Presidential debate: Do new reports on Libya change the story?
Ahead of Monday's presidential debate on foreign policy, a new narrative is emerging about why the White House waited so long to describe the Sept. 11 attack in Libya as a terrorist attack.
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Given that the CIA began with only sketchy reports of what had happened in Benghazi, and that US operatives arrived on scene days later to sift evidence, it may be only natural that the agency’s story has shifted, according to intelligence officials quoted in the Times story.Skip to next paragraph
Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.
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As early as Sept. 20, the agency concluded that there hadn’t been a protest in Benghazi prior to the attack. But the daily brief for the president, the source from which top officials derive their view of what’s going on in the world, didn’t change to reflect this until the morning of Sept. 22.
By Sept. 27, the White House had changed its talking points on this sensitive issue. That day Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at a Pentagon news conference described the killings as a “terrorist attack."
Since then, Republicans have been adamant that White House was either confused about the incident or trying to mislead the American people.
“You don’t have a riot with heavy weapons that goes on for seven hours in a preplanned fashion,” said Senator Graham.
If the White House truly believes that it was misled by CIA reports, it needs to fire somebody, said Graham. He further indicated that videos of the attack and news reports quickly indicated that it would have been difficult for the killings to have been the work of a mob, and that the White House should have taken these sources of information into account.
Obama officials have countered that they are describing the situation as they know it in a transparent manner to Congress and the public, and that the investigation into the tragedy is still unfolding.
“We’re getting to the bottom of it. And we need to work this investigation through. It’s really important that we not politicize the process,” said Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter on NBC’s “Today” show Oct. 22.