Guest column: All information pointed to a terrorist attack in Libya

Steffen Schmidt

Maybe, despite killing of Osama bin Laden, the Obama team is actually a bunch of “soft” warriors who want the United States to be liked, especially in the Middle East.

I, for one, called it right when the attack took place on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, which left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. I wrote it was “probably a group related to al-Qaida and its offspring is behind the escalating crisis.” I concluded so on Sept. 13. (See my Des Moines Register blog.)

I wrote on Sept. 19 for Insider Iowa: “The United States clearly underestimated the strength and intentions of radical groups in Libya. There is now little question. The group is Ansar al-Sharia, which sympathizes with al-Qaida and appears to have a base in Derna near the Egyptian border. What now becomes a huge political issue is whether President Barack Obama and his administration failed in his obligation to be the steward of U.S. national security and conduct robust foreign policy.” You can look that up.

Now the Obama team is finally saying it probably was a deliberate attack and probably connected to terrorism.

Why did I get it right on Sept. 19? Because being a great intelligence analyst does not include having “political waffling shields” that slow me down. I screened all the possible information that came out on the days after the attack. From news media, from officials in Libya, from European and Latin American news sources. All of the information pointed to a terrorist attack.

It was an “elegant” attack. It involved very precise powerful weapons. It was followed by a superb intelligence operation in which the attackers found the “safe house” to which the dying U.S. ambassador was taken, and they finished him off at this venue.

Reaching a quick and accurate assessment on what this event might have been would have been easy.

“Spontaneous” demonstrations caused by anger at an obscure video insulting the Prophet Muhammad caused the Tripoli attack? Not on your life. Maybe Hitler’s invasion of the Sudetenland on March 16, 1939, was also a “spontaneous attack.”

That’s not how the real world rolls.

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who spun the spontaneous attack notion until a few days ago, should be able to make a quick judgment on what is a demonstration “gone bad” and what’s a coordinated, sophisticated attack.

The Republicans are now launching a concerted attack on the Obama administration, claiming a cover up and calling it “Libya-gate” (after the infamous Watergate break in that brought down the Nixon administration). Are the Republicans right? Was it a massive intelligence failure not to know who’s who in Libya? Was it sloppy security work to have a virtually-unprotected consulate in Benghazi? Was it an act of extreme political correctness for the United States to virtually apologize for the anti-Muhammad video that was thought to have triggered the demonstrations in Cairo and other parts of the Islamic world? Will all of this have an impact on the Obama reelection campaign? Could this be an “October Surprise,” one of those last-minute events that have so often shifted the outcome of a presidential election?

Why, so many weeks later, is the FBI team still in the capital of Libya, 400 miles away from where the attack occurred? It’s all very disturbing.

Of course, the intelligence agencies also missed the horde of killers who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001.