The administration’s ongoing BS (Benghazi Spin)
As Fox News Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge recently revealed, evidence of politicization in official accounts of one of the worst terrorist attacks on American citizens in recent years continues to grow. Indeed, according to her reporting, several military officers interviewed by Fox contested claims made by intelligence officials which downplayed the sophistication evident in the mortar attack on the CIA annex in Benghazi.
Yet if the mainstream media’s past behaviors are any indication of how it will cover Benghazi-related revelations like these moving forward, you can safely bet the administration will continue to get a pass from many top news organizations for its dissimulation of the facts. Not to mention a pass for placing political concerns above the safety of Americans who died in Benghazi in September 2012.
Speaking in the Rose Garden soon after the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, President Obama made a passing reference to acts of terrorism. He did not, however, explicitly label the attacks that left an American ambassador and three other Americans dead in Benghazi as acts of terrorism. That is, at least not publicly. Thus the Benghazi spin (BS) campaign began. And even though then-U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice has finally acknowledged the narrative she helped pitch regarding a “spontaneous protest”-turned-attack-on-
This, and top reporters knew the administration was being disingenuous in its public waffling on the question of whether the attacks that left four Americans dead in Benghazi should be considered acts of terrorism.
As we saw with the president’s depiction of GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney not long after the attacks occurred — to quote, he’s “a bullsh-er!” — nuance is not a prominent feature of Mr. Obama’s repertoire. Therefore it stands to reason that if the president had been prepared to publicly call the September 11, 2012 attacks acts of terrorism, his aforementioned Rose Garden address would have begun with comments along the lines of, The terrorist attacks conducted in Benghazi, Libya on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks on America’s homeland will not diminish America’s resolve to combat Al Qaeda in all reaches of the globe.
However, just as we saw in response to the Ft. Hood attacks that were executed by a self-proclaimed “Soldier of Allah,” who was in contact with a top Al Qaeda cleric known for promoting so-called “leaderless jihad” against the U.S., the president refused to promptly label acts of terrorism as, well, acts of terrorism.
Of course, it’s now clear a protest did not take place in Benghazi. Rather, well-armed jihadis — many of them trained in the camps of an Al Qaeda cell then operating in Egypt with what some might call de facto permission from the government of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi — amassed around a diplomatic facility, and attacked it. We also now know a large contingent of those involved with the protests that had taken place outside of the U.S. Embassy Cairo — of which, the Benghazi attacks were described as an outgrowth by now National Security Advisor Susan Rice — were led by Mohamed al-Zawahiri, brother of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Of course, the government of Obama administration-endorsed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was allowing Mohamed to live freely alongside a long list of other Al Qaeda members inside Egypt.
But here’s what you probably don’t know: In initial discussions with leading national press correspondents, the Obama administration acknowledged the attacks were, in fact, considered to be acts of terrorism.
Yes, members of the press corps with the best access to the administration knew just what the administration’s position on the September 11, 2012 attacks truly was — and that position was far less foggy than the picture painted in the media by administration officials like Ambassador Rice, and the president himself.
One journalist with access to the administration related to me in October 2012 that what was discussed publicly by administration officials was altogether different than off the record interactions with the press immediately following the attacks. Accordingly, for administration officials, there was no question the attacks constituted acts of terrorism. The only thing in question was the timeline that came into play for the terrorists’ to plan and execute these attacks.
But why didn’t the president tell the American people this from the start? Why did he, instead, play games with this issue? Why the ambivalence?
One plausible reason is this: In a nationally-televised address delivered not long before the September 11, 2012 attacks, the president sought to assure his base that, when bin Laden was killed, Mr. Obama had delivered a death blow to Al Qaeda. Accordingly, Al Qaeda was on the run.
Obviously, however, a well-coordinated series of attacks on diplomatic and intelligence facilities such as these are not what one would reasonably expect from an organization on the run.
Moreover, as President Obama acknowledged during an appearance on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, the deaths of four Americans in a terrorist attack executed by jihadis affiliated with an entity President Obama had claimed to have been on the verge of destroying weeks earlier was, in Mr. Obama’s words, “not optimal.”
Clearly, politics is what is at the center of this entire tragedy. And I don’t just mean the administration’s post-attack narrative, or the willingness of certain press outlets to remain silent while the administration’s lackeys proffered the “spontaneous protest” narrative on Sunday talk shows. Nor do I mean the instances of intelligence officials downplaying the level of preparations and skills required to execute a successful mortar attack like the one jihadis in eastern Libya pulled off when they turned their focus to the CIA annex during the early morning hours of September 12, 2012.
Indeed, while Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadis killing an American ambassador weeks ahead of a U.S. presidential election is politically “not optimal” for an incumbent presidential candidate, a much bigger political problem could have entailed images of jihadis parading around uniformed American servicemen killed or taken hostage during such an incident.
One may reasonably infer that political concerns about a scenario such as that one unfolding in Libya did influence the Hillary Clinton-led State Department’s decisions to decline requests for deployments of better security personnel, such as U.S. Marines, to Benghazi. After all, during her first year in office as First Lady of the United States, Hillary Clinton learned just how politically damaging such a scenario as that can be when Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadis engaged U.S. forces in another fierce battle on the African continent. That incident ended with three words heard ’round the world: Black Hawk down.
Today, the question should not be whether political concerns manifest the absence of a security posture in Benghazi sufficient to deter, or at least disrupt the September 11, 2012 attacks as they occurred. Nor should the question be whether the mainstream media helped the administration to advance a politically-advantageous and utterly false narrative regarding the September 11, 2012 attacks during an election year. The question is, just how much further are some members of America’s media organizations willing to go to shield Obama administration officials from the fallout of their political decisions?
Michael S. Smith II is a principal and co-founder of Kronos Advisory, counterterrorism adviser to members of the United States Congress, and a senior analyst with Wikistrat.