Reuters: White House, State Dep't received e-mails within two hours of Benghazi attack about jihadi group taking credit

No Quotes of the Day tonight. Read this instead.

We actually know most of this already, I think. Remember this Reuters story from October 2 describing multiple intelligence reports about a jihadi connection even in the first few hours afterward? How about the AP’s piece four days ago about the CIA’s station chief informing the White House within 24 hours that militants might be involved? The White House had plenty of reason to suspect more was going on than a protest that got out of hand, even from the very beginning. But that would meddle with one of O’s strongest reelection narratives, i.e. the president who demolished Al Qaeda (read this for a stark illustration of how certain key supporters are helping him out with that), so we didn’t hear about it until Eli Lake and CNN and Reuters all but dragged it out of him.

What we didn’t know until now is that the White House Situation Room got a heads up on whodunnit early enough that Chris Stevens may well have still been alive at the time.

The emails, obtained by Reuters from government sources not connected with U.S. spy agencies or the State Department and who requested anonymity, specifically mention that the Libyan group called Ansar al-Sharia had asserted responsibility for the attacks…

A third email, also marked SBU and sent at 6:07 p.m. Washington time, 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.

Carney mentioned afterwards that “extremists” might have been involved in the, ahem, spontaneous protest, but he didn’t name Ansar al-Sharia or suggest that U.S. intelligence had a particular group in mind. Which is curious, because the e-mails pointing to the group’s Twitter/Facebook claims weren’t the White House’s only piece of evidence against them. Eli Lake reported three weeks ago that American spies captured communications between Ansar al-Sharia and the local Al Qaeda affiliate after the attack.

More from Fox News:

Ansar al Sharia has been declared by the State Department to be a an Al Qaeda-affiliated group. A member of the group suspected of participating in the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi has been arrested and is being held in Tunisia…

Fox News was told that an estimated 300 to 400 national security figures received these emails in real time almost as the raid was playing out and concluding. People who received these emails work directly under the nation’s top national security, military and diplomatic officials, Fox News was told.

If I understand the White House’s Benghazi narrative in its current form, it boils down to this. There was no protest, but the attack was still kinda sorta spontaneous insofar as it was inspired by what was happening at the embassy in Cairo. And it wasn’t an official Al Qaeda or Ansar al-Sharia operation, even though members of AQIM and Ansar al-Sharia — including the founder of the latter group — were on the scene and/or participating. Essentially, the White House wants you to believe that members of two prominent jihadist paramilitary groups were kicking around on September 11 when one of them turned on the TV, heard about the Mohammed movie from coverage of the Egyptian embassy assault, and decided to quickly pull together a complex, heavily-armed attack on the local U.S. consulate involving 20 or so people. Never mind that there had been harassment of, and attacks on, western interests in the city for months; these guys apparently had no serious designs on Chris Stevens or his compatriots until they heard about the YouTube video and hulked out in the form of an organized armed raid. The only thing that makes this story plausible is that security for Stevens at the compound was so disgracefully poor that hardened jihadis probably could have drawn up a play in the dirt outside the building and gotten to the ambassador. That’s Obama’s defense here, essentially — that the consulate was so easily breached thanks to threadbare protection for Stevens that it’s quite possible the whole thing was put together by amateurs, without planning.

Update: Patterico e-mails with a good catch about the Fox News excerpt quoted above. It’s Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen that’s been designated by State as an Al Qaeda affiliate, not Ansar al-Sharia in Libya. There are, in fact, multiple Ansar al-Sharias in Libya; I wrote a bit about that here. Al Qaeda HQ in Pakistan has evidently been using that name as an alias for some of its affiliates. The Benghazi group may or may not be one of them, but given their contacts with AQIM after the attack as described above, it’s probably a matter of time before State designates them an official AQ affiliate too.

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