Cracks are beginning to show in the Obama administration's united front on the Benghazi consulate as blame for security failures shifts between the State Department and the CIA. Last night, starting around 6 p.m., the CIA began circulating the most comprehensive timeline yet of its response to the September 11attack to reporters. The timeline showed that within 25 minutes of receiving calls for help, CIA operatives left their compound to assist the besieged consulate. But later on Thursday night, officials in the Obama administration leaked a series of damaging remarks about the CIA's handling of Benghazi to The Wall Street Journal with a slew of grievances directed at CIA Director David Petraeus. The fast-developing story set in place a dispute over who's responsible for the security failure, which remains unclear.
As with everything, the context here is key. According to The Journal's report, the security situation in Benghazi relied on a "symbiotic" relationship between the State Department and the CIA, in which the State Department in Benghazi served as a front for CIA activities while the CIA provided backup security. But on the night of Sept. 11, it became clear that the arrangement was flawed: "The CIA and State Department weren’t on the same page about their respective roles on security, underlining the rift between agencies over taking responsibility," reports the Journal. But here's where things get personal. According to officials speaking with the Journal, Petraeus was phoning it in on the night of the attack:
At one point during the consulate siege, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned the CIA director directly to seek assistance. Real-time intelligence from the field was scarce and some officials at State and the Pentagon were largely in the dark about the CIA's role ... At the State Department that night, officials frantically tried to find out what was happening. In recent interviews, some administration officials criticized the CIA for not being forthcoming with information ...
Some senior administration officials say they were surprised Mr. Petraeus went to that night's private Washington screening of the movie Argo, about a covert CIA operation in 1979 in Tehran.