Obama administration's wishful thinking on terrorism
October 11th, 2012
10:55 AM ET

Obama administration's wishful thinking on terrorism

By Michael V. Hayden, CNN Contributor

Editor's note: Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was appointed by President George W. Bush as CIA director in 2006 and served until February 2009, is a principal with the Chertoff Group, a security consulting firm. He serves on the boards of several defense firms and is a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University. Hayden is an adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

Even as last month's events in Benghazi, Libya, become clearer (it was a terrorist attack), the aftermath of Benghazi on American politics and on American policy is far from settled.

The immediate question is why did it take so long to characterize accurately what happened there?

Writing in The Daily Beast, respected diplomatic observer Leslie Gelb answers that question by reverting to a well-used theme when he blames current policy and political problems on the quality of the intelligence. Commenting on Ambassador Susan Rice's serial talk-show assertions that the Benghazi attack was "spontaneous," he opines that Rice's "mistake was taking the initial intelligence at face value."

Gelb reinforces his point by saying that he made the same mistake in his own op-ed by relying on "what the intelligence briefers told me." Odd that he would receive an intelligence briefing.

Equally odd, his assertion presumes that policymakers are simply passive clients of their intelligence officers. Did anyone challenge the video-inspired, spontaneous-event narrative with information like that reportedly revealed to Congress by Ambassador Pat Kennedy soon after the attack: that this was a complex and synchronized assault?

This theme of intelligence shortcomings was carried over by multiple government officials cited in a lengthy Wall Street Journal piece that outlined "shifting views within the intelligence community" as one source of the administration's problems.

According to the Journal's sources, early intelligence reports of an al Qaeda connection to the Benghazi attack were discounted by the White House, following the lead of the director of national intelligence.

"The intelligence community made me do it" defense is a bit peculiar given the aftermath of the flawed 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The outcome of that episode was a commitment by the intelligence community to give policymakers the benefit of the range of views within the community and to attach confidence levels to assessments.

One wonders what level of confidence (low, medium or high) the intelligence community attached to its judgment that the Benghazi attack was related to an anti-Islam video and spontaneous and how already emerging dissenting views arguing the attack was preplanned were presented to senior officials.

In any event, given the administration's existing narrative about its success against al Qaeda and the inherent attractiveness of the spontaneous attack plotline (a spontaneous attack would be neither predictable nor preventable and therefore less likely to invite blame for a lack of sufficient security), there were likely strong instincts in the White House to accept and publicize the original director of national intelligence assessment regardless of confidence levels or competing analysis.

Strong instincts, but not necessarily good instincts.

Click here for the full story

Filed under: Al Qaeda • Libya • State Department • Susan Rice • Terrorism • US Ambassador
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. frolep rotrem

    I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post…


    January 21, 2021 at 3:57 am | Reply
  2. knowledgebanc

    The glare of Hayden's dunderheadedness is remarkable, given he and his cronies were advising GWB that Iraq had WMD.

    November 2, 2012 at 10:24 am | Reply
  3. lance

    obama's so great why dont he end these wars today why wait ? where's the liberals anwers on that ?

    October 13, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Reply
  4. richajam

    .. see what I mean about religous attacks. It it is not one- its another.
    The problem is not the president- its 1 person controlling a nation of 50 states and having so much power that its just to big for that one person to begin with. it may have been fine for 13 colonys back in the hay-day of our beginning. but not now that we are 300X larger in population. 1 person alone cant make the rules to make 311milion+/- people happy.
    All those lives depend on that person- whether it be Bush, Obama, Romney or the Great Big Bird himself.
    So yes- continue on- blame someone else but everyone including yourself for our national problems.
    We own 100% of this – doesnt matter what President is in office. Debate it all you like, point your fingers- even tell me to shut up- but in the end- it comes back to the US citizen( rich, middle-class or poor) making the difference and not relying onthe governent to make choices for them.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Reply
  5. richajam

    Go ahead – blame Bush – Take no responsibility for yourself about anything that has happened in the world for the past 20 years. Go ahead, tell your kids to grow up and expect to have the world handed to them without working for it then rely on the gov. to take care of them for their made up 'special needs' and let those who really need the care fall to the wayside and those who have paid for Social Security their entire lives look forward to 'quality' healthcare that will not have the essence of 'care' in the mind as the life expectancy of the average citizen falls back to 65 years of age( and you can only retire at age of 66). Our values are of such no concern that the world is an unfriendly place no matter where you go. So then, meanwhile- in our American cities- terrorist no longer wait for us to go to them in other parts of the world- they come to us and burn down your very home in the name of a some religion ( maybe its muslim today- but maybe it may be christian tomorrow... you never know who is the bad guy anymore).
    So keep laughing. We all are to blame here for the world we live in- and what our world is that we will allow our kids to inherit from our needy and greedly little hands.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  6. gabrielG

    Yea, Bush had much better instincts when it came to war.....( laugh extremely hard).

    October 11, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Reply
    • jonathan


      How could any intelligent person blame Obama, for wars that they WATCHED Bush start?

      Guess the Mormon hate idol, doesn't attract many intelligent persons....

      October 11, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Reply

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