Mitt Romney has recently made the administration’s response to the attacks in Libya a centerpiece of his campaign. Romney and his campaign allege that the Obama administration “covered-up” the facts about the attacks for their political benefit. Romney’s core message is that: 1. The attacks were linked to al Qaeda, and 2. The attacks had nothing to do with an anti-Muslim video on YouTube. Here’s an excerpt from Romney’s major foreign policy address on October 8:
The attack on our Consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 was likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001. This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the Administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long.
A new report this morning from the LA Times casts serious doubt on Romney’s claims:
The assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi last month appears to have been an opportunistic attack rather than a long-planned operation, and intelligence agencies have found no evidence that it was ordered by Al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials and witnesses interviewed in Libya.
…[I]n in Benghazi, witnesses said members of the group that raided the U.S. mission specifically mentioned the video, which denigrated the prophet Muhammad.
The LA Times bolsters earlier reports by the New York Times and Reuters. (The involvement of al Qaeda is a complex issue and the attack, if not ordered by al Qaeda, may have involved individuals sympathetic to or loosely affiliated with the group.)
A peice in the Washington Post by David Ignatius reveals that the adminstration’s initial statements citing the role of the video were based on talking points provided by the CIA:
The Romney campaign may have misfired with its suggestion that statements by President Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice about the Benghazi attack last month weren’t supported by intelligence, according to documents provided by a senior U.S. intelligence official.
“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.”
Initially, Romney claimed “the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” He quickly abandoned that line in response to widespread bipartisan condemnation.
During the last debate, Romney insisted that it took Obama 14 days to describe the Libya attacks as an “act of terror.” He was wrong.
You can read the full timeline of the response to the attack in Libya, HERE.
The Wall Street Journal reports that “President Barack Obama was told in his daily intelligence briefing for more than a week after the consulate siege in Benghazi that the assault grew out of a spontaneous protest, despite conflicting reports from witnesses and other sources that began to cast doubt on the accuracy of that assessment almost from the start.”