A bombshell, in-depth report from The New York Times found no evidence that al-Qaeda or any international terrorist groups played any role in the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Instead, the report says that an American-made video, in large part, fueled the attack. The attack was not well-planned, according to the report, but it also was not a completely spontaneous reaction to the video.
From the report:
Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
The Times' report, written by David Kirkpatrick and published in six parts, is likely to once again ignite the debate over the attack, which killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
For much of the last year, Republicans have held numerous hearings into how the Obama administration handled the lead-up to and aftermath of the attack, which occurred in the midst of the 2012 presidential campaign. As recently as last month, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested to Fox News that the Obama administration downplayed al-Qaeda's role in the attack.
"It was very clear to the individuals on the ground that this was an al-Qaeda-led event," Rogers said. "And they had pretty fairly descriptive events early on that led those folks on the ground, doing the fighting, to the conclusion that this was a pre-planned, organized terrorist event."
"Not a video — that whole part was debunked time and time again, which just leads to questions of why the administration hung with that narrative for so long when all the folks who participated on the ground saw something different."
The Times says that Republicans are confusing local extremist organizations like Ansar al-Shariah for al-Qaeda’s international terrorist network. That organization was planning the attack when the video was released. According to the report, Ahmed Abu Khattala, an "eccentric, malcontent militia leader," helped Ansar al-Shariah, though he denied any role in the attack to the Times.
According to the Times, there's only one bit of intelligence connecting al-Qaeda to the attack:
The only intelligence connecting al-Qaeda to the attack was an intercepted phone call that night from a participant in the first wave of the attack to a friend in another African country who had ties to members of al-Qaeda, according to several officials briefed on the call. But when the friend heard the attacker’s boasts, he sounded astonished, the officials said, suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault.
The Times' report comes about two months after CBS' "60 Minutes" released its own year-long investigation into the attack in Benghazi. The network was forced to correct its report, which was largely based on an account of events from discredited security contractor Dylan Davies.
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