White House, State Dept knew within hours that Benghazi was a terrorist attack

Update 9:18 a.m.: It’s useful to remember that Obama and his political team think in terms of news cycles.  They generally believe that if they can “win” the 24 to 72 hour news cycle after any given event, their version of history will become conventional wisdom.  He even debates that way – once he “woke up” for the second and third debates, he said a lot of small-ball, media-friendly things designed to grab him a little favorable coverage and pump up his base… but like “horses and bayonets” or his false statement of Mitt Romney’s position on the auto bailout, they soon evaporate in a cloud of fact-checking and common sense.

I’ve always thought the key to understanding Obama’s twisted performance on Benghazi is to consider that his goal was “winning” the first couple of news cycles after the event.  He didn’t want his decision to fly to Vegas questioned; he didn’t want the media immediately running stories about the dangerous environment in Benghazi over the weeks leading up to the attack, or asking why protection for the Ambassador was so thin.  He loves to blame other people for his errors, and the maker of the “Innocence of Muslims” video was the best scapegoat ever.  And Obama’s team saw the media excoriating Mitt Romney for daring to offer his entirely accurate critique of the way Obama and his State Department were handling the situations Cairo and Benghazi.  Everything Obama did during the first week after the attacks was a calculated strategy to win the first few news cycles; everything he’s done since then is part of a strategy to obscure his initial goals.

Many observers wondered why Mitt Romney didn’t press Barack Obama on the Benghazi debacle during the third presidential debate.  A common theory is that Romney felt the story was already developing in a way that would hurt Obama, so there was no reason for him to spend debate time on it.  I wondered if Romney might have gotten wind of some upcoming revelation that would do more damage than anything he could say during the debate.

Maybe he knew this was coming, courtesy of Fox News:

A series of internal State Department emails obtained by Fox News shows that officials reported within hours of last month’s deadly consulate attack in Libya that Al Qaeda-tied group Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility.

The emails provide some of the most detailed information yet about what officials knew in the initial hours after the attack. And it again raises questions about why U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, apparently based on intelligence assessments, would claim five days after the attack that it was a “spontaneous” reaction to protests over an anti-Islam film.

Ansar al-Sharia has been declared by the State Department to be an Al Qaeda-affiliated group. A member of the group suspected of participating in the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi has been arrested and is being held in Tunisia.

The emails obtained by Fox News were sent by the State Department to a variety of national security platforms, whose addresses have been redacted, including the White House Situation Room, the Pentagon, the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence.

(Emphasis mine.)  These emails were flying out to hundreds of top national security officials and their aides in real time, while the attack was happening.  The first email in the series actually mentions that U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens had been withdrawn to the consular safe house, where he would later be killed.  The information was marked “Sensitive But Unclassified.”

Barack Obama turned in early, and flew to Las Vegas to attend a fundraiser the next day.  Then he spent weeks lying right to the faces of the American people, claiming the murder of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans – or as he put it on the Jon Stewart show, their downgrade to “not optimal” status – was the result of a “spontaneous video protest.”  He did this because he didn’t want the shockingly lax security precautions in Benghazi on September 11 to be questioned, and because he desperately wants to preserve his campaign narrative of a “decimated” al Qaeda, and a liberated Libya made safe for democracy.  Obama was still lying through his teeth about Benghazi during the presidential debates.

And all along, beyond all doubt and question, he knew the truth.  There was never the slightest reason to believe the murder of our diplomatic personnel was a spontaneous mob action, tied in any way to the YouTube video that Obama blamed relentlessly.  To buy the excuse he and Vice President Joe Biden have been peddling about “faulty intelligence briefings” misleading them into thinking the Benghazi attack was an exceptionally vigorous act of film criticism, you would have to believe that hundreds of intelligence officers within both the State Department and White House received the emails uncovered by Fox News – during the attack, and in the hours afterward – but decided to ignore them and cook up a story about spontaneous protests, entirely for the purpose of… what?  Making Obama and Biden look stupid?  Telling Obama something they knew he wanted to hear?