The Little Lie on the Benghazi Attack and the Big Lie on Libya

by Dec 26, 2012Foreign Policy0 comments

There was a Wall Street Journal article earlier this month on the attack in Benghazi, Libya in which Ambassador Stevens and several other officials were killed that I meant to blog about briefly, but haven’t had the time, until now. What I want to point out about it is how the media will report the actual facts, […]

There was a Wall Street Journal article earlier this month on the attack in Benghazi, Libya in which Ambassador Stevens and several other officials were killed that I meant to blog about briefly, but haven’t had the time, until now. What I want to point out about it is how the media will report the actual facts, but spin it somehow in order to still keep to the official line, in ways that can be insulting to readers’ intelligence.

The official line in this case, of course, is that initial intelligence assessments indicated the attack was spontaneous, occurring during protests over a video posted online that insulted the prophet Mohammed; but then the Obama administration had to back off that claim when it turned out that was all false, that there were no protests and it had been a planned terrorist attack.

The Journal in this case manages to stick to that official line even while offering readers information that illustrates its falsehood. Observe.

The article discusses talking points used by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who falsely told the public that story about the attack being spontaneous during protests over the video. The Journal states:

The officials said the first draft of the talking points had a reference to al Qaeda but it was removed by the Central Intelligence Agency, to protect sources and protect investigations, before the talking points were shared with the White House.

What are we supposed to make of this? Fitting with the official narrative, we are apparently supposed to believe that intelligence linking al Qaeda to the attack was kept from the White House. The problem with that is it is not plausible. Perhaps that info was left out of these “talking points”, but are we seriously supposed to think the administration was not privy to other intelligence reporting in which such information wasn’t scrubbed? The Journal should point out to readers that it is not plausible, but they are helping the government do damage control, so they leave it at that. Why was the CIA drawing up “talking point” in the first place? We’ll come to that.  Further down the page, it states:

The first CIA analysis on Benghazi came in the early morning on Sept. 12, as the agency was still working to evacuate the rest of its officers and the remains of the four deceased Americans from Benghazi. Those first reports concluded the attack was intentional and contained a reference to possible involvement by al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb, an affiliate of the international terrorist movement, and Ansar al-Sharia, a local militant group. They said the assault didn’t appear to stem from a peaceful protest.

So there you have it. The initial intelligence assessment was the opposite of what we were told in the official narrative it said. The official line was that it was a spontaneous attack occurring during protests over the video. The intelligence indicated, however, that it was apparently a planned attack involving militants linked to al Qaeda that did not stem from any such protest. Next:

On Sept. 13, CIA reports began to show that analysts believed a protest had occurred in Benghazi that day, though this was rarely stated directly, officials said. The CIA reports also said “extremists” with ties to al Qaeda took part in the attacks on the consulate and nearby CIA annex.

A “protest had occurred in Benghazi”? Where in Benghazi? At the location where Stevens was killed? Did this protest that was “believed” to have occurred have anything to do with the attack? And what does it mean, “this was rarely stated directly”? Was the White House told there were protests at the actual location of the attack at the time it occurred? Or not? The Journal is, I would dare to venture, being spoon-fed this narrative for damage control. My guess is it is true that there was information about “a protest” occurring “in Benghazi”, but it had nothing to do with the attack in question. This was just leaked to create the impression in readers’ minds that there was actually some basis for the administration’s initial claims to the public about what occurred. Observe, again, though, that it was still characterized in intelligence reports as an apparent terrorist attack. Next paragraph:

Later on Sept. 13, then-director David Petraeus presented the CIA’s initial findings to the Senate Intelligence Committee. His conclusions mirrored that morning’s intelligence reporting. He said the attack began “spontaneously” following the protest in Cairo over the video. He also discussed the reports of involvement of Ansar al-Sharia and the al Qaeda affiliate and called the assault a terrorist attack.

His testimony “mirrored” the intelligence reporting? Really? Did the reports from that morning say the attack began “spontaneously”? And if so, wouldn’t that be a shift away from information seemingly indicating a planned attack? And, again, did the morning’s intel reports say anything about protests occurring over the video at the same time and location of the attack? We are obviously supposed to believe this was so, but note carefully that we are not actually being told that. Notice again the manipulative language here: “the attack began ‘spontaneously’ following the protest in Cairo over the video.” Well, it is true that the attack in Benghazi began after protests had occurred in Cairo, Egypt! But so what? How is that fact relevant at all? Again, it is obvious we are supposed to infer that the initial intelligence assessed that the attack had something to do with the video. But that is in fact not what we are actually being told here. This is the same propaganda device the Bush administration employed to convince the public that Iraq had something to do with the 9/11 attacks; just repeat the words “Saddam Hussein” in the same sentence as “9/11” often enough, and eventually, after enough repetition, people will conclude that there is some connection between the two, even if that is not actually what is being said.

Further down the page:

A CIA analyst drew up the talking points based on Mr. Petraeus’s classified presentations and other intelligence reports. The analyst included a sentence that explicitly said the U.S. believed extremists with ties to al Qaeda took part. Around noon on Sept. 14, a draft of the talking points was circulated among officials at the CIA….

After rounds of bureaucratic exchanges, the CIA officials seeking to remove al Qaeda won the argument, and officials agreed to retain the umbrella term “extremists” but drop the mention of al Qaeda.

So the public was to know that “extremists” were involved, but not that intelligence analysts had assessed a connection to al Qaeda. What about that video?

The draft talking points as completed on Sept. 14 also contained the statement that “the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” over the anti-Islamic video.

About a week later—after Ms. Rice’s TV appearances—intelligence officials dropped the assertion that there had been demonstrations in Benghazi right before the attack, though they still believe the attack was inspired in part by the earlier protest in Cairo over the video.

Again, what “demonstrations in Benghazi”? There is no context provided. We are supposed to think this refers to protests at the time and scene of the attack, but does it? And what is the source for this statement about demonstrations in Benghazi? Further down:

At that point, the talking points, now completed, were sent to Mr. Ruppersberger’s office. They seemed unremarkable to him, the congressman said. “I didn’t see any smoking gun,” he said. “I thought it was basically a rehashing of what Petraeus had said to us.”

So it was a “rehashing of what Petraeus had said”. But was what Petraeus had said actually consistent with the available intelligence? Wasn’t it misleading of him to suggest the attack occurred “spontaneously” and to associate it with protests over the video, when that wasn’t what the initial intelligence reports stated? Next two paragraphs:

But behind the scenes, the intelligence picture was beginning to change.

On Sept. 15, Michael Morell, then CIA deputy director and now acting director, spoke with the CIA station chief in Tripoli, who expressed concern that the agency’s reporting was off the mark. The station chief said there was no protest ongoing at the time of the attack, and he didn’t think the attack was spontaneous.

I find this bit amusing. So the CIA station chief just repeats pretty much what the initial intelligence assessment was, that “there was no protest” and it was not “spontaneous”. But what does the Journal want us to believe about this? That “the intelligence picture was beginning to change”! What a farce. No, it was not beginning to change. It was the same as it had always been. We’re just supposed to  believe this was some kind of “change” because this is damage control, after all, intended to bolster the administration’s official narrative that the falsehoods Susan Rice told the public were in line with the intelligence information that the White House had received.

But the Journal, even while explicitly endorsing the narrative that the intelligence changed over time, offers even more bread crumbs that contradict that claim:

Among some military and intelligence officials who were familiar with the classified intelligence but weren’t involved in the talking-points debate, Ms. Rice’s TV comments on Sept. 16 came as a surprise. They questioned why officials like her didn’t state the clear belief within intelligence circles that al Qaeda’s North African affiliate was involved in the attack, and they saw the administration’s decision not to point to al Qaeda as a reluctance to talk about the attack as terrorism.

Some career intelligence analysts “were just fuming,” a former U.S. official said. Unaware of the vetting process, some questioned whether the statements from top officials were influenced by political calculations.

Seems the only thing that had changed was the story the public was told–not the actual intelligence. Further:

The CIA’s Tripoli station chief sent an email Sept. 16 about the issue of protests in Benghazi, but the agency didn’t immediately change its assessment. Some former officials criticized that decision. “Station chiefs are like God,” the former senior intelligence official said.

At the time, analysts at CIA gave greater weight to multiple reports from the scene that pointed to a protest.

Seriously? Smells like bullshit to me. Notice again the vagueness of the information we are being told, i.e., reports of “a protest”. Where? When? Why would analysts reject the initial assessment that the attack did not appear to have stemmed from a protest and reject the station chief’s statements to that effect? And if they actually did so, and actually believed that there was a protest at the time at the scene of the attack, why, then, were they so surprised by Rice’s public remarks repeating that claim? Why were they “fuming” about it if she was just repeating the information as they had assessed it?

Also on Sept. 20, based on fresh information, the CIA changed its assessment to conclude that a protest hadn’t directly preceded the attack.

Again, why does the Journal say the CIA “changed” its assessment when it had assessed from the beginning that the attack hadn’t stemmed from a protest? Because it’s doing damage control, that’s why, and it isn’t afraid to insult its readers by stating things they are supposed to believe even though it is directly contradicted by facts contained within the very same article.

The new view took two more days, until Sept. 22, to be incorporated into the President’s Daily Brief, the most sensitive intelligence report produced in the U.S. government.

But it would be weeks before the American public was told formally about the change of view on whether there had been a protest in Benghazi. A Sept. 28 public statement about the controversy by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence sidestepped the question. The State Department corrected the administration’s record on the issue publicly on Oct. 11.

Can you smell the bullshit? Again, the Journal is propagating the administration’s official narrative that there was a “change of view” among intelligence analysts. I wonder what those analysts would have to say about that! I’m guessing they are “fuming” over this propaganda as much as they were over Susan Rice’s false statements to the public. There’s one last interesting nugget of information in this article:

Two of the lawmakers criticized Mr. Morell in a news release after the CIA called the lawmakers to correct a misstatement by the acting director during a closed session. He had said that FBI had made the change that removed al Qaeda, and corrected himself that afternoon to say it was CIA.

The Deputy Director of the CIA and now acting director, Michael Morell, told Congress that the FBI had scrubbed the information about the connection to al Qaeda, when in fact his own agency had done that? This was a “misstatement”? So, what, he had intended to say “CIA”, but it just came out “FBI”? Could it be, rather, that he had just lied in order to scrub the CIA’s own role in producing the “talking points” that the administration used to mislead the public about the attack in Benghazi, with information that was contrary to what intelligence analysts had actually assessed?

Something tells me there’s a whole lot more to this than we are being told. It seems pretty clear that when the administration told the public that the attacks were “spontaneous” and the result of protests over the video, they knew that was a lie.

But this is all a distraction, really, over the bigger scandal, which is why Stevens was there. The Obama administration waged an illegal war for regime change against Libya that served to prolong and escalate the violence, resulting in estimated tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of refugees, with the U.S./NATO-backed rebels committing massacres and ethnically cleansing entire towns, destabilizing north Africa, flooding the region with arms, and unleashing al-Qaeda affiliated militant groups. Stevens shouldn’t have been there. That’s the real story that isn’t being told.

Instead, the story we are told is how the U.S. engaged in a “humanitarian” intervention to save lives, and how successful that policy has been, despite a few bumps in the road like the attack that killed Stevens in Benghazi. This is the Big Lie.

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About Jeremy R. Hammond

About Jeremy R. Hammond

I am an independent journalist, political analyst, publisher and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, book author, and writing coach.

My writings empower readers with the knowledge they need to see through state propaganda intended to manufacture their consent for criminal government policies.

By recognizing when we are being lied to and why, we can fight effectively for liberty, peace, and justice, in order to create a better world for ourselves, our children, and future generations of humanity.

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