I asked Petraeus whether the final version of the talking points — ultimately relied on by Rice — represented the best unclassified assessment by the intelligence community at the time, and he agreed that it was. How then, can we fault our ambassador for relying on them? Indeed, had the ambassador departed from the conclusions of our intelligence agencies or risked revealing sources or methods, she would have been castigated for doing so. Only then, the criticism might be justified.
There have been several casualties in the partisan posturing over Benghazi. Though the intelligence community warned lawmakers clamoring for information in the early days after the attack that its initial assessments may be flawed, they have been pilloried for not immediately getting it right. In the next emergency, it will be almost impossible to get them to share initial assessments. Similarly, the CIA director will be reluctant to ever approve unclassified statements in the future, and who can blame him? But without guidance on what policymakers can share with the public in the aftermath of tragedy, there is a greater likelihood of an inadvertent compromise of the very information the director would wish to protect.
The biggest casualty in all the pointless infighting is that we have taken our eyes off the most important objective of all — moving heaven and earth to hunt down the fanatics who killed our people.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., is a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, the ranking member on the Technical and Tactical Intelligence Subcommittee and a member of the Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee.