Report: al-Qaeda elements involved in Benghazi attack

The claims recently made by The New York Times about the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack continues to crumble. Just last month the “paper of record” stated that there was “no evidence” that suggested al-Qaeda was involved in the attack on the American outpost in the Libyan city.

But a declassified, bipartisan report released this morning by the Senate Intelligence Committee lays waste to that claim by implicating regional affiliates of al-Qaeda —including Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — in the attack:

The administration initially claimed the attack sprung out of a protest, but has since given a more complicated assessment. Still, administration officials all along have downplayed Al Qaeda involvement, recently seizing on a New York Times report that supported those claims.

While the report does not implicate Al Qaeda “core” — the leadership believed to be in the Pakistan region — it does blame some of the most influential Al Qaeda branches, including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

“Individuals affiliated with terrorist groups, including AQIM, Ansar al-Sharia, AQAP, and the Mohammad Jamal Network, participated in the September 11, 2012, attacks,” the report said. The militant Ansar al-Sharia was, separately, labeled by the State Department as a terror group last week, in part over its alleged involvement in the Benghazi strike.

The terrorist attack was preventable, according to the report. There were warnings that American personnel on the ground in Libya were at risk. The report also implicates the State Department — then run by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — for not adequately addressing security issues:

The bipartisan report lays out more than a dozen findings regarding the assaults on Sept. 11 and 12, 2012, on a diplomatic compound and a CIA annex in the Libyan city of Benghazi. It says the State Department failed to increase security at its diplomatic mission despite warnings and faults intelligence agencies for not sharing information about the existence of the CIA outpost with the U.S. military.

The committee determined that the U.S. military command in Africa didn’t know about the CIA annex and that the Pentagon didn’t have the resources in place to defend the diplomatic compound in an emergency.

“The attacks were preventable, based on extensive intelligence reporting on the terrorist activity in Libya — to include prior threats and attacks against Western targets — and given the known security shortfalls at the U.S. Mission,” the panel said in a statement.

Although the report indicates that anti-Islam YouTube video served an opportunity for terrorists to carry out a deadly attack on the American compound, it makes clear that there wasn’t a protest in Benghazi:

The report says that on Sept. 18, 2012, the “FBI and CIA reviewed the closed circuit television video from the Mission facility that showed there were no protests prior to the attacks.”

But it took six more days for intelligence officials to revise their chronology of events and say that “there were no demonstrations or protests” at the diplomatic compound “prior to the attacks.”

The White House and senior administration officials initially tried to blame the attack on that YouTube video, claiming that it was a protest that had spun out of control. But recently declassified congressional testimony showed that Defense Department officials knew from the beginning that the assault on Benghazi was a terrorist attack.

What difference does the report make? Well, for starters, the spotlight turns back to Hillary Clinton. She may have received some cover from The New York Times, but now that a bipartisan report has come out implicating the State Department for not address security issues in Libya and didn’t coordinate with other agencies on the ground — including the CIA — her leadership will come back into question, and deservedly so.

The report isn’t likely the end of the Benghazi story. There will almost certainly be more details that emerge as the United States brings to justice those who committed the attack. But, at the very least, it represents a bipartisan consensus from Washington about the attack and the atmosphere of incompetence that allowed it to happen.

The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.