Today on Fox News, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) laid rhetorical siege to the Obama administration’s response to the attack on a Libyan embassy that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Blackburn left no stone unturned in her indictment, claiming that the administration had bungled not just the aftermath of the attack, but the lead up to it as well.
“I think that [Susan Rice] should resign,” Blackburn said. “We have dozens of individuals that were injured and four that lost their lives…This is a terrorist attack. This is an act of war.”
But Blackburn wasn’t finished. “Benghazi-gate is the right kind of term for this,” she said. “I think this is very, very serious. Probably more serious than Watergate.”
Blackburn alluded to a piece by Eli Lake of the Daily Beast as justification for her brutal assessment of the administration’s behavior. However, the Lake piece is arguably more damning than even Blackburn’s jaundiced assessment of the situation. Some highlights follow:
It’s unclear why the talking points said the attacks were spontaneous and why they didn’t mention the possibility of al Qaeda involvement, given the content of the intercepts and the organizations the speakers were affiliated with. One U.S. intelligence officer said the widely distributed assessment was an example of “cherry picking,” or choosing one piece of intelligence and ignoring other pieces, to support a preferred thesis.
“Even if you push out that one piece of intelligence,” said this intelligence officer, “it is still in the context of a conversation between a group with an affinity to al Qaeda and a manager of an al-Qaeda affiliate. Why were we only hearing about how the attack was inspired and not about that?”[...]
Politically, a coordinated Qaeda attack on the anniversary of 9/11 undermines a theme of President Obama’s reelection campaign that the killing of Osama bin Laden has diminished the threat from the group responsible for 9/11. Mary Habeck, who served on the National Security Council as an expert on al Qaeda in 2008 and 2009 said, “There is a debate occurring in the government about the status of al Qaeda. Is it a threat or not? Is the death of bin Laden the end of the group as a threat to the United States or is it not?”
Last week, The Daily Beast wrote about a Library of Congress report published in August and commissioned by an interagency research organization examining counterterrorism policy that 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.” The report also said Ansar al-Sharia has “increasingly embodied al-Qaeda’s presence in Libya.”
This type of indictment of a sitting president’s seeming strong suit this close to the election should be cause for concern in the White House. Certainly, Lake quotes his fair share of administration officials claiming that the intelligence is not “cherry picked” and that the “spontaneous” interpretation is still viable. However, when squared against the facts he uncovers, these responses may strike some readers as just so much spin.