'No warning before Beghazi attack'

2012-10-10 09:08
An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi. (File, AFP)

An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The chief of US intelligence has rejected criticism over how spy agencies responded to a deadly attack on diplomats in Libya and said there was no clear warning before the onslaught.

Pushing back against allegations from Republican lawmakers, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggested on Tuesday it was naive to believe the government could have quickly arrived at a definitive explanation of last month's attack on the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

The veteran intelligence official, appearing at a security conference in Orlando, Florida, voiced frustration with the criticism directed at his spy service, as he recounted reading through media coverage on a flight back from a working trip to Australia.

"I flew back to Washington, and I'm reading the media clips about the hapless, hopeless, helpless, inept, incompetent DNI, because I acknowledged publicly that we didn't instantly have that 'God's eye, God's ear' certitude about an event as I mentioned earlier," said Clapper, according to a video of his remarks released by his office.

"It kind of made me want to get right back on the plane to Australia."

Clapper said there was no telltale sign of an imminent attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on 11 September, when dozens of gunmen laid siege to the compound, killing US ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff.


"The challenge is always a tactical warning, the exact insights ahead of time that such an attack is going to take place and obviously we did not have that," Clapper said, answering questions after a speech.

"If people don't behave, emit a behaviour or talk or something else ahead of time to be detected, it's going to be very hard to predict an exact attack and come up with an exact attack."

President Barack Obama's administration has come under fire for offering varying accounts of the incident, initially saying it was a "spontaneous" assault ignited by a protest against a film that denigrated Islam and its Prophet Muhammad.

Clapper quoted at length from a 1 October commentary by former CIA officer Paul Pillar that hit out at critiques of the handling of the Benghazi attack as ill-informed, counter-productive and irresponsible.

The article published in The National Interest journal "deeply resonated with me", said Clapper, adding that it carried important lessons for the government, lawmakers and the media.

Pillar wrote that hindsight was "cheap" in a case like Benghazi, diplomacy was inherently dangerous work, intelligence information usually evolves after such an assault and "total security" was impossible in any setting.

Congressional hearing

"A demand for an explanation that is quick, definite and unchanging reflects a naive expectation -- or in the present case, irresponsible politicking," Pillar added.

Clapper's comments came as the State Department countered charges of security lapses in Libya, with officials describing a fierce attack that erupted without warning.

State Department officials will face a grilling on Wednesday at a congressional hearing into the Benghazi attack, which has become fodder for the US presidential campaign.

Read more on:    us  |  libya  |  north africa  |  us elections

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 40% on outdoor accessories!

Tents, sleeping, day packs and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Month End Madness Sale!

Save up to 60% on across a wide range of goods from books to electronics, DVDs and many more. Sale end 31 January 2015. Shop now!

Valentine’s Day gifts – 14 Feb!

Gifts to spoil him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off fragrances

Get 30% off fragrances for him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off All Textbooks

Save up to 30% off an extensive range of prescribed textbooks for all major universities and FET colleges. Shop Now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


Spontaneity and bright ideas are emphasized today but there is a tendency to be too impulsive and you may want to keep a handle on...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.