Fox News' Chris Wallace repeated Republican Rep. Jim Jordan's false allegation that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intentionally misled the public about the cause of the 2012 Benghazi attacks when she attributed them publicly to protests inspired by an inflammatory anti-Muslim video but privately described them as an act of terror. However, in the week following the September 11, 2012, attacks on American diplomatic facilities, intelligence officials received “piecemeal” and “conflicting” intelligence, and independent investigations have found that Clinton's private and public statements represented the best reported intelligence at the time. Clinton herself has repeatedly addressed how her view of the attacks evolved as the intelligence changed.
Rep. Jim Jordan Falsely Claims That Clinton Intentionally Misled The Public About The Cause Of The Benghazi Attacks
Rep. Jim Jordan Accuses Clinton Of Knowingly Starting A “False Narrative” That The Attacks Were Inspired By An Anti-Muslim Video. During Clinton's October 22 congressional testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) accused Clinton of knowingly spreading a “false narrative” that the attacks in Libya were inspired by an anti-Muslim video posted on the Internet:
REP. JIM JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You just gave a long answer, Madam Secretary, to Miss Sanchez about what you heard that night, what you're doing but nowhere in there did you mention a video. You didn't mention a video because there was never a video-inspired protest in Benghazi. There was in Cairo but not in Benghazi. Victoria Nuland your spokesperson at the State Department, hours after the attack said this, “Benghazi has been attacked by militants, in Cairo police have removed demonstrators.”
Everything points to a terrorist attack. We just heard from Mr. Pompeo about the long history of terrorist incidents, terrorist violence in the country. And yet five days later, Susan Rice goes on five TV shows, and she says this, “Benghazi was a spontaneous reaction as a consequence of a video.” A statement we all know is false. But don't take my word for it. Here's what others have said. “Rice was off the reservation. Off the reservation on five networks, White House worried about the politics.” Republicans didn't make those statements. They were made by the people who worked for you, in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, the actual experts on Libya in the State Department. So, if there's no evidence for a video-inspired protest, then where'd the false narrative start? Started with you, Madam Secretary. At 10:08 on the night of the attack, you released this statement, “some have sought to justify the vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on internet.” At 10:08 with no evidence, at 10:08 before the attack is over, at10:08 when Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty are still on the roof of the annex fighting for their lives, the official statement of the State Department blames a video. Why? [House Select Committee on Benghazi, 10/22/15]
Fox's Chris Wallace Highlights Jordan's Allegation That Clinton Privately Described The Attacks As Terrorism, " In Direct Contradiction" To The White House Explanation
Fox's Chris Wallace Highlights Jordan's Allegation That Clinton Privately Described The Attack As Terrorism, “In Direct Contradiction” To The White House's Explanation. On the October 22 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, Wallace told host Jon Scott that Clinton privately described the attack as terrorism and made no mention of the video, which he said “goes against the line that was coming out of the White House and from the State Department.” Wallace elaborated on Jordan's claim, adding, “Clinton spoke there at a ceremony attended, of course, by the relatives of the four people who had been killed. Mrs. Clinton talked specifically at that time about the video, no mention at all of Al Qaeda, no mention at all of a terror attack, so this seems in direct contradiction to that”:
CHRIS WALLACE: This is a note that supposedly, I guess,clearly Hillary Clinton sent the night of the attack. It was just sent to her family, not which member of her family, saying that it was a terror attack and no mention of the video. That certainly goes against the line that was coming out of the White House and from the State Department, and of course, we've got to remember Jim Jordan, that Ohio congressman who was asking about that didn't draw the link, but we all remember that when the caskets of the four U.S. diplomatic people brought back to Andrews Air Force Base and President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton spoke there at a ceremony attended, of course, by the relatives of the four people who had been killed, Mrs. Clinton talked specifically at that time about the video, no mention at all of Al Qaeda, no mention at all of a terror attack. So this seems in direct contradiction to that.
JON SCOTT: And it does seem important to remember the timing of all of this, less than two months before President Obamawas running for reelection and that, sort of to me it seems,gets lost very often in the discussion of who said what when andexactly what was said.
WALLACE: Congressman Jordan with those quite explosive emails, in which we hear that not only was she telling her family, but she was also telling the Libyan president and the foreign minister of Egypt that it was a terror attack in the immediate aftermath of the attack. [Fox News, Happening Now, 10/22/15]
Initial Intelligence Regarding Attackers And Their Motivations Was “Piecemeal” And “Conflicting” And “Continued To Change Throughout The Week”
House Intelligence Committee: Initial Intelligence Surrounding The Attackers' Identities And Motives Was “Piecemeal” And “Conflicting.” The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence's Benghazi investigation found that in the wake of the attacks, “intelligence analysts and policymakers received a stream of piecemeal intelligence regarding the identities/affiliations and motivations of the attackers,” and that “much of the early intelligence was conflicting”:
After reviewing hundreds of pages of raw intelligence, as well as open source information, it was clear that between the time when the attacks occurred and when the Administration, through Ambassador Susan Rice, appeared on the Sunday talk shows, intelligence analysts and policymakers received a stream of piecemeal intelligence regarding the identities/affiliations and motivations of the attackers, as well as the level of planning and/or coordination. Much of the early intelligence was conflicting, and two years later, intelligence gaps remain.
Various witnesses and senior military officials serving in the Obama Administration testified to this Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and the Senate Armed Services Committee that they knew from the moment the attacks began that the attacks were deliberate terrorist acts against U.S. interests. 125 No witness has reported believing at any point that the attacks were anything but terrorist acts.
Along those lines, in the Rose Garden on September 12, 2012, President Obama said that four “extraordinary Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi,” and said that: "[ n ]o acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."
However, it was not clear whether the terrorist attacks were committed by al-Qa'ida or by various groups of other bad actors, some of who may have been affiliated with al-Qa'ida. Early CIA, NCTC, DIA, and CJCS intelligence assessments on September 12th and 13th stated that members of AAS and various al-Qa'ida affiliates “likely,” “probably,” or “possibl[y]” participated in the attacks. [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 11/21/14]
Democratic Staff Report On Benghazi Committee Results Concluded That Clinton's Conversation With Egyptian Prime Minister Included “Information Consistent With Reporting At The Time ” As Intelligence “Chang[ed] Throughout The Week.” As reported by the October 2015 Democratic staff report on the Benghazi attacks, intelligence about the cause of the attack “continued to change throughout the week,” and Clinton “relayed information consistent with reporting at the time” to Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil during their September 12, 2012 conversation:
The evidence obtained by the Select Committee confirms previous accounts that the information being gathered in the aftermath of the attacks--and intelligence assessments of that information--continued to change throughout the week. For example, although initial reports claimed that Ansar al-Sharia was responsible for the attacks, the group later disavowed responsibility.
Later that afternoon, Secretary Clinton had a call with the Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil regarding the events in Cairo and Libya. The notes from that call indicate that the Secretary relayed information consistent with reporting at the time: “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack--not a protest.” The notes also indicate that she acknowledged that Ansar al-Sharia reportedly claimed responsibility for the attacks: “Your [sic] not kidding. Based on the information we saw today we believe the group that claimed responsibility for this was affiliated with al Qaeda.” [Democratic Staff Report, Results Of Interviews Conducted By The House Select Committee On Benghazi, October 2015]
Clinton Has Repeatedly Addressed How Incomplete Intelligence Led Her To Go “Back And Forth On What Likely Happened, [And] Who Did It”
Clinton: “This Was The Fog Of War” And The Administration Relayed The Conclusion Of The Intelligence Community At The Time. During a June 17, 2014, interview on Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Clinton told host Bret Baier that “this was the fog of war” and explained that the Obama administration told the public what it knew based on what the intelligence community thought at the time:
HILLARY CLINTON: This was the fog of war. You know, my own assessment careened from, the video had nothing to do with it -- it may have affected some people, it didn't affect other people. And I think the conclusion to draw, because we were not just monitoring what was happening in Benghazi once it began to unfold, but remember we had a very dangerous assault on our embassy in Cairo that same day, which was clearly linked to that video. So I was trying to make sense of it. And I think that the investigations that have been carried out basically conclude, we can't say that everybody was influenced and we can't say that everybody wasn't. But what the intelligence community said was spontaneous protest, and that is what, at the time, they thought. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 6/18/14]
In Her Recent Book, Clinton Explained That Her Views On The Attackers' Motivations Changed Several Times Throughout The Week. Clinton explained in her memoir, Hard Choices, that she “went back on forth on what likely happened, who did it, and what mix of factors -- like the video -- played a part.” Describing the administration's initial search for answers amid incomplete information, Clinton wrote that “in the days that followed administration officials continued to tell the American people that we had incomplete information and were still looking for answers”:
In her book, Secretary Clinton explained that she personally changed views several times that week about the possible motivations of the attackers, whether there was a protest, and whether the attacks were preplanned:
What about the attack in Benghazi? In the heat of the crisis we had no way of knowing for sure what combination of factors motivated the assault or whether and how long it had been planned. I was clear about this in my remarks the next morning, and in the days that followed administration officials continued to tell the American people that we had incomplete information and were still looking for answers. There were many theories-- but still little evidence. I myself went back and forth on what likely happened, who did it, and what mix of factors--like the video--played a part. But it was unquestionably inciting the region and triggering protests all over, so it would have been strange not to consider, as days of protests unfolded, that it might have had the same effect here, too. That's just common sense. Later investigation and reporting confirmed that the video was indeed a factor. All we knew at that time with complete certainty was that Americans had been killed and others were still in danger. [Democratic Staff Report, October 2015]