Who knew what when after the murders at the U.S. embassy in Benghazi is becoming a case of plausible deniability for the Obama administration.
Early on, it was evident that the assault that killed four Americans -- including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens -- wasn't the work of a loose crowd of people angry over a video that was unflattering to their prophet, but an orchestrated attack by terrorists on the anniversary date of the deadly Sept. 11, 2001 jet hijacking attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
One thing that we've learned since 9/11 is that our enemies are patient, deliberate and they like to hit big and on what they consider to be special dates for their cause. Sept. 11 will always be one of those dates and U.S. officials should be at their most alert every year when that anniversary rolls around. Stevens knew that, as evidenced by his precaution of staying inside the compound all that day.
Still, the initial call by the administration was that the murders were the work of a frenzied crowd that got out of control -- a crowd that U.S. intelligence officials have said never gathered. Five days later, long after she should have known that the attacks were the work of terrorists, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice gave a series of interviews that erroneously described the attack as a spontaneous uprising.
In Thursday's debate against Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Vice President Joe Biden, between bouts of rudeness, defended the initial reports the administration made focusing on the video as the culprit, saying it was the judgment of intelligence agencies at the time.
This contradicts the words of State Department officials Wednesday said the department never suggested that the attacks were related to the anti-Muslim video and that "others" in the State Department (our guess: higher ups) made that determination, which led Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to say the day of the murders that they were the results of a protest gone awry. On Friday -- a month later -- Clinton said the administration still "doesn't have all the answers."
One answer she should have had immediately -- as well as the president and vice president -- was whether there were actually any protesters hanging out around the consulate before the attack. The short answer is, no. There was none. What is inexplicable is how a protest could be blamed for evolving into a deadly assault if there never was a protest to start with.
Higher ups in the State Department also said they thought the embassy was adequately guarded, though administration officials are backing off that assertion as obviously wrong. Lt. Col. Andrew Wood this week disputed State Department officials' who said the special ops troops were being replaced with troops with similar abilities. He also said he was frustrated that requests for extra security forces were not met by higher ups in the department, who denied them. "We were fighting a losing battle, we weren't even allowed to keep what we had," he said in testimony before a congressional committee.
Biden at the debate, however, said, "We did not know they wanted more security again." Perhaps so, but one would think that the president -- America's commander in chief -- and his vice president would demand to be kept in the loop.