The evidence from the SSCI report on Benghazi coupled with recent comments by Senators McCain, Graham and Ayotte, paints a damning, disturbing picture of Mike Morrell, an intel hack who served for a short while as the Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The story, which is up on FOX, is simple–Mike Morell manipulated the talking points to misrepresent what happened in Benghazi and lied to Congress when he blamed the FBI for the changes to those talking points.
My first comments about Morell (see Some Key Revelations from the Senate Report on Benghazi) are still valid. The Senate report exposes his gross manipulation of the intelligence:
Fri., Sept. 14th 2012,_11:15 a.m.-·written by Director, CIA Office of Terrorism Analysis
The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.
Sat., Sept 15th 11:08 a.m.-edits made by CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell
The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
Morell’s changes are shocking and highly unusual. First, you must understand the import of the first talking point produced in the CIA’s Office of Terrorism Analysis. The key phrase is, “WE DO KNOW THAT ISLAMIC EXTREMIST WITH TIES TO AL-AQ’IDA PARTICIPATED IN THE ATTACK.”
As a former analyst, I can testify that you do not use the phrase, “WE DO KNOW” unless you have rock, solid proof. And the analysts did have such proof. They were not offering an opinion. They were stating a fact.
Morell’s intervention is almost criminal. It would be one thing to insist on making a substantive change that took out the term, “Al Qa’ida,” and replaced it with the anodyne “extremists” if there was an issue of compromising sources or methods. But there was no such issue here.
A truly damning fact from the Senate report–one highlighted today by Fox–is the email from the CIA Chief of Station in Tripoli, Libya, that was sent shortly after the attacks on 11-12 September 2012:
For example, on September 15, 2012,. the CIA’s Chief of Station in Tripoli sent to the then-Deputy Director of the ClA and others at the CIA an email that reported the attacks were “not/not an escalation ofprotests.” 116 Yet, the CIA’s January 4, 2013, Analytic Line Review downplays the importance of this email, noting, ” … as a standard practice, we do not base analysis on e-mails and other informal communications from the field because such accounts often change when formalized as disseminated intelligence reports.”
The claim that CIA analysts “do not base analysis on e-mails” is a disingenuous lie. Normally, analysts never see those emails. If they did, you can be assured they would use them as a source in the same way that analysts use missives from Ambassadors that are sent via cable. When you have information from people on the ground, in other words, eye witnesses, that is pure gold for an analyst.
It is Morell’s subsequent behavior and comments. He accompanied then UN Ambassador Susan Rice to the US Senate for a discussion/explanation to Senators Ayotte, Graham and McCain on the Benghazi talking points. Fox’s Catherine Herridge reports:
Graham said Morell blamed others for changing the talking points.
“What I found curious is that he did not accept responsibility for changing the talking points. He told me the FBI had done this. I called the FBI — they went ballistic. And I am sure somebody from the FBI called Mike Morell, but within 24 hours, his statement was changed where he admitted the CIA had done it.”
Senator Ayotte backed up Graham’s allegations.
“I was in that meeting when Susan Rice was with Director Morell when he blamed the FBI for changing those talking points, and you know then we call the FBI, the FBI goes crazy and said we didn’t change the talking points. And so you have to wonder particularly now that we know that he may have received that email the day before what was going on.”
This alone is full proof that the impetus for Morell’s changes to the talking points had nothing to do with protecting sources and methods. This was all about politics. It is a shamefully audacious move to blame the FBI for a substantive change to ensure there was no reference to Al Qa’ida.
Morell surrendered the CIA to politics. He enlisted to serve the political fortunes of Barack Obama, who had insisted just days before the attack on the US persons and facilities in Benghazi that “Osama is dead and Al Qa’ida on the run.” Turns out, that was not a truthful statement. Al Qa’ida was alive and well in Libya.
The decline of the CIA is real and implications are frightening. I chatted with an ops buddy recently, who reports that there is enormous pressure on managers to promote minorities regardless of their qualifications. If a homosexual, a woman or an ethnic minority (african, latino or asian) is not promoted, the manager must write an explanation justifying why that “minority” was not promoted. No such requirement exists for passing over a caucasian male. Guess what happens? No one in a management position, who aspires to keep moving up the ladder, is going to risk putting in writing an explanation for not promoting a minority. As a result, management ranks at CIA, both on the Analytical side of the house and the Operations side of the house, are being filled with unqualified, inexperience people because they are minorities. Having a minority label now trumps competence.
Morell’s misconduct relative to the Benghazi talking points is but the tip of the iceberg of the decline of the CIA.