White House told Susan Rice to blame Benghazi on a YouTube video

This is a pretty big “get” by Judicial Watch. The conservative watchdog organization filed suit in last summer to gain access to documents related to the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack. Those emails were released by the organization on Tuesday.

Among the 41 documents obtained by Judicial Watch is an email from then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes to other prominent White House officials that focused on goals tailored around a very specific narrative: blame Benghazi on a video and not policy failures:

The Rhodes email was sent on sent on Friday, September 14, 2012, at 8:09 p.m. with the subject line:  “RE: PREP CALL with Susan, Saturday at 4:00 pm ET.”  The documents show that the “prep” was for Amb. Rice’s Sunday news show appearances to discuss the Benghazi attack.

Thoughts on Free Speech and Censorship

First Amendment

Google has taken some heat lately over censorship issues. No doubt we’ve all heard by now of the famous “The Innocence of Muslims” video on YouTube that, whether it did or did not cause attacks on our embassies, has been a center of controversy.

It stirs up debate on censorship, so I wanted to offer some thoughts on censorship.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That’s the whole First Amendment, but if you break it down to an even simpler form…

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.

That, in a nutshell, is how I feel about censorship. But this isn’t about Congress. This whole issue is about Google and whether or not Google should censor the opinions of its users.

I love censorship. I censor things all the time. If you decide to get obnoxious in comments on this blog, I’ll censor you. I try not to, because I want to encourage debate, but if your comments take away from the debate, yeah, I’ll censor you.

I censor things in my home as well. I censor what TV shows my kids see. I use parental control software to censor what Internet content is available.

Censoring content, whether on my web site or in my home, is my right and my responsibility. The same applies to Google. If something posted to a Google property is inappropriate, Google has a right and a responsibility to censor the content.

House Intel member: Two flags flew at Benghazi — al-Qaeda and the U.S.

Lynn Westmoreland

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) held a hearing earlier this month on the controversial Benghazi talking points. Members took turns questioning former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell about the edits made to the document, including the removal of references to al-Qaeda, the false narrative that the attack was a protest to a YouTube video gone awry.

Morell insisted that there was no cover-up of the talking points, telling members of the committee that that neither he “nor anyone else at the agency, deliberately misled anyone in Congress about any aspect of the tragedy in Benghazi.” But some, including Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), aren’t so sure.

Westmoreland is a member of HPSCI and, like others on the committee, posed some tough questions to Morell about the talking points, which, he notes, gave the impression that the attack was a protest. The Georgia Republican, however, wasn’t satisfied with the answers, and he’s moving forward

United Liberty spoke with Westmoreland on Thursday about the HPSCI hearing with Morell. He explained why he has doubts about the former CIA official’s testimony and how he and others House Republicans moving forward to examine testimony and interviews of witnesses in their search for answers. (You can read our story on that here.)

Susan Rice has no regrets for false Benghazi narrative

Susan Rice

In an interview yesterday on Meet the Press, National Security Advisor Susan Rice told host David Gregory that she had no regrets for her appearances on Sunday shows after the Benghazi attacks in which she said that the incident at the American outpost was a “spontaneous” reaction to an anti-Islam YouTube video.

“When you were last here, Ambassador Rice, it was an eventful morning on the story of Benghazi and the horrible attack on our compound there. We haven’t seen you in a while. As you look back in your involvement in that, do you have any regrets?” Gregory asked.

“David, no, because what I said to you that morning, and what I did every day since, was to share the best information that we had at the time,” Rice said.

“The information I provided — which I explained to you was what we had at the moment, it could change, I commented that this was based on what we knew on that morning — was provided to me and my colleagues, and, indeed, to Congress by the intelligence community,” the former U.N. Ambassador continued. “And that’s been well validated in many different ways since.”

Report: CIA knew within three days that Benghazi attack wasn’t a protest

In the hours following the 2012 attack on the American outpost in Benghazi, during which four Americans were killed, senior Obama administration officials — including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney — tried to advance a talking point that the incident was a protest over an anti-Islam YouTube video that had gone awry.

Even President Obama focused on religious tolerance in the days after the attack, giving passive mention to it as an “act of terror.” Eight days later, however, administration officials conceded that the incident in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.

It’s not hard to figure out why the administration didn’t want to immediately admit that the incident was a terrorist attack, after all, 2012 was a presidential election year and the Obama campaign was trying to boost his foreign policy credentials against Republican criticism. As it turned out, Mitt Romney’s campaign mishandled Benghazi at a presidential debate, and the issue was a nonfactor in the election.

Report: al-Qaeda elements involved in Benghazi attack

The claims recently made by The New York Times about the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack continues to crumble. Just last month the “paper of record” stated that there was “no evidence” that suggested al-Qaeda was involved in the attack on the American outpost in the Libyan city.

But a declassified, bipartisan report released this morning by the Senate Intelligence Committee lays waste to that claim by implicating regional affiliates of al-Qaeda —including Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — in the attack:

The administration initially claimed the attack sprung out of a protest, but has since given a more complicated assessment. Still, administration officials all along have downplayed Al Qaeda involvement, recently seizing on a New York Times report that supported those claims.

While the report does not implicate Al Qaeda “core” — the leadership believed to be in the Pakistan region — it does blame some of the most influential Al Qaeda branches, including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

“Individuals affiliated with terrorist groups, including AQIM, Ansar al-Sharia, AQAP, and the Mohammad Jamal Network, participated in the September 11, 2012, attacks,” the report said. The militant Ansar al-Sharia was, separately, labeled by the State Department as a terror group last week, in part over its alleged involvement in the Benghazi strike.

Declassified testimony reveals administration officials knew Benghazi was a terrorist attack

There’s been a lot of wrangling recently over Benghazi. At the end of December, for example, The New York Times ran a report stating that the attack on the American outpost in the Libyan city “was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”

The Times report also suggested that al-Qaeda wasn’t involved in the attack, though that has been disputed by members of Congress from both parties, including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Whether or not the anti-Islam played a part in the attack or there was involvement from al-Qaeda affiliates will continue to be the subject of debate. But virtually everyone agrees that the assault on the compound, which lead to the deaths of four Americans, was a planned attack.

But questions, however, remain about the initial narrative that the White House and State Department tried to set about the attack. If you’ll recall, they blamed the incident on the anti-Islam YouTube video, calling it a protest gone awry.

James Rosen of Fox News has revealed declassified congressional testimony showing that top Defense Department officials knew from the beginning that the assault on Benghazi was a terrorist attack:

Free Speech is Under Attack

Just last week I wrote about the threat of free speech coming under attack. Specifically I was talking about the offensive video recently found on YouTube and Google’s decision to remove the video in countries where it would be most offensive. Here’s what I said:

My concern in all of this is that people will use this instance as a reason to support some measures by which the U.S. government could censor content on Google’s web sites. We should be watching carefully for that type of movement. Censorship, like so many other issues, is best handled by the people, not by government.

Well, it’s happening already. We shouldn’t be shocked. Anyone watching for this would have seen it coming. Pakistani Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, said in a recent CNN interview that the U.S. should “rethink how much freedom is okay.”

It’s easy to understand the sentiment without agreeing with it. The argument is that people shouldn’t be allowed to say or do things that cause other people to go on massive killing sprees. Sure, that’s understandable. Nobody wants to hear reports of violence that erupted because of somebody’s opinion.

But this notion that because people get upset over somebody else’s opinion we should be restricting speech is preposterous!

Imagine There’s No YouTube

From Reason.TV, the Obama Administration’s assault on free speech is antithetical to American principles.

Long live the honey badger!

When ‘Free Speech’ as a Concept Vanishes

Written by Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

A sign mentioned in the New York Times coverage of the ongoing protests in the Muslim world crystallized a question that had been nagging at the back of my head since the attacks on the American embassies in Libya and Egypt. The sign read: “Shut up America!” and “Obama is the president, so he should have to apologize!”

What a strange non-sequitur, to Western ears! What does the president—or the U.S. government in general—have to do with some crude, rinky-dink YouTube video produced by an apparent con man? Surely, like the overwhelming majority of Americans, Barack Obama would never even have been aware of the trailer for “Innocence of Muslims” if it hadn’t become the bizarre focus of controversy abroad. Even if the video was more catalyst than cause of the outrage, commenters all along have remarked how absurd, almost surreal, it seems that one shoddy YouTube—surely one of many containing harsh criticism of Islam or its prophet—could trigger such a massive reaction. If people hadn’t died, it would be comical.

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