack on the U.S. consulates. You said that a story — referred to a story being false and said there was no actionable intelligence, but you didn’t answer his question. Was there any intelligence, period — intelligence, period, suggesting that there was going to be an attack on either the -
CARNEY: There was no intelligence that in any way could have been acted on to prevent these attacks. It is — I mean, I think the DNI spokesman was very declarative about this, that the report is false. The report suggested that there was intelligence that was available prior to this that led us to believe that this facility would be attacked, and that is false.
Note Carney’s careful wording; how determined he is to stay in the arena of “actionable” intelligence and intelligence that “could have been acted on to prevent these attacks.” Also note how Carney never answers Tapper’s general question about “any intelligence” or intelligence in general.
Summation: Let’s give our government the benefit of the doubt and assume the stories about Stevens’ fear of being an al-Qaeda target are incorrect — or, if true, that for some inexplicable reason he never communicated those fears to his superiors. Here’s what is indisputable…
The Obama administration didn’t act upon the fact that the anniversary of 9/11 is an obvious date to be wary of or the fact that our consulate had already been targeted and attacked just a few months prior. We also didn’t act upon a report that said al-Qaeda’s influence was growing in Libya or a video-threat released by an al-Qaeda chief just days prior to the red-flag date of 9/11.
But security was adequate.
WHAT DID OUR GOVERNMENT KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT?
Taking the just-released DNI statement at its word, let’s argue that for a time our intelligence services believed the fatal Benghazi attack was a “spontaneous” protest gone bad. Then, on a date not specified in the DNI statement, the assessment was updated to a pre-meditated terrorist attack committed by affiliates of al-Qaeda.
None of that contradicts what we already knew.
According to a number of reports based on numerous sources, we can ascertain exactly when our government determined Benghazi was a terrorist attack — and that was just 24 hours after the attack.
Let’s run through the facts:
1. In a Rose Garden statement the morning after the attack, the President himself referred to the attacks as terror:
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.
… in order to unlock and mobilize certain resources to respond, and that officials were looking for one specific suspect. The sources said the intelligence community knew by Sept. 12 that the militant Ansar al-Shariah and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb were likely behind the strike.
…U.S. intelligence agencies monitored communications from jihadists affiliated with the group that led the attack and members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the group’s North African affiliate.
In the communications, members of Ansar al-Sharia (AAS) bragged about their successful attack against the American consulate and the U.S. ambassador, according to three U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast anonymously because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
U.S. intelligence agencies had strong indications al Qaeda-affiliated operatives were behind the attack, and had even pinpointed the location of one of those attackers. Three separate U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said the early information was enough to show that the attack was planned and the work of al Qaeda affiliates operating in Eastern Libya.
Again, let’s be clear: The DNI statement released yesterday does not dispute any of this. And yet….
THE NARRATIVE: OUR GOVERNMENT TOLD US THAT WASN’T TRUE
For an extensive rundown of the false and misleading statements surrounding the Benghazi attack, let me refer you again to Brett Baier’s video report and to a Washington Post rundown put together by Glenn Kessler.
What I want to focus on here is the administration’s narrative. There’s simply no longer any question that in the days following the attack, a coordinated White House narrative was orchestrated that was intentionally misleading and completely false.
And that narrative went something like this:
1. There was no security failure at the consulate. The attack was birthed by a spontaneous protest gone bad — so how could we have known?
2. Obama’s brag before the country that al-Qaeda was on the road to defeat just five days before the Benghazi attack remains true. After all, this wasn’t a terrorist attack, it was a protest gone bad.
3. Obama’s Middle East policy of disengagement and assuming his own awesomeness would buy us goodwill with radicals worked. After all, these massive, deadly protests in two dozen countries have nothing to do with anti-American sentiment; the bad guy is a Coptic Christian filmmaker who insulted Muhammad.
I’ll reiterate that this is how a cover up works. You don’t tell the truth and you don’t lie; what you do is manufacture a false narrative built on misleading statements that aren’t outright lies. As you can see, many of the statements made by President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Jay Carney, and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice are loaded with caveats and escape hatches: “Based on what we know…” and “What we do know is…”
Defenders of the President and his administration officials will and are using these escape hatches to defend the intentional spinning of a patently false narrative. But there’s absolutely no question that for a full week this false narrative — a glaring lie of omission — was also used to strike down, downplay, dismiss, and distract from any raising of the question that what might’ve happened in Benghazi was the work of terrorists.
Moreover, this narrative was so intentionally stifling and oppressive, it wouldn’t even allow room for an either/or possibility. The lie of omission was that no administration official told us that what happened “could’ve been” or “might’ve been” a terrorist attack. Quite the opposite. The narrative was used to tell us the raising of that possibility was outrageous.
This, even in the face of numerous news outlets reporting just a day or two after the attack that terrorism was a likely motive. On September 12, both Fox News and CBS News reported the possibility, and on September 13, CNN joined in.
And yet, this narrative lie of omission that was used to scape-goat this filmmaker and to shout down anyone who even entertained the notion of terrorism, remained firmly in place until Sept. 20, the day Jay Carney finally admitted it was “self-evident” terrorism was behind the attack.
But just day before, on Sept 19, the White House was using this narrative to treat those who even raised the possibility of a terror attack like they were crazy. Watch this bizarre exchange between Carney and CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante a full eight days after the attack:
That memorable exchange occurred the very same day National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told Congress that the Benghazi attack was indeed an act of terror.
Not every statement made by an administration official contained the necessary escape hatches to avoid being outright lies. In fact, if you look closely at numerous statements made by Susan Rice and Jay Carney, regardless of how much benefit of the doubt Obama’s defenders wish to summon — both of them looked the American people in the eye and lied.
Let’s start with Carney.
The following is a transcript of a Sept. 14 exchange between Carney and ABC’s Jake Tapper: [emphasis added]
TAPPER: Wouldn’t it seem logical that the anniversary of 9/11 would be a time that you would want to have extra security around diplomats and military posts?
CARNEY: Well, as you know, there — we are very vigilant around anniversaries like 9/11. The president is always briefed and brought up to speed on all the precautions being taken. But let’s be -
TAPPER: Obviously not vigilant enough.
CARNEY: Jake, let’s be clear. This — these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region -
TAPPER: At Benghazi?
CARNEY: We certainly don’t know; we don’t know otherwise. You know, we have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack.  The unrest we’ve seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that Muslims, many Muslims find offensive. And while the violence is reprehensible and unjustified, it is not a reaction to the 9/11 anniversary that we know of or to U.S. policy.
TAPPER: The group around the Benghazi post was well-armed, it was a well-coordinated attack. Do you think it was a spontaneous protest against a movie?
CARNEY: Look, this is obviously under investigation, and I don’t have — but I answered the question.
ANOTHER REPORTER: But your operating assumptions — your operating assumption is that that was — that was in response to the video, in Benghazi? I just want to clear that up. That’s the framework; that’s the operating assumption?
CARNEY: It’s not an assumption -
TAPPER: Administration officials have said that it looks like this was something other than -
CARNEY: I think there have been misreports on this, Jake, even in the press, which some of it has been speculative. What I’m telling you is this is under investigation. The unrest around the region has been in response to this video. We do not, at this moment, have information to suggest or to tell you that would indicate that any of this unrest was preplanned. 
What I’ve bolded and numbered are undeniably false statements. On Sept. 14, a full two days after the attack, Carney is falsely but declaratively stating as fact that…
1. “[L]et’s be clear. This — these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region.”
Carney isn’t stating this as a possibility, he is stating it as settled fact. Even if you give the White House as much benefit of the doubt as possible, no one believed that was settled fact. And yet, this is what the White House told America.
2. “[W]e have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack.”
That’s just false. By this time that was probably the only information the White House had.
3. Carney doubles down on the patently false “no information” claim.
As we now know, numerous reports based on numerous sources say that within 24 hours of the sacking of our consulate, we not only had information that al-Qaeda was behind it, but on day one, in order to release the necessary resources, we had designated it as a terror attack.
If that isn’t bad enough, a full five days later, on Sept. 19, Carney had this exchange with CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante: [emphasis added]
PLANTE: You are still maintaining that there was no evidence of a pre-planned attack–
CARNEY: Bill, let me just repeat now–
PLANTE: But how is it that the attackers had RPGs, automatic weapons, mortars…
CARNEY: Bill, I know you’ve done a little bit of reading about Libya since the unrest that began with Gaddafi. The place has an abundance of weapons.
PLANTE: But you expect a street mob to come armed that way?
CARNEY: There are unfortunately many bad actors throughout the region and they’re very armed. ….
PLANTE: But they planned to do it, don’t you think?
CARNEY: They might, or they might not. All I can tell you is that based on the information that we had then and have now we do not yet have indication that it was pre-planned or pre-meditated. There’s an active investigation. If that active investigation produces facts that lead to a different conclusion, we will make clear that that is where the investigation has led. Our interest is in finding out the facts of what happened, not taking what we’ve read in the newspaper and making bold assertions that we know what happened.
Once again, you have Carney stating declaratively and falsely stating that “we [still] do not yet have indication” that the Benghazi attack was pre-planned — eight days after the attack!
Again, under the most generous benefit of the doubt one can summon, what you have in these two examples is the White House lying to the media and to the American people.
Impossibly enough, what Susan Rice did was even worse.
On September 16, a full four days after the attack, and at least three days after the White House knew Benghazi had been a terror attack, Rice was sent out on a round-robin of five Sunday morning news shows to push a narrative the White House knew was false.
What’s worse, however, is that like Carney, Rice also made declaratively false statements: [emphasis added]
RICE: The best information and the best assessment we have today is that was, in fact, not a pre-planned and pre-meditated attack. That what happened initially — it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo, as a consequence of the video, that people gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent. Those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya. And that then spun out of control. We don’t see at this point — signs that this was a coordinated, pre-meditated attack. Obviously we’ll wait for the results of the investigation and we don’t want to jump to conclusions before then. But I do think it’s important for the American people to know our best current assessment.
As soon as the president of Libya’s National Congress, Mohamed Magariaf, finished telling host Bob Scieffer….
The way these perpetrators acted and moved, I think we– and they’re choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration, I think we have no– this leaves us with no doubt that this has preplanned, determined– predetermined. months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their– since their arrival.
…Ambassador Rice took her turn:
BOB SCHIEFFER: But you do not agree with [Magariaf] that this was something that had been plotted out several months ago?
SUSAN RICE: We do not– we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.
JAKE TAPPER: It just seems that the U.S. government is powerless as this — as this maelstrom erupts.
RICE: It’s actually the opposite. First of all, let’s be clear about what transpired here. What happened this week in Cairo, in Benghazi, in many other parts of the region...
TAPPER: Tunisia, Khartoum…
RICE: … was a result — a direct result of a heinous and offensive video that was widely disseminated, that the U.S. government had nothing to do with, which we have made clear is reprehensible and disgusting. We have also been very clear in saying that there is no excuse for violence, there is — that we have condemned it in the strongest possible terms.
Rice declaratively states as settled fact that the Benghazi attack was a “direct result” of the video.
DAVID GREGORY: Was there a failure here that this administration is responsible for, whether it’s an intelligence failure, a failure to see this coming, or a failure to adequately protect U.S. embassies and installations from a spontaneous kind of reaction like this?
SUSAN RICE: David, I don’t think so. First of all we had no actionable intelligence to suggest that– that any attack on our facility in Benghazi was imminent. In Cairo, we did have indications that there was the risk that the video might spark some– some protests and our embassy, in fact, acted accordingly, and had called upon the Egyptian authorities to– to reinforce our facility. What we have seen as– with respect to the security response, obviously we had security personnel in Benghazi, a– a significant number, and tragically, among those four that were killed were two of our security personnel. But what happened, obviously, overwhelmed the security we had in place which is why the president ordered additional reinforcements to Tripoli and– and why elsewhere in the world we have been working with governments to ensure they take up their obligations to protect us and we reinforce where necessary.
Note how, like Carney earlier, Rice rephrases the question into “actionable” intelligence. Because we most certainly had intelligence, including a video threat from a top al-Qaeda operative.
ONE MORE DECEIT
As if all of the above isn’t on its own frustrating, heart-breaking, maddening, and unforgivable enough, let me close with one more deceit.
During her Sunday blitz, and in an attempt to explain the criminal and fatal lack of security in Benghazi, Susan Rice told Chris Wallace this:
WALLACE: And the last question: Terror cells in Benghazi had carried out five attacks since April, including one at this same consulate– a bombing at this same consulate in June. Should U.S. security been tighter at that consulate given the history of terror activity in Benghazi?
RICE: We obviously did have a strong security presence and unfortunately, two of the four Americans who died in Benghazi were there to provide security. But that obviously wasn’t sufficient in the circumstances to prevent the overrun of the consulate. This is among the things that will obviously be looked at as the investigation as the investigation unfolds.
That’s also not true.
Whatever security there was, the White House cannot use two dead Navy SEALs as window dressing that makes some sort of case that says, Well, at least the White House had Navy SEALs protecting the ambassador and the consulate — because regardless of the spin Rice put on it, that simply wasn’t the case:
As recently as Sunday, UN Ambassador Susan Rice gave a similar description. “Two of the four Americans who were killed were there providing security. That was their function. And indeed, there were many other colleagues who were doing the same with them,” Rice told ABC’s This Week program.
In fact, officials said, the two men were personal service contractors whose official function was described as “embassy security,” but whose work did not involve personal protection of the ambassador or perimeter security of the compound. …
They stepped into action, however, when Stevens became separated from the small security detail normally assigned to protect him when he traveled from the more fortified embassy in Tripoli to Benghazi, the officials said.
The two ex-Seals and others engaged in a lengthy firefight with the extremists who attacked the compound, a fight that stretched from the inner area of the consulate to an outside annex and a nearby safe house — a location that the insurgents appeared to know about, the officials said.
The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes asks:
Some of the misleading information provided to the public could not possibly have been a result of incomplete or evolving intelligence. The information about security for the ambassador and the compound, for instance, would have been readily available to administration officials from the beginning. And yet when Susan Rice appeared on five political talk shows on September 16, she erroneously claimed that the two ex-Navy SEALs killed in the attack were, along with several colleagues, providing security. They were not. Why did she say this?
Good question. But I have a better one: Why did our president say the same:
Glen and Tyrone had each served America as Navy SEALs for many years, before continuing their service providing security for our diplomats in Libya. They died as they lived their lives — defending their fellow Americans, and advancing the values that all of us hold dear.
This is a legitimate scandal of the highest order. Four Americans are dead, our government is still attempting to cover up what really happened, and as of this writing. the F.B.I still hasn’t gained access to the consulate.
And what’s the response of those charged with the sacred duty of holding our government accountable?
Mitt Romney, what about your gaffffes…
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC