#Benghazi: Still a Scandal but for New Reasons

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 15 2014 5:59 PM

#Benghazi: Still a Scandal but for New Reasons

The Benghazi story/scandal/controversy/travesty has been stuck on an infinite loop for at least six months. The release this week of a Senate report on Sept. 11, 2012, and of the current "Benghazi transcripts"—interviews conducted in top-secret conditions by Congress—are being covered for what new details they reveal. The big finding:

The attacks were preventable, based on extensive intelligence reporting on the terrorist activity in Libya — to include prior threats and attacks against Western targets — and given the known security shortfalls at the U.S. Mission.
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But that's been the story for a while. The Benghazi consulate had been attacked before. State and local officials squabbled a bit over whether it needed to be reinforced. Tragic, but well-covered stuff. The story doesn't change—it reveals, as was revealed last May, that the State Department fought internally before and after the attack.

If your primary interest in the story is as a cudgel against Hillary Clinton, I think you'll be satisfied here. But if you want to armchair-quarterback the events of the night, the most emotional theories of what could have been done aren't really bolstered. Fox News has posed the transcripts of fresh interviews, adding in a lede that the president was briefed on a "terrorist attack," not a video.

But wait—I thought the outrage was that the president was out of the loop on Benghazi?

No, get with the program: The outrage is about the subsequent talking points that didn't mention planned terrorism, playing up the inciting role of "Innocence of Muslims," which, actually, did play a role in inciting more people that night. Yes, back in 2012, it was fun to attack Barack Obama for not ordering backup, but here in 2014 we have the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying that the president actually did.

I didn't receive any specific reports of imminent threats to U.S. personnel or facilities in Benghazi. Soon after I received the initial reports of the Benghazi attack I discussed  the situation with the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and with President Obama in a meeting that we had already scheduled that day on another topic. The President instructed us to use all available assets to respond to the attacks to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel in Libya and to protect U.S. personnel and interests throughout the region. Because threat streams increased in a number of locations  simultaneously we postured our forces to respond regionally as well as specifically to the events in Libya.
In response to events in Benghazi we deployed a Marine Fleet  Antiterrorism Security team or FASJ team as you probably know it. Prepared a second FAS platoon to deploy and moved the special operations force that was training in Croatia to a staging base in Italy. We also deployed a special operations force from the continental United States to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe. 

We knew most of that. 

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.