Issa’s theory became Republican gospel. On Oct. 14, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a leading Republican voice on foreign policy, said “the video had nothing to do with” the attack. On Oct. 18, Charles Krauthammer wrote: “The video? A complete irrelevance. It was a coordinated, sophisticated terror attack, encouraged, if anything, by Osama bin Laden’s successor, giving orders from Pakistan to avenge the death of a Libyan jihadist.” On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol said “no one is quarreling” with the “fact” that “the video had nothing to do with it.”
Indeed, that’s what the Washington press corps was reporting. On Oct. 10, Tapper, citing the State Department conference call, said the video “apparently had absolutely nothing to do with the attack.” On Oct. 13, the New York Daily News reported that the department had said the “attack had nothing to do with the film.” On Oct. 14, The New York Post said “even the White House now admits” the video “had nothing to do with” the attack. Bob Woodward declared on Fox News that “We now know the [video] had virtually nothing to do with what happened in Benghazi.” Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post’s fact-checking referee, said the attack “appears unrelated to initial reports of anger at a video.” And a day after moderating the second Obama-Romney debate, CNN’s Candy Crowley said the administration had conceded that the attack “didn’t have anything to do with the tape.”
She was wrong. They were all wrong. The administration hadn’t said that. And now the GOP’s theory, like the CIA’s initial theory, is falling apart. On Oct. 16, David Kirkpatrick of The New York Times reported from Cairo:
To Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers, there is little doubt what occurred: a well-known group of local Islamist militants struck the United States Mission without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the video. That is what the fighters said at the time, speaking emotionally of their anger at the video without mentioning al Qaida, Osama bin Laden or the terrorist strikes of 11 years earlier. And it is an explanation that tracks with their history as members of a local militant group determined to protect Libya from Western influence. . . . The assailants approvingly recalled a 2006 assault by local Islamists that had destroyed an Italian diplomatic mission in Benghazi over a perceived insult to the prophet. In June the group staged a similar attack against the Tunisian Consulate over a different film . . . Other Benghazi militia leaders who know the group say its leaders and ideology are all homegrown. . . . They openly proselytize for their brand of puritanical Islam and political vision. They profess no interest in global fights against the West or distant battles aimed at removing American troops from the Arabian Peninsula.
On Friday, The Los Angeles Times, citing witnesses in Benghazi, confirmed that account. Citing “U.S. officials and witnesses interviewed in Libya” the Times said that the assault “appears to have been an opportunistic attack rather than a long-planned operation . . . After five weeks of investigation, U.S. intelligence agencies say they have found no evidence of Al Qaida participation.” Sunday night, The Wall Street Journal reported that the CIA’s “current intelligence assessment still notes there is conflicting evidence about whether there was a protest earlier on the day of the attack.” A U.S. intelligence official adds: