Petraeus goes to war with the administration narrative

Updated: In closed-door testimony Friday morning, Petraeus was even more explicit than CNN’s initial report anticipated: he said his briefing to the Administration initially included a line that “al Qaeda involvement” was suspected, “but the line was taken out in a final version circulated to Administration officials,” according to a Fox News quote from “a top lawmaker who was briefed.”  This also conflicts with the testimony Petraeus gave to Congress after the attack, in which he pushed the “spontaneous video protest” line.

No word as of yet on who removed the al Qaeda information from the talking points, but Rep. Peter King (R-NY) of House Intelligence asked if “the White House changed the talking points.”


Ex-CIA director and noted biography subject David Petraeus will testify before the House and Senate intelligence committees on Friday, and CNN already has a world-shaking scoop about what he’ll say:

Petraeus is expected to tell lawmakers that the CIA knew fairly quickly following the attack on the diplomatic compound that it was the work of Ansar al Sharia, according to an official with knowledge of the case. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject matter.

Ansar al Sharia is more a label than an organization, one that’s been adopted by conservative Salafist groups across the Arab world.

Petraeus believes, according to the official, confusion has emerged over two separate intelligence questions: Who was responsible, and what was the motivation of the attack?

According to the official, Petraeus says the stream of intelligence from multiple sources, including video at the scene, indicated the group was behind the attack.

But a separate stream of intelligence also emerged at the same time indicating the violence at the consulate was inspired by protests in Egypt over an ostensibly anti-Islam film that was privately produced in the United States. The movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” portrayed the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizing buffoon.

There were 20 intelligence reports that indicated that anger of the film may be to blame, the official said.

(Emphasis mine.)  Okay, so… you’ve got real-time video, plus the frantic pleas for help from the men trying to defend the Ambassador, that tells you it’s a coordinated military assault by terrorists with heavy weapons… but you’ve also got a “separate stream of intelligence” that says it was just a random bunch of guys who heard about the Egyptians getting rowdy because of a YouTube video they didn’t like?  How in the world does that work?  That doesn’t sound like rational intelligence analysis; it sounds like bureaucrats who know what the President wanted to hear, and need to provide just enough cover for the Administration to make its self-serving “spontaneous video protest” narrative sound like an understandable blunder instead of something more outrageous.

And then CNN drops the real bombshell:

The former CIA director also is expected to tell the congressional committees that he did develop unclassified talking points in the days after the attack but had no direct involvement in developing the ones used by Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Rice has been under fire for suggesting the attack on the consulate was a spontaneous event spurred by a protest against the anti-Muslim film.

Well, there goes the “Susan Rice was just a clueless talking head who was only reading what the CIA gave her” narrative.  If the CIA Director had nothing to do with preparing her talking points, where did they come from?  If they originated somewhere within the CIA, how could Petraeus not have been involved?

And remember, despite all the Obama spin and propaganda we’re hearing today, Rice most certainly did not go onto all those Sunday talk shows to say, “We’ve got strong evidence that it was an organized terror attack, including real-time video that makes it fairly obvious, but we’ve also heard conflicting reports that anger over the YouTube video might have brought some protesters to the scene.”  Her job was to pin the whole affair entirely on the spontaneous video protests.

A lot of the current confusion comes from losing sight of what the Administration was trying to do, back in the days following the September 11 attack.  They were trying to “win” a couple of news cycles.  They wanted to score points against Mitt Romney for daring to criticize Obama’s foreign policy.  They wanted to avoid tough questions from an angry American public that might have wondered why a U.S. ambassador was left with so little protection in a dangerous area.  They wanted to push the narrative of a “decimated,” ineffective al-Qaeda, and a happy liberated Libya.

And above all else, they were desperate to avoid discussion of the “stand down” order – uncovered and reported by one determined news network, Fox News, only in the last few days before the election.  Imagine what September 12 and 13 would have been like, if the American public had known about the stand-down order back then.

What you’re seeing now is long-term fallout from a brutally cynical short-term political strategy… which worked, so the President and his defenders have every reason to believe the fallout can be contained.