In the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, Ambassador Susan Rice told multiple Sunday shows that the attack on Benghazi was “spontaneous” or a “response” to a protest held in Cairo over a youtube video no one had ever heard about until the President and Secretary Clinton blamed it multiple times after the attack. The unclassified Accountability Review Board (ARB) report detailing the security failures that lead to the Benghazi attack (as well as a timeline of the attack) does not mention the protest in Cairo and thus contradicts the White House, Secretary Clinton, Susan Rice, and a host of news agencies that tried to link the protest in Cairo to Benghazi.
Reuters began linking the attack in Benghazi with the protest in Cairo on September 11th, the day of the attack:
The violence in Benghazi followed protests in neighboring Egypt where protesters scaled the walls of the Cairo embassy and tore down the American flag and burned it during protests over what demonstrators said was a U.S. film that insulted the Prophet Mohammed.
Abdel-Monem Al-Hurr, spokesman for Libya’s Supreme Security Committee, said, “There is a connection between this attack and the protests that have been happening in Cairo.” But a U.S. official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he had no reason to believe the two incidents were linked.
In Cairo, among about 2,000 protesters gathered in the Egyptian capital was Ismail Mahmoud, who, like others, did not name the film that angered him, but called on Mursi, Egypt’s first civilian president, to take action. “This movie must be banned immediately and an apology should be made,” said the 19-year-old Mahmoud, a member of the “ultras” soccer supporters who played a big role in the uprising that brought down Hosni Mubarak last year.
Secretary Hillary Clinton said on September 12th, “We are working to determine the precise motivations and methods of those who carried out this assault. Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”
The AP also reported on September 12th that “The protest in Cairo and the attack in Benghazi appear to have been responses to an inflammatory anti-Muslim video posted on the Internet.”
On September 16th, Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif told NPR, “The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous. We firmly believe that this was a pre-calculated, preplanned attack that was carried out specifically to attack the U.S. Consulate.” However, on December 13th, NPR again repeated the initial reports that the attack in Benghazi was related to or influenced by the protest in Cairo but never said that initial reporting as false.
Also on September 16th, Ambassador Susan Rice claimed on multiple Sunday shows that the attack on Benghazi was spontaneous (directly contradicting the Libyan President’s statements made on the same day) and was related to or influenced by the protest in Cairo. From her appearance on ABC’s “This Week:”
[O]ur current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated. We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to — or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons, weapons that as you know in — in the wake of the revolution in Libya are — are quite common and accessible. And it then evolved from there. We’ll wait to see exactly what the investigation finally confirms, but that’s the best information we have at present.
Senator Feinstein later confirmed that Rice was reciting talking points given to her by the intelligence community via the Administration.
Fast forward to November 27th:
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was cornered by the press pool over Ambassador Rice’s misinformation on the Sunday shows. These questions came in response to the congressional hearings on Capitol Hill as well as reports that the administration had altered the talking points compiled by the intelligence community and the State Department that were given to Ambassador Rice. Carney became frustrated and called the attention on Rice a “distraction” and then used the same Cairo talking point again:
[T]here have been some very interesting answers to these questions of late, but I would make the point that, as Ambassador Rice makes clear in this statement, that those initial assessments were wrong in one key respect. There was no protest outside the Benghazi facility. To this day, it is the assessment of this administration and of our intelligence community and certainly the assessment of your colleagues and the press who have interviewed participants on the ground in the assault on our facilities in Benghazi that they acted at least in part in response to what they saw happening in Cairo and took advantage of that situation.
They saw what was the breach of our embassy in Cairo and decided to act in Benghazi. And as you know, the breach of our embassy in Cairo was directly in response to the video and was started as a protest outside of our embassy in Cairo. Again, what your question seems to suggest is that it is more important that I or others used talking points provided by the intelligence community than actually what happened in Benghazi.
Carney, on behalf of the White House, repeated the same talking point the next day:
The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two — of these two institutions were changing the word “consulate” to “diplomatic facility,” because “consulate” was inaccurate. Those talking points originated from the intelligence community. They reflect the IC’s best assessments of what they thought had happened.
And I would refer you to numerous reporting — numerous pieces of reporting by serious journalists and serious publications that demonstrate that people who participated in the assault on Benghazi were aware of what was happening in Cairo and were partly motivated by what was happening in Cairo.
The latest report, posted on December 4th, using the now defunct Cairo talking point was in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal states:
The draft talking points as completed on Sept. 14 also contained the statement that “the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” over the anti-Islamic video. About a week later–after Ms. Rice’s TV appearances–intelligence officials dropped the assertion that there had been demonstrations in Benghazi right before the attack, though they still believe the attack was inspired in part by the earlier protest in Cairo over the video.
The ARB report only mentions activity in Cairo and Egypt by either stating that Ambassador Stevens was notified about the protest in Cairo, or saying that security forces from the State Department (and other places in the intelligence community that help with out-of-country security) visited Benghazi to assist in the facility’s security from time to time.
In fact, in the timeline that the ARB provides to give “political and security context” prior to the attack the report leaves out the protest in Cairo, which happened only hours before the attack. All failure to mention the protest in Cairo seems to be a signal that it had nothing to do with the attack on Benghazi.
Several “serious journalists and publications” as well as the White House should explain why they initially reported and have repeated this clearly false talking point multiple times now that the ARB report shows they were either grossly misinformed or lying.
Follow Meredith on Twitter