In a tense and occasionally combative press briefing on Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney attempted to portray the Obama administration’s changing narrative of the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi as a natural product of the fog of war, rather than a deliberate misdirection.
American ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died in the assault, which U.N. ambassador Susan Rice later called a “spontaneous” reaction to a YouTube video insulting Islam. The State Department and investigators have since revealed that there were, in fact, no protests or demonstrations about the video in Benghazi prior to the attack.
Under fierce questioning by the White House press corps, Carney blamed intelligence agencies for the administration’s false claims about the incident.
Q: “Jay earlier you said that people who claim they know all the facts aren’t being straight. Why then were we told repeatedly by administration officials that this was as a result of a spontaneous –”
MR. CARNEY: “Well, I think you’ll find, as I’ve said several times now, is that when we provided the assessments that we had based on the information that the intelligence community had assessed, we made clear that they were preliminary assessments, preliminary assessments, and that facts, as they became available, would be made known to you. That has been the case from day one, and we have, I think, been pretty transparent about acknowledging when new information has come to light that has changed the assessment of the intelligence community, which provides these assessments to Congress, to the branches of government, to the White House and, through us, to the American people.”
Q: “Right, but where is the threshold by which this — these preliminary assessments are made public? They were obviously wrong. They were wrong leading up to the attack. They were wrong in the initial aftermath of attack — of the attack. How is it determined when to use these assessments, preliminary or not, even when they turn out to be wrong? Isn’t there some concern — (inaudible)?”
MR. CARNEY: “(Inaudible) — that values transparency, and this is an administration that values transparency. We had a — we –”
Q: (Off mic) — for our benefit, even though turned out to be wrong.
MR. CARNEY: “I think that’s an editorial judgment that you’re making.”