Eli Lake, who has broken story after story on the Libya embassy attack, is out with another report. This one provides damning evidence that the Obama administration cherry-picked from initial intelligence to justify its “the video made them do it” cover story for what was very quickly known to be a coordinated al-Qaeda-related assault.
He explains that in “so-called talking points written by the CIA and distributed to members of Congress and other government official” three days after the attacks a single strand of information was lifted out of the intelligence data to heighten the notion that the embassy attack and murder of four Americans were a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video. He writes:
The intelligence that helped inform those talking points — and what the U.S. public would ultimately be told — came in part from an intercept of a phone call between one of the alleged attackers and a middle manager from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the group’s north African affiliate, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intercept. In the call, the alleged attacker said the locals went forward with the attack only after watching the riots that same day at the U.S. embassy in Cairo.
However, the intercept was one of several monitored communications during and after the attacks between members of a local militia called Ansar al-Sharia and AQIM, which, taken together, suggest the assault was in fact a premeditated terrorist attack, according to U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials not authorized to talk to the press.
In one of the calls, for example, members of Ansar al-Sharia bragged about their successful attack against the American consulate and the U.S. ambassador.
It’s unclear why the talking points said the attacks were spontaneous and why they didn’t mention the possibility of al Qaeda involvement, given the content of the intercepts and the organizations the speakers were affiliated with. One U.S. intelligence officer said the widely distributed assessment was an example of “cherry picking,” or choosing one piece of intelligence and ignoring other pieces, to support a preferred thesis. [Emphasis added.]
Was the CIA pushing the “spontaneous” theory because of a complete security failure on the danger to U.S. diplomats in Libya? Did the president have the complete picture but seize upon the one data point that would absolve him of blame for the attack? These are only a couple of the critical questions that should be asked of the administration.