Emails to White House hours after attack note responsibility claimed by al-Qaeda affiliate
State Department emails sent to the White House juist 2 hours after the attack on the consulate in Benghazi began shows that the Obama administration knew that the assault that killed Ambassador Stevens and 3 other diplomats was almost certainly the work of terrorists.
A series of internal State Department emails obtained by Fox News shows that officials reported within hours of last month's deadly consulate attack in Libya that Al Qaeda-tied group Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility.
The emails provide some of the most detailed information yet about what officials knew in the initial hours after the attack. And it again raises questions about why U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, apparently based on intelligence assessments, would claim five days after the attack that it was a "spontaneous" reaction to protests over an anti-Islam film.
Ansar al-Sharia has been declared by the State Department to be 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.
The emails obtained by Fox News were sent by the State Department to a variety of national security platforms, whose addresses have been redacted, including the White House Situation Room, the Pentagon, the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence.
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.
The timestamps on the emails are all Eastern Time and often include the subheading SBU, which is shorthand for "Sensitive But Unclassified."
The third email came at 6:07 p.m. ET and was sent to a different email list but still includes the White House Situation Room address and a subject line of "Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack (SBU)."
"Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli," the email reads.
Earlier emails did not go into who might have been responsible for the attack.
The White House narrative on Libya was already a crumbling mess and this news could be a clincher. They have been hanging their hat on an unclassified series of talking points issued by the CIA in the hours after the attack that didn't mention terrorism or an organized assault, but did say the attack appeared to be spontaneous reaction to the anti-Muslim video. That's what the State Department and Susan Rice was basing their responses on.
If so, why? They had other, independent evidence that what they all were saying was laughably wrong. They can claim ignorance all they want, but the evidence is now overwhelming that they sought to cover up or obscure the truth about the attack because the president had been saying that al-Qaeda was on the run and that a terrorist attack so close to the election would have been politically damaging.
It will be intersting to see what Romney does with this new information.