Our View: 6:07 p.m., same day
Posted: October 25, 2012
Sept. 11, 2012, 6:07 p.m. (Eastern Time): A State Department email titled “Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack (SBU),” declares that “Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”
Obtained initially by CBS News (but from whom, precisely?), this email — dispatched on the heels of two other postings, the first (4:05 p.m.) reporting the Benghazi consulate under attack and the second (4:54 p.m.) providing an update on the incident — was sent to myriad national security platforms, including the Pentagon, the FBI, the Director of National Intelligence . . . and the White House Situation Room (two officials with “nss.eop.gov” addresses, EOP standing for Executive Office of the President).
What does this tell us? For starters, the obvious — that Official Washington knew less than three hours after the attack — which started at roughly 3:40 Eastern Time, 25 minutes before the first email — that a terrorist group, not a “spontaeous” mob protesting an anti-Islamic YouTube video, was responsible. Neither of the first two emails contained any mention of such a video or rioting in response to it.
The contents of these three posts further underscore earlier questions, generated by earlier reports, as to why higher-ups in the Obama administration — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, White House spokesman Jay Carney, even the president himself — for days after continually cited this obscure video as the impetus for the violence in Benghazi that claimed the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Simply put, the emails go a long way toward answering the standard compound question: What did they know, and when did they know it?
“They,” of course, includes Mr. Obama. Two weeks after the fact, the president mentioned the YouTube video a half-dozen times in a speech to the United Nations. More illuminating, perhaps, was this statement, made by Mr. Obama during a previously schedule interview with CBS News’ Steve Kroft (and reported Tuesday by dogged CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson) 14 hours after the assault: “You’re right that this is not a situation that was — exactly the same as what happened in Egypt and my suspicion is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start.”
OK, so why the extended verbal subterfuge? And, perhaps even more importantly, why was no military assistance rushed to the consulate when so many officials were aware it was under attack?
Reports now indicate the bloody raid lasted as much seven hours, and two of the Americans killed died in its latter stages. Now, in addition to questions about the denial of requests for additional security at Benghazi before the attack, Americans are now wondering why no relief — troops in Italy an hour away, planes on aircraft carriers — was forthcoming after terrorists stormed the compound. And with Embassy Tripoli targeted as well.