This month, the State Department designated Ansar al-Sharia a terrorist organization and Qumu a global terrorist. Fox News reported that Qumu was in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.
“AI-Qa’ida-affiliated groups and associates are exploiting the permissive security environment in Libya to enhance their capabilities and expand their operational reach,” said the report, dated July 6, 2012. “This year, Muhammad Jamal’s Egypt-based network, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have conducted training, built communication networks, and facilitated extremist travel across North Africa from their safe haven in parts of eastern Libya.”
To Republicans, the bipartisan Senate report is a clear rebuttal to a Dec. 28 article in The New York Times — which conservatives believe was published to exonerate Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time and is a possible Democratic presidential candidate.
The Times asserted: “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.”
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, took to the Senate floor to call out The Times.
“The latest snow job came in December from The New York Times, that ever-reliable surrogate for the Obama administration, which published a long report, ‘challenging’ some key facts about the Benghazi attack,” Mr. McCain said. “The fact is, the attack against our diplomatic facility in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, was carried out in part by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists who had established a safe haven in parts of eastern Libya.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney attacked Republicans for releasing the House Armed Services transcripts.
But when pressed about the military’s early conclusion that the Benghazi incident was a terrorist attack, Mr. Carney changed his tune from September 2012, when he refused to characterize it as such.
“Of course it was an attack,” the press secretary said last week. “It was an attack that led to the deaths of four Americans. And there has been a significant amount of investigation to find out what went wrong when it came to security and to recommend steps that should be taken, and which we are taking, to do everything we can to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
He added: “So I think there has been a lot of reporting on this, and there has been a lot of inaccurate reporting on it, generally speaking, not just this particular case of House Republicans selectively releasing more testimony to outlets so that they can use it for political purposes. … But the idea that we were somehow saying it wasn’t an attack? I mean, the sky is blue. Up is not down, down is not up. Of course it was an attack.”
The House transcripts show that Gen. Ham, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Joint Chiefs chairman, quickly concluded after the attack that it was terrorism, not a spontaneous demonstration.
“When we saw a rocket-propelled grenade attack, what appeared to be pretty well-aimed small arms fire — again, this is all coming second- and third-hand through unclassified, commercial cellphones for the most part initially — to me, it started to become clear pretty quickly that this was certainly a terrorist attack and not just something sporadic,” he told the House panel.