For example: Olivier Knox, the White House correspondent for Yahoo News, reported in three separate tweets on September 20 and 21, that the administration knew from “Day One” that the Benghazi attacks were acts of terror. “Trying to pin down whether formally labeling Benghazi attack ‘terrorism’ unlocks new assets for investigation/response,” he tweeted. Then, later: “What the White House calls the Benghazi attack matters b/c it affects what assets US can use in response.” And: “But source tells me that determination was made privately on Day One. So public rhetoric has caught up to policy.”
On September 20, 2012, Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier reported that U.S. intelligence officials were looking at a former Guantanamo detainee, currently a leader of Ansar al Sharia, for his role in the attacks.
And late last week, TWS reported: “Intelligence officials understood immediately that the attacks took place on 9/11 for a reason.”
Yesterday, Newsweek’s Eli Lake reported: “Within 24 hours of the 9-11 anniversary attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, U.S. intelligence agencies had strong indications al Qaeda–affiliated operatives were behind the attack, and had even pinpointed the location of one of those attackers. Three separate U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said the early information was enough to show that the attack was planned and the work of al Qaeda affiliates operating in Eastern Libya.”
Lake reported further:
“U.S. intelligence agencies developed leads on four of the participants of the attacks within 24 hours of the fire fight that took place mainly at an annex near the Benghazi consulate. For one of those individuals, the U.S. agencies were able to find his location after his use of social media. “We had two kinds of intelligence on one guy,” this official said. “We believe we had enough to target him.”
Another U.S. intelligence official said, “There was very good information on this in the first 24 hours. These guys have a return address. There are camps of people and a wide variety of things we could do.”
The inescapable conclusion: Even as several top Obama administration officials insisted publicly that we didn’t have information about whether the attacks were planned or involved al Qaeda sympathizers, defense and intelligence officials were telling the administration precisely the opposite.
This has happened before. From this week’s editorial:
On December 28, 2009, three days after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate explosives in his underwear aboard an airliner over Detroit, President Obama told the country that the incident was the work of “an isolated extremist.” It wasn’t. Abdulmutallab was trained, directed, and financed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a fact he shared with investigators early in his interrogation.
The same thing happened less than six months later, after Faisal Shahzad attempted to blow up his Nissan Pathfinder in Times Square. Two days following the botched attack, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano took to the Sunday shows to dismiss reports of a conspiracy and insisted that the attempted bombing was just a “one-off” by a single attacker. It wasn’t. A week later, after much of the information had leaked, Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that the United States had “evidence that shows that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack. We know that they helped facilitate it, we know that they probably helped finance it and that he was working at their direction.”
In each instance, top administration officials quickly downplayed or dismissed the seriousness of the events, only to acknowledge, after the shock had worn off and the media had turned to other news, that their initial stories were incorrect. Whether it was because the attempted attacks were unsuccessful or because the media simply lost interest, the administration largely escaped serious criticism for making claims that turned out to be wrong.
Will they again?