Fact Check: Clinton’s Benghazi chapter has holes
By Catherine Herridge
Published May 31, 2014
Excerpts of Hillary Clinton’s forthcoming memoir obtained by Politico conflict with the factual record about what happened during and after the 2012 Benghazi terror attack.
Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., who sits on the newly formed Benghazi selectcommittee and the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News before the excerpts were released that he is concerned the administration has not fully grasped the impact of the terrorist assault.
“We know that intelligence analysts on the ground knew instantaneously that this was Al Qaeda and its affiliates who had led this attack. And yet it took an awfully long time — indeed today, it’s still not clear this administration has acknowledged the depth and the risks associated with what it means to have an Al Qaeda affiliate actually take down an American [consulate],” he said.
In the limited excerpts published Friday from Clinton’s Benghazi chapter, the former secretary of State continued to defend the administration from what she termed a “political slugfest.”
Specifically, she defended the flawed explanation — used by then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice five days after the attack — that an obscure anti-Islam video fueled a protest gone awry in Benghazi.
“There were scores of attackers that night, almost certainly with differing motives,” Clinton wrote, according to Politico. “It is inaccurate to state that every single one of them was influenced by this hateful video.It is equally inaccurate to state that none of them were. Both assertions deny not only the evidence but logic as well.”
Further, she reportedly wrote that Rice relied on existing intelligence in making her statements.
But former CIA deputy director Mike Morell, who now works for Clinton’s principalgatekeeper Philippe Reines at the D.C. consulting firm Beacon Global Strategies, testified in April that it was Rice who linked the video to the Benghazi attack. Morrell, who still faces allegations he misled Congress over the so-called talking points, said the video was not part of the CIA analysis as Clinton seems to suggest.
Morell told members of the House Intelligence Committee that Rice’s claims about the attacks evolving from a protest were “exactly what the talking points said, and it was exactly what the intelligence community analysts believed.”
However, he said: “When she talked about the video, my reaction was, that’s not something that the analysts have attributed this attack to.”
An independent review of more than 4,000 social media postings, conducted by a leading social media monitoring firm in December 2012, also found the YouTube video was a non-event in Benghazi.
“From the data we have, it’s hard for us to reach the conclusion that the consulate attack was motivated by the movie. Nothing in the immediate picture — surrounding the attack in Libya — suggests that,” Jeff Chapman, chief executive with Agincourt Solutions (now Babel Street), told Fox News.
Chapman said his analysts reviewed postings in Libya, including those from Benghazi, over a three-day period beginning on Sept. 11, and saw “no traffic in Benghazi in the immediate lead-up to the attack related to the anti-Islam film.”
The first reference to the anti-Islam film appears to be a retweet of a Russia Todaystory that was not posted until Sept. 12 at 9:12 a.m. local time. The translation reads, “U.S. ambassador killed in Libya during his country’s consulate in Benghazi – Russia Today http://t.co/SvAV0o7T response to the film abuser.”
In addition, the video was also described as a non-event by Greg Hicks – deputy to Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the attack — in his May 2013 congressional testimony before the House oversight committee.
Clinton went on to write: “Every step of the way, whenever something new was learned, it was quickly shared with Congress and the American people.There is a difference between getting something wrong, and committing wrong.A big difference that some have blurred to the point of casting those who made a mistake as intentionally deceitful.”
But the written testimony of Morell shows the administration continued to stick with the “hateful video” explanation long after physical evidence and other intelligence showed there was no demonstration. Morell told the House Intelligence Committee that by Sept. 18, 2012, consulate security video reviewed by the Libyans showed it was a direct assault.
Yet, a week later, before the United Nations on Sept. 25, 2012, President Obama was still relying on the flawed explanation.
“There is no speech that justifies mindless violence. There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents.There’s no video that justifies an attack on an embassy,” he said.
As part of its ongoing reporting, Fox News was first to report on Sept. 17, 2012, based on an intelligence source on the ground in Libya, that there was no protest.
Separate from the talking points, Clinton’s defense of Rice could also be problematic because Rice inaccurately stated on three network Sunday shows — ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press” and “Fox News Sunday” — that security was “strong” or “significant” at the consulate on the day of the attack.
She told “Fox News Sunday” that former Navy SEALs Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, who died in the attack, were there to “provide security,” incorrectly linking them to consulate security.
At a press conference earlier this month, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said the administration should explain who briefed Rice on the talking points as well as the consulate’s security status, and the individual or individuals should be fired. And if nobody briefed her on that, Graham said, Rice should resign.
“They’re completely incompetent, or they were misleading her about the level of security because we were six weeks before an election, or she made it up on her own,” Graham said.
On requests for additional security, Clinton continued to insist that she never saw those cables, and the fact that they were addressed to her as secretary of State was a “procedural quirk.”
Fox News was first to report on an August 2012 State Department classified cable that said the U.S. Mission in Benghazi convened an “emergency meeting” less than a month before the assault and concluded Al Qaeda had training camps in Benghazi and the consulate could not defend against a “coordinated attack.”
The authenticity of the classified cable, addressed to the office of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has never been challenged. It was significant enough that then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told lawmakers during congressional hearings that they were briefed on the cable’s warnings. Clinton, though, claimed it was not brought to her attention.
The cable marked “SECRET” summarized an Aug. 15, 2012 emergency meeting convened by the U.S. Mission in Benghazi. It states that the State Department’s senior security officer, also known as the RSO, did not believe the consulate could be protected.
According to a review of the cable, the Emergency Action Committee was also briefed “on the location of approximately ten Islamist militias and AQ training camps within Benghazi … these groups ran the spectrum from Islamist militias, such as the QRF Brigade and Ansar al-Sharia, to ‘Takfirist thugs.'”
In addition to describing the security situation in Benghazi as “trending negatively,” the cable said explicitly that the mission would ask for more help. The details in the cable foreshadowed the deadly attack on the U.S. compound.
While the administration’s public statements have suggested that the attack came without warning, the Aug. 16 cable undercuts those claims – as it warned the Benghazi consulate was vulnerable to attack and indicates the presence of anti-U.S. militias and Al Qaeda was well-known to the U.S. intelligence community.
The Clinton book excerpts published Friday represent a fraction of the entire Benghazi chapter, which reportedly is 34 pages long.