Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has been the focal point of accusations that the Obama administration misled the American public about the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. On Sept. 16, five days after the attack, Rice asserted on several news programs that the attack stemmed from a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim video, a claim that the White House has since corrected. Rep. Peter King (R, N.Y.) has called on Rice to resign for "misinforming the American people," and she has been heavily criticized by conservative media. However, Rice has maintained that she was only relaying what intelligence officials had told her, and it looks like she's telling the truth, say Adam Entous and Siobhan Gorman at The Wall Street Journal:
Some intelligence came in on Saturday evening [September 15] that contradicted the protest claim and prompted the office of the Director of National Intelligence to begin to question the agencies' initial conclusions, intelligence officials said.
Despite their growing uncertainty, intelligence officials didn't feel they had enough conclusive, new information to revise their assessment. Ms. Rice wasn't warned of their new doubts before she went on the air the next morning and spoke of the attacks being spurred by demonstrations, intelligence officials acknowledged.
More information casting doubt on the protest element came in on Sunday morning, around the time that Ms. Rice was completing her TV appearances, the officials said. She began taping the shows early Sunday morning. By the time intelligence analysts began to realize "there's enough here to build a body of evidence that there probably were not protests, those things were already recorded and she [Ms. Rice] was already out there," a senior intelligence official said.
So is time for Republicans to lay off Obama's U.N. ambassador? "Rice did not choose all her words perfectly that weekend, even based on what was known at the time, it is true," says Michael O'Hanlon at CNN. "There should have been a bit more nuance and more acknowledgment of the uncertainty in some of them. But there is no basis for concluding that she sought to mislead, and no reason to think that harm came to the country's interests because of her comments."
However, it still took the administration weeks to openly acknowledge the new evidence that was being collected at the time Rice was speaking. "That's a little late, no question about it," says Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast. "We need to know what happened and people need to be held accountable."