All over the internet, MSM and bloggers are referring to this text as well as statements by Secretary Clinton and other State Department officials as evidence that the Department of State never laid blame for the attack in Benghazi on the notorious Youtube defaming Islam which was the message put forth in Vice President Biden's remarks during Thurday's debate with Paul Ryan (a segment during which neither candidate appeared appropriately informed much less "presidential" in a heartbeat-away kind of way) as well as in U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's remarks on the Sunday morning talk circuit the weekend following the attack. At Friday's press availability with Italy's foreign minister, Secretary Clinton chose her words very carefully in response to a question from CNN's Jill Dougherty.
To this day – to this day, we do not have a complete picture. We do not have all the answers. No one in this Administration has ever claimed otherwise. Every one of us has made clear that we are providing the best information we have at that time. And that information continues to be updated. It also continues to be put into context and more deeply understood through the process we are engaged in. Ambassador Rice had the same information from the intelligence community as every other senior official did.
She did not say that the information Ambassador Rice had was that the attack stemmed from a demonstration of any kind in Benghazi. In the background briefing we see:
OPERATOR: The next question is from the line of Brad Klapper with AP. Please, go ahead.The hearing itself was purportedly held to determine the nature and extent of security in Benghazi the night of the attack. What we learned was that there was an interagency detail in Tripoli into August and that although the tour had been extended previously, it was withdrawn and replaced with a State Department detail in Tripoli. Part of that detail accompanied Ambassador Stevens to Benghazi.
QUESTION: Hi, yes. You described several incidents you had with groups of men, armed men. What in all of these events that you’ve described led officials to believe for the first several days that this was prompted by protests against the video?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: That is a question that you would have to ask others. That was not our conclusion. I’m not saying that we had a conclusion, but we outlined what happened. The Ambassador walked guests out around 8:30 or so, there was no one on the street at approximately 9:40, then there was the noise and then we saw on the cameras the – a large number of armed men assaulting the compound.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from the line of David Lerman with Bloomberg News. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. Did the Ambassador – before the attack, did the Ambassador request that security be increased in Benghazi? And if so, did anything ever come of it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER TWO: The – when the Ambassador traveled to Benghazi, he traveled with two additional security agents over and above the complement of three who were assigned to post. So there were five agents with him there rather than the two who are normally assigned there – the three who are normally assigned. So they were up two.
There remain voices demanding to know, as Paul Ryan asked during Thursday's debate, why Ambassador Stevens was not given a Marine Guard. At Friday's press briefing, Victoria Nuland remained remarkably composed and patient as she addressed that issue for the Nth time to a question from the aforementioned Jill Dougherty of CNN.
QUESTION: There is something on the – that came up in the debate last night. It’s more a kind of how do things work question. Congressman Ryan said that Marines should have been sent – Marines exist, guard the Embassy in Paris, and they should have been guarding the Ambassador when he went to Benghazi. Is that correct? I mean, could they have sent Marines? Is that the normal course?In the background briefing linked here, the reason why Marine Embassy Security would never have been in Benghazi for any reason was made eminently clear.
MS. NULAND: Let me just stop everybody here and remind you that we don’t do politics at this podium. We don’t litigate the campaign on one side or the other.
QUESTION: No, I’m not saying it’s politics. I’m saying: How does it work?
MS. NULAND: If you’re asking me a factual question --
QUESTION: Exactly. How does it work? Where-- what do Marines protect? Would they in any case have protected that mission in Benghazi?
MS. NULAND: We’ve talked about the role of Marines from this podium several times. We talked about it in the days following the attack. I would refer you back to what we said at the time, which is that – and I can get you the precise numbers – but we have Marine security guards in about 60, 65 percent of our missions around the world. They are primarily assigned to protect classified information, classified equipment, in those posts that are classified. So – and I would also remind you of what Eric Nordstrom said when he testified on the Hill, which was that in his professional opinion, another foot of wall or another four, five, six – I can’t remember the number that he used – of American security personnel wouldn’t have been able to turn back or handle the assaults at the level of ferocity and lethality that we saw that night.
OPERATOR: The next question is from the line of Margaret Brennan, CBS News. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. The timeline here begins around 8:30 p.m., but we had heard in response to some reports where reporters had found paperwork documents on the grounds of the compound that secure materials, that confidential paperwork had actually been secured earlier in the day, therefore there wasn’t any compromised material found at the compound. When did that occur? At 8:30 at night? When were those documents secured or shredded or burned or whatever?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Because of the – this was a post and not a – and we – this post held no classified documents. They had computer communications with Washington, but the material would arrive on the screen and you would read it on the screen, and then that was it. There was no classified paper, so there was no paper to burn.
Assuredly the debate will continue to rage. A few things are clear:
1. There is never-before-seen daylight making its appearance between the Obama White House and the Clinton State Department. Under-the-bus stories abound. (I am putting my money on Hillary Clinton.)
2. Hillary Clinton intends to get to the bottom of this and will probably make no definitive statements until all investigations are complete nor should she absent all possible information. (I hope this extends to appearing before the Oversight Committee as well.)
3. When faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary some people will never cease to believe that a Marine guard, which, had one been assigned, would have remained in Tripoli, would have made a difference.