By: Roger Aronoff and Bethany Stotts
Accuracy in Media
New details have surfaced which further put the lie to the idea that the Obama administration’s knowledge of the Benghazi attacks was “developing” at the time, and that the administration could reasonably have believed that the terrorist attacks perpetrated on September 11, 2012 had anything to do with the anti-Islam video “Innocence of Muslims.”
Previously, before her famous Congressional outburst asking “What difference at this point does it make?” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked “Was information developing, was the situation fluid?” as an excuse for blaming the video.
No, information was not “developing,” as recent news reporting shows. In fact, “The FBI interviewed the Benghazi survivors over a three-day period shortly after the attack, and none of them reported a protest or demonstration, according to a Republican senator who says the timeline was confirmed by an FBI deputy director,” reports Catherine Herridge for Fox News.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) said that “The FBI confirmed to me that when they interviewed the survivors on the 15th the 16th and the 17th [of September], not one person ever mentioned anything other than a terrorist attack. No one mentioned a protest outside the consulate.”
“So, how could the Obama administration come up with a protest story if everybody on the ground during the attack said it was a terrorist attack and there was no protest?” he asks.
“What is unclear,” however, remarks Herridge, “is whether this information was immediately shared by the FBI, ignored, or somehow blocked from reaching the White House.”
Similar information has been released by Congress before. The bipartisan “Flashing Red” report, issued December 2012, concluded that “As early as September 15th, the Annex team that had been in Benghazi during the attack reported there had been no protest.” And, it states, “On September 15th and 16th, officials from the FBI conducted face-to-face interviews in Germany of the U.S. personnel who had been on the compound in Benghazi during the attack.”
“The U.S. personnel who were interviewed saw no indications that there had been a protest prior to the attack. Information from those interviews was shared on a secure video teleconference on the afternoon of the 16th with FBI and other IC officials in Washington; it is unclear whether the question of whether a protest took place was discussed during this video conference” (emphasis added).
Senator Graham’s comments reinforce that the FBI knew the video was a “non-event in Libya,” but this does not definitively prove that the White House knew this also. However newly declassified transcripts show that now-retired General Carter Ham, then the head of AFRICOM, spoke to then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey about the attacks that night. He had the following to say before Congress: “Again, sir, I think, you know, there was some preliminary discussion about, you know, maybe there was a demonstration. But I think at the command, I personally and I think the command very quickly got to the point that this was not a demonstration, this was a terrorist attack” (emphasis added).
Ham’s newly declassified testimony provides definitive proof that President Obama knew that the attacks were not the result of a demonstration on September 11, 2012 itself—but he chose to blame the video anyway, even weeks later before the United Nations. This revelation comes from a series of recently declassified hearings which are available on the House Armed Services Committee website.
Agincourt Solutions, a social media monitoring firm, found that the first mention of the video on Libyan social media occurred the day after the attack. Al Monitor points to some contradictory examples by Ansar al Shariah and the February 17th Martyrs Brigade. Al Monitor argues that “To say that the video sparked the attack is not to say that the attack was only about it. Rather, to employ the metaphor favored by Ansar Minbar, news of the video appears to have been the proverbial drop that made the cup overflow.”
This ignores the fact that the attacks appear to have been preplanned for weeks, if not months ahead, an assertion made not only by Mike Rogers (R-MI), Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, but also Libyan National Congress President Mohammed Magariaf, who said on CBS Face the Nation in September 2012 that “definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who—who entered the country a few months ago…”
In recent weeks, Speaker John Boehner has been criticized by relatives of the deceased, and other conservatives, for not providing more movement on the Benghazi issue. Do these new revelations by the House indicate that there may be a way forward, and that Speaker Boehner is feeling the pressure?
Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bethany Stotts is a freelance writer, and former staff writer for Accuracy in Academia. She blogs at http://bethanystotts.wordpress.com/.