A curious bit of video has been released by CBS News, taken from an interview President Obama gave to Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” on September 12. Here Obama professes himself suspicious that “there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start.” Leaving aside the strange use of the word “folks” to describe bloodthirsty terrorists, this clearly indicates the President understood the attack to have been planned in advance, and executed by organized hostile forces… which is very different from the “spontaneous video protest” story the Administration would begin pushing the next day.
What’s curious about this video clip is that we’ve never seen it before. It was filmed on September 12, and it’s obviously highly pertinent to the ongoing debate over What the President Knew and When He Knew It… but for some reason, CBS decided to sit on it until it was posted online last week, then embedded in an article published yesterday, in which reporter Sharyl Attkisson discussed the newly revealed emails that decisively prove the White House and State Department knew immediately that Benghazi was no “protest gone wild.”
The Administration has peddled so many different stories, and issued so many modifications to its positions, that it’s easy to forget what it was saying at any given time. But up until moderator Candy Crowley bailed Obama out of hot water in the second presidential debate, the release of this passage from the Kroft interview would have been very damaging to Obama’s preferred storyline about a spontaneous outburst of violence in Libya that no one could have predicted. Now, of course, the clip will be patched into Benghazi Version 6.5, in which Obama claims he always said it was a terrorist strike.
Left to die in the forlorn reaches of the Memory Hole is the “faulty intelligence led us astray” narrative, pushed very hard by the President and his Vice-President up until a few days ago. Remember that? Supposedly the only reason Obama and Biden were prattling about spontaneous video protests is that they were fed bad intelligence by unspecified officers who invented the “video protest” nonsense out of thin air. Here is Vice President Joe Biden’s discussion about the matter with debate moderator Martha Raddatz on October 11, from the NPR transcript:
MS. RADDATZ: What were you first told about the attack? Why were people talking about protests? When people in the consulate first saw armed men attacking with guns, there were no protesters. Why did that go on for weeks?
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Because that’s exactly what we were told —
MS. RADDATZ: By who?
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: — by the intelligence community. The intelligence community told us that. As they learned more facts about exactly what happened, they changed their assessment. That’s why there’s also an investigation headed by Tom Pickering, a leading diplomat in the — from the Reagan years, who is doing an investigation as to whether or not there were any lapses, what the lapses were, so that they will never happen again. But —
MS. RADDATZ: And they wanted more security there.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security again. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly — we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view. That’s why I said, we will get to the bottom of this.
(Emphasis mine.) All of Biden’s responses are absolutely false. We have documentation that the intelligence community always knew, and always said, the Benghazi attack was a planned action carried out by forces linked with al-Qaeda. (In fact, it appears that at least two wings of the main al-Qaeda organization, from Iraq and North Africa, were involved along with the Libyan Ansar al-Sharia group.) And requests for more security from the Libyan diplomatic corps, including Ambassador Chris Stevens himself, are now equally well-documented.
There are disputed reports from Congressional sources that the White House reprimanded one of its national security officers, National Counterterrorism Center director Matt Olsen, for being too forthright about describing the Benghazi outrage as “a terrorist attack on our embassy.” He was the first administration official to employ that phrase in public. Isn’t that remarkable? All of the spin and double-talk from the White House is about parsing every single paragraph of Obama’s speeches to divine oblique references to “acts of terror” and “folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start,” but the one thing not even the President’s most dedicated apologists can claim is that he forthrightly described Benghazi as “a terrorist attack.”
That’s something he tip-toed around with exquisite care, even after Matt Olsen testified before the Senate on September 19. And it’s all because Obama’s top priority was entirely political: get through a few news cycles without having to face hard questions from an enraged American public about why security for our Ambassador was so inexcusably thin.