Hillary on Benghazi: Just because a jihadist group claims credit doesn't make it so; Update: Attackers tied to Al Qaeda in Iraq?

“Posting something on Facebook is not in and of itself evidence,” she says, responding to last night’s e-mail leak about Ansar al-Sharia taking credit for the attack. True enough, but that’s not the only link to AAS. As I reminded you yesterday, intercepts caught members of the group talking to members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb during and after the attack. Libyan eyewitnesses saw the group’s founder outside the consulate while it was happening; he later admitted to having been there while insisting that he was merely directing traffic. There’s plenty of reason beyond the early claim of responsibility on Facebook to think they were involved, but to watch Hillary here, you’d think the Ansar al-Sharia mention in yesterday’s Reuters bombshell was some sort of false lead based on dubious preliminary intel that had evaporated later as the fog cleared.

Which brings me to a larger point. What’s the White House’s current position on whether the attack was inspired by the Mohammed movie? Are they seriously claiming that a hardened Islamist outfit with AQ links like Ansar al-Sharia wouldn’t have come after the American consulate if not for the provocation from the movie? Or are they claiming that AAS chose to capitalize on the outrage over the movie after news trickled out about the Cairo embassy assault earlier that day? I ask because we’re still seeing stuff like the following being pushed by the Times, weeks after the White House formally embraced the “terrorist attack” narrative:

Beyond the political issues, the [new Bin Laden] film may carry the risk of associating Mr. Obama with any backlash in a Muslim world already inflamed by the YouTube trailer for an insulting film portrayal of its prophet. In September riots erupted in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere as Muslim crowds reacted violently to what they perceived as the unforgivable insults of a scratch production, β€œThe Innocence of Muslims,” some of which was posted on YouTube.

As recently as six days ago, State was still grasping for ways to blame the movie, which may be the one consistent thread in this entire mess. From the beginning, in the same Rose Garden remarks on September 12 in which he mentioned “acts of terror,” Obama alluded to the video’s role by saying, “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.” If they’re sticking with the “offended terrorist” theory of the case even now, I’d like to hear more. That must have been some video to push a group like Ansar al-Sharia from grudging tolerance of the Great Satan’s local presence to “let’s kill the ambassador” rage.

Exit quotation from Mike Rogers: “It’s about the fact that decisions were made, big policy decisions, including elevating the video that, if you listen to those email or read those emails, nothing about the video β€” it elevated the video and actually caused more protests across the Middle East.” Click the image to watch.

Update: Whole lotta offended terrorists in Benghazi that night, for some reason:

U.S. intelligence believes that assailants connected to al Qaeda in Iraq were among the core group that attacked the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, a U.S. government official told CNN.

That would represent the second al Qaeda affiliate associated with the deadly September 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Previously, intelligence officials said there were signs of connections to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African wing of the terror group…

According to the official, others in the core group are suspected of having ties to the Libyan group Ansar al-Sharia, and many of them are believed to be Egyptian jihadis.

That’s three separate jihadist outfits participating. According to CNN, there were upwards of 40 attackers in the first wave. Free question for any members of the White House press corps who are reading: What’s Al Qaeda in Iraq doing in Libya?

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