Stop the Paranoia

Dem Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced this morning that Gen. Petraeus has told her he will testify before her committee about Benghazi.

So all the paranoid stuff about his resigning from the CIA to avoid testifying before Congress has now been established as absurd.  His resignation did nothing to end his obligation to testify if Congress wants him to.  They have subpoena power, if necessary.


OK, Now My Head Is Going To Explode

Now the Pentagon says that it is investigating the commander who succeeded Gen. Petraeus in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, for “inappropriate communications” with Jill Kelley, the woman who complained to the FBI about threatening emails that turned out to be from Petraeus’ mistress, Paula Broadwell.

I think the word we’re looking for here is “Byzantine.”

Did Mitt Know But Not Obama?

It seems as if but for the FBI whistle-blower who went to GOP Congressman Dave Reichert, who in turn went to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, David Petraeus might still be Director of the CIA.

The story raises questions not just of who knew what when, but who didnt know and who should have known, of why choices were made to tell certain people, but not others.

Why did Reichert go to Cantor and not Speaker of the House John Boehner?  Why didn’t Cantor go to his boss Boehner and/or the intelligence committee?

Cantor says that he didn’t tell anyone other than FBI Director Mueller.  Of course, Mueller already knew, but now he had to deal with the fact that the super-ambitious Cantor — who wishes neither Boehner nor Obama well — also knew and could speak publicly at any time.

But did Cantor tell anyone at Mitt’s campaign?  Could it be that Mitt knew before Obama did?  And given that Eric Holder knew last summer, is it possible that no one at the White House knew?  Did the knowledge go up from Mueller to Holder and stop there?

GOP officials and conservative media have been questioning the timing of the release right after the election and right before Petraeus was to testify to Congress about Benghazi.

Release before the election wouldn’t have helped Mitt, it would have just taken more attention away from Mitt’s campaign.  Petraeus was popular among Republicans, so a scandal involving him wouldn’t have tainted Obama, the way a scandal involving a more equivocal figure, say Eric Holder, would have.

As for Benghazi, there’s no reason Petraeus can’t still testify, and I expect he will, just not this week.

The story also raises questions of when a whistle-blower is truly a whistle-blower and when he or she is just being insubordinate and “going rogue” by refusing to accept a superior’s reasonable judgment.   I’m not sure that this person uncovered any corruption or criminal activity that justified going outside normal channels to Cantor.

I think the FBI had concluded that Petraeus hadn’t breached national security and hadn’t committed any crime, so they were going to leave him alone.  Enter the whistle-blower and Eric Cantor.

Did GOP Force Out Petraeus?

Still a lot more questions than answers on the Petraeus “affair” in both the personal and political sense, but it looks as if he may have been forced out because of the GOP.  That’s interesting because the GOP claims that the timing of his resignation is suspicious, given the Benghazi hearing later this week.

They can’t both instigate his resignation and accuse the Administration of trying to keep him from testifying.  Well, of course, they can, since they’re the GOP, and this is how they roll, with no concern for coherence, but we saw how much good such tactics did Mitt.

As for the GOP being behind his firing, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office admits that Cantor learned about the FBI investigation that had ensnared Petraeus from GOP Congressman Dave Reichert of Washington.  An FBI whistle-blower had contacted Reichert.  The whistle-blower then talked to Cantor, who got him directly to FBI Director Robert Mueller.

I’m inferring that the FBI investigation had uncovered the affair between Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, but no security breach or criminal activity involving Petraeus, and so was not going to notify the CIA or Congress or the White House.  It sounds as if the whistle-blower disagreed with this result and, bucking his superiors, went to Congress himself.  Once Reichert and Cantor got involved, Mueller couldn’t let it lie, setting off the chain of events that led to Petraeus’ resignation.

So the GOP claim that Obama wanted to make Petraeus go away because of Benghazi is BS.  And I believe Petraeus will end up testifying anyway, just not this Thursday.

The Benghazi Speech

I know the Prez is doing a press conference next Wednesday, but he really needs to do a speech about Benghazi.  It needs to be an air-tight, comprehensive speech that will stand up a month, six months, a year from now.  No drip, drip, drip.  He needs to explain exactly what happened, what went wrong, and what’s being done to fix it.  The White House should release documentation to supplement and back up the speech.

He will never have more good will from the American people than he has right now.

Having executed a brilliant campaign, I worry that his people will drift back into their first-term crappy communicating.

He needs to explain why the Africa Command (Africom), established in 2007 under Bush 43, was the only command not to have its own Commanders’ In-Extremis Force (CIF) and  had to rely on help from the European Command, which meant forces that were on a mission to Croatia.

As for the members of the GOP who have been critical of Benghazi, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, they had to have known that Africom didn’t have a CIF.  I’ve heard John Bolton rant about a lot of things on Fox News — why wasn’t he complaining about this?

CIA in Libya: Eye on the Wrong Ball

From “Ansar al-Sharia’s Role in Benghazi Attacks Still a Mystery,” Eli Lake, The Daily Beast:

“One of the main participants in the Sept. 11 anniversary assault on the U. S. diplomatic mission and Central Intelligence Agency annex in Benghazi is a group formed earlier this year called Ansar al-Sharia, according to the current U. S. intelligence assessment of the attack.

“Before the attack, the U. S. intelligence community didn’t consider Ansar al-Sharia a threat to American interests, and the group wasn’t a priority target for the CIA officers monitoring jihadists in Libya, according to U. S. intelligence officials with knowledge of the investigations into the Benghazi attacks.

“Because Ansar al-Sharia wasn’t designated as a terrorist group or thought to have significant connections to al Qaeda, there were fewer resources deployed to monitor the organization’s members, these officials say.

“Some analysts in the intelligence community disagreed with the official assessment, however.   A public report released in August by the Library of Congress at the direction of a Pentagon organization that focuses on counter-terrorism research concluded that Ansar al-Sharia ‘increasingly embodied al Qaeda’s presence in Libya.’  But this wasn’t the prevailing view.

“One U. S. intelligence contractor working on the investigation into the Benghazi attacks said, ‘We were not focused on these guys.’

No Al Qaeda Evidence in Benghazi Attack

From “No Evidence found of Al Qaeda role in Libya attack,” Ken Dilanian and Shashank Bengali, L A Times:

The assault on the U. S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi last month appears to have been an opportunistic attack rather than a long-planned operation, and intelligence agencies have found no evidence that it was ordered by Al Qaeda, according to U. S. officials and witnesses interviewed in Libya.

“[A]fter five weeks of investigation, U. S. intelligence agencies say they have found no evidence of Al Qaeda participation.

“The attack was ‘carried out following a minimum amount of planning,’ said a U. S. intelligence official…. ‘The attackers exhibited a high degree of disorganization.  Some joined the attack in progress, some did not have weapons and others just seemed interested in looting.’

“A second U. S. official added, ‘There isn’t any intelligence that the attackers pre-planned their assault days or weeks in advance.’  Most of the evidence so far suggests that ‘the attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U. S. Embassy in Cairo’ earlier that day, the official said.

“[I]n Benghazi, witnesses said members of the group that raided the U. S. mission specifically mentioned the video….

“They were extremely well armed, but Libya is awash in weapons.  In Benghazi, machine guns and shoulder-fired grenade launchers…are sold on the streets.

“Republicans began portraying the attack as the work of Al Qaeda, and they accused the administration of deliberately seeking to downplay that possibility.

“Now, however, said another official with access to the intelligence, ‘it may turn out that the initial assessment was not that far off.'” Emphasis added.

The Prez needs a coherent narrative on this for the foreign affairs debate Monday. 

Back to That Video Again

From “Election-Year Stakes Overshadow Nuances of Libya Investigation,” David D. Kirkpatrick, NYT:

“To Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers, there is little doubt what occurred:  a well-known group of local Islamist militants mounted the attack without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the American-made video.  That is what the fighters said at the time, speaking emotionally of their anger at the video without ever mentioning Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the terrorist attacks of 11 years earlier.  And it is an explanation that tracks with their history as a local militant group determined to protect Libya from Western influence.

But so far the intelligence assessments appear to square largely with the local accounts.  Whether the attackers are labeled ‘Al Qaeda cells’ or ‘aligned with Al Qaeda,’ as Republicans have suggested, depends on whether that label can be used as a generic term for a broad spectrum of Islamist militants, encompassing groups like Ansar al-Shariah whose goals were primarily local, as well as those who aspire to join a broader jihad against the West.

In June the group staged a similar attack against the Tunisian consulate over a different film, according to the Congressional testimony of the American security chief at the time, Eric A. Nordstrom.

“At a news conference the day after the ambassador and three other Americans were killed, a spokesman for Ansar al-Shariah praised the attack as the proper response to such an insult to Islam. …  Other Benzaghi militia leaders who know the group say its leaders and ideology are all homegrown.  Their group provides social services and guards a hospital.  And they openly proselytize for their brand of puritanical Islam and political vision.

They profess no interest in global fights against the West or distant battles aimed at removing American troops from the Arabian Peninsula.”  Emphasis added.