Benghazi Attack Not Al-Qaeda Plot, New York Times Reports

The Benghazi attack, which killed four Americans including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens on September 11, 2012, was not the work of Al-Qaeda, a New York Times investigation by David D. Kirkpatrick has concluded, directly contradicting congressional Republicans who have criticized President Barack Obama over the tragedy for more than a year

Now those Republicans are hitting back, insisting they were right all along. Benghazi, they say, was a terrorist attack that Obama’s administration failed to predict, prevent or even properly respond to in a way that might have saved the lives of Stevens and his colleagues at the besieged U.S. diplomatic outpost that night.

The New York Times Benghazi investigation does not let the administration off the hook for failing to preempt the tragic attack.

“Benghazi was not infiltrated by Al Qaeda,” Times reporter David D. Kirkpatrick writes, in the lengthy article dated December 28, “but nonetheless contained grave local threats to American interests. The attack does not appear to have been meticulously planned, but neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs,”

As CNN also pointed out, the administration has contended that the attack was a spontaneous outburst of anger provoked largely by an anti-Islam propaganda video, Innocence of Muslims, created by an expatriate Egyptian filmmaker living in California.

Even as Republicans, led by California Rep. Darrell Issa, question the Times reporting, a former Obama national security official lambasted them, saying they “handed our enemy a propaganda win.”

Former national security spokesperson Tommy Vietor took to the social media platform Twitter to air his anger at the Republicans in Congress, calling it “disconcerting” that the Times report, “offered more insight into what happened than all Congressional hearings,” CNN said, quoting Vietor’s Twitter postings.

But Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee which has investigated numerous alleged Obama administration “scandals,” appeared on NBC’s Meet The Press Sunday morning to shoot down the Times story. Though as quoted in The Washington Post, even Issa appeared to leave himself some wiggle room.

“It was accurate,” Issa said, referring to his own finding on Benghazi. “There was a group that was involved that claims an affiliation with Al-Qaeda.”

He then added that maybe it was not only Al-Qaeda behind the Benghazi debacle.

“It is not about al-Qaeda as the only terrorist organization,” said Issa. “They went out on five stations and told the story that was at best a coverup for the CIA or, at worst, something that cast away this idea that there was a real terrorist operation in Benghazi.”

California Democrat Adam Schiff joined Republicans in criticizing the Times report.

“I don’t think it’s complete,” Schiff, quoted by the Talking Points Memo political news site, said of the Times story. “Intelligence indicates al Qaeda was involved.”

Other Democrats, however, were not as conciliatory. Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro also appeared on Meet The Press and, quoted by the Raw Story website, lashed back at Issa.

“Chairman Issa and members of that committee crusaded for over a year on what was really a fairy tale,” Castro said on the program, which was dedicated largely to debate over the New York Times Benghazi report. “Darrell Issa and others took that and crusaded against the administration in a way that, I think, has been a big distraction for the American people.”

As politicians from both sides of the aisle continue their war of words, this paragraph from the New York Times article really does get right to the heart of the matter:

“A fuller accounting of the attacks suggests lessons for the United States that go well beyond Libya. It shows the risks of expecting American aid in a time of desperation to buy durable loyalty, and the difficulty of discerning friends from allies of convenience in a culture shaped by decades of anti-Western sentiment. Both are challenges now hanging over the American involvement in Syria’s civil conflict.”