How the CIA’s No. 2 misled CongressMar 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 24 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Two leading Republicans on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence say that Michael Morell, then acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, gave an account of his role on Benghazi that was often misleading and sometimes deliberately false.
“I went back and reviewed some of his testimony the other day and he’s gotten himself in a real box,” says Senator Saxby Chambliss, the highest-ranking Republican on the committee. “It’s really strange. I’ve always thought Mike was a straight-up guy, gave us good briefings—factual, straightforward. I mean, this has really been strange the last few weeks—all this now being uncovered.”
At issue is the role Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, played in producing the Obama administration’s flawed talking points about the fatal attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, and the misleading answers he gave lawmakers who investigated them.
The allegations of misconduct are serious. In the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report, six Republican members accuse Morell of lying in sworn testimony to Congress. Several Republican senators tell The Weekly Standard that Morell misled them in one-on-one or small-group meetings about the talking points. Morell—now counselor to Beacon Global Strategies, a consultancy close to Hillary Clinton—did not respond to a request for comment.
Three aspects of the controversy are drawing particular interest: (1) Morell’s obfuscation of his central role in rewriting the talking points, (2) Morell’s contention that the FBI rewrote the talking points, and (3) Morell’s false claim that the talking points were provided to the White House merely as a heads-up and not for coordination.
Who Revised the Talking Points?
Within days of the Benghazi attacks, it was clear that major elements of the Obama administration’s public story about the events were dubious. Within weeks, investigators on the Senate Intelligence Committee learned that the unclassified “talking points” provided by the CIA to members of Congress and top administration officials told a different story than the classified intelligence. “We were seeing the classified stuff and then we see the unclassified talking points,” recalls one lawmaker with access to the intelligence. “It just didn’t match up.”
Among the changes: Early drafts referred to “al Qaeda” and “attacks,” while later drafts did not. So lawmakers began to ask questions.
On November 15, 2012, four top intelligence officials appeared before the Senate committee to answer questions about Benghazi: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; Matthew Olsen, head of the National Counterterrorism Center; Patrick Kennedy, under secretary of state for management; and Morell, acting director of the CIA.
Chambliss says he grilled the officials about changes made to the talking points. “I went down the line. I said: ‘Okay, guys, did you change the talking points?’ Every one of them said no.”
The questioning might not have been that precise, according to sources familiar with the hearing, but much of the hearing was devoted to uncovering how the talking points had been put together and who had made the changes. Morell volunteered nothing.
Senator Richard Burr was more specific. The senator asked each witness if he knew who had been responsible for changing the word “attacks” to “demonstrations.” Again, denials down the line. “I think that Mike answered what he felt he was asked,” says Burr. “But there was clearly enough that he knew that he could have shortcut this process.”
A similar process played out at a hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that same day. Clapper, as the top U.S. intelligence official, was asked if he knew who had revised the talking points. His answer: I don’t. According to three officials in the room, the other intelligence officials also indicated that they didn’t know who had made the changes, but their answers were nonverbal and thus do not appear in the transcript. Representative Peter King reported after the hearing that the officials had claimed not to know who had changed the language. The denials were widely reported.
Feb 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 20 • By GARY SCHMITT
In the wake of all the “leaks” by Edward Snowden of the National Security Agency’s collection programs and the resulting debate over those programs, one constantly hears from elected officials and the commentariat about the need to strike the right balance between privacy and security. More often than not, this is followed by a suggestion that, as a country, since 9/11, we haven’t.
5:36 PM, Jan 17, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Florida senator Marco Rubio says that "some" of President Obama's proposed changes to the way the NSA collects date "go too far."
“Our intelligence collection programs are vital tools used by the government to defend the security of the U.S. homeland. I am concerned that some of President Obama’s suggestions today go too far and may make it more difficult for the government to carry out its constitutional responsibility to keep Americans safe," reads a statement released by Rubio's Senate office.
2:01 PM, Jan 17, 2014 • By GARY SCHMITT
Thankfully, President Obama is not a doctor. If he was and you happened to visit him in his office and mentioned that you were worried about the potential for lung cancer, he’d immediately put you under, open you up, and pull out a lung—or, at least, that’s the logic that seems to be guiding his decisions on NSA’s collection programs. Yes, no one has found any evidence that NSA has broken the law, invaded constitutionally-protected privacy rights, or is about to. But never mind, it’s the very possibility that someday, somehow, NSA will jump the tracks that requires the president now to unduly complicate the use of what he admits has been an important counterterrorism tool.
Writes 'Isreal.'9:12 AM, Jan 15, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
The office of the Director of National Intelligence released its interactive 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar this week on the website of the National Counterterrorism Center. The map provided with the calendar contains an embarrassing error, misspelling the name of the U.S.'s closest ally in the Middle East, Israel, as "Isreal." The error can be seen by hovering over the tiny country with a computer mouse:
2:22 PM, Jan 9, 2014 • By GARY SCHMITT
For all those civil libertarians of both the left and the right who think we ought to thank Edward Snowden for his actions in revealing NSA’s secret metadata collection program—or, at a minimum, believe the U.S. government should show leniency toward him should he ever come back to these shores—they might want to just stop for a moment and consider what else Mr. Snowden has revealed.
3:01 PM, Dec 21, 2013 • By GARY SCHMITT
When the “President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology” issued its report (Liberty and Security in a Changing World) this past week, an honest and objective newspaper headline the next day would have read: “Rogue Panel Reports on Non-Rogue NSA Program.”
The NSA in Europe. Nov 11, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 09 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
It is often remarked that espionage is the second-oldest profession. Written records from Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Iran suggest that spying and civilization sprang up together. In antiquity, spies could be the hidden bureaucrats of tyranny or good governance (a ruler needed to know whether a satrap was cheating the crown and its subjects) or, less often, camouflaged itinerants writing home about the machinations of rival city-states, empires, or barbarian tribes. In modern times, espionage went Orwellian, becoming primarily a tool to buttress police states.
It takes a certain intelligence to comprehend the CIA. Nov 4, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 08 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
There is probably no harder beat in Washington than intelligence.
Forget chess, Turkey is failing at geopolitical checkers. Nov 4, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 08 • By LEE SMITH
A recent spate of newspaper articles suggests a concerted media campaign targeting Turkey’s foreign intelligence service, the MIT, its director, Hakan Fidan, and almost surely his boss as well, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In a piece published by the Wall Street Journal and another by the Washington Times, Fidan is said to be supporting al Qaeda affiliates in Syria fighting against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
7:43 AM, Aug 30, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Steve Hayes, with Mara Liasson and Charles Krauthammer, last night on Fox News:
7:19 PM, Aug 3, 2013 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, sent a letter to each of the CIA employees who were on the ground during the Benghazi attack on September 11, 2012, inviting them to share information with Congress, according to three sources familiar with the missive. Brennan sent the letter in late May at the behest congressional intelligence committees, whose members remain interested in hearing from the survivors of those attacks.
Top spooks gathered Friday for joke telling at annual intelligence banquet. 10:11 AM, Jun 11, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Last Friday night, upper management of the country's national security establishment gathered for dinner, speeches, and an evening of conviviality at the annual banquet of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. The event followed hard on the heels of the revelations about the NSA's collection of metadata and the public furor that followed. With that elephant conspicuously in the room, the question was ... how to deal with it.
7:27 AM, Jun 7, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper defends the recently revealed metadata mining government intelligence programs:
10:32 AM, Jun 3, 2013 • By KEN JENSEN
Over the past few weeks things cyber have blown up in our faces once again. While some of the media noticed, the gist of the reporting was on who was doing what to us now, not the growing scandal of our essentially supine reaction to it.