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GOP on attack over new Benghazi emails
Republicans want answers
One U.S. intelligence official recently told The Washington Times that “there was and still is information that suggests the attackers in Benghazi were influenced by the scenes they saw in Cairo of protesters scaling the walls of the U.S. Embassy.”
The Times reported Oct. 3 that U.S. military intelligence was spreading the word inside the Pentagon the day after the attack that an al Qaeda-linked group was likely responsible for the assault.
Analysts note confusion
Independent analysts cited confusion Wednesday over the initial email circulated among administration officials on the night of the attack.
The email focused on Ansar al-Shariah, an Arabic name that means “supporters of Islamic law” and is thought to be used by al Qaeda supporters in Libya and other parts of the Middle East.
Aaron Y. Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who monitors Arabic-language websites tied to extremist groups in the region, said he had no record of any direct claim of responsibility by Ansar al-Shariah that night.
“I was following that specific Facebook page very closely because this was considered to be the official page of Ansar al-Shariah, and I don’t have any archived record of that posting at that time,” he said, adding that the email’s authors “could have been mistaken or they could be referring to something else completely.”
He said that on Sept. 12 — several hours after the initial email circulated among Obama administration officials — Ansar al-Shariah did make a Facebook posting in which it said it had not ordered the attack.
Bill Roggio, editor of The Long War Journal and a scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the group may have posted and then deleted a statement on its Facebook page in hopes that the attack would appear as a popular expression of rage rather than a militarized assault that involved at least some planning and reconnaissance.
The statement that did appear on the group’s Facebook page Sept. 12, Mr. Roggio said, “was that their members took part but they were trying to portray it as a popular uprising-type event.”
The fact that Ansar al-Shariah ultimately said it wasn’t part of the attack in an “official manner” suggests “there were members in the group that were involved in an individual capacity in the attack insofar as that it wasn’t ordered from the top of the group,” Mr. Zelin said.
As for the apparent inaccuracies in the initial swirl of emails among the Obama administration’s national security officials in Libya and in Washington, retired Army Col. Thomas F. Lynch III said that during the first 24 hours after such an attack, “You wind up with a lot of reporting” from different people and “some of it inevitably [is] contradictory or ambiguous.”
Col. Lynch, who served until July 2010 as a special adviser on counterterrorism to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and now is a research scholar at the National Defense University, said understanding the significance of the newly revealed email will require knowing certain answers.
“How many different lines of reporting were there that evening?” he asked. “How many mentioned whether or not there had been a reliable claim of responsibility?”
Answers were hard to find Wednesday at the State Department, where officials stressed that the point of the federally mandated Accountability Review Board now investigating the Benghazi attack is to examine such questions in an environment free of election-year politics.
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About the Author
Guy Taylor rejoined The Washington Times in 2011 as the State Department correspondent.
As a freelance journalist, Taylor’s work was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Fund For Investigative Journalism, and his stories appeared in a variety publications, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to Salon, Reason, Prospect Magazine of London, the Daily Star of Beirut, the ...
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Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
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