The Benghazi attack on September 11 that resulted in the tragic deaths of four Americans at a Libyan consulate during waves of riots across several countries in the region has — predictably, if albeit depressingly — become a major political sideshow in the lead up to the election.
The Benghazi attack occurred just six weeks ago, and, from the start, President Obama has voiced suspicion that the violence was not a simple protest gone awry, but perhaps a more opportunistic attack. Speaking just fourteen hours after the Benghazi attack with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes, the Commander-in-Chief went on the record to say as much, commenting:
“You’re right that this is not a situation that was — exactly the same as what happened in Egypt and my suspicion is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start.”
But as debates approached, the Benghazi attack was reframed by many in the right-wing media as a cover-up of sorts, a foreign policy failure and a GOP talking point that came to a head during a contentious second debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
In the debate, Romney repeated the claim that President Obama tried to mislead Americans about the Benghazi attack, but Obama was prepared. Pausing to ask moderator Candy Crowley to pull a transcript caused a firestorm of controversy among those trying to promote the idea that the White House deliberately obfuscated the attack’s details in the confusing hours and days following the tragedy.
Citing the possibility of “false alarms” when an administration is forced to weigh public opinion in assessing threats during situations like the Benghazi attack, CIA analyst Tara Maller explains in a CNN piece that the Obama administration acted properly in their handling of the attack.
“People have questioned why the administration didn’t immediately report that the Benghazi attack was the work of terrorists. But we don’t know whether analysts had enough credible intelligence on hand at the time to be absolutely sure of the nature of the attack. Reports indicate that the intelligence community’s evaluations evolved in the following days and weeks as information came in, and policymakers were briefed as assessments changed and solidified. This is common practice.”
“It’s also important to keep in mind that the better a state’s intelligence capabilities, the more reports it collects, making assessments take longer as mountains of information are sifted through.”
Maller says that, after incidents like the Benghazi attack, “instead of making political hay out of the circumstances surrounding Benghazi, we should be focusing on how to improve our intelligence collection and analysis capabilities.”