In a disastrous question-answer session at the State Department yesterday, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland first tried to claim that the murder of our ambassador to Libya may have been touched off by a demonstration about the YouTube video after all. Then she claimed that even though the State Department had no reports of any demonstration, the intelligence community may have told them that a demonstration happened. Then when Nuland was questioned on that astonishing assessment, she literally said she was “dumb.”
Here’s the exchange:
QUESTION: Just to – one point that still seems unclear: Do we know that there actually was a demonstration on the streets that day at any time?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think, as you heard reported, as of 8:30 at night when the – when Ambassador Stevens exited the building – or escorted our guest out, or his guest out, there were not any folks outside the building. And then the alarms were sounded by the security officials at about 9:40. Whether or not there was a gathering of any size at the gates between 8:30 and 9:40, that’s a matter that’s still being looked into. We think that contrary to what we initially thought, if there was such a gathering, it was probably relatively modest. But again, I don’t want to get beyond what we know until we have a full picture of the investigation.
QUESTION: Well, wouldn’t –
QUESTION: Sorry, one quick follow-up. If there – if an agent is yelling “Attack, attack,” sounding the alarms and informing Washington about what’s going on, isn’t it sort of self-evident that it was more than a spontaneous attack?
MS. NULAND: There’s no question that at the time the alarm was sounded, we were in a very serious situation with folks coming through the gates. Nobody has said anything other than that. The question is: What, if anything, may have preceded that?
In other words, Nuland and the State Department are still trying to leave the door open to the idea that the Libya attack was actually preceded by a protest over the YouTube video. The reason is obvious. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on national television days later to claim that what happened in Libya was “spontaneous” and based on the YouTube video. Hillary Clinton invoked the YouTube video while standing next to the coffins of those murdered in Libya.
But the exchange continued:
QUESTION: And wouldn’t you have expected, if there was a demonstration, however modest outside, that the guards, someone would have noticed it and there wouldn’t have been nothing – there would have been something said between 8:30 and 9:40 had there been any kind of unusual crowd gathering, whether it was 10 guys with a sign or 15. Wouldn’t that have registered on the guards? Wouldn’t they have said something had there been any kind of a demonstration?
MS. NULAND: Again, we are still in the process of understanding what the –
QUESTION: Well, it was a very detailed timeline that was presented on Tuesday, okay?
MS. NULAND: Right, right.
QUESTION: And I would assume – but correct me if I’m wrong – that had there been something unusual outside the gates of the compound like a modest demonstration or any kind of gathering, that that would have not – that it would have not – it would not have gone unnoticed?
MS. NULAND: Again, that is something that we have to look at. But in terms of what triggered the phone call to Washington, a modest protest outside the gates might not have done that. So again, we have to get all of the facts, we have to finish interviewing all of the people who were involved. I would simply remind that on the days immediately following, all of the Americans who were directly involved were either in the process of being medevaced or were being treated for smoke inhalation, et cetera. We had lost some of them; so there was obviously quite a bit of confusion.
Nuland is again given the opportunity by the journalist pool to back off the YouTube protest explanation. And again she refuses to do so. She is lying here – obviously the State Department would have been notified about a protest, however large or small, outside the Libyan embassy in the aftermath of the Cairo embassy takeover.
QUESTION: All right. Well, I just – and I have another question after this –
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: — but you just raised something else. I mean, are you saying that – given what had happened in Cairo earlier in the day, that if there had been a – even 15 or 20 guys outside the Embassy carrying signs or yelling but not with weapons or anything that wouldn’t have been – given what had happened in Cairo already, that that might not have been something that would be reported back to Washington? Seems to me that that would be –
MS. NULAND: Again, we are talking about what caused the alarm to be sounded at 9:40.
QUESTION: No, I’m talking about what happened in between – if anything happened in between 8:30 when the Turkish diplomat left and 9:40 when –
QUESTION: He said – that official said there was nothing outside.
QUESTION: Exactly. That’s why I’m –
MS. NULAND: Right. That’s – that is our impression.
QUESTION: — but I don’t understand why you’re still holding out the possibility that there might have been something – however modest, when it seems to me that it would been reported because of what had happened in Cairo earlier. Even something modest would have been cause for at least someone to note it.
MS. NULAND: Again, between 8:30 and 9:40, there might not have been a call to Washington. As that official said, we don’t now believe that there was anything. But we don’t –
QUESTION: All right. And then just the other thing, in terms of –
MS. NULAND: I’m trying to explain how this might have gotten confused at the time.
QUESTION: Okay. In terms of what the official said on the call –
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: — in fact, he said that there was – that they didn’t – that that was not the conclusion. And then he said, “I’m not saying that there was a conclusion.”
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: So if there was – I mean – and yet, Under Secretary Kennedy said that in his conversations with people on the Hill, the next day or the 12th or the 13th, that his personal opinion was that it was premeditated or it was a coordinated terrorist attack. And I guess I’m just, does the State Department defer to DNI if DNI comes out and tells you that something that is demonstrably at odds with what witnessed on the ground had to say about it?
Now Nuland is in trouble. The reporters have asked her about whether the intelligence community explicitly overruled what had been told to the State Department by State Department officials on the ground. There is no evidence of that whatsoever. But Nuland tries to throw the intelligence community under the bus. When she’s finally called on it, she then shifts into full-scale bureaucrat-speak:
MS. NULAND: Look, I’m not going to parse this 17 ways from this podium. What I am going to say is, obviously when one goes out and tries to represent what the totality of what we know, the intelligence community plays a large role in that. And they had given an assessment to the entire government, which was the basis on which Ambassador Rice spoke on Sunday, they themselves have talked very explicitly about how their assessment has evolved over time.
QUESTION: Right. And yet –
QUESTION: But you never – okay.
QUESTION: And yet Under Secretary Kennedy and other people in this building knew, or felt in their opinion, that that was not correct, and that this was –
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the personal feelings of anybody. I’m simply going to say that in making public statements, one depends on the totality of what the Administration knows.
QUESTION: But you didn’t. You never said that.
MS. NULAND: Look, I’m generally dumber than most of the rest of the government. I mean, that’s what I’m paid to be. (Laughter.)
End of discussion.
Ambassador Rice lied. So did the Obama administration. So did Joe Biden last night. And literally playing dumb will not solve the problem of one of the most egregious and disgusting cover-ups in the history of American foreign policy.