Though it took a week for the US government to acknowledge the attack on the the US Consulate in Libya as a terrorist attack tied to Al Qaeda, a new report is saying that they knew within 24 hours of the incident.
On the Sunday after the attack, the US declared that the incident was “spontaneous,” and that it was triggered by protests in Egypt over the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims. However, two senior US officials told Fox that the intelligence community knew by September 12 that the militant Ansar al-Shariah and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb were likely behind the strike.
“No one … believed that the mortars, indirect and direct fire, and the RPGs were just the work of a mob — no one,” said the official.
These new claims may spell some trouble for the Obama administration, as the response to the attacks has already come under fire. Some have alleged that the government has withheld key facts for political reasons.
“I think we should have answers right away. … I think they’re reluctant to tell us what this event really was probably because it’s an election year. But the American people deserve to know answers about what happened at our embassy in Libya,” said Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of the attack.
Still, the official was quick to add that though the attack was considered an act of terrorism almost immediately, there was not a definitive suspect at that point.
“It’s inaccurate to suggest that within the first 24 hours there was a definitive calling card and home address for the perpetrators of the Benghazi attack. Potential suspects and data points emerge early on, but it still takes time to be certain who is responsible,” the official said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, though delayed in their reaction, now believe the attack to be an act of terrorism.
It’s hard to make a definitive conclusion on such a complex subject. While President Obama has “dragged his feet” on responding to crisis before, he is careful not to leap to conclusions before all of the facts are presented. Besides, what we do moving forward is what counts.