Fresh from breaking the story that the US knew that the Benghazi consulate sacking was a terrorist attack within 24 hours, Eli Lake explains how US intelligence arrived at that conclusion. US intel was monitoring communications between terrorist groups in Libya and al Qaeda.
In the communications, members of Ansar al-Sharia (AAS) bragged about their successful attack against the American consulate and the U.S. ambassador, according to three U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast anonymously because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
At this stage there is no consensus inside the U.S. intelligence community that AQIM planned the attack, but the communications are more evidence that the attack was no spontaneous reaction to an Internet video, as the Obama administration had said for the first nine days after the attack.
Ambassador Susan Rice and Secretary of State Clinton had no excuse for spinning the attack as spontaneous. Even the Library of Congress was aware of the terrorist threat in Libya.
Elements of the U.S. intelligence community were well aware of the threat Al Qaeda posed in eastern Libya before the 9/11 anniversary. In August, the Library of Congress at the direction of a U.S. government research organization that focuses on counterterrorism concluded that Al Qaeda was well on its way to resurgence inside post-Muammar Gaddafi Libya. The unclassified report commissioned by the Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office’s Irregular Warfare Support Program said Al Qaeda’s senior leadership “in Pakistan dispatched trusted senior operatives as emissaries and leaders who could supervise building a network. Al-Qaeda has established a core network in Libya, but it remains clandestine and refrains from using the al-Qaeda name.”
President Obama does have one excuse available to him: He had been skipping his Presidential Daily Briefings in the days and weeks leading up to the attacks. He wasn’t doing his job.
As for the Obama team’s motives in engineering a cover-up in plain sight, two strike me as plausible at the moment. The first relates to the preceding paragraph and the perception that the president wasn’t engaged in the daily process of protecting the country. Having authorized the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, perhaps Obama thought he could avoid foreign policy during the campaign and therefore paid little attention to the intel briefings while paying more attention to the campaign. The second relates to the attack’s possible authorship. The similarity between the Sept 8 threat to the Cairo embassy and the sacking in Benghazi hint that both attacks were pre-planned by the same people. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood are already implicated in the trouble in Cairo. If it turns out that the attacks were connected, then it’s difficult to get past the disturbing implications: The new Egypt has committed an act of war on the United States. The president would be obligated to respond to that in some way. He would also be obligated to acknowledge that his Cairo speech failed and his overall Middle East policy is up in smoke.
Update: Lookie here.