As intelligence officials pieced together the puzzle of events unfolding in Libya, they concluded even before the assaults had ended that al Qaeda-linked terrorists were involved. Senior administration officials, however, sought to obscure the emerging picture and downplay the significance of attacks that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. The frantic process that produced the changes to the talking points took place over a 24-hour period just one day before Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, made her now-famous appearances on the Sunday television talk shows. The discussions involved senior officials from the State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the White House.
The White House provided the emails to members of the House and Senate intelligence committees for a limited time and with the stipulation that the documents were available for review only and would not be turned over to the committees. The White House and committee leadership agreed to that arrangement as part of a deal that would keep Republican senators from blocking the confirmation of John Brennan, the president’s choice to run the CIA. If the House report provides an accurate and complete depiction of the emails, it is clear that senior administration officials engaged in a wholesale rewriting of intelligence assessments about Benghazi in order to mislead the public. The Weekly Standard sought comment from officials at the White House, the State Department, and the CIA, but received none by press time. Within hours of the initial attack on the U.S. facility, the State Department Operations Center sent out two alerts. The first, at 4:05 p.m. (all times are Eastern Daylight Time), indicated that the compound was under attack; the second, at 6:08 p.m., indicated that Ansar al Sharia, an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group operating in Libya, had claimed credit for the attack. According to the House report, these alerts were circulated widely inside the government, including at the highest levels. The fighting in Benghazi continued for another several hours, so top Obama administration officials were told even as the fighting was taking place that U.S. diplomats and intelligence operatives were likely being attacked by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. A cable sent the following day, September 12, by the CIA station chief in Libya, reported that eyewitnesses confirmed the participation of Islamic militants and made clear that U.S. facilities in Benghazi had come under terrorist attack. It was this fact, along with several others, that top Obama officials would work so hard to obscure.
So, it was CIA vs. C.Y.A. at the State Department which, quite frankly, has been infiltrated by Edward Said-influenced Arab specialists to such an extent that it was practically a Muslim Brotherhood outpost even before the Obama administration took over.
Seriously, you can ask Bush administration people about this: Middle Eastern scholarship within academia is so dominated by anti-Western views that, insofar as anyone has the credentials to qualify as a specialist in the field — i.e., to get hired into and promoted within the bureaucracy — they’re certain to have been saturated in ideas about “Western imperialism” and the legitimacy of Arab/Islamic grievances. And while this has also been a problem at the CIA and the Pentagon, the State Department is absolutely chock-full of such people in staff positions, so that even with hawkish neocons in the political appointee roles during the Bush years, the pro-Arab/pro-Muslim culture at Foggy Bottom never really changed.
I feel the need to point this out now because some of my well-meaning conservative friends, who (quite correctly) complain about the dubious influences within the Obama administration, often neglect to discuss the larger problem, which pre-dates Obama. However, there is good reason to think it is more of a problem now:
In 1998 Obama attended a speech by [Edward] Said, in which the scholar called for a nonviolent campaign “against settlements, against Israeli apartheid.” In a well-publicized photo, Obama and Said can be seen talking over dinner at this pro-Arab event.
According to the Los Angeles Times, in the early 1980s Obama had been one of Said’s students in an undergraduate English class at Columbia University.
None of this is necessarily related to the Benghazi cover-up — I don’t mean to feed anyone’s conspiratorial paranoia — but it does highlight the nature of the larger problem, what Jeanne Kirkpatrick rightly called the “Blame America First” mentality.