Sharyl Attkisson: E-mail shows State Dep’t knew the day after the Benghazi attack that jihadis were behind it

posted at 3:31 pm on May 2, 2014 by Allahpundit

Somehow this slipped through the cracks for me yesterday amid all the other Benghazi news, but Noah Rothman flagged it today and now I’m flagging it too. Simple question from Attkisson: If State had concluded as early as the day after the attack that a jihadi group was responsible, why was Hillary Clinton blaming the Mohammed video at the memorial service two days later? Here’s the key e-mail, which was cc’d to various people at State, describing a conversation with the Libyan ambassador. The author’s name is redacted.


Timestamp: September 12, 2012, at 12:46 p.m. Less than 24 hours after Stevens was killed, they were already pointing the finger at Ansar al-Sharia, not a protest mob angered by the video that got out of control. But how’d they get the name Ansar al-Sharia? The (possible) answer to that comes earlier in the e-mail chain, on the day of the attack itself. Timestamp: September 11, 2012, 5:55 p.m.


So here’s the question. Did State know for a fact based on independent intelligence that Ansar al-Sharia was responsible before they started blaming the video, or do these e-mails simply show them relying on the group’s own claim of responsibility as evidence in the early chaotic hours afterward? If it’s the former, then introducing the video into the talking-point mix really was a deliberate attempt to hide the truth. If it’s the latter, then maybe it’s a simple matter of State having revised its assessment over the next few days as the CIA produced new information about what happened. Remember, the first official CIA talking points on September 14th said, “We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. consulate and subsequently its annex.” They were surely aware too that Ansar al-Sharia had taken credit for the attack but their first pass at explaining what happened blamed it on a spontaneous protest. Did they get new information between the 12th and 14th to steer them away from “Ansar al-Sharia did it” or did they deliberately steer it that way themselves to protect the White House? I’m not sure the e-mails quoted above push us hard in one direction either way.

One other thing. It’s become impossible (for me, at least) to keep straight precisely which details we already knew about Benghazi and which we didn’t know. Sometimes it’s easy — the Ben Rhodes e-mail uncovered this week was an emphatic did-not-know — but the timeline in the first few days is a muddle without memory-fresheners. I checked our archives to see if there’d been any indication in the past that the administration suspected Ansar al-Sharia’s involvement before they started blaming the video. Lo and behold — Reuters, October 23, 2012:

Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show…

[An] email, also marked SBU and sent at 6:07 p.m. Washington time [on September 11, 2012, the day of the attack], carried the subject line: “Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack.”

The message reported: “Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”

While some information identifying recipients of this message was redacted from copies of the messages obtained by Reuters, a government source said that one of the addresses to which the message was sent was the White House Situation Room, the president’s secure command post.

Actually, there’s an even earlier Reuters report that gets into this. On October 2, 2012, three weeks after the attack, in a piece headlined “U.S. had early indications Libya attack tied to organized militants,” the news agency cited very early intel about jihadi involvement as raising “fresh questions” about the administration’s blame-the-video narrative. Saxby Chambliss is quoted as wondering why he’d been hearing about a Mohammed movie if they had indications from the beginning that Ansar al-Sharia was involved. That question’s been out there since almost day one and still hasn’t been answered completely. How did the ball advance from “jihadis” on September 12th to “spontaneous protest” on September 14th? Was the CIA’s conclusion basically transitive — i.e. the movie inspired the protests in Cairo and the protest in Cairo inspired the attack in Benghazi, ergo the movie kinda sorta inspired the attack? Was it based on actual evidence? (The AP once reported that the attackers had encouraged a crowd of bystanders to chant about the movie.) That’s topic A for Trey Gowdy and the select committee.

In lieu of an exit question, I’ll leave you with this as a reminder of how serious Democrats are about this subject.

Update: Morgen Richmond e-mails to one-up me: CBS reported as early as September 13, 2012, just two days after the attack, that Ansar al-Sharia was the lead suspect. Three days later, Susan Rice was on the Sunday shows ventilating those “spontaneous protest” talking points.

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Will Nakoula be rewarded for taking the fall, or will he be eliminated because he knows too much?

ariel on May 2, 2014 at 7:13 PM

If the cousin of one of his “business associates” is to be believed, Nakoula (one of his gazillion aliases) knows far more than any of us can imagine. Doesn’t seem to bother the Feds in the least. Quite the contrary.

de rigueur on May 2, 2014 at 8:20 PM

…made up scandal!…State Department is assuring us of it…no kidding!

KOOLAID2 on May 2, 2014 at 9:04 PM

The fact that Ansar al-Sharia had claimed credit early is telling. How would they know so early on, when “protests” were being talked about in the news? The fact is terrorist groups rarely claim credit for acts they did not commit, mainly to avoid stepping on another group’s work.

So for them to claim credit almost immediately, it means they had to know 1) it was an attack, not a riot, and 2) no other group was going to claim credit. They could only be sure about these facts if they were in fact the perpetrators.

One of their leaders had been in Egyptian prison and had only been freed within the previous two weeks – by direct intervention of Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who was President at the time, and also didn’t provide troops to protect our Cairo embassy until attacks were well under way.

Makes you wonder why Obama was so intent on deposing Mubarak and installing Morsi, and was threatening Egypt with aid cutoffs and an end to military cooperation when he was arrested, doesn’t it?

Adjoran on May 2, 2014 at 11:18 PM

It should not even matter what the cause of the riot/attack was because the greater dereliction of duty was doing nothing about it.

Yes, the cabinet lied and the video story convinced nobody – it wasted time and ran out the clock while Obama was bumbling through his presidential debates.

To some extent, this who-knew-what-when business is busywork that avoids the glare of treason that shines through this administration’s facade.

virgo on May 4, 2014 at 12:11 PM