The apparent disarray in the Intelligence Community over the now-you-see-them, now-you-don’t “talking points” has moved beyond farce and into crisis. Sure, it seems like a small thing, but it’s not — if this is how our intelligence services operate under political pressure, then at some point we have to ask: What good are they? I addressed the administration’s preposterous shifting explanations the other day in my New York Post column:
More than two months after an Islamist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, we still don’t know what really happened that night — and, thanks to a secretive White House and an incurious Washington press corps, we probably never will. Not officially, that is.
But there’s no real mystery about it. From the evidence that’s emerged in dribs and drabs since the Sept. 11 calamity, it’s clear that Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan al Qaeda-affiliated group coordinating with its allies elsewhere in the Muslim world, used the cover of riots in Cairo to launch a preplanned assault on our lightly guarded Benghazi consulate and a CIA safe house that may have been doubling as a secret prison.
That much was clear to our intelligence community almost immediately — and, in any case, should have been the working hypothesis from the jump.
The Arab Spring, falsely painted by a soft-headed US media as a purely pro-democracy movement, has in fact prompted seizure of power by Islamists. Benghazi, an armed hotbed of radicalism, was a fine target of opportunity for a strike at the Great Satan.
What’s also heart-rendingly clear is that our diplomats and security personnel understood the danger they were in, repeatedly requested more resources — and were left to die, as US military and intelligence assets monitored their deaths in real time, lacking the orders to protect them.
Benghazi was a first-class military and moral disgrace, and one that the Democrats paid absolutely no price for in the recent election.
But it’s not supposed to be the IC’s function to protect the executive’s reputation — it’s supposed to protect the country. Consistently wrong in its threat assessments, the CIA has long been both a political plaything and a national embarrassment, and as for the absurd Office of the Director of National Intelligence headed up by James Clapper, the less said the better. Oh, what the hell:
Finally, to turn farce into insult, hapless Director of National Intelligence James Clapper scuttled forth from his let’s-pretend lair to claim that his office — nominally, the highest rung of the intelligence-community ladder — had edited the CIA’s early talking points memo to remove all references to al Qaeda and terrorism.
That claim was met with peals of incredulous laughter within the IC, where Clapper (like Petraeus, a retired general) is regarded as a buffoon and his office (created as part of the ham-fisted Bush response to 9/11) as a useless, money-sucking bureaucratic appendage that does nothing to increase national security — but is easily manipulated by a cynical president with a domestic axe to grind.