What Obama was Told about the Benghazi Attack

Originally here:
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Officials divulge that Obama was told it was armed extremists, not a spontaneous mob, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens
UPDATED 7:23 AM EST, November 23, 2012  |  BY John Solomon

U.S. intelligence told President Barack Obama and senior administration officials within 72 hours of the Benghazi tragedy that the attack was likely carried out by local militia and other armed extremists sympathetic to al-Qaida in the region, officials directly familiar with the information told the Washington Guardian on Friday.

Based on electronic intercepts and human intelligence on the ground, the early briefings after the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya identified possible organizers and participants. Most were believed to be from a local Libyan militia group called Ansar al-Sharia that is sympathetic to al-Qaida, the official said, while a handful of others was linked to a direct al-Qaida affiliate in North Africa known as AQIM.

Those briefings also raised the possibility that the attackers may have been inspired both by spontaneous protests across the globe on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and by a desire to seek vengeance for the U.S. killing last summer of a Libyan-born leader of al-Qaida named Abu Yaya al-Libi, the officials said, speaking only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing intelligence matters.

The details from the CIA and Pentagon assessments of the killing of Ambassador Chris Stephens were far more specific, more detailed and more current than the unclassified talking points that UN Ambassador Susan Rice and other officials used five days after the attack to suggest to Americans that an unruly mob angry over an anti-Islamic video was to blame, officials said.

Most of the details affirming al-Qaida links were edited or excluded from the unclassified talking points used by Rice in appearances on news programs the weekend after the attack, officials confirmed Friday. Multiple agencies were involved in excising information, doing so because it revealed sources and methods, dealt with classified intercepts or involved information that was not yet fully confirmed, the officials said.

“There were multiple agencies involved, not for political reasons, but because of intelligence concerns,” one official explained.

Rice’s performance on the Sunday talk shows has become a source of controversy between Congress and the White House. Lawmakers, particularly Republicans, have questioned whether the administration was trying to mislead the country by suggesting the Benghazi attack was like the spontaneous protests that had occurred elsewhere on Sept. 11, in places like Egypt.

Obama has defended Rice, and he and his top aides have insisted politics was not involved. They argue the administration’s shifting story was the result of changing intelligence.

U.S. intelligence officials said Friday, however, the assessment that the tragedy was an attack by extremists with al-Qaida links was well defined within 48 to 72 hours.

“We knew this was an attack by extremists, a terror attack, and that this was more violent than the embassy protests we saw that day,” one official said. “But it also had an element of spontaneous opportunity and disorganization.”

The Washington Guardian was first to report just 48 hours after the attack that U.S. officials believed the attack was linked to al-Qaida sympathizers and may have evolved from spontaneous early attacks to a more organized mortar shelling.

Among the early evidence cited in the briefings to the preisdent and other senior officials were intercepts showing some of the participants were known members or supporters of Ansar al-Sharia — the al-Qaida-sympathizing militia in Libya –and the AQIM, which is a direct affiliate of al-Qaida in northern Africa, the officials said.

The use of rocket propelled grenades and mortars also indicated the players were engaged in more than a spontaneous uprising, though ground reports also showed some of the attackers were somewhat disorganized during the early waves of attacks, the officials said.

Senior officials were briefed within 72 hours of the attack that the attackers may have staged or used a spontaneous crowd that formed outside the consulate in Benghazi to launch the first wave of attacks with gunfire and rocket-fired grenades, and that they may have been aided by sympathesizers inside Libyan security forces who were supposed to protect the consulate, the officials said. Stephens is believed to have been killed in the first attacks, most likely from smoke from related fires, officials have said.

Officials were also told a second-wave attack — about four hours after the first evacuations of the consulate — focused on an annex where the CIA and others had significant assets. It was more sophisticated and lethal in force, though only 11 minutes in length. Two mortars missed, while three struck the building, killing two former Navy SEALs who worked for the CIA and were trying to fend off that attack, the officials said.

The Washington Guardian was among the first to report that the Navy SEALs were not part of the official State Department embassy security team but nonetheless stepped into the breach to protect the diplomatic staff.

U.S. officials acknowledge that annex housed an American intelligence operation that was buying back weapons from Libyan rebels that had been provided by the West during the effort to overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Ghadafi.

The president and other officials were also told during the early briefings about other attempted acts of violence that had occurred in Benghazi and around the consulate before the deadly attack. They were also told that there was at least some intelligence indicating some efforts to surveil U.S. assets in Benghazi had occurred in the days and weeks before.

Fragmentary intelligence briefed to the president also offered several possible motives for the attack, including a desire to join other Sept. 11 uprisings at embassies around the globe, and a videotaped call by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for LIbyans to avenge the death of al-Libi, who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in June. The videotape was released early on Sept. 11, just hours before the attack on the consulate.

“By that first Friday, we already knew the al-Qaida signatures and players, specifically Ansar al-Sharia, and the senior-most leadership was briefed,” one official said.

Officials also provided the Washington Guardian a detailed timeline of the CIA’s response the night of Sept. 11 and morning of Sept. 12 as the waves of attacks pounded the compound and annex, showing:

  • Around 9:40 p.m. (local), the first call comes in to the Annex that the Mission is coming under attack.
  • Fewer than 25 minutes later, a security team leaves the Annex for the Mission.
  • Over the next 25 minutes, team members approach the compound, attempt to secure heavy weapons, and make their way onto the compound itself in the face of enemy fire.
  • At 11:11 p.m., the requested drone arrives over the Mission compound.
  • By 11:30 p.m., all U.S. personnel, except for the missing Ambassador Stephens, depart the Mission.  The exiting vehicles come under fire.
  • Over the next roughly 90 minutes, the Annex receives sporadic small arms fire and RPG rounds; the security team returns fire, and the attackers disperse around 1 a.m. local time.
  • At about the same time, a team of additional security personnel lands at the Benghazi airport, negotiates for transport into town, and upon learning the Ambassador was missing and that the situation at the Annex had calmed, focused on locating the Ambassador and trying to secure information on the security situation at the hospital.
  • Still pre-dawn timeframe, that team at the airport finally manages to secure transportation and armed escort and — having learned that the Ambassador was almost certainly dead and that the security situation at the hospital was uncertain — heads to the Annex to assist with the evacuation.
  • They arrive with Libyan support at the Annex by 5:15 a.m., just before the mortar rounds begin to hit the Annex.  The two security officers were killed when they took direct mortar fire as they engaged the enemy.  That attack lasted only 11 minutes.
  • Less than an hour later, a heavily-armed Libyan military unit arrived to help evacuate the compound of all U.S. personnel.
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Second story originally here:
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Was Obama Briefed that Benghazi was a Terror Attack Before Rice Went on TV? Posted at 11:31 am on November 17, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

 

 

 

So says John Solomon at the Washington Guardian, citing sources within the intel­ligence community.  Within 72 hours, the Presidential Daily Briefing made it clear, accord­ing to Solomon, that the attack did not arise from a spontaneous mob protesting a You­Tube video, but instead resulted from a planned, coordinated attack by radical Islamist “extremists” with links to al-Qaeda:

 

    U.S. intelligence told President Barack Obama and senior administra­tion officials within 72 hours of the Benghazi tragedy that the attack was like­ly carried out by local militia and other armed extremists sympathetic to al-Qaida in the region, officials directly familiar with the information told the Washington Guardian on Friday.

 

    Based on electronic intercepts and human intelligence on the ground, the early briefings after the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya identified possible organizers and participants. Most were believed to be from a local Libyan militia group called Ansar al-Sharia that is sym­pa­thetic to al-Qaida, the official said, while a handful of others was linked to a direct al-Qaida affiliate in North Africa known as AQIM.

 

    Those briefings also raised the possibility that the attackers may have been inspired both by spontaneous protests across the globe on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and by a desire to seek vengeance for the U.S. killing last summer of a Libyan-born leader of al-Qaida named Abu Yaya al-Libi, the officials said, speaking only on condition of an­onymity because they were discussing intelligence matters.

 

    The details from the CIA and Pentagon assessments of the killing of Ambassador Chris Stephens were far more specific, more detailed and more current than the unclassified talking points that UN Ambassador Susan Rice and other officials used five days after the attack to suggest to Americans that an unruly mob angry over an anti-Islamic video was to blame, officials said.

 

Jennifer Rubin calls this game over for the administration’s defense of Susan Rice, and of the President himself:

 

    Solomon cautions that there were bits of evidence pointing to a spon­taneous attack but, as Eli Lake of the Daily Beast and others have reported, he writes: “Among the early evidence cited in the briefings to the president and other senior officials were intercepts showing some of the participants were known members or supporters of Ansar al-Sharia — the al-Qaida-sympathizing militia in Libya — and the AQIM, which is a direct affiliate of al-Qaida in northern Africa, the officials said.”

 

    How could the president and his senior staff then have allowed (or rather, sent) Rice to go out to tell an entirely different tale to the American people on Sept. 16 on five TV shows?

 

    This report indicates that the president certainly knew that Benghazi wasn’t a rogue movie review gone bad. He had information that plainly spell­ed out what was later confirmed by additional intelligence. If this infor­mation was too confidential to share with the public, at the very least the president and others should not have mislead voters.

 

    This is a full-blown scandal, and in light of this information, the press corps’s slothful indifference to uncovering the truth at Wednesday’s news conference with Obama is all the more shocking. It is time for the presi­dent to come clean. The scandal has now enveloped the Oval Office and will define his second term, if not resolved satisfactorily.

 

To some extent, this wouldn’t be a surprise, if accurate.  A month ago, we learned that the CIA station chief in Libya had cabled Washington that the sacking of the consulate was a terrorist attack, not a protest gone rogue.  Two days after the attack itself, the Inde­pendent in the UK reported that the US had warnings up to 48 hours before the attack that the consulate had been targeted for 9/11.  We learned in October that the State De­partment knew within two hours after the attack that Ansar al-Sharia had claimed credit for it.  All of this would fit very neatly into a PDB 72 hours later that concluded the attack had been planned and coordinated by terrorists rather than a mob action, or even a spon­taneous terrorist action initiated to exploit a supposed demonstration.

 

We certainly have heard enough to conclude that Rice’s statement on several shows that there was “no evidence” of a terrorist attack was flat-out false, regardless of whether the evidence was conclusive by the time she made those appearances.  Solomon’s sources advance that part of the story by claiming that the PDB made a conclusive case that Ben­ghazi at least two days before Obama sent Rice out to disseminate a false narrative.  If those sources are accurate — and it’s worth pointing out that anonymous sources have told many conflicting tales in this scandal thus far — that puts Obama in a very bad position, especially since he personally extended that narrative in the US and at the UN in a speech that blamed “those who slander the Prophet of Islam” for the violence.

 

What’s interesting about Solomon’s leak, other than the data itself, is the timing.  Da­vid Petraeus testified yesterday that he had almost immediately concluded that a terror­ist attack had taken place, and that the official talking points given to Rice had been edit­ed somewhere along the way from the CIA.  This came at the same time as a leak from the CIA that Petraeus would be the subject of an investigation into his extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, and a leak the day before of the talking points prepared for Susan Rice, which at first blush exonerated her from charges of lying about the attack.  There is a war going on between State and the intel community, and perhaps within the intel com­munity itself, with sources having axes to grind lobbing leaks like mortar shells into this story.

The result?   It’s difficult to determine the truth without a boatload of subpoenas, but it’s clear that we haven’t heard the whole story about what happened before, during, and af­ter the attack.

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