December 29th, 2013
01:39 PM ET
9 years 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."

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker'] [twitter-follow screen_name='KilloughCNN']

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. Peg

    duh – these are the same reports we essentially got in the first days following the attacks –

    before the GOP started there endless BS propganda

    that the attack was inspired by anger over the video, that there were some militia there, and that there seemed to be some planned elements but no evidence that it was planned more than a few hours in advance although there had been warnings that some groups would be easily instigated to attack and that these groups did not like Americans much more than they hated Qaddafi.

    it was an episode that contained many elements – so it was easy for a political group to focus more on one single aspect

    either the elements regarding the video and protests or those regarding possible pre-planned threats

    December 29, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  2. Peg

    duh – these are the same reports we essentially got in the first days following the attacks –

    before the GOP started their endless BS propaganda

    The early reports were that the attack was inspired by anger over the video, that there were some militia there from Ansar Al Sharia, and that there seemed to be some planned elements but no evidence that it was planned more than a few hours in advance, although there had been warnings that some groups would be easily instigated to attack and that these groups did not like Americans much more than they hated Qaddafi.

    It was an episode that contained many elements – so it was easy for a political group to focus more on one single aspect

    One could point to the elements regarding the video and protests or one could focus more on elements regarding possible pre-planned threats to safety that were simply waiting for an opportunity

    December 29, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  3. Hillary Lies, Four Americans DIE

    Can anybody explain why the Accountability Review Board would NOT have interviewed Hillary Clinton concerning her actions or inactions with regards to the Ambassador's request for additional security, whether she was aware of all the previous attacks in Benghazi, whether she was present during the live phone calls with Tripoli as the attack was happening, and what action she took or refused to take to try and save those under attack?

    As the Secretary of State, Ambassador Stevens reported DIRECTLY TO HILLARY CLINTON. If she was unaware of what was going on there before and during the attack, then we need to know that and need to know why she was out of the loop or clueless, a well established pattern in the Obama administration. If she was aware of the situation before and during the attack, we need to know what actions she took to try and save her people. All we do know is that to date, she has not had to sit and answer any of these types of questions from anybody. She has totally stonewalled and been totally shielded by all those around her. Democrats are circling the wagons to protect the heir to the thronebut the truth will be told. As with Obamacare and their lies, it just cannot be maintained forever.

    December 29, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  4. davidfarrar

    From the very beginning, the allegation from Admiral Lyons was that these group’s main aim, on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, with Obama’s prior knowledge, if not consent, was to kidnap Ambassador Stevens so that Obama could exchange him for Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (the blind sheikh). If you remember, this was the first sworn political objective of Mohamed Morsi’s.

    (AP) CAIRO – In his first public speech addressing tens of thousands of mostly Islamist supporters, Egypt’s president-elect Mohammed Morsi has vowed to free the blind sheikh jailed in the U.S. for a plot to blow up New York City landmarks.

    The next thing the New York Times will be reporting is that the riot at the Cairo embassy over the video was real, but that Al Qaeda wasn't involved.

    This is just another attempt to whitewash the blood off of Hillary Clinton's hands before the next presidential election.

    ex animo

    December 29, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  5. king

    what are terrorist, they are a group of people that does mass killings and damage to claim notoriety, remember that their main objective is to gain notoriety. did alquaeda ever said they did this. why would they kill americans and damage its facilities and didn't even get recognized. this dont sound like a terrorist group to me. this sound like a bunch of people who are hiding from the law doings. so repubs you can head on to the next fake scandal.

    December 29, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  6. Marcus (from...?)

    Obama – Liar of the Year – Doubling Down on the Lies
    Your new attachment to your pen name descibes you to the level of public indecency!
    Seriously man, 60 minutes had to apologize for the 'report' they showed about the issue, Issa spent money like GWB would and found nothing... and now the NYT is showing that there's no elephant in the bush (nor that the bush in itself is an elephant bush)...
    There is an Elephant in that bush, just keep looking for it and you'll find it!!!

    December 29, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  7. ted

    The Repuklicans are trying hard to cover up the morass of lies Bush gave us reason to invade Iraq by going after this. Where were they when it happened?

    December 29, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  8. MaryM

    BENGHAZI !!!! The GOP now looks like the fools they are

    December 29, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  9. Tony in Maine

    And Issa's story collapses – once again.

    December 29, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  10. don in albuquerque

    @Obama-Liar of the Year–You are truly nuts aren't you.

    December 29, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  11. bcrunner

    It was fun watching Issa twist and turn and squirm this morning on Meet the Press!!

    December 29, 2013 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  12. danicalifornia

    Like I said in the previous article, this is to clear the way for Hillary's presidential bid and Susan Rice as Secretary of State.

    Whether it was Al Qaeda or another militant group, she did nothing to protect our embassy. Just have no respect for her. and can't stand Bill who just can't wait to get back into the WH. I wish the both of them would just go away...and I'm a Democrat.

    December 29, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  13. karl

    ...Lest anyone prevent us from having another spectacular failed presidential candidate. 2016's Sarah Palin.

    December 29, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  14. Thomas

    It doesn't matter what the facts are , or the truth .

    The word Benghazi is a brand name used by the GOP to make themselves sound worldly .

    PS , can we get a refund from Darrell Issa for his biased bravado and grandstanding arrogance ?

    December 29, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  15. Dinaanid

    Amazing how many right wing "experts" there are here who think THEY know the truth! Congratulations! You're all expert investigators! Not. You ARE armchair quarterbacks who don't seem to know what you're talking about but simply won't let hat get in the say.

    December 29, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  16. rob

    Noone disputes the witness accounts that it was an organized militant attack. The witnesses on the ground NOT republicans made that statement. That fact directly contradicts the administrations initial account.
    What does this 1diot author's diversion of what the group's name is matter?

    December 29, 2013 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  17. rob

    The gall of you 1ibber puppets claiming this is some GOP lie or made up scandal.!!The GOP didn’t make the claim. Personnel on the ground witnessed the coordinated attack and reported it. Period.The gop rightfully called out the discrepancy (LIE) from these perpetual liars.You puppets are making this a political thing. I bet you wouldn’t if one of those dead were a husband or son of yours.

    December 29, 2013 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  18. Drew

    And Palin shall take her rightful place as President

    December 29, 2013 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  19. NameCraig

    Wonder how much the Times were paid by this Addmn. For that propaganda, More lies than Anyone since Nixon then Jhonson, What an embarrassment to this country this selfish man Obama is, You Muslims with personal problems are loving him, and the knee jerk liberals are loving the radical Muslems just because you hate republicans , God and believers , unless there muslims

    December 30, 2013 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  20. jazz92

    Issa Has done nothing except to put on a show!

    December 30, 2013 05:02 am at 5:02 am |
  21. Mary1972

    Give it up GOP. Did you make this much noise when 3000 Americans died in 9/11 attack or we lost over 1000 soldiers in Iraq?

    December 30, 2013 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  22. ChrisM

    Now Fox News and the GOP look like the fools that they are

    December 30, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
1 2