Throwing Rice at the Benghazi problem
William Covington | 12/5/2012, 5 p.m.
The attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 followed a violent protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, over a low-budget anti-Muslim film made in the United States. It initially appeared to the intelligence community around the world that the assault on the Benghazi consulate was another spontaneous response to that film, since Islamic individuals worldwide were screaming for revenge.
But senior U.S. officials and Middle East analysts raised questions later about the motivation for the Benghazi attack, noting that it involved the use of a rocket-propelled grenade and followed an al-Qaeda call that had been abuzz to avenge the death of a senior Libyan member of the terrorist network.
Libyan officials and a witness said the attackers took advantage of a protest over the film to launch their assault. J. Christopher Stevens, 52, and three others--Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods--appear to have been killed inside the temporary consulate, possibly by a rocket-propelled grenade, according to officials briefed on the assault.
The Obama Administration insisted publicly days after the Sept. 11 attack that it was an unplanned assault that arose from a protest against an anti-Islam film made in the United States by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
On Sept. 16, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on five Sunday news shows at the request of the White House and the State Department to say that the assault was a "spontaneous protest" prompted by a "hateful video," not a terror attack.
"Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous--not a premeditated--response to what had transpired in Cairo," Rice said.
That was all the Republicans needed.
Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for the Office of National Intelligence, told USA Today recently that "Ambassador Rice was speaking based on unclassified talking points provided by the intelligence community."
This has led some members of the Republican Party to begin to stir opposition to Rice's rumored nomination as a successor to Hilary Clinton for the position of secretary of state.
Susan Elizabeth Rice was born on Nov. 17, 1964, and is an American diplomat and former Brookings Institution fellow. Prior to becoming U.N. ambassador, she served on the staff of the National Security Council from 1993 to 1997 and as special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs during President Bill Clinton's second term. She also served on the Security Council during much of that period.
Rice was confirmed as U.N. Ambassador by the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on Jan. 22, 2009, the first African American woman to hold that post.
From birth, Rice lived at the center of public policy; she was born in the nation's capital to Emmett J. Rice, a Cornell University economics professor and the second Black governor of the Federal Reserve board, and Lois Dickson Fitt, an education policy scholar, currently at the Brookings Institution. Her parents divorced during Susan's youth.