The Corner

Our Indefatigable CIA and All the Excuses Fit to Print

Unsurprisingly, the New York Times front page on October 22 — just before the foreign-policy debate — defends the administration’s assertions about the Benghazi attack. The NYT accomplishes this impossible mission by quoting at length the usual suspect — an anonymous senior intelligence official who, for the 20th time, asserts the best intelligence of the CIA pointed to mob action caused by an obscure posting on YouTube.

“The first briefing,” the intelligence official said, “was relying on the best analysis available. . . . It wasn’t until people reconciled contradictory information and assessed there probably wasn’t a protest around the time of the attack.”

The official is disingenuous, saying there “probably wasn’t a protest” implies there is still some possibility it was a protest.

His assertion of “the best analysis available” is astonishing. What information did the CIA possess on September 12 that contradicted the direct phone calls from the Benghazi consulate? There was no protest. None. Nada. None.

Seeking to peddle a manifest untruth, the official slyly suggests to the cooperative NYT reporter that the issue be changed from the report of a non-existent mob to the secondary matter of premeditation — a branch of metaphysics.

“Right now, there isn’t any intelligence that the attackers preplanned their assault days or weeks in advance,” said the intelligence official. “The bulk of available information supports the early assessment that the attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.”

Mortars firing in the dark at four in the morning killed Americans at the annex. Either the mortar tubes were laid in based on scouting reports (aka, preplanning), or were extraordinarily lucky.  

The allegation that the attackers launched their “assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” suggests the attack would never have occurred were it not for the YouTube video. So the intelligence official comes full circle — again trying to sell a motivation distinct from Islamic terrorist objectives.

Using a complaisant New York Times, the CIA is continuing its torrent of leaks to defend its indefensible assertion that the Benghazi terrorist assault was a mob enraged by protests earlier that day in Cairo. The CIA made a mistake in inventing this imaginary mob. The CIA may be winning points with the administration, but its reputation for rigor and honesty is crumbling.

 — A former assistant secretary of defense, Bing West is co-author of Into the Fire: a Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle of the Afghanistan War.

Bing WestMr. West, a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine, is a military historian. He has written ten books about our wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the latest of which is The Last Platoon: A Novel of the Afghanistan War.


The Latest