October 9th, 2012
05:45 PM ET

Intel chief on criticisms about Benghazi: "Enough already"

By Suzanne Kelly

The top U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday there was no obvious warning ahead of the deadly attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and rebuffed criticism of the intelligence community's initial assessment of the incident.

James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, said in raw and revealing remarks to a group of intelligence professionals and contractors in Orlando that there is a "message" the intelligence community has learned since the September 11 attack that is "applicable to the executive and legislative branches of government" as well as to members of the media.

U.S. intelligence has been sharply criticized by some members of Congress who allege the Obama administration did not come out soon enough and identify the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans as a planned, terrorist assault.

Clapper said an increased security risk is the new normal overseas, and that people need to understand what intelligence can and cannot do.

"The challenge is always a tactical warning, the exact insights ahead of time that such an attack is going to take place and obviously we did not have that," Clapper said in answering questions after the speech.

"This gets into the mysteries versus secrets thing. If people don't behave, emit a behavior or talk or something else ahead of time to be detected, it's going to be very hard to predict an exact attack and come up with an exact attack," he said.

Clapper showed he's not immune to the criticism which he read as while returning from a working trip to Australia.

"I flew back to Washington, and I'm reading the media clips about the hapless, hopeless, helpless, inept, incompetent DNI, because I acknowledged publicly that we didn't instantly have that 'God's eye, God's ear' certitude about an event that I mentioned earlier," Clapper said. "It made me want to go right back to Australia."

Several intelligence sources have expressed frustration since the attack that there was an unrealistic expectation for that community to know what happened within hours of the Benghazi incident.

Intelligence officials have adjusted their initial assessment of the attack from one that may have been prompted by an anti-Muslim film circulating on the Internet to a more recent belief that it was a planned, terrorist assault.

Clapper channeled a recent article written by Paul Pillar, a 28-year intelligence community veteran who now teaches at Georgetown University which laid out the argument that second-guessing what the intelligence community knew after the Benghazi attack and forensically questioning at what moment they knew it, doesn't do much to help the conversation.

Pillar wrote that "a demand for an explanation that is quick, definite and unchanging reflects a naive expectation – or in the present case, irresponsible politicking."

CNN's Pam Benson contributed to this report

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. news feed

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    February 7, 2013 at 3:38 am | Reply
  2. J House

    Please Mr Clapper, resign today and go back to Australia. This was a MASSIVE intelligence failure on the anniv. of 9/11 in one of the most dangerous places we put foreign service officers. Worse, it is a continuing coverup that goes all the way up to the President and Sec of State.
    The American people DO NOT accept the murder of U.S. officials as the 'new normal'.
    Clapper should resign or be fired.

    October 12, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  3. Bill

    "new normal" ? I am so sick of this administration and the media using this term. Who says it is the new normal but those that want to "fundamentally change" America and those that are shilling for the former. Just like the video – they must believe that if they repeat it long enough everyone will accept it. Sounds like re-education.

    October 11, 2012 at 8:08 am | Reply
  4. JWootton

    What a load of limp wristed pontificating twaddle this fool spews over the stage. We know the only muscle he has developed. Just like our liar in chief, he obfuscates to protect his own fat incompetent ass. When do Americans say enough already??? We can do so much better than this. They are all toast and will be exterminated shorlty, via our election process and much smarter people will replace them. Such stupid and uneducated people running our country. Just a bunch of dummies...

    October 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Reply
  5. jaimefurtado

    Mr. James Clapper, what kind of example are we giving to our sons and daughters? Excises, excuses, excuses. Is there anybody who will take responsibility for anything? There's no integrity in this government from the top down! Shame on you!

    October 10, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Reply
    • ken bard

      I am with you 100% I mean if one part started drawing crowds this wasn't enough red flags popping up that may-be better beef up security protect of Americans what a joke Intel chief of Benghazi: is along with Obama's actions.

      October 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Reply
  6. For Your Eyes Only

    Don't say you weren't made aware..... Drone these neo nazis...

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    October 10, 2012 at 8:05 am | Reply
  7. Doing the math

    This is all a very amateurish cover up.

    How can they claim they (White House and Intelligence Community) claim they did not know...

    What does not add up... if you don't know you don't know... also then you don't go around making claims and blaming a stupid 15 min. video shot months before Sept. 11th.

    Look, anybody knows Sept. 11th is an anniversary all Muslim fanatics want to celebrate by bombing the hell out of Americans... even more after OBL was dead. Everybody knows, even intelligence community, that there was an Unstable Libya with many warnings of Al Quaeda presence and attempted attacks.

    The most plausible "guess" if you have no 100% information is that it was a terrorist attack, if anything, they should have erred on the terrorism hypothesis and not on the dumb film excuse. This means cover up. You have the motive, you have the logic, etc.... It is simply DISGUSTING!!!

    October 10, 2012 at 4:41 am | Reply
  8. paul martin dj foreign coresspondent

    If the US intelligence community had been on the ball...they would have advised precautions and additional security before the consulate attack !

    October 10, 2012 at 4:32 am | Reply
  9. Steve

    The intelligence agencies and our Govt officials made a huge mistake! It wasn't that we expected an answer right away – its more that the answer provided turned out to be wrong and it took a long time for the White House to get it right.

    They should have told us the truth in the beginning – that they didn't know and needed time. That would have been acceptable. But to say that it was an unplanned protest out of control when they had no idea – was just wrong AND that is why they should be criticized.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:38 am | Reply
  10. OnTheWorldPolitics

    It'll be okay, Jeff. Just relax

    October 10, 2012 at 12:25 am | Reply
  11. OnTheWorldPolitics

    You're thinking too much again, Off!

    October 10, 2012 at 12:24 am | Reply
  12. ABarker

    His comments are all about dodging responsibility and are offensive. This was 9/11, the ambassador had requested extra security, there were 230 prior attacks, to say that you couldn't foresee this is obscene. The added security could have been provided or better yet, why didn't they follow the British example and get them out there? "Hindsight is cheap" ??? Really? How much is common sense worth? Better yet, how much were their lives worth? How much is their families’ pain worth? There were options, there is no excuse for this and I hope these people think about that every time they go home to their families, every time one of their family members comes home. At least they will be able to put their arms around them. That's more than the victims’ families will have. Shame on you people.

    October 9, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Reply
    • jeff

      Now this guy is lying for Obama also. News flash to him that we already found out the truth a little late for him to come out and lie.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:23 am | Reply
  13. OffTheWorldPolitics

    What about disclosure? Is it not important for the administration to properly disclose the information to the public? This is an attempt at deflection. Dems want defense cuts. They don't want it getting out that those cuts would inevitably lead to more of this...

    October 9, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Reply

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