I look at former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morrell and all I see is a liar and a fraud. His willingness to play fast and loose with facts was on public display yesterday during the 2 April hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Let’s review the facts courtesy of Sharyl Atkisson’s blog:
At today’s hearing, Morell stated that the C.I.A. believed then, and that he still believes, “some of the attackers” were “affiliated with al Qaeda.” That information, too, was edited out of the talking points but Morell said he was not responsible for that word change.
“I did not take al Qaeda from the talking points,” Morell said. When asked who did, he answered, “The group of officers from our office of Congressional affairs and our office of public affairs.”
Previously, government officials had vehemently denied that any public affairs officials made any edits to the talking points.
Morrell apparently fancies himself a lawyer given his verbal gymnastics.
The Senate Intel Committee report on Benghazi made it very clear that Morrell removed the word “Islamic” and inserted the meaningless phrase, “There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.” There were more than “indications.” There were cold hard facts. Yet, Morrell chose to ignore the analysts on this point.
However, he then does a complete reversal and claims that he had no choice but to “go along with the analysts” in pushing the bullshit that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneous and inspired by an obscure anti-muslim video:
Under questioning from members on the committee, Morell described a process under which C.I.A. analysts in Washington provided an early assessment without seeking or receiving information from the many C.I.A. officers and other witnesses on the ground in Libya. And when the C.I.A. Tripoli station chief attempted to correct the record in an email to headquarters on Sept. 15, 2012, Morell says it was discounted as unreliable. According to Morell, the email claimed the attacks were “not an escalation of a protest.” However, Morell said that intel relied on press reports and C.I.A. officers on sight who probably would have arrived too late to see a protest anyway.
“My actions were appropriate in response as Deputy Director of CIA,” Morell testified. “I immediately recognized the discrepancy between my station chief and the judgment of our [Washington] analysts.” Morell says he asked his analysts to revisit their judgment and “they stuck to their initial conclusion” that the attacks were by protesters. Morell defended the decision.
This is nothing but Intelligence Dim Sum–Morrell gets to chose when to trust the analysts and when to ignore the analysts. And he adopts positions that are polar opposites–when it comes to claiming the attack was spontaneous and ignoring the views of the Chief of Station (i.e., the senior CIA guy on the ground in Libya), then the views of the analysts are sacrosanct. But, if the analysts state the fact that Al Qaeda was involved in the attack, their factual statement must be fundamentally altered and an anodyne substitute provided that says nothing about Islam or Al Qaeda.
This entire affair exposes, at a minimum, the incompetence of the analysts and the senior CIA managers. The mere fact that mortars were employed on the attacks on the CIA base in Benghazi was an immediate, irrefutable piece of evidence that the attack was not spontaneous, but planned and organized. It is one thing for a junior, inexperienced analyst to make that mistake. It is an entirely different matter when someone with Morrell’s experience displays such a breathtaking level of ignorance. This was an intelligence failure and Mike Morrell was the architect and builder of that failure.