Saturday, October 20, 2012

CIA Reports on Libya Backs Up Susan Rice

      While Romney and the GOP have jumped all over Susan Rice's account on the Benghazi attack and accused the Obama Administration of hiding something, CIA "talking points" put together on September 15, the same day Rice made her statement suggests what she said may have been accurate.

     What they certainly do show is that Romney has no idea what he's talking about and should stop trying to politicize Benghazi. The narrative that Romney and company have been pushing is that the anti-Muslim video has nothing to do with the attacks which weren't at all spontaneous but timed to coincide with 9/11. The CIA is a lot less convinced of all this than Governor Romney is:

     “Talking points” prepared by the CIA on Sept. 15, the same day that Rice taped three television appearances, support her description of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate as a reaction to Arab anger about an anti-Muslim video prepared in the United States. According to the CIA account,

    “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”

     Indeed, after seeing this it's even clearer why the President told Romney to please continue. If Romney brings it up on Monday-and you presume that the moderator will in any case-the President will probably tell Romney to again continue. As it's clear that Romney and his team don't know anything about this and only makes himself look bad by politicizing this tragedy rather than doing anything to bring the country together.

    What this is actually is the type of thing that it's best that the politicians stay out of it till there is anything really known about what happened. Right now Romney is just speculating and that's not Presidential but pretty irresponsible:

     "The Benghazi flap is the sort of situation that intelligence officers dread: when politicians are demanding hard “yes” or “no” answers but evidence is fragmentary and conflicting. The political debate has focused on whether the attack was spontaneous or planned, but the official said there’s evidence of both, and that different attackers may have had different motives. There’s no dispute, however, that it was “an act of terror,” as Obama described it the next day."

     So the issue that Romney has been flagging for a month-the semantical game of gotcha; he never used the word terrorism-is a total red herring.

     The other issues that Romney and friends have been belaboring is that the President's team from Susan Rice on out has wrongly claimed the importance of the anti-Muslim video in the attacks and that this was a pre-planned attack.

     What's clear from the talking points CIA piece is that it's not nearly as cut and dried as Romney is trying to make it. The video had some importance, or so both the CIA and people in Libya still believe.

      What we see is that the video was used opportunistically by terrorist groups although there were also spontaneous protests to the video.

      "The official said the only major change he would make now in the CIA’s Sept. 15 talking points would be to drop the word “spontaneous” and substitute “opportunistic.” He explained that there apparently was “some pre-coordination but minimal planning.”

       Even now then if it was less "spontaneous" than it initially appeared, there is no evidence that it was planned and that most people with knowledge of the situation don't believe that it was. In a way this is all besides the point.

       The Governor needs to stop trying to score political points of this tragedy. Whatever the accuracy of early reports-again, note that what Ms. Rice said was not at all in variance with what the CIA was thinking at that point-there was no deliberate attempt to mislead.

       In fact, it's quite the opposite. Jan Stevens-the father of slain Ambassador Chris Stevens-has asked the Governor to stop politicizing his son's death and that the President and his Administration are doing everything to investigate the terrorist acts in an above board, transparent way. Why doesn't the Governor stop trying to play gotcha with every piece of news that comes out?

       By the way, why do the Republicans including Romney seem so eager to dismiss that anti-Muslim video? Is it because Romney shares some of the anti-Muslim prejudices with those who made that miserable film? While we certainly do have freedom of speech in this country, the law does not provide for us to scream "fire" in a crowded theater-that is to say, we may not incite violence.

       Everything we know about the motivations of the filmmakers suggest that this was exactly what they wanted. After the attack, Steve Klein said he expected that would happen as Islam is a violent religion. Now even if such a bigoted belief were true, isn't it clear that the film was designed to incite a terrorist attack?




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