State Dept. officials: Libya consulate wasn't attacked because of video

Foreign Policy | Associated Press | ABC News | The Washington Times

After the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked last month, the Obama administration said the attackers were inspired by a bizarre anti-Islam video. Wednesday at noon, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will question State officials about that response and about security at the consulate. Now State says the video wasn't a factor in the attacks. Will that, and whatever transpires in Wednesday's hearing, be enough to overcome the initial misinformation?

Two "senior State Department officials" led a conference call for reporters Tuesday, giving a detailed account of what transpired in Benghazi on Sept. 11. Josh Rogin writes about the call for Foreign Policy:

The official was asked about why senior officials said in the immediate aftermath of the attack that it was related to the anti-Islam video and the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo earlier in the day. ...

"That was not our conclusion," the State Department official said. "We don't necessarily have a conclusion [about that]."

State's new account "answers some questions and leaves others unanswered," Associated Press reporter Bradley Klapper writes.

Chief among them is why for several days the Obama administration said the assault stemmed from a protest against an American-made Internet video ridiculing Islam, and whether the consulate had adequate security.

ABC News reports that U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and "White House officials now say those initial accounts were based on early intelligence, since corrected." But the next morning Lisa Goldman reported in TechPresident, for example, that "Century Foundation fellow Michael W. Hanna, a well known Middle East expert, points out that Salafi groups had been planning anti-U.S. demonstrations for September 11 weeks before yesterday's embassy attacks."

Meanwhile, the videos, which were actually uploaded to YouTube in early July, were suddenly discovered and broadcast on a Salafi television station on September 9.

"The timing," Hanna commented, "is obviously pretty fishy."

Nor, of course, do people caught up in a spontaneous demonstration stop to grab an RPG that they just happen to have lying around the house — let alone stop to film the event and upload the clip to YouTube.

Former U.S. Embassy security officer Eric Nordstrom and Lt. Col. Andrew Wood are expected to testify about security failings, ABC News' Jake Tapper reports:

Nordstrom and the commander of a 16-member Security Support Team, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, heard that foreign fighters were flowing across the Egyptian border and were making their way across the border to the Libyan city of Derna – which is to the east of Benghazi — and from there were making their way to Benghazi. But State Department officials seemed oblivious to their Benghazi post’s vulnerability.

House committee members looking for answers "might want to start on Capitol Hill, where Congress slashed spending on diplomatic security and U.S. embassy construction over the past two years," Shaun Waterman writes in The Washington Times. A State spokesperson told Waterman "there was no impact on security in Benghazi from the cuts."

On Oct. 1, "The Daily Show" skewered the administration's response:

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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