Opinion: Morning Examiner

Newly released emails blow big holes in Obama White House's Benghazi defense

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Mark Tapscott,Morning Examiner,Barack Obama,Judicial Watch,Benghazi,Susan Rice

Slowly but surely the facts are emerging on what happened at the highest levels of the U.S. government during and in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Jay Carney, President Obama's chief spokesman, maintained the administration's wall of resistance to all criticism of the government's response despite release of a set of devastating emails Tuesday.

Judicial Watch, the nonprofit government watchdog, pointed in particular to an email circulated on Sept. 14, 2012, by then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Benjamin J. Rhodes.

Its purpose was preparation of then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice for her appearances on the Sunday news talk-show circuit to discuss the Benghazi attack.

Rice was the first senior Obama appointee to comment officially on the attack, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The infamous video

The email's purpose was this: "Goal: To underscore that these protests are rooted in and (sic) Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy."

The "Internet video" was an amateurish mockumentary on Islam produced by an independent filmmaker and released a few days before the attack.

As Judicial Watch pointed out Tuesday, Rhodes' email went to key White House and State Department officials, including Carney, then-White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, then-White House Deputy Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, then-National Security Council Director of Communications Erin Pelton, and then-White House Senior Advisor and political strategist Davie Plouffe.

These individuals were the core of the Obama administration's Benghazi crisis communications management team.

Who gave Rhodes the video?

The Rhodes email is significant because it clearly indicates that within hours of the attack administration officials were focused on blaming the attack on the video and subsequent protests of it in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The key question then is who first pointed to the video as an explanation for the attack. The Rhodes email isn't the proverbial smoking gun, but it has an unmistakable odor about it.

The video theme remained the cornerstone of the Obama administration's Benghazi explanation as late as the president's Sept. 25, 2012, address to the UN.

Protecting the president

Judicial Watch obtained the email only after appealing an administration denial of a Freedom of Information Act request to federal court.

“Now we know the Obama White House's chief concern about the Benghazi attack was making sure that President Obama looked good,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

“And these documents undermine the Obama administration’s narrative that it thought the Benghazi attack had something to do with protests or an Internet video.

"Given the explosive material in these documents, it is no surprise that we had to go to federal court to pry them loose from the Obama State Department.”

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