Our View: Libya attack explanation evolves
The US State Department has denied that it ever concluded the deadly attack Sept. 11 on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a spontaneous riot sparked by a YouTube video trailer for an anti-Islam movie shot in California.
During a media briefing before a congressional hearing this week about the Benghazi attack, officials at State described the assault, in which multiple groups of assailants armed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, a State Department computer specialist and two former Navy SEALs. An administration official, asked about the retraction of the explanation that linked the violence to the online video that mocked Islam's Prophet Muhammad, said, "That was not our conclusion."
Not so fast.
For more than a week after the attack, the Obama administration denounced the film. The US ambassador to the United Nations, in more than one interview, said that the "spontaneous" violence was born out of the protests over the film.
It was a position echoed by White House press secretary Jay Carney. "This is in response to a video that is offensive to Muslims," he said Sept. 14. "The unrest we've seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that Muslims, many Muslims, find offensive."
The White House even went as far to ask YouTube to take down the video.
The revised explanation, denying officials ever linked the video to the attack, comes after questions over security levels at the US Consulate in Benghazi. During a hearing this week of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, State Department representatives testified that there was adequate security in place at the consulate.
Yet military officials told the same hearing that security was a challenge.
"The security in Benghazi was a struggle and remained a struggle throughout my time there," Lt. Col. Andrew Wood told the hearing.
It's not easy to defend security procedures in Libya, considering what transpired. It's even harder when it's clear the State Department is being disingenuous about statements that, for more than a week, came out of the mouths of its most public spokespersons.