December 29th, 2013
01:39 PM ET
8 months ago

Lawmakers react to new Benghazi report

(CNN) – A top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee took issue Sunday with a report from The New York Times that states al Qaeda was not involved in the deadly 2012 attack against a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.

The Times' investigation "turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault," according to the report. "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."

It's a conclusion that CNN has also drawn in its previous reporting.

The New York Times story stands in contrast to what some lawmakers, many of them Republicans, and administration officials have said about the attack.

Rep. Mike Rogers, House Intelligence Committee chairman, said Sunday that intelligence has traced the Benghazi attack to al Qaeda.

"There was aspiration to conduct an attack by al Qaeda and their affiliates in Libya, we know that," Rogers said on "Fox News Sunday." "The individuals on the ground talked about a planned tactical movement on the compound."

At issue is the Islamist militia Ansar al Sharia, which is believed to have been one of the militias involved in the attack. There do not appear to be organizational links between Ansar al Sharia and al Qaeda, but there is solidarity. Rogers said Ansar al Sharia is not as independent as it says it is.

"Do they have difference of opinion with al Qaeda core? Yes. Do they have affiliations with al Qaeda core? Definitely," said Rogers, a Republican from Michigan.

When Rogers says "Al Qaeda core," he's referring to the al Qaeda created by Osama bin Laden and the group behind major terrorist attacks in the past two decades, including the 9/11 attacks in the United States. Other al Qaeda affiliates have formed across the Middle East, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb located in Northern Africa and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Gen. Michael Hayden, a former CIA director and former NSA director, described in an interview with CNN the al Qaeda movement as having three layers: "Al Qaeda main, affiliates and the like-minded." He added that he long suspected the Benghazi attack was orchestrated by the "highly like-minded" or those low in the affiliates.

The New York Times report states that other individuals involved in the Benghazi attack do not appear to be connected with al Qaeda, either.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, agreed with Rogers that intelligence indicates al Qaeda was involved but not entirely behind the operation.

"But there were also plenty of people and militias that were unaffiliated with al Qaeda that were involved. I think the intelligence makes a portrait that some people came to murder, some came to destroy property, some merely came to loot, some came in part motivated by those videos. It's a complex picture," Schiff, a Democrat from California, said on "Fox News Sunday."

"There was some planning, as Mike points out, but it was not extensive," he continued. "I don't think it's either accurate to characterize this as a long-term, pre-planned core al Qaeda operation or something completely unaffiliated."

The report also stated that the attack "was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam."

At first glance, that information seems to line up with statements first made by the Obama administration that the assault came from a spontaneous protest spurred by outrage over the video. Then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice made those statements based on talking points from the administration just days after the attacks.

Intelligence officials and the administration, however, later classified the event as a planned terrorist attack.

Congressional Republicans have hammered the administration for misleading the public about the origin of the event.

And while the New York Times report says anger over the video was part of the motivation for the attack, the reporter, David Kirkpatrick, said Sunday on "Meet the Press" that the administration was still misleading in its initial statements because the attack was "not a street protest," nor a "copycat" of an anti-video protest in Cairo just hours before the attack in Libya, as the administration first claimed.

"This was a group of armed-men who, inspired by a video, deliberately attacked a compound," Kirkpatrick said.

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House oversight committee, has been a leading voice in the Congressional Republican-led charge against the administration over the Benghazi attack, especially over the initial statements.

"The American people were effectively lied to for a period of about a month," he said in May on "Meet the Press." "This was a terrorist attack from the get-go. It was never about a video."

Asked Sunday if he was wrong about the video, Issa said the public was still "effectively lied to." He pointed to Kirkpatrick's remarks that the administration's characterization of the attack as a spontaneous protest triggered by the video was still inaccurate.

"The statements made by Ambassador Susan Rice were not true then and they are not true now," he told reporters Sunday morning after appearing on "Meet the Press."

– CNN's Sunlen Serfaty, Mark Morgenstein, Tara Kangerlou, and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.


Filed under: Al Qaeda • Libya • Mike Rogers
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. yerkiddinright

    Gee, you'd think evidence like this would have been discovered during the eleven billion witchunts, er, congressional oversight inquiries, but maybe someone didn't want it revealed because it meant he couldn't get political mileage out of it, huh? What say you Chairman Issa?

    December 29, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  2. Rick McDaniel

    The NY Times simply demonstrated they are NOT a news organization, but are rather, a left wing Democratic Party propaganda organization, that lies to the people of America, in the most offensive manner possible.

    The so-called Journalist, that put his name on that article should be denounced and drummed out of the media entirely, for his deliberate effort to lie to America.

    December 29, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  3. Lisa C

    How many times will the GOP call wolf before people stop believing them?

    December 29, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  4. CanadaBrooklyn

    Prove it!

    December 29, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  5. timverba

    What difference does it make at this point and time whether it was Al Qaeda Core, Al Quaeda Central, Al Quaeda New or Al Quaeda Future? We still have to deal with the local situation on the ground.

    December 29, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  6. sonny chapman

    No WMDs in Iraq ? Call it ASPIRATIONAL. No el quida at Benghazi; proof that Obama is weak in the War On Terror ? Call it Aspirational,

    December 29, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  7. sonny chapman

    P.S.-this still doesn't clear Hillary from the Vince Foster "thing" !!

    December 29, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  8. Peace

    I do not understand why these lawmakers insist it was Al-qaeda and not any other group. Do Al-qaeda have any sign to identify them or that is what they want to hear? None of them took the trouble to go to Libya and do the investigation. I therefore believe what New York Times reports because they have done their investigation.

    December 29, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  9. simplyput

    Does it really matter which group of anti-American rebels lead the Behghazi attack considering it was 911? The date alone should have alerted CIA, State Dept, WH, and anyone else in government to go on red alert all over the Middle East and northern Africa. The video story is a joke, and if it wasn't believed in 2012 when the admin was fighting to stay in power in DC by hook or crook, it sure won't pass muster now since we know what lies they DEDICATE themselved to preserving in donkey-land

    December 29, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  10. barryinlasvegas

    So how much access and inside exclusive scoops did Hilary guarantee the Times during her campaign for President if they printed this story trying to cover up her failure to answer the 3 am phone call while our embassy was under attack and our ambassador and three brave Americans died?

    December 29, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  11. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    Their goes another one of the incompetent GOP campaign issues along with their IRS non scandal, their healthcare bs and their defict reduction bs, added 24 billion in 16 days. Who would vote for them but the GOP braindead???????

    December 29, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  12. TeaParty4Life

    Keep lying demoncats. 2014 is the year you will never forget as you will lose more seats in the senate than you think. Like Dominos you will all fall down as we go ring around the rosy with your dumb games...It's OVER!! America will be restored and its because Christians around the country are sick of the libtards nonsense and lack of morality and patriotism.

    December 29, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  13. texasnotea

    Just exactly how much have the republicans spent in taxpayer dollars to conduct this phony investigation?

    December 29, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  14. faux scandals

    It was just another made up scandal.

    December 29, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  15. rs

    Al Qaeda never claimed responsibility for Benghazi- and given what they have done and claimed responsibility for in the past, this seems to sink some of the GOP's meme about Benghazi. Maybe they'll apologize to the Secretary of State…...

    December 29, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  16. Obama - Liar of the Year - Doubling Down on the Lies

    And just when you thought the looney lying leftist Democrats had learned their lesson and started telling the truth. Nope. It is in their blood to simply concoct lie after lie, doubling down every time they are caught. It is very clear this is the first round in trying to wipe the blood of four dead Americans off the hands of Hillary Clinton so she can be anointed in 2016. After this joke of a report, people don't need any more proof of the MSM colluding with and being the propaganda wing of the Democrat Party,

    OK, so the Obama administration has already admitted this attack had nothing to do with this bogus video. Is this reporter now saying they their wrong yet again? Of course all of this is really doesn't matter as it is all about trivia. The FACT of the matter is that the Ambassador and many others had begged over and over for added security and were not only denied additional security, they had their security CUT. Repeated attacks and threats had been including assassination attempts on officials from other governments (exactly as threatened).

    The story about Benghazi is all about how incompetent people (Hillary being one of them) back in Washington got some of our front line people killed for no good reason. Benghazi was a horrendously dangerous place anyways but even more so on the anniversary of 9/11, after being threatened and with reduced security.

    The fact is that Hillary Clinton's 3am phone call came and she failed miserably, even after having been given a LOT of early warning.

    December 29, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  17. Arthur in the Garden!

    The truth hurts!

    December 29, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  18. Smitty

    But Oblunder said they were on the run and it was a video !!!!!

    December 29, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  19. wendel

    gee let's see how the repo trolls spin this now. If I where a democrat in Washington I would bring it up and investigate just like the repo clowns did. BUt watch it will go quietly away along with all the other crap the right keeps doing. Issa is a jerk . Listen to him try and spin this.

    December 29, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  20. GOP = Greed Over People

    Issa said the public was still "effectively lied to."

    Now that Issa has admitted he lied, when can we expect his resignation?

    December 29, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  21. Gurgyl

    Focus on Jobs-Bill than Benghazi. I don't care Benghazi.

    December 29, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  22. simplyput

    OH, haven't you heard, Al Queda has been decimated, and is on the RUN!

    December 29, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  23. Evergreen

    Can we now honor Amb. Steven's service to his Country. The NY Times report gave a clear picture of Mr. Steven's commit to helping democracy take hold in Libya.

    December 29, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  24. Name Uche Agonsi

    This whole affair on Benghazi has been dirty. Its beyond belief & equally disturbing that very significant American population should opt to believing cheap falsehood/lies sold to them, and without concrete proof, as politics. The media also should bear responsibility. If politicians could be allowed to lie profusely against their legitimate government and people, just to achieve selfish gains, and destabilise their government, what image will they be projecting to the governed. The GOPers should be ashamed of themselves for criminaly decieving the Americans and inciting hatred against their President that doing everything in his power to pull them out of trouble. If thats their idea of democracy, what do they expect from undeveloped countries.

    December 29, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  25. current state of the union

    Wow, you rwnj are a little sore huh? With the aca coming around, IRS nontroversy, and benghazi blowing up, you need something quick. you losers kill me, you try so hard to con the uninformed, and call the lefty bloggers dumb, say it again, getting hard to be a Republican.

    December 29, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
1 2