The Wall Street Journal reports:
President Barack Obama was told in his daily intelligence briefing for more than a week after the consulate siege in Benghazi that the assault grew out of a spontaneous protest, despite conflicting reports from witnesses and other sources that began to cast doubt on the accuracy of that assessment almost from the start.
New details about the contents of the President’s Daily Brief, which haven’t been reported previously, show that the Central Intelligence Agency didn’t adjust the classified assessment until Sept. 22, fueling tensions between the administration and the agency.
Per CIA officials, U.N. ambassador Susan Rice wasn’t informed that they were questioning the initial assessment before she appeared on the five Sunday shows September 16:
The CIA was consistent from Sept. 13 to Sept. 21 that the attack evolved from a protest. The current intelligence assessment still notes there is conflicting evidence about whether there was a protest earlier on the day of the attack.
The daily brief repeated that same assessment about a protest on Sept. 15, one day before Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, used similar language in television interviews based on talking points that were provided to her that afternoon by the CIA.
That weekend, officials at the office of the Director of National Intelligence began to seriously question the accuracy of the assessment after receiving new information Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 from sources that suggested the consulate attack wasn’t preceded by a protest.
Intelligence officials didn’t tell Ms. Rice about the conflicting reports before she went on air because they weren’t sure the information was conclusive, officials said.
. . .
By around Sept. 18, according to officials, the national intelligence office privately concluded the preponderance of evidence shows there hadn’t been a pre-attack protest. But that new assessment wasn’t made public.
Based on new information, the CIA developed on Sept. 20 its new assessment that there wasn’t a protest directly preceding the attack and provided that information to top national security officials at the White House. It took until Saturday, Sept. 22, for the CIA to update the daily intelligence brief to refute the previous assessment. The new one concluded there was no protest.
A spokesman for the national intelligence office, Shawn Turner, declined to say why the revised daily brief wasn’t presented before Sept. 22.
If this is accurate, there are still questions remaining for the administration. Why was there so little security before? Why, as Bing West pointed out last night, was there no military reaction to the attacks? Why did Obama’s speech at the U.N. (delivered September 25, three days after the White House knew protests were not responsible for the attack’s origin) focus so much on the video?
But it also raises serious questions about the CIA. How can the president protect our country if he is left uninformed about the facts regarding an attack on a consulate? And even in the information wasn’t conclusive, shouldn’t Rice at least have been told that they now had doubts about the veracity of that information so she could have been more careful about how she spoke and what she emphasized?