The details of the murky story behind events leading up to the siege at the United States Embassy in Cairo are slowly coming to light. The embassy official responsible for the controversial Twitter posts that have been labeled ‘an apology’ and ‘an assault on Freedom of Speech’ has been identified. He is senior public affairs officer Larry Schwartz, the diplomat who oversees internet messaging for the Cairo embassy.
Mr. Schwartz wrote what many are now calling a ‘shameful exercise in failed diplomacy‘ prior to the attack on the embassy and posted it to the official embassy Twitter feed. The Tweet reads as follow:
“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”
Several troubling facts have been revealed about what actually went on behind the scenes. There is ample evidence that the embassy had advance warning of potential security threats. As reported by The Inquisitr’s contributor and respected Islamic scholar, Raymond Ibrahim, there were credible messages of an impending attack on the Cairo embassy:
“Left unsaid and unknown in any Western media is the fact that the U.S. embassy has long been under threat, but for different reasons. Earlier, the Egyptian paper El Fagr reported that Jihadi groups in Egypt, including Islamic Jihad, the Sunni Group, and Al Gamaa Al Islamiyya had issued a statement threatening to burn the U.S. embassy in Cairo to the ground unless all the Islamic jihadis currently imprisoned and in detention centers in the U.S. including Guantanamo Bay were released.”
“‘The group, which consists of many members from al-Qaeda, called [especially] for the quick release of the jihadi [mujahid] sheikh, Omar Abdul Rahman [the "Blind Sheikh"], whom they described as a scholar and jihadi who sacrificed his life for the Egyptian Umma, who was ignored by the Mubarak regime, and [President] Morsi is refusing to intervene on his behalf and release him, despite promising that he would. The Islamic Group has threatened to burn the U.S. Embassy in Cairo with those in it, and taking hostage those who remain [alive], unless the Blind Sheikh is immediately released.’”
Equally disturbing is the fact that Mr. Schwartz acted on his own authority and posted the statement to the embassy’s Twitter feed after he was explicitly refused permission to tweet the message. Prior to posting, Mr. Schwartz sent a cable containing his intended remarks to the State Department in Washington, D.C. for approval, and he was told not to proceed.
Further complicating matters, the United States Ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson was in Washington, D.C. The only official left at the embassy who was senior to Mr. Schwartz was Deputy Chief of Mission Marc Sievers, who approved the message.
A spokesperson from the State Department said, “The statement was not cleared with anyone in Washington. It was sent as ‘This is what we are putting out,’” We replied and said this was not a good statement and that it needed major revisions. The next email we received from Embassy Cairo was ‘We just put this out.’”
After the message was posted on Twitter, and the furor over its contents began, the Cairo embassy defended the statement vigorously for several hours, re-tweeting the original post and engaging detractors in a contentious debate. “Not only did they push out the statement but they continued to engage on Twitter and retweet it,” the official said. “[Schwartz] would have been the one directing folks to engage on Twitter on this.”
Even the President has joined the debate over the Twitter ‘apology,’ albeit with a slightly forgiving tone:
“In an effort to cool the situation down, it didn’t come from me, it didn’t come from Secretary Clinton. It came from people on the ground who are potentially in danger and my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they’re in that circumstance, rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office.”
President Obama’s comments managed to raise the hackles of his opponents. They point out that despite the violence and unrest in Muslim majority nations, the president missed more than half of his daily security briefings in the first two years of his presidency. Since he began campaigning in 2011, his participation fell to an abysmal 38 percent of the briefings.
Critics of the president’s policies have placed an emphasis on the last seven words of his statement, “from the comfort of a campaign office,” and labeled him the “Campaigner in Chief.” Several prominent Republicans have expressed grave doubts about the President’s leadership, taking him to task for his willingness “to cut folks a little bit of slack,” even when they disobey direct orders during a major international crisis.
“That’s simply not acceptable. If issuing and repeatedly defending an unauthorized statement in the name of the United States government that condemns “those who abuse the universal right of free speech” isn’t enough to get a diplomat in trouble, what exactly would be? This was a statement that went well beyond distancing the embassy from a YouTube video that caused offense; it was an attack on First Amendment principles. The potential danger on the ground (which, remember, became more acute after the statement was issued) is no excuse.”
“If the Obama administration is at all serious about defending American values, Larry Schwartz must be fired.”