The federal 9/11 Commission included as one of its findings that the US intelligence agencies needed to do a better job of sharing data on terrorism with one another. Most observers, including Commission member Slade Gorton, former US Senator (R-WA), believe that they subsequently made major improvements. However, now we are being told that the intelligence community failed for weeks to understand that the a attack on the Benghazi compound was the result of terrorism, and that that's why the White House put out the line that a spontaneous demonstration against an online anti-Islam video was to blame.
Gorton, for one, isn't buying this new account. He tells us today, "This is excuse making by the President to prepare for the next debate tonight...It is so tardy that it is unbelievable."
The Obama position in the Second Presidential Debate was that on the day after the Benghazi attack he did describe it as an "act of terror" ("Candy, look at the transcript.") However, for days days on end thereafter, his Administration described the attack as the result of protests against an online video, Mr. Obama himself made six references to the video in his U.N. speech. Now, however, we are supposed to believe that there was a long failure to describe the attack correctly (and presumably a failure to recognize that the online video was not responsible) and that the fault lay with the intelligence community.
If the White House disguised the terrorist nature of the attack for political reasons (to preserve its narrative that Al Qaeda "is on its heels"), that's bad. On the other hand, if U.S. intelligence agencies--a decade years after supposed reforms following the 9/11 disaster--are unable for weeks to recognize a terrorist attack for what it is, then something has gone awry in America's intelligence agencies. That is a different, but at least as serious a problem.
It was publicly known within hours that Libyan officials characterized it a terror attack and that the attackers had employed rocket propelled grenades and other heavy weapons. What counter-evidence was there that it was a spontaneous demonstration against a video? The State Department--finally forced to testify to Congress--said that their intelligence found no evidence in Benghazi of a "spontaneous" demonstration against the video. If they knew it, why did the CIA not know it?
More likely, as Gorton suspects, the Administration is contriving a new story line that forces the intelligence agencies to cover up a political blunder.