By Ilana Freedman – October 12, 2012
On Wednesday, October 10, I spent four hours glued to the television, watching the Congressional hearing on the Benghazi attacks that killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. I am now no more enlightened than I was before about why the government blamed the attack on a concocted story about a crude, amateur video clip. I am, however, even more outraged, if this is possible, because we now know how much the government really knew, even as they continued to insist to the American people that the video story was the truth.
When I awoke on the morning following the late-night attack on our Consulate in Benghazi and heard the first reports of the murder of our Ambassador, the first thing that came to mind was al Qaeda and terrorism. Although I have been an intelligence analyst for over twenty-five years, this was not a great leap of intellectual prowess or the product of great expertise in the domain. It was well-known that al Qaeda has been very active in the region of Benghazi. And in case we had forgotten that fact, its off-shoot, Ansar al-Shariah, was quick to appear on international television from Benghazi to praise the attack and remind us of al Qaeda’s influence throughout the region.
The first descriptions of the military-style assault were vivid. They made crystal clear that this was a military-style attack, carried out by fighters carrying heavy weapons and mounting their attack in well-disciplined waves. The totality of the damage was testament to the planning and determination of the attacking force. The use of RPGs and truck mounted artillery, of flame accelerants (diesel fuel) to cause heavy smoke and nearly total damage from the heat of the flames, and the number of attackers (estimated at the time at about 100), all indicated a well-planned, well-coordinated, targeted attack by a terrorist organization.
Like our government, GerardDirect also waited until we had our facts in order, before we published our first analysis. But when we published, we got it right. And that took only two days, not two weeks. Although many details were still missing, the broad evidence was clear, and we published our first full analysis on September 13, followed by a second, more complete report on September 14. 36 hours after the attack. In the first report, we not only reported that this was a terrorist attack, but that there had been multiple warnings prior to the attacks that had been ignored by the State Department.
Despite the fact that this information was already available in open source to private sector analysts, the State Department and White House spokespeople, whose resources include a massive intelligence network, access to the videos, cables, and interviews with survivors, got it wrong. From the beginning and for the two weeks that followed, the administration continually emphasized that the attack was a “spontaneous demonstration” which got out of hand, and they blamed the anger that provoked the attack on an amateur video that insulted Mohammed, That, at least, was the story they told the world, and repeatedly validated, and it was dead wrong.