NY Times called a liar by Benghazi eyewitnesses
Witnesses to the attack in Benghazi on our diplomatic mission are calling out the NY Times for their "investigation" into the incident where they concluded al-Qaeda was not involved and that an anti-Muslim film played a role in sparking the attack.
"It was a coordinated attack. It is completely false to say anything else. ... It is completely a lie," one witness to the attack told Fox News.
The controversial Times report has stirred a community that normally remains out of sight and wrestles with how to reveal the truth, without revealing classified information.
Fox News has learned that the attack on the consulate started with fighters assembling to conduct an assault.
"Guys were coming into the compound, moving left, moving right...and using IMT (individual movement techniques). ... That's not a spontaneous attack," one special operator said.
"One guy was shooting, one guy was running. There are guys watching the gates. ... The bosses on the ground were pointing, commanding and coordinating -- that is a direct action planned attack."
The community of operators in Libya that night and since includes the CIA, FBI, U.S. military, U.S. State Department and contractors working for the United States in a number of capacities. According to multiple sources on the ground that night, all the intelligence personnel in Benghazi before the attack and there now understand Al Qaeda is a significant threat in Libya.
Recent reports also suggest that Libyan militia leader Ahmad Abu Khattallah is the mastermind of the attack and had no real connections to Al Qaeda or terrorist organizations.
Multiple sources, though, challenged that claim. They insist that while Khattallah was found responsible for the actions at the actual consulate and was essentially the ground force commander that night, he is also clearly tied to Ansar al-Sharia and to the broader terrorist network.
"There is direct evidence linking him before the attack and after the attack to terrorist groups. An opportunity came, and Khattallah conducted an assault on the consulate. To say that it wasn't tied to Al Qaeda is completely false. There is literal evidence in many forms and shapes, directly linking him," one source said.
There are many threads that connect AQ to the attack, says Thomas Joscelyn of the Weekly Standard:
On October 29, 2012 three other New York Times journalists reported that Jamal's network, in addition to a known al Qaeda branch (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), was directly involved in the assault. The Times reported (emphasis added): "Three Congressional investigations and a State Department inquiry are now examining the attack, which American officials said included participants from Ansar al-Shariah, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Muhammad Jamal network, a militant group in Egypt."
Jamal was trained by al Qaeda in the late 1980s, and has been loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri since at least the 1990s. He served as a commander in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a terrorist group headed by Zawahiri that merged with bin Laden's enterprise. Jamal left prison in 2011 and quickly got back to work.
The Egyptian press has published some of Jamal's letters to Zawahiri. In the letters, which were written in 2011 and 2012, Jamal is extremely deferential to Zawahiri. Jamal heaps praise on Zawahiri, seeking the al Qaeda master's guidance and additional support. Jamal even mentions that he attempted to visit Zawahiri in person, but failed to do so because of restrictions on his travel. So, Jamal writes, he sent an emissary instead.
Jamal's letters read like status reports. He writes that he has received financing from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), but requires additional funds to purchase more weaponry. Jamal also explains that he had formed "groups for us inside Sinai" and had established "an advanced base outside Egypt in Libya to take advantage of the conditions in Libya after the revolution."
Jamal's operations inside the Sinai and Libya included training camps. Some of the trainees from those camps took part in the Benghazi attack.
Since the New York Times and other press outlets first reported on the Jamal network's involvement, both the U.S. State Department and the United Nations have designated Jamal and his subordinates as terrorists. Both the U.S. and UN designations tie Jamal's network directly to al Qaeda.
Part of the problem is semantics. Just what do we mean when we say "Al-Qaeda" was responsible for the attacks? While the links to AQ in Pakistan appear to be strong, they also appear to be largely personal in nature, not tactical or strategic. AQAP acts in much the same way that bin Laden's AQ operated - as a facilitator and financeer of terrorsm. But unlike bin Laden's outfit, AQAP does not get involved in operational details.
Joscelyn points out that deliberately or not, the Times reporter, David Kirkpatrick, left a lot of ground uncovered when he made the determination that the attack was locally planned and carried out. I think a fair minded observer would conclude that Kirkpatrick very carefully cherry picked information to draw broad conclusions. Is it an accident that these conclusions somewhat buttress the administration version of events?
There has also been speculation that the Times is trying to whitewash Benghazi to give cover to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Obviously there's no evidence to support that conclusion, but the newspaper has a history of inserting politics into its reporting and this story certainly wouldn't do Hillary any harm. On the other hand, Clinton is far more vulnerable when it comes to her refusal to improve security at the mission - something the article only touched on tangentially.
Just when everyone thought that Benghazi as an issue was dead, it comes roaring back onto the American political stage. The Times story is not likely to shake loose any more information from the White House. But its' a reminder of how important Democrats see the issue and why they feel compelled to continue to defend the actions of administration principles before, during, and after the attack.