As information on last week’s attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya continues to be released, questions about how much the Obama administration knew and when officials knew it are piling up.
On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters the raid that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and two other Americans was “in response not to United States policy, and not to, obviously, the administration, or the American people, but it is in response to a video, a film that we have judged to be be reprehensible and disgusting.”
U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said echoed Carney’s explanation on Sunday, claiming that the attacks in Libya were a “spontaneous” response to a “reprehensible” video about the Prophet Muhammed released by an American filmaker, and were not a reflection of anti-American sentiment abroad.
The administration official described the incident as one in which “a mob was ultimately hijacked by a handful of extremists” on CNN’s ”State of the Union.”
“People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent. Those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post revolutionary Libya, and that then spun out of control,” she said on “FOX New Sunday.”
However, Rice was almost immediately contradicted by interim Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif who said that the attack was in fact premeditated.
“The way these perpetrators acted and moved, and their choosing a specific date for this so-called demonstration, I think that this leaves us with no doubt that this was pre-planned, pre-determined,” he said Sunday.
Now, news outlets are reporting that the United States did in fact know about the imminent assault three days before it occurred, giving the U.S. an adequate amount of time to secure the consulate ahead of the terrorist threat. Other details of the attacks have also lead those familiar with the situation to believe that the strike was unarguably pre-planned.
Furthermore, respected media company McClatchy is reporting that even the reports about the protest itself are false and no protest was occurring outside the consulate ahead of the attack as the U.S. and Libyan governments are claiming.
And Wired magazine’s “Danger Room” blog reports that contrary to the State Department’s initial claims, a foreign security company named Blue Mountain had been contracted to help protect the United States Embassy in Libya ahead of U.S. officials’ return to the country in the way of the recent Libyan revolution.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor reportedly told McClatchy in an email that the Obama administration’s version of events is “our assessment based on the information available.”
When asked by ABC’s Jake Tapper on“This Week” why more troops were not stationed at the Libyan embassy, Rice said Sunday that, ”Our presence in Tripoli, as in Benghazi is relatively new, as you’ll recall. We have been back post-revolution, only for a matter of months,” noting that for this reason, the amount of security the U.S. thought was needed was in place at the time.
But with the attack occurring late Tuesday EST, it’s not clear why the White House wouldn’t have been fully briefed on the timeline of events by Sunday morning or why the White House and the State Department still maintain that the attack was not pre-planned nearly a week after it occurred.
Update: During the White House press briefing Tuesday Carney told reporters that the Obama administration has ”provided information about what we believe was the precipitating cause of the protest and the violence, based on the information that we have had available.”
Carney also accused a reporter of “conveniently conflating” the anniversary of the bombing of the World Trade Center and the attack in Libya and said that to his knowledge, the U.S. was not made aware that an attack was in the works in Libya before it occurred, despite what news outlets and the Libyan government are reporting.
“Based on information that we — our initial information, and that includes all information — we saw no evidence to back up claims by others that this was a preplanned or premeditated attack; that we saw evidence that it was sparked by the reaction to this video,” Carney said in the briefing.
He refused to comment on the Libyan President’s contradictory statement that the attack was pre-planned and doubled down on Ambassador Rice’s previous statements on the incident, saying, “ I would point you to what Ambassador Rice said and others have said about what we know thus far about the video and its influence on the protests that occurred in Cairo, in Benghazi and elsewhere.
“And all I can tell you is that steps are taken, both seen and unseen, in advance of and in preparation for times like the anniversary of 9/11 when it is judged that there might be greater threats. And those steps are based on the threat assessments that we have at the time. But I would refer you in terms of specific security for specific facilities to the State Department,” he said.