Susan Rice’s explanation of the events that led to the deadly September 11 attacks on our embassy in Benghazi are now being refuted by senior State Department officials. That’s odd, because Rice seemed pretty certain, when she made the rounds on the Sunday shows, that “what sparked the violence was a very hateful video on the Internet.” State Department officials told reporters yesterday, however, that “that was not our conclusion” — nor was it ever.
Rice has said that she based her statements on information provided by the intelligence community; Robert Gibbs said so again today. As Eli Lake reported ten days ago, the talking points that came from the CIA — distributed to Rice and members of Congress, among others — were based on intelligence that painted a more complicated picture than the talking points reflected. According to Lake:
The intelligence that helped inform those talking points—and what the U.S. public would ultimately be told—came in part from an intercept of a phone call between one of the alleged attackers and a middle manager from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the group’s north African affiliate, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intercept. In the call, the alleged attacker said the locals went forward with the attack only after watching the riots that same day at the U.S. embassy in Cairo.
However, the intercept was one of several monitored communications during and after the attacks between members of a local militia called Ansar al-Sharia and AQIM, which, taken together, suggest the assault was in fact a premeditated terrorist attack, according to U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials not authorized to talk to the press.
In one of the calls, for example, members of Ansar al-Sharia bragged about their successful attack against the American consulate and the U.S. ambassador.
It’s unclear why the talking points said the attacks were spontaneous and why they didn’t mention the possibility of al Qaeda involvement, given the content of the intercepts and the organizations the speakers were affiliated with.
So, the State Department’s narrative doesn’t match that of the U.N. ambassador’s; the State Department’s intel doesn’t match that of the CIA; and the CIA’s talking points don’t match the CIA’s intel. Among the many questions to ask is, who’s the bus headed towards next?