Three Lessons from the Benghazi Emails

No one doubted a demonstration, the CIA made the big changes, and Susan Rice got hosed

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Mohammad Hannon / AP

A Libyan man investigates the inside of the U.S. Consulate after an attack that killed four Americans, in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 12, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya.

The 100 pages of emails about Benghazi released by the White House on Tuesday evening provide a fascinating glimpse at the machinations of national security officials working under stress. The exchanges, which hashed out a set of talking points intended for members of Congress to use a few days after the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Libya that killed four Americans, tell us virtually nothing new about the now well-excavated story. But they do underscore a few important points:

No one doubted a demonstration Every version of the talking points–which were first crafted by the CIA–asserted that a demonstration had occurred at the U.S. compound in Benghazi. “We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault” on the U.S. facilities, read the talking points. (Those facilities included a State Department post and a nearby CIA annex.) Throughout two days of exchanges that involved the CIA, FBI, State Department, and White House, no one ever challenged that claim, and that language survived to the end, even as many other phrases were deleted. It’s worth remembering that demonstrations against a notorious anti-Islamic amateur film actually had occurred in 20 other countries, a likely source of the early confusion. That undercuts the charge that the Obama administration ginned up a narrative about a nonexistent demonstration in Benghazi for political purposes–namely, to avoid explaining why al Qaeda-affiliated radicals were killing Americans in a country where the president had intervened militarily with apparent success. It is true that the final talking points were stripped of references to al Qaeda. But there may have been a reason for that. Early in the process, on the afternoon of Friday, September 14, the CIA’s general counsel warned colleagues about “express instruction” from law enforcement officials that “in light of the criminal investigation, we are not to generate statements about who did this.”

(MORE: Joe Klein: Benghazi and Dick Cheney’s Staggering Lack of Self-Knowledge)

The CIA made the big changes It’s true, as has been widely reported, that State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland raised the strongest objections to the draft talking points. A charitable interpretation is that Nuland objected to CIA language that cast unfair blame on the State Department for inadequate security at a site which mainly conducted CIA business. Less charitable is that Nuland was reflexively covering for her department, and perhaps for her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (although as a former aide to Dick Cheney, Nuland is no Hillaryland footsoldier). Either way, it was the CIA’s deputy director, Michael Morell, who struck language from the talking points which had detailed his agency’s past warnings about growing security threats in Benghazi.  Some press accounts, and skeptical conservatives, focused  on the unhappy reaction to the final product by then-CIA Director David Petraeus, who concluded: “Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this.” But Petraeus’s lone, brief email doesn’t imply he finds the talking points misleading or outright objectionable. Instead, by noting that a senior member of the House committee that requested them will be unsatisfied, he suggests the document has been watered down to the point of uselessness. (“[T]his is certainly not what Vice Chairman [Dutch]  Ruppersberger was hoping to get,” he wrote.) Why Petraeus would not have overruled Morell, however, or overseen the final edits before they were made, remains unclear.

Susan Rice got hosed The emails show that Obama’s United Nations Ambassador played no role in crafting the talking points that she followed when she appeared on five television talk shows on Sunday September 16. Republicans fixated on that notorious day of TV interviews as evidence that Rice was part of an administration effort to cover up the facts about Benghazi. And when it became clear late last year that President Obama was preparing to tap Rice as his next Secretary of State, Republicans cited Rice’s performance that day as grounds for a promised battle against her nomination. Rice ultimately withdrew her name from consideration for the post, although she may wind up with an even more powerful one as a result.

MORE: Obama Tries to Put Benghazi Back on the Fringe

97 comments
SteveLawnick
SteveLawnick

As if this actually has anything to do with Benghazi.  The GOP couldn't care less about Benghazi; just like they couldn't care less about the citizens of the US.  Benghazi is merely the vehicle of the moment.  The Republican agenda is obstruct, and, if at all possible, impeach.  That is it; and they have no concern about what it costs, or any negative effect it might have on the US.  We saw this strategy throughout the Clinton administration; they pissed away $40 million chasing Whitewater.  The only thing they want now is to see Obama fail.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Ans this is the guy who want to get the truth on Benghazi? Not bloody likely.

During a hearing Tuesday on an aid bill for sick New Yorkers, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) callously dismissed the 9/11 attacks as “simply” a plane crash. The New York Daily News reports:

The California congressman who called the Sept. 11 attacks “simply” a plane crash ran for cover Wednesday under a barrage of ridicule from fellow Republicans, first responders and victims’ families.

San Diego GOP Rep. Darrell Issa was under siege for suggesting the federal government had already done enough to help New York cope with “a fire” that “simply was an aircraft” hitting the World Trade Center.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) sharply criticized his fellow conservative’s remarks, stating, “New York was attacked by Al Qaeda. It doesn’t have to be attacked by Congress.” In his statement yesterday, Issa tried to insist that he only “asked tough questions about the expenditures” during the hearing.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Now that we know a GOP congressional aide misleadingly edited — intentionally or not — Obama administration emails on the Benghazi attack, one wonders if he or she will face repercussions. There’s some precedent here. Former GOP Rep. Dan Burton used to hold Darrell Issa’s job as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee and used it to aggressively go after Bill Clinton on a host of controversies of various degrees of merit, much as Issa is doing now.

http://www.salon.com/2013/05/17/will_a_gop_aide_be_fired_over_benghazi_email_changes/

SBAllen
SBAllen

Well, well. I guess the ghost of General Patraeus hovers over Obama like the Ghost of Christmas Past, doesn't it?

tkulaga
tkulaga

I often wonder how long I/we would have lasted while serving 18 months in the US Army Berlin when the wall was still up had a skirmish broke out.

HarryKrentz
HarryKrentz

1) The security forces were grossly understaffed despite repeated requests for more security. 2) The administration lied to the American people concerning the nature of the attacks and 3) There were available forces to rescue the Americans at the compound, and they were ordered to "stand down".  

The Benghazi attack flew in the face of the Obama narrative that the "War on Terror is over".  Even in the Mid East, people don't just spontaneously pull out RPGs.  It is a lie on the face of it.  But here you are, a hard hitting "journalist" giving defense for the indefensible.  It's blinders wearing Obama syncophants like you that has this country in the sorry state that it is in.

claude3
claude3

Dear Michael,

Finally I hear someone (you) on Hardball questioning the judgment of our Ambassador with all the attacks in and around Benghazi that he picked the anniversary of 9/11 to go to that area and his business just couldn't wait. Did the CIA put pressure on him for some plan they were hatching that needed his participation no later than that date? I believe that he bears some responsibility for the disaster. A final question, since the predominant number of Americans at that compound were CIA men, why don't we hear of any deaths there?

Claude Heater 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Since the GOP lemming are weaving conspiracy theories I have one for you:


1)Find a gullible patsy to make a truly stupid movie mocking Allah. 

2) Release that movie on the anniversary of 9/11

3) Sit back and watch as the Muslim world erupts

4) Hope that Americans die as a result of it

5) Stand by with prepared statements of indignation as you score political points

Sure seems like an "October Surprise" worthy of Karl Rove



mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

And yet again this proves to be nothing more than the grandstanding of a party with nothing to offer the American public. Now they can go back to voting to repeal Obamacare yet again for the 37th time. What a waste of tax payer dollars.

reallife
reallife

cc: MSNBC, NY Times, Time, et all members of the lapdog media:

Operation "false outrage" is set in motion. Execute immediately after Pinocchio's press conference.


ahandout
ahandout

Crowley, the next time you are inspired to write so much meaningless garbage, you should just print it out and use it to wipe your ass.

ahandout
ahandout

I see the same old usual suspects are here, yawn.

Rice didn't get hosed, and WTF is that supposed to mean exactly?  Rice was told to go out and f ing lie and that's what she did.  Hillary told the same lie and so did Barry.  Hillary actually had the gall to say it to the relatives of the dead.  

Now, we know that the blame the video crap was  a complete lie.  They all knew that it was not connected to a silly youtube video, but they insisted on that being the story.  Why would they want that to be the story?  Because it appeases those fundamental Muslims who want you dead if you insult Muhammed, that's why.  They made a TV spot to appologize for the video to fundamental Muslims in Pakastan.  Follow the money, follow the actions and you get the truth.

Obama, up for election, couldn't have the Muslim world demonstrating in the streets against America.  He's the one.  Bush is the reason that Muslims hate us.  They just love Barry.  Why Muslims would never attack us with Barry as Pres. 

And meanwhile the only person prosecuted is the video maker.  Great job of getting those responsible, harump.  I believe that's what Barry is saying about all the scandals.   


MrObvious
MrObvious

1 lesson. GOP will use any excuse to make anything into a 'scandal' and contemplate impeachment. Why? 'Cause they're not interested in legislating so they need lots of smoke screens.

Sherm
Sherm

Rice got what she deserved.  She is no diplomat, had a checkered past, and would have been a terrible choice for Sec. State.  

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

I'm still curious to see what happened to the GOP battle cry during the Bush years, "That it is Unpatriotic to question a sitting president during war time!!!!" Are we no longer at war?

ahandout
ahandout

@SteveLawnick   So, you are concerned with government waste?  You lie.  You could care less about government waste.  Obama has spent trillions, printed trillions more and you whine about 40 million to investigate poor Billy.  Do you realize how ridiculous that is?

barneydidit
barneydidit

ahhh...the "binders wearing Obama syncophants" accusation coming from someone that never blinked an eye over the two dozen Americans that died in embassy attcks while Bush was in charge....or the Valerie Plame outing or the the U.S. attorney firings or the Enron donation scandal or the Haliburton scandl or the Walter Reed scandal or the Tom Delay scandal...or the 4,000 dead under false pretenses in Iraq.

ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91Just as good:  let a moron liberal like md post his drivel online.

 1) Nobody had heard of the stupid youtube video until Obama publicized it. 

2) The video had been up on youtube since June; that's 3 months (I know math is a challenge for you.)

3) Obama made sure that he would appease the fundamental Muslims.

4) Obama made sure that our ambassador would die.

5) Actively lie over and over again about the video being the reason for the attack.  And, then bitch about you opponent telling the truth.




ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91 No Obamacare won't be a waste of taxpayer dollars to you.  Just think of how the IRS can be used to kill off the enemies of the promised liberal Utopia.  March on commrade.

outsider
outsider

Anyone who doesn't agree with you are just lapdogs, right Rusty?


Welcher

NP042
NP042

@ahandout The "video maker" violated a condition of his parole.  He was "prosecuted" for something he knew was already something he was forbidden from doing.  That's how these things work.

JimJ
JimJ

@MrObvious I know, the audacity of the GOP to actually want to investigate crimes committed by King Obama! How dare they? He is the Messiah, he can commit NO wrong! Don't they know that.....or did they drink the wrong Koolaid? Maybe he can have them force fed like he does the "suspects" in Gitmo, or just plain murdered with one of his killer drones. Or, considering he has kept Bush's secret torture prisons open (minus one item off the menu: waterboarding), he could use rendition and torture them in one of his dungeons until they confess that "Obama is GOD". 

The truth is Bush belongs in Prison and Obama belongs right alongside him! But the Red and Blue Kool-aid Drinkers are too blinded by the Sport of Politics (Pick a Team) to even see the truth, rather they just shift the discussion to the "evils of the other Party". Funny, how the GOP sees the stink in the DEMs, and the DEMs see the stink in the GOP, but neither seems to smell themselves! Just in case you don't know....YOU ALL STINK!

RobertAnderson
RobertAnderson

@Sherm Thank god Obama and Hillary threw her under the bus...Although I'm not a huge fan of John Kerry, I'm much happier with him holding the position of SOS

Mickey_Dugan
Mickey_Dugan

@mantisdragon91 The GOP became "traitors" like the opposition Dems, and upon acquiring power the Dems began governing like authoritarians and spinning excuses a-la Fox News. Two sides to the same coin - they need each other and give a reason and purpose for their own existence.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ahandout @mantisdragon91 I don't trust any politician. Having said that I trust Obama more than I trust the war criminals and profiteers that preceded him in the last administration, or do former car thief and serial liar that is running the current batch of congressional hearings.

HarryKrentz
HarryKrentz

Gee, I guess that makes it all better, knowing that a different administration may have done something wrong too.  Hitler killed 6 million Jews, so if Obama kills only 5 million, then that's a-ok with "barneydidit".  Thanks for proving my point.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ahandout @mantisdragon91 Displaying your ignorance for the world to see yet again?

1) If no one heard of the stupid video than what caused the violent protests in 20 plus countries including an attack on our embassy in Cairo?

2) The video was made in July, however on 9/11 some decided to upload the video to a number of websites known to be frequented by Muslim Extremists. Why and who?

3) Appease the fundamental Muslim how? By telling then we don't tolerate videos that slander their beliefs?

4) He made sure our Ambassador would die ? How did he do that did he fly over there and shoot him?

5) Actively lie over and over and then bitch about your opponent telling the truth. A classic GOP strategy.

JimJ
JimJ

@outsider2011 Ah, come here you little cute puppy. My you are a cute little lapdog!

curt3rd
curt3rd

No one cared about him violating his parole until Obama needed a scapegoat.

jmac
jmac

@RobertAnderson @Sherm She wasn't thrown under the bus by Obama or Hillary.    She's about to be put up for National Security Advisor, a position with more influence than Sec of State, which is probably where Obama wanted her in the first place.  

Let conservatives keep punching her for Benghazi.  The louder they yell the more ridiculous they look.  If they really want answers to the talking points proven in the emails, they can grill the CIA on those talking points.  

HarryKrentz
HarryKrentz

Your narrative is a fail, speaking of no credibility.  The MSM tried oh, so very hard to pin a crime or two to the Bush administration and failed.  You know why?  There were no crimes committed.  Again, it's a fakey-fake redirection to protect Beloved Leader.  "Don't look over here, look back there".  You ARE correct when you say these crimes and abuses of power don't compare, however, in that there actually ARE crimes and abuses of power under the Obama Administration.

barneydidit
barneydidit

@HarryKrentz So again...you're telling us that we should stop supporting our "messiah", because he's done things that may barely begin to compare with what the guy you voted for twice did?  Sorry, no credibility there. If you on the right had rallied in opposition to what Bush was doing WHILE he was doing it, rather than 2 years after the fact when you had no choice but admit he was a disaster, it would be another story 

HarryKrentz
HarryKrentz

No, that's your idiotic narrative you're trying to paint, however, to try and deflect criticism away from your Messiah.  Your claims are bogus.  These same "journalists" did their level best to convict Bush with those same charges you posted.  Obama certainly gets a different sort of treatment here, tho'.  THAT is my point. 

barneydidit
barneydidit

I'm assuming your point is that there's no reason for conservatives to ever hold their representatives accountable?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@dtobin @curt3rd That movie caused violence throughout the Middle East. Are you even curious as to why the movie was made, or who financed it, or why it was uploaded to sites frequented by Muslims on the anniversary of 9/11?

dtobin
dtobin

@curt3rd "Scapegoat"

 The movie "The Innocence of Islam" did not cause the violence in Libya.

However, those who wished to fan the flames of Anti-American sentiment elsewhere, on the Anniversary of 9/11, realized it was the perfect spark to light an Anti-American powderkeg.  Clips had been shown on Arab Television, and word spread quickly.  By the time everything was over, protests and demonstrations had broken out in over a hundred cities in over sixty countries, with a minimum of about 700 people being injured and 74 confirmed deaths.  


And our Constitution guarantees that he had the right to voice his beliefs.  As it should.  The first Amendment is one of the best things about America.


However, he made that video in ways that were illegal.  So he goes to jail.  Yes, sometimes people only care about someone breaking the law if they do it in a way that causes a huge mess.  That's life.  If you don't want to go to jail, don't break the law, and definitely don't do it while actually TRYING to make a large number of people so angry at you that they'll make certain you get caught.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@tkulaga @JimJ @mantisdragon91 @RobertAnderson The Truth? Well for starters it is looking more and more like GOP political operatives created the You Tube video and released it right before 9/11 in the hopes of creating violence and making Obama look bad as the election approached. I believe this was their idea of an "October Surprise"

JimJ
JimJ

@mantisdragon91 @RobertAnderson I was calling for the impeachment of Bush and the prosecution of his crooked minions, just like I am doing with Obama. Crooks are crooks regardless of Party Affiliation. Plus, history shows that BOTH of these Majorly Crooked Two Parties are just that; CROOKED! I find it quite confusing that when the GOP is in power and crookedness is blatantly happening, I am joined by DEMS  in pointing it out, AND when the DEMs are in power, I am joined by GOP members in pointing out their crookedness. You people are making me dizzy with your coming and going, "CROOKED = CROOKED"! WHAT is WRONG YOU ALL? Do you suffer from sort of either Red OR Blue Dirt Color Blindness? 

And when it comes to News Outlets, honest news can NOT be this different, either the Lib rags are lying, the Conservative rags are lying, or more likely BOTH rags are putting forth BS in support of their favorite crooked color. That is why when DEMs are in power, it seems FOX provides the most truth (twisted a bit) and when the GOP is in power, MSNBC provides the most truth (again twisted a bit). But neither GOP nor DEM rags will address the BS that both parties agree to dump on us; like the Patriot Act and the NDAA.