Intel warned of embassy attacks

Prior to the 9/11/2012 embassy attack, US intelligence warned of attacks against embassies, but no action was taken:

According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and “lockdown”, under which movement is severely restricted.

After this report came out, the administration vigorously denied it, sort of. Actually, they issued very carefully worded non-denial denials. The National Intelligence Director’s office said:

This is absolutely wrong. We are not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent.

The White House said:

The story is absolutely wrong. We were not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the US mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent. That report is false.

Note that both these statements use almost exactly the same words: there was no actionable intelligence that an attack in Benghazi was planned or imminent.

What neither said is that there was no intelligence that an attack against US embassies in general was likely, which (as you can see quoted above) is what the report actually said. Given that the administration’s phrasing was so precise, and given that they surely would have liked to make a broader claim, we have to take this as more of a confirmation than a denial.

And, in fact, later developments confirm that impression. Days later, Reuters reported:

A U.S. intelligence cable warned the American Embassy in Cairo of possible violence in response to Arabic-language broadcasts of clips from an anti-Muslim film, U.S. government sources said on Monday.

The cable, dispatched from Washington on September 10, the day before protests erupted, advised the embassy the broadcasts could provoke violence. It did not direct specific measures to upgrade security, said the sources. . .

Copies of the cable were not sent to other U.S. outposts in the region, including the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where violence took the life of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

We’ve also learned that there were several attacks against western targets in Benghazi leading up to 9/11/2012, and just three days before, a local security official says he warned US officials of deteriorating security in Benghazi. Despite all that, the consulate was left nearly undefended.

UPDATE: I’m not the only one to notice the non-denial nature of the denial; John Hinderaker observed it too. So why isn’t anyone in the press asking for clarification of this key point?

(Previous post.)

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