Multiple MSM outlets are reporting tonight that they recovered emails from anonymous government sources showing that both the State Department and White House knew within two hours of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that an Islamist militant group had claimed responsibility. Via Reuters:
The records obtained by Reuters consist of three emails dispatched by the State Department’s Operations Center to multiple government offices, including addresses at the White House, Pentagon, intelligence community and FBI, on the afternoon of September 11.
The first email, timed at 4:05 p.m. Washington time – or 10:05 p.m. Benghazi time, 20-30 minutes after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission allegedly began – carried the subject line “U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack” and the notation “SBU”, meaning “Sensitive But Unclassified.”
The text said the State Department’s regional security office had reported that the diplomatic mission in Benghazi was “under attack. Embassy in Tripoli reports approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well.”
The message continued: “Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four … personnel are in the compound safe haven. The 17th of February militia is providing security support.
While some information identifying recipients of this message was redacted from copies of the messages obtained by Reuters, a government source said that one of the addresses to which the message was sent was the White House Situation Room, the president’s secure command post.
About that “spontaneous protest” over a YouTube video? The one Amb. Susan Rice was telling all the TV networks about five full days after the attack?
Jake Tapper reports that the White House attempted to downplay the significance of the emails.
White House officials maintained that the emails don’t contradict what the White House believed at that point, based on the intelligence community’s assessment of the attack. The views of the intelligence community are valued far more than Facebook and twitter claims, officials said, describing that email as an unclassified ops alert email, not a vetted intelligence assessment. It was not definitive, but rather the act of flagging open source reporting referencing a Facebook post, and – officials noted — on September 17, Ansar al-Sharia denied responsibility for the attack.
Carney today told reporters that there were emails about all sorts of information that was coming available in the aftermath of the attack. “There was a variety of information coming in,” Carney said. “The whole point of an intelligence community and what they do is to assess strands of information and make judgments about what happened and who was responsible.”
Moreover, officials said, the intelligence community still believes there wasn’t a tremendous amount of planning before the attack.