From the Department of Bad Timing comes Dorothy Rabinowitz's Wall Street Journal column today, which vociferously denounces the White House for allegedly masterminding a cover-up regarding last month's Benghazi terrorist attack. The bad timing? Her piece arrives the same day a Wall Street Journal newsroom report completely undercuts the right-wing allegation that the White House deliberately covered up information about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.
Monday's Journal report follows up on the newspaper's article last Friday, which also poked holes in the Republican claim that the White House somehow knew, immediately, the true origin of the chaotic attack that claimed the lives of four Americans.
Today's contradiction leaves readers with the odd choice of believing Rabinowitz's unsubstantiated claims of a wide-raging White House conspiracy, or believing the newspaper's detailed newsroom account, which undermines partisan claims that President Obama and the White House lied to the American people about what officials knew about the Benghazi assault.
Rabinowitz's column is just the latest effort by the right to push the agreed-upon cover-up claim that the White House knew the Benghazi attack was an act of terror that did not stem from protests about a YouTube video that insulted Islam, and rather than admit during the campaign season that the U.S. consulate had been the target of a terrorist attack, Obama and his senior officials hid the truth.
Specifically, partisans suggest U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice knew the Libya attack had been terrorism-related when she appeared on Sunday morning talk shows on September 16, but claimed the attack had been spurred by the YouTube video.
Calling Rice's Sunday television appearances a "farce," Rabinowitz insists, "the administration's prolonged efforts to muddle the picture of the Benghazi attack raised proper suspicions."
Widespread reports in the last week however, have derailed the notion of the cover-up, with several news organization reporting that the intelligence community told the White House repeatedly, and for days, that the Libya attack did not appear to be an organized terrorist attack. It was only after Rice appeared on television on September 16 that intelligence reports given to the White House began to change.
From the New York Times [emphasis added]:
Later that Sunday [September 16], though, American intelligence analysts were already sifting through new field reports that seemed to contradict the initial assessment. It would be several days, however, before the intelligence agencies changed their formal assessment based on those new reports, and informed administration officials about the change. Intelligence officials say such a lag is typical of the ever-changing process of piecing together shards of information into a coherent picture fit for officials' public statements.
And the Washington Post:
Talking points" prepared by the CIA on Sept. 15, the same day that Rice taped three television appearances, support her description of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate as a reaction to Arab anger about an anti-Muslim video prepared in the United States.
The problem for Rabinowitz is that on Friday the Wall Street Journal newsroom joined that chorus, reporting that in the days after the Benghazi assault, intelligence officers were grappling with contradictory information:
Despite their growing uncertainty, intelligence officials didn't feel they had enough conclusive, new information to revise their assessment. Ms. Rice wasn't warned of their new doubts before she went on the air the next morning and spoke of the attacks being spurred by demonstrations, intelligence officials acknowledged.
Today, the Journal is even more emphatic in explaining how the White House's intelligence briefings were anchored around the idea that Libyan protesters, not terrorists, were responsible:
President Barack Obama was told in his daily intelligence briefing for more than a week after the consulate siege in Benghazi that the assault grew out of a spontaneous protest, despite conflicting reports from witnesses and other sources that began to cast doubt on the accuracy of that assessment almost from the start.
The CIA was consistent from Sept. 13 to Sept. 21 that the attack evolved from a protest.
I look forward to Rabinowtiz's next column where she explains to readers how the Journal newsroom got everything wrong about Benghazi, and how it's now part of the Obama cover-up.