“… Witnesses tell CBS News that there was never an anti-American protest outside of the consulate. Instead, they say, it came under planned attack, in direct contradiction of the Administration’s account of the incident.” [CBS NEWS]
AFTER TESTIMONY in front of the Senate yesterday by director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matthew Olsen, who was the first to state the Benghazi raid was a terrorist attack, questions continue to linger on what the Administration and U.S. intelligence officials contend was an unplanned terrorist attack. Coming on 9/11, it’s hard for many to accept this at face value. Now we learn from CNN that Ambassador Chris Stevens “mentioned” he was on an Al Qaeda hit list.
Last Sunday, Libya’s President Mohamed Magariaf on “Face the Nation” emphatically stated it was a “preplanned, determined– predetermined” attack.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Was this a long-planned attack, as far as you know? Or what– what do you know about that?
MOHAMED YOUSEF EL-MAGARIAF: The way these perpetrators acted and moved, I think we– and they’re choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration, I think we have no– this leaves us with no doubt that this has preplanned, determined– predetermined.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And you believe that this was the work of al Qaeda and you believe that it was led by foreigners. Is that– is that what you are telling us?
MOHAMED YOUSEF EL-MAGARIAF: It was planned– definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who– who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their– since their arrival.
CBS “This Morning” went so far as to report there would be no answers from the Obama administration “until after the election.” Secy. Clinton will give a classified, closed session briefing to Congress today, but as of Wednesday, the F.B.I. reportedly still hadn’t investigated the crime scene yet, so what she can reveal is unknown.
The Washington Post reported last week that there was early evidence of a planned attack.
Even as evidence was being assembled, the early indications were that the assault had been planned and the attackers had cannily taken advantage of the protest at the consulate.
“Was this a spontaneous act of violence, was this capitalizing on the opportunity posed by [a protest], or was this separate and apart from al-Qaeda?” asked Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House intelligence committee. “Any of those are possible,” Schiff said, but accounts of the attack and the firepower employed “indicate something more than a spontaneous protest.”
The AP has reported that Ambassador Chris Stevens was found breathing, but there were no ambulances or any first aid equipment anywhere inside the consulate. The report goes on to say that Libyans drove him to the hospital without knowing who he was.
From McClatchy on Wednesday, one of the few outlets driving the questions surrounding the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens:
Questions about the consulate’s security — and whether the attack was spontaneous or planned in advance by al Qaida or an allied group without being detected by U.S. intelligence — are sensitive ones for President Barack Obama. His claims that his policies have made Americans safer and devastated the core of al Qaida are key planks of his campaign for re-election in November.
His administration has insisted that the assault was spontaneous and grew from a protest inspired by a demonstration at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo against the shoddy online video that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic faith, and was made in the United States.
The head of Libya’s interim government, key U.S. lawmakers and experts contend that the attack appeared long-planned, complex and well-coordinated, matching descriptions given to McClatchy last week by the consulate’s landlord and a wounded security guard, who denied there was a protest at the time and said the attackers carried the banner of Ansar al Shariah, an Islamist militia.
It’s important to remember the general security situation in Libya since the fall of Gadhafi. Again, from McClatchy:
…Libya remains plagued by armed groups nearly a year after the U.S.-backed ouster of the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Yet the facility was primarily defended by local guards who may have been complicit.
… Since the fall of Gadhafi last year, Libya’s security has been dependent on a group of armed militias, including Ansar al Shariah, that represent a wide variety of political strains and interests and remain heavily armed with weapons looted from Gadhafi storehouses. Interior Ministry forces and the Supreme Security Committee have been accused of complicity in recent attacks by Islamic fundamentalists on mosques and shrines affiliated with the moderate Sufi strain of Islam.
Sen. Susan Collins was blunt during Matthew Olsen’s testimony.
“We are relying on foreign nationals, perhaps on a British security firm that has been told to be unarmed, and other more questionable and less secure means of protecting our American personnel,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said during the hearing. “I’m just stunned and appalled that there wasn’t better security . . . given the high threat environment.” [McClatchy]