In a CBS interview that aired on CBS This Morning Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she did not brief American United Nations ambassador Susan Rice prior to her disastrous September 16 television appearances.
On that day Ambassador Rice told five network Sunday political programs that the September 11, 2012 attack on the American mission in Benghazi was an unplanned spontaneous response to a privately produced video that criticized the prophet Mohammed. These claims have since been debunked by progressive and conservative media alike.
Clinton also said she did not know who briefed Rice prior to those appearances. “You would have to ask her,” she said.
A transcript of the exchange reads:
QUESTION: Who briefed Ambassador Rice that day? Did you sign off on that briefing and those speaking points?
SECRETARY CLINTON: You would have to ask her.
QUESTION: You didn’t speak to her before that appearance?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, but that – everybody had the same information. I mean, I’m – I have to say I know there’s been a lot of attention paid to who said what when, but I think what happened is more important. We were attacked, and four brave Americans were killed. Others were injured. Dozens had to fight for their life and had to get evacuated. Everybody in the Administration had – has tried to say what we knew at the time with the caveat that we would learn more, and that’s what’s happened. So I think that – I’ve seen it before not just in respect to this. I think it’s part of what the fog of war causes.
The Secretary’s assertion that “everybody had the same information” is contradicted by multiple reports. Although Vice President Joe Biden erroneously claimed that the President declared the attack coordinated terrorism just 12 hours after its perpetration, others in the State Department did make the same assessment within a similar time frame–far before Ambassador Rice’s media blitz.
Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy gave an unclassified briefing to Capitol Hill staff on September 12th, the day after the attacks, where he advised that the violence in Libya was a coordinated terrorist attack. On the 13th, Secretary Clinton did not similarly label the attacks as terrorism in a public statement. While Mrs. Clinton stated that violence in response to an anti-Mohammed YouTube clip was “unjustified,” she did not correct the widespread assumption that the video itself incited the violence via a spontaneous protest. Days later, Ambassador Rice would explicitly blame the video multiple times.
Two possibilities exist for this discrepancy. First, Clinton could be lying or mistaken when she says “everyone had the same information.” For this statement to be consistent and credible, one must assume that Under Secretary Kennedy was better informed than Mrs. Clinton and chose to inform Capitol Hill staffers of his assessment but not the head of the Department of State. If that is true, Mr. Kennedy failed to relay this information–which would correct a false rumor spreading through the press–up the chain of command and is unfit for his position. The second possibility is that Clinton did have the same information as Kennedy but failed to relay it to the public in her subsequent statements, and she failed to inform whoever briefed Ambassador Rice for her myriad television appearances.
In either case, Mrs. Clinton’s claim that she takes “full responsibility” for the raging scandal of the Benghazi attack appears to extend only as far as the failure to honor security requests leading up to the assault. She claims no knowledge of or involvement in the Obama administration’s scapegoating of a YouTube clip when the State Department had determined that the incident was a terrorist attack.
Clinton’s admission that she has no idea who briefed UN Ambassador Susan Rice on the Benghazi attacks comes just hours before tonight’s second crucial Presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. It leaves open the possibility that someone from the White House briefed Ambassador Rice and that the statements were made for purely political purposes.