What Did The White House Know About Libya?

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 26 2012 @ 12:26pm

Eli Lake reports:

Within 24 hours of the 9-11 anniversary attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, U.S. intelligence agencies had strong indications al Qaeda–affiliated operatives were behind the attack, and had even pinpointed the location of one of those attackers. Three separate U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said the early information was enough to show that the attack was planned and the work of al Qaeda affiliates operating in Eastern Libya. Nonetheless, it took until late last week for the White House and the administration to formally acknowledge that the Benghazi assault was a terrorist attack. 

Nick Gillespie believes the delay was political:

Using “The Innocence of Muslims” as the proximate cause for a spontaneous attack – as opposed to a cover for an attack on September 11 (of all dates, for christ’s sake) minimizes the adminstration’s responsibility for screwup after screwup. Hey, it’s not American policy that’s causing the problem, it’s thoughtless YouTube provocateurs that are stirring up anti-American hatred in the Middle East.

CNN has gotten into hot water with the administration for airing portions of Stevens’ journal in which he discusses rotten security for him and the American mission in Libya (a State Department official has called this act of journalism “disgusting”). But even assuming the “Innocence” was the cause of the attack on the consulate, that doesn’t exonerate American incompetence in protecting its people there.

Agreed on the last point. But one should also take into account the fog of the post-Qaddafi state, where militias roam, and confusion can rein – and the legitimate need for a government not to credit al Qaeda until absolutely certain. But that there was some rather deft politicking about something that really should not be exploited politically is a black mark. Romney’s sins are often of commission; Obama’s of omission. Speaking of which, is climate change even on the agenda of the next administration in any serious way? You wouldn’t know so from the campaign.