The Magazine

Debacle in Ben­ghazi

It’s worse than an injustice; it’s a humiliation.

Jan 28, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 19 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES and THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Why did the Tunisians allow Harzi to rejoin his jihadist brothers? “The government is more afraid of them than us,” says a senior congressional Republican with access to the intelligence on Benghazi. For good reason. The U.S. government hasn’t so much as issued a statement expressing regret that the Tunisians released Harzi.

There’s a reason Ansar al Sharia Tunisia has taken such great interest in Benghazi and Harzi’s case. Many of the suspects in the consulate attack are members of Ansar al Sharia—the same name used by Harzi’s cheerleaders in Tunisia—a militia based in Benghazi.

In August 2012, just weeks before the assault on the consulate, the Defense Department and Library of Congress published a report (“Al Qaeda in Libya: A Profile”) that discussed connections between the two Ansar al Sharia groups. The report’s authors concluded that Ansar al Sharia in Libya “has increasingly embodied al Qaeda’s presence in Libya, as indicated by its active social-media propaganda, extremist discourse, and hatred of the West, especially the United States.” Moreover, the “Facebook sites of Ansar al Sharia in Libya and the group in Tunisia appear similar in design and content and also share contacts, suggesting coordination between the groups.”

On September 14, three days after the attack in Benghazi, Ansar al Sharia Tunisia stormed the U.S. embassy in Tunis. The embassy and an American school were ransacked, causing millions of dollars in property damage. An al Qaeda-style black banner was raised over the embassy where the American flag usually flies.

Ansar al Sharia Tunisia is headed by Seifallah ben Hassine (aka Abu Iyad al Tunisi), who has been designated an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist by the United Nations and the U.S. government. Other designated al Qaeda terrorists hold leadership positions in the group as well.

While the Obama administration has not publicly drawn a connection between the terrorist groups that assaulted the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi and Tunis, others have. In early January, for instance, Al-Hayat (an Arabic paper in London) reported that members of Ansar al Sharia Tunisia travel to Libya to receive extensive terrorist training in camps “under the supervision of” Ansar al Sharia Libya. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has seen enough evidence to conclude that the two Ansar al Sharias are effectively the “same organization.”

We are left, then, with an uncomfortable set of facts. Despite its many promises, after four months of a criminal investigation, the U.S. government has made little progress on bringing the Benghazi attackers to justice. The Obama administration, which came to office trumpeting “smart power,” has shown itself unable to produce cooperation even from governments receiving vast sums of aid from the United States without congressional threats. And now, the same terrorist organizations that supplied the attackers for the assaults on American facilities in Benghazi and Tunis are openly threatening FBI investigators and celebrating the release of one of the few suspects in the 9/11/12 attacks.

That’s not justice, it’s humiliation.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard. Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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