Benghazigate: Missing Yet Another Point
Published on: May 23, 2013
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  • John Burke

    Call me crazy but I don’t see why Petreaus would not cause talking points to be generated for the HPSC when asked to do so by that committe so it’s members would be able to talk about a very public subject without inadvertently disclosing classified portions of the briefing they received. I have a sneaking suspicion that this was not the first time such was done. After the final points have been agreed to by State and the NSS, if the latter choose to use them for other purposes, why is that a problem for Petreaus?

    Something that seems to be missing from all the back and forth leaking about these points is the nexus to Susan Rice’s statements on the five shows and similar comments from Clinton and Obama. What Rice said only generally resembles ANY of the drafts of the talking points we know about. It seems to me that Rice was working off some other briefing.

  • You’re right, I think, about Susan Rice’s talking points; there’s plenty we still do not know about the flow of paper and motives. But you’re not right, I think, about the CIA, and its director, writing talking points as a matter of course. The CIA generally does not write talking points; it reviews and vets talking points. This may have been a special case, since the CIA owned the facility and hence the problem; but it’s wrong to think this is normal operating procedure–hence my basic point here. (You also confused “it’s” for “its”…..) I agree, and I said in my post, that there was nothing particularly egregious about what Petraeus did, since he had reason to assume his draft would not be made public. Still, anything that Congressmen get their hands on, you have to assume these days, will be leaked. So it’s a murky thing from start to finish.

  • John Burke

    I certainly agree that all the self-serving leaking is destructive and ought to stop. All things considered though, this would not be an issue if the Administration had told something resembling the truth, rather than the silly story about the Coptic guy’s crazy video. It would not have been necessary to go into detail about Ansar al-Sharia, suspected al Qaeda links, what the “annex” was for, etc. It was only necessary to say that “Americans were the victims of a terrorist attack in a chaotic region of post-Gaddafi Libya where they were helping the new Libyan government to blah, blah. We and our Libyan allies are working to identify the attackers and we will bring them to justice.”

    Maybe Romney or other Relublicans would still have tried to make it a campaign issue (“Obama says al Qaeda’s defeated but it’s not”) but I think they would have had their heads handed to them for not rallying round the flag and the chief in the face of terror. Only the transparently nonsensical “protest against an offensive video” line gave them ammunition and IMO genuinely angered war horses like McCain and Graham.

    • adam Garfinkle

      Well, I think that when Petraeus referenced the video, he probably believed it on the basis of immediate speculation since, don;t forget, there had been riots in Cairo that were based on the video. This is the classic case of the evoked set–consult a cognitive psych text if you don’t know what that refers to. The odd thing, as you imply, is that the administration stuck to this after it became clear it wasn’t true. Why? Several possibilities: They deferred to the CIA and were trying to protect information about the nature of the facility; they just didn’t pay attention since all the WH cared about was the impending election; etc. There are relatively innocent explanations, though none of them very pretty.

  • What do you make of the idea that the CIA needed to disguise the transfer of weapons from Libya to Syria ? If such transfers were in fact occurring , that would explain both the secrecy and the diversion . No -one in the White House , nor the State Department , nor the CIA , nor anyone else in the military could afford to be honest with the American people without ruining many careers . ( The same goes for the IRS , but for reasons unrelated to national security . )

    • adam Garfinkle

      Well, I don’t have any sense of whether weapons were headed from Libya to the Syrian rebels, or if so how. But I don’t see how that would have mattered, because that station in Benghazi would naturally have been doing lots of things. Suppose for a moment they were transferring weapons; we still don’t see that in public, and yet the the whole thing is otherwise outed, and has been troublesome.

  • Richard Aubrey

    The story about the video might have been chosen, have as a point in its favor, that it is immensely plausible. Wouldn’t be the first time, and so forth. In fact, if other issues hadn’t causbed more scrutiny, it might still be believed.
    So it could have been seen as a sure sale. Best of the options.
    Who’d wonder about those nutty Arab mobs getting fired up over rumors of a video? Hell, remember the motoons? Just another one of those things. Next question.

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