October 2, 2012

October 2, 2012 | Commentary on Intelligence

Intel an Easy Scapegoat

After two-plus weeks of dissembling and obfuscating on the Libya attack, Team Obama finally found a “scapegoat” for its botched initial press rollout of the tragic events at the Benghazi consulate on 9/11/12 — the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James R. Clapper Jr. affirmed Friday in a press release — always the best time for delivering bad news — that the “spooks” were responsible for how the administration initially described the attack.

Taking one for the team, Clapper reported that the cloak and dagger crowd told the Obama administration that “the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo.”

The DNI press release continues: “As we learned more about the attack, we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists.”

And then — tahdah! — buried in the middle of the DNI one-pager: “However, we do assess that some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al-Qaida. We continue to make progress, but there remain many unanswered questions.”

This shouldn’t surprise us.

The last thing the White House wanted to tell us in the heat of a tight presidential campaign was that al-Qaida terrorists had just attacked sovereign American territory on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.

That “headline” totally undermines the notion that Team Obama has kept us safe and sound from terrorism — with, of course, the exception of the 2009 Fort Hood attack, which they’ve classified as “workplace violence.”

Instead, they seemingly chose to ignore the significance of the date of the attack; the lawlessness of eastern Libya; the sophistication of the assault on the Benghazi consulate and secure annex — and blamed it on a movie trailer.

Indeed, if not for the questioning of the National Counterterrorism Center’s Director at a Sept. 19 Senate hearing, where he identified Benghazi as a terror attack, the White House might still be spinning the “spontaneous protest” yarn.

Now instead of Team Obama playing it like it did — and, worse, making the hardworking people of the intelligence community take the hit — they should’ve been straight from the get-go.

Naturally, the details were difficult to discern in the early hours and days of the tragedy, and as such Team Obama — and its media surrogates — could’ve told us that there was a range of possibilities they were examining, including a terror attack.

The American people would’ve understood that. But instead the administration chose to lead us away from the emerging truth of a pre-meditated al-Qaida terror attack that killed four Americans.

That was disingenuous — and wrong.

But the DNI press release doesn’t put to rest this issue of what happened on 9/11/12 in Benghazi, by any means. For instance, it lacks a timeline of who in the administration knew what and when.

The American people deserve answers to these — and other questions — on what happened on that day in Libya. If the administration won’t tell us, Congress must get those answers for us. Soon.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

About the Author

Peter Brookes Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy

First appeared in Boston Herald.