At the very time President Obama, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top leaders were blaming spontaneous protests for the deadly Benghazi attack, the Defense Department broadly circulated a detailed intelligence report that said an al Qaeda-linked group planned the assault 10 days beforehand.
Its goal was to kill as many Americans as possible.
The Defense Intelligence Agency report is contained in a trove of previously classified documents that the government watchdog group Judicial Watch forced the Obama administration to release under court order.
On another terrorism development that has wide implications today, one DIA report in August 2012 predicted the rise of the Islamic State, which was then emerging in Syria. It now controls wide sections of eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq, and is committing mass slaughter of Christians, Kurds and Muslims of rival sects or clans.
Mr. Obama downplayed the Islamic State as the “JV” in January 2014 when the terrorist army made its first incursions into western Iraq.
Judicial Watch said in a statement that the Benghazi documents are clear evidence that Mr. Obama and his aides lied to the American public two months before the November elections. Amid poor security, the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and an aide. Terrorists later attacked a nearby CIA base, killing two former Navy SEALs serving as a security detail.
Judicial Watch previously forced the administration to release a chain of emails that revealed the tortured process by which White House and State Department political appointees took the CIA’s draft report on the attack and changed it to say the carnage was caused by spontaneous demonstrations over an American-made anti-Islam video.
On Sept. 16, the same date as the DIA report, Susan E. Rice, who then was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and now is national security adviser, went on Sunday political talk shows and blamed the attack on protesters angered by the video.
The administration could argue this point: The final CIA “talking points” paper was approved Sept. 15. The DIA report saying an al Qaeda-linked group carried out the attack was dated Sept. 16.
But Judicial Watch argues that the information contained in the DIA report was obtained as of Sept. 12, the day after the attack.
The president and Mrs. Clinton took days more to concede that the attack was terrorism and not a protest gone violent. Mr. Obama cited the video later that month in a speech to the U.N.
Matt Olsen, who was serving as director of the National Counterterrorism Center, became the first administration official to publicly call the attacks terrorism, on Sept. 19. Mrs. Clinton followed suit the next day. But Mr. Obama, on that same day, was asked at a town hall meeting about the attack and declined to label it terrorism.
The White House on Tuesday did not respond to a query about the Judicial Watch findings.
Subsequent congressional hearings showed the Benghazi post was on a hit list compiled by terrorists who wanted to rid the city of all Western organizations. The hearings showed that Mr. Stevens repeatedly asked for more security but was rebuffed by Washington.
The Washington Times first reported in October 2012 that a defense intelligence report existed and that it blamed al Qaeda for the Benghazi attack shortly afterward.
The DIA papers obtained by Judicial Watch say the al Qaeda-linked group, Brigades of the Captive Omar Abdul Rahman, claimed responsibility. Rahman is known as the “blind sheikh,” and was convicted and imprisoned for his role in the first World Trade Center attack. The organization is linked to Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan terrorist group that also took part in the attack on the diplomatic outpost.
“The attack was planned ten or more days prior on approximately 01 September 2012,” the defense report said. “The intention was to attack the consulate and to kill as many Americans as possible to seek revenge for the U.S. killing of [an al Qaeda commander] in Pakistan and in memorial of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings.”
Even more revealing is that the DIA concluded that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri was involved. He sent Abdul Baset Azuz, the brigades leader, to Libya to set up an al Qaeda terrorist cell.
“It was stated that Azuz was not a charismatic leader but rather just a violent radical,” the DIA said.
Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president, called the DIA documents “jaw dropping.” His group sued the administration under the Freedom of Information Act.
“No wonder we had to file more FOIA lawsuits and wait over two years for them,” he said. “If the American people had known the truth — that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other top administration officials knew that the Benghazi attack was an al Qaeda terrorist attack from the get-go — and yet lied and covered this fact up — Mitt Romney might very well be president.”
Mr. Fitton said the documents “show that the Benghazi cover-up has continued for years and is only unraveling through our independent lawsuits. The Benghazi scandal just got a whole lot worse for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”
The DIA report said Azuz quickly established an al Qaeda headquarters in eastern Libya and obtained Russian-designed shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.
Another document states that the Muslim Brotherhood was allied with al Qaeda in trying to bring down the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. At the time, Mr. Obama supported the elected Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, which was later deposed by the military.
“Why would the Obama administration continue to support the Muslim Brotherhood even after it knew it was tied to the Benghazi terrorist attack and to al Qaeda?” Mr. Fitton said.
The Judicial Watch documents also show that the administration was aware of a major arms trafficking network in Libya that took government missiles and guns and shipped them to Islamists in Syria.
There is no indication that the CIA was involved, as some observers asserted.
On the Islamic State, the DIA said in August 2012 that the terrorist army “could also declare an Islamic State throughout its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.”