Today, former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell appeared—at long last—before the House Select Committee on Intelligence in an open hearing. Committee members have, for some time now, desired to question Morell, who has proven an elusive and reluctant witness. Indeed, some believed he had previously misled the committee, suspicions which made for some pointed questioning.
The most significant finding from today’s testimony: Morell and his team of analysts showed poor judgment (to say the least) and were stubbornly attached to the false narrative on Benghazi, which Morell helped create—for reasons that are still a matter of conjecture.
Morell said, “I believe it was a protest. I also believe it was a terrorist attack. I don’t believe those things were mutually exclusive.”
As established conclusively by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s bipartisan report, the original CIA talking points on Benghazi were quite comprehensive and included information on al-Qaeda activity in the Benghazi area. In the interagency vetting process, however, this paragraph raised red flags at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, which had failed miserably at providing adequate protection against terrorists for U.S. diplomats stationed in Libya. Morell took it upon himself to edit out any reference to al-Qaeda, and blamed the attack on an anti-American demonstration. The remainder of the talking points was toothless pabulum.
Yet, on September 15, the day before U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice went on five national Sunday television talk shows and promoted the false narrative, the CIA Station Chief in Tripoli—our highest ranking intelligence officer in Libya—emailed Morell and others at the CIA, reporting that the attacks were “not an escalation of protests.”
In today’s testimony, Morell stated that he sent the information from the CIA chief in Libya to his Langley CIA analysts, who concluded that, with regard to the situation on the ground in Benghazi, they were better informed than the staff in Libya. And so they refused to change their original analysis. The false story of the demonstration remained unaltered.
Why did the CIA refuse to consider intelligence from the ground in Libya? Politicization of the agency is certainly one possible answer, and a resurgence of terrorist activity did not suite the Obama administration—especially with a national election looming.
The Obama White House, as well as likely Democratic front-runner for the presidency Hillary Clinton, wish that the outrage over Benghazi would simply go away. House members deserve support in their efforts to make sure the American people get all the facts of this tragic case.