NEW YORK -- A New York Times investigation of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, has some congressional Republicans challenging the report’s conclusion that neither al Qaeda nor any international terrorist groups played a role in the attack that left four Americans dead.
“I don't know it was an exhaustive investigation,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on “Fox News Sunday.” Asked by host Chris Wallace what the report got wrong, Rogers said, “That al Qaeda was not involved. There was some level of preplanning, we know that. There was aspiration to conduct an attack by al Qaeda and their affiliates in Libya. We know that.”
Based on a several-month investigation that involved interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, the Times was unable to find evidence that suggested al Qaeda played a role in the attack. They did suggest that there was involvement by Ansar al-Sharia, a group the article calls “Benghazi’s most overtly anti-Western militia.”
“Republican arguments appear to conflate purely local extremist organizations like Ansar al-Shariah with Al Qaeda’s international terrorist network,” author David Kirkpatrick writes in his conclusion.
The report calls the events on Sept. 11, 2012, “murkier” than the narratives offered up by the administration or Republicans.
“Benghazi was not infiltrated by Al Qaeda, but nonetheless contained grave local threats to American interests. The attack does not appear to have been meticulously planned, but neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs,” it stated. Kirkpatrick also writes that, “contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who has led several hearings about the attacks as the head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Kirkpatrick had done “very good work” but stood by his contention that it was not an anti-Islam video that spurred the attacks, a narrative first offered by Susan Rice, who was then the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
“We have seen no evidence that the video was widely seen in Benghazi, a very isolated area, or that it was a leading cause. What we do know is that September 11th was not an accident. These are terrorist groups, some of them linked to or…self-claimed as al Qaeda linked,” Issa said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“Al Qaeda is not decimated and there was a group there that was involved that is linked to al Qaeda,” he added.
Rogers disputed the suggestion that Ansar al-Shariah has no ties to al Qaeda. “Did they have differences of opinion with al Qaeda core? Yes. Do they have affiliations with al Qaeda core? Definitely,” he said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. , a member of the House Intelligence Committee who appeared alongside Rogers, said he agreed that intelligence reports indicated al Qaeda was involved. “But,” he said, “there were also plenty of people and militias that were unaffiliated with al Qaeda that were involved.”