All this is noted with the benefit of hindsight, and the administration deserves to be judged accordingly. But it also deserves to be judged in light of what it knew prior to the attack, including an attack on the mission in June and heightened threat warnings throughout the summer.
So how did the administration do on that count? "That the local security did so well back in June probably gave us a false sense of security," an unnamed American official who has served in Libya told the New York Times last week.
The logic here is akin to supposing that because the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center failed to bring down the towers, nobody need have been concerned thereafter. But let's still make allowances for the kind of bureaucratic ineptitude that knows neither administration nor political party.
The more serious question is why the administration alighted on the idea that the attack wasn't a terrorist act at all. Also, what did the White House think it had to gain by adopting the jihadist narrative that a supposedly inflammatory video clip was at the root of the trouble?
Nobody can say. All the administration will acknowledge is that it has "revised [its] initial assessment to reflect new information that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack."
That's from James Clapper, the director of national intelligence. It suggests that our intelligence agencies are either much dumber than previously supposed (always a strong possibility) or much more politicized (equally plausible).
No doubt the administration would now like to shift blame to Mr. Clapper. But what happened in Benghazi was not a failure of intelligence. It was a failure of policy, stemming from a flawed worldview and the political needs of an election season.