September 22, 2012
Ten days after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the White House’s official story about the incident appears to be falling apart.
In the days following the killing of the U.S. ambassador and two ex-Navy SEALs, President Obama and top State Department officials portrayed the attack as a spontaneous reaction to an Internet video depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammad as a lascivious brute. The protests, White House spokesman Jay Carney said last week, were “in response to a video—a film—that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting.”
Now there is mounting evidence that the White House’s initial portrayal of the attacks as a mere outgrowth of protest was incorrect—or, at the very least, incomplete. The administration’s story itself has recently begun to shift, with Matthew Olsen, the director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, telling Congress on Wednesday that the attackers may have had links to al Qaeda and Carney characterizing the incident as a “terrorist attack.” (Hillary Clinton announced on Thursday that she was putting together a panel to look into the incident.)
But other indications that the White House’s early narrative was faulty are also beginning to emerge. One current U.S. intelligence officer working on the investigation into the incident told The Daily Beast that the attackers had staked out and monitored the U.S. consulate in Benghazi before the attack, a move that suggests pre-planning.