With widespread news coverage of the August 19, 2012 testimony of the Administration’s top counterterrorism official calling the Benghazi attack “terrorism” for the first time, and indicating possible involvement by Al Qaeda, and the coverage as well of the much stronger comments by Sen. Susan Collins, that the attack was planned and premeditated, President Obama and his White House are being forced to backtrack from its earlier statements. The context for this, as we are finding in our field organizing across the country and on Capitol Hill, is, simply, that no one buys the Obama cover-up.
The testimony, given to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, by Matthew Olsen, a career intelligence official (he served in the DOJ and NSA during the Bush Administration) who now heads the National Counter-Terrorism Center, was immediately picked up and characterized as a break from the Obama/White House line that the attacks were a “spontaneous” protest against an amateurish anti-Islam video. While still characterizing the attack as “opportunistic,” Olsen qualified this by stating that the intelligence community is looking for indications of advance planning, and stating that there are indications of connections to Al Qeada or its affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. All of this has been picked up in news media accounts of the hearing and widely publicized.
Sen. Collins has also been widely quoted as saying that, on the basis of briefings she has received, she agrees with the President of Libya that “this was a premeditated planned attack” timed for the anniversary of 9/11. Also widely covered is her statement that “I just don’t think people come to protest equipped with RPGs and other heavy weapons.”
In addition, there is an escalating drumbeat around specific reports that the attack on the consulate took place before any protest demonstrations began — in contrast to the official line that the attacks were an outgrowth of the protests.
For example, a widely-circulated CBS News clip being re-posted on many sites, emphasizes that witnesses are saying that “there was never an anti-American protest outside of the consulate,” adding: “Instead, they say, it came under planned attack. That is in direct contradiction to the Administration’s account of the incident.” The CBS correspondent notes that there are calls for more information coming from Capitol Hill, and complaints that the Administration hasn’t been forthcoming.
One of the hottest news items on Thursday afternoon was the admission by White House spokesman Jay Carney, finally, that this was a “terrorist attack.” After over a week of evasion and obsfucation, but in the wake of Olsen’s testimony on Wednesday, Carney was compelled to acknowledge: “It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Banghazi was a terrorist attack. Our embassy was attacked violently, and the result was four deaths of American officials. So, again, that’s self-evident.” Why this is “self-evident” today, but was denied for the past week, was left unexplained by Carney — but the White House obviously can tell which way the wind is blowing.