President Barack Obama’s deputies modified an intelligence report provided by former CIA Director David Petraeus to obscure the jihadis’ role in the Benghazi consulate attack on Sept. 11, 2012, according to House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Peter King.
The critical question is “who changed these talking points and why,” King said on Nov. 16, shortly after attending a closed-door hearing where Petraeus explained his actions in the days after the surprise attack on the consulate and CIA building in Libya.
The attack, which was launched just two months before the presidential election, killed four Americans, including Obama’s ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
It also forcefully highlighted major problems in Obama’s Muslim-outreach strategy.
Petraeus’ initial report included a specific mention of an al-Qaida role in the attacks, but that mention was removed when the CIA’s report was edited by officials at the Department of Justice, the Department State, the White House’s National Security Council, and various agency public-affairs offices, King said.
Petraeus’ initial CIA report “specifically mentioned al-Qieda, and that al-Qaida was involved in the attack,” King told Fox.
“Somewhere along that line, that was taken out… someone in the administration had to have taken it out,” he said, adding that Congress needs to create a special committee to find out what happened.
That “really changed the whole tone” of the CIA report, he said.
The jihad attack followed months of tension, and periodic attacks, against British and U.S. targets in Benghazi by jihadi groups.
The climatic Sept. 11, 2012 assaults were a success for the jihadis, because U.S. officials pulled out of the city, leaving the jihadis with more ability to pressure the weak Libyan government in the country’s capital city.
In the days after the attack, Obama’s deputies downplayed evidence of a deliberate jihadi attack, and instead blamed the attack on a “natural” popular protest against a California-made video that is critical of Islam’s prophet, Mohammad.
On Sept. 16, for example, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on five Sunday talk-shows to argue that the attacks were entangled in a protests against the anti-Islam video.
Obama even spoke out against the video during his Sept. 25 speech at the United Nations General Assembly. “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” the U.S. president declared, echoing Islamists’ calls for worldwide laws against blasphemy of Islam.
In November, a California judge sentenced the video-maker to a year in jail for various probation violations.
In the weeks prior to the election, the administration’s focus on the video helped the established media ignore the growing problems with his Arab-region outreach policy, despite expanding GOP criticism.
Under his outreach policy, begun in 2009, Obama has helped Islamist groups gain power in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
The intention was to create a non-violent political alternative to al-Qaida and other jihadi groups.
But the Islamist political parties share many of the same ideological goals as the jihadi groups, and they frequently cooperate on various issues.
For example, Gaza’s Hamas terror group is an affiliate of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, whose members now control the country’s elected parliament. On Nov. 16, leader of both groups met in Gaza to denounce Israel’s effort to defend itself from Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.
Similarly, the brother of al-Qaida’s current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is a prominent Islamist leader in Cairo, and he helped organize the demonstration outside the U.S. embassy in Egypt on Sept. 11, 2012.
Despite the administration’s effort to focus on the video, the jihadi issue spilled into the U.S. election.
In the second presidential debate, for example, Obama denied any attempt to downplay the jihadis’ role in the Benghazi attack. Republican nominee Mitt Romney quickly sought to debunk that denial, but was successfully derailed by the moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley.
To shield the president, Democratic officials are trying to blame the CIA for misleading top officials, and are using Rice to help.
For GOP leaders “to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous,” Obama declared at a Nov. 14 press conference in the White House.