Former CIA deputy director Mike Morell, who also served a stint as acting director of Langley, is testifying before House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence today. The hearing focuses on the Obama administration’s response to the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Cutting through all of the back and forth, the most important point is this: The U.S. intelligence community knew right away that al Qaeda was involved in the attack.
“The analysts said from the get-go that al Qaeda was involved in this attack,” Morell said.
The former CIA man was asked why, then, was “al Qaeda” edited out of the administration’s now infamous talking points.
“The only way we knew that anybody who was involved in that attack that night was associated with al Qaeda was from classified sources,” Morell claimed.
Minutes later he reiterated the point: “The only way we knew that some of the people who were involved in the attack that night were associated with al Qaeda was from classified sources.”
According to Morell, if the CIA had included a reference to al Qaeda in the administration’s talking points, then it would have had to declassify that sensitive intelligence.
This is doubtful. The Obama administration could have made a general reference to “al Qaeda” in its earliest explanations of the Benghazi attack without exposing any specific intelligence. It was not a stretch to link al Qaeda to a terrorist attack on the anniversary of September 11, 2001.
The bottom line is that the U.S. intelligence community knew from the “get-go” that al Qaeda was involved in the attack. And the Obama administration’s narrative, at first, excluded al Qaeda entirely.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.