There's plenty of confusion, but still no evidence to suggest the Obama Administration was ever engaged in a Benghazi cover-up.
It was, from the start, about as hard an intelligence problem as you can find. The date was September 11, and the CIA was stretched thin, monitoring anti-American protests in no fewer than 54 countries that day, according to Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper. Post-Gaddafi Libya itself was still chaotic, caught up in the fog of war, and indeed Ambassador Chris Stevens, at great personal risk, had journeyed to his old Arab Spring-era stomping ground in Benghazi to assess the situation himself. Still, Clapper recently told an annual conference of intelligence professionals that there was no warning to Stevens or anyone else that he was about to be targeted by an organized extremist attack.
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So in the ensuing days, the fog lifted only very gradually. The intelligence community did not see a clear way to explain the deaths of Stevens and three other Americans. And as the probe advanced they began shifting their assessment dramatically. Four days after the attacks, on September 15, intel briefers sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice off to tape the Sunday talk shows with talking points that suggested Stevens' death was the result of "spontaneous" protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo against a short film made in California lampooning the Prophet Mohammad. And that's what Rice said on CBS's Face the Nation "based on the best information we have to date," as she put it. Rice added, however, that "soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that -- in that effort with heavy weapons."
"It was clear from the outset that a group of people gathered that evening. A key question early on was whether extremists took over a crowd or if the guys who showed up were all militants," says an intelligence official involved in the Benghazi assessment. "It took time -- until that next week -- to sort through varied and sometimes conflicting accounts to understand the group's overall composition."