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Spinning Benghazi

10:56 AM, Oct 20, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Ahead of what is sure to be a contentious presidential debate focusing on foreign policy on Monday, anonymous “intelligence officials” have decided to update the Benghazi story. “No evidence found of Al Qaeda role in Libya attack,” a Los Angeles Times headline reads. A Washington Post headline declares, “U.S.: Evidence doesn’t show planning in Libyan attack.”

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There is just one problem: These new accounts don’t add up.

The L.A. Times says that “U.S. intelligence agencies…have found no evidence of Al Qaeda participation.” That is contradicted by numerous other accounts and by the Post’s latest version. The Post reports that intelligence “suggests the attack was spontaneous even if it involved militants with ties to al-Qaeda.”

The Post adds: “The violence in Benghazi appears to have involved militants with ties to al-Qaeda in North Africa, but no evidence indicates that it was organized by al-Qaeda, or timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, officials said.”

So either the attack did involve terrorists tied to al Qaeda, or it didn’t, depending on which report you read.

More than one month after Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a terrorist attack, “intelligence officials” cannot even provide the press with a consistent account of what happened. And keep in mind that neither account says that there was a protest before the attack, which was the original story given to the American public.

Whether the L.A. Times’s sources want to admit it or not, ties between al Qaeda-affiliated parties and the attack are already established in the record.

On September 26, during a speech at the U.N. , Secretary of State Hillary Clinton connected the attack to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its allies inside Libya. AQIM and “other groups” have a “larger safe haven” and “increased freedom to maneuver,” Clinton warned. This allows them “to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions.” And, Clinton added, “they are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions underway in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi.”

On September 28, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement saying “we do assess that some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al-Qa'ida.”

Also on September 28, Eli Lake of the Daily Beast reported that the terrorists who led the attack were in contact with members of AQIM. “In the hours following the 9/11 anniversary attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya,” Lake reported, “U.S. intelligence agencies monitored communications from jihadists affiliated with the group that led the attack and members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the group’s North African affiliate.”

Lake continued: “In the communications, members of Ansar al-Sharia (AAS) bragged about their successful attack against the American consulate and the U.S. ambassador, according to three U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast anonymously because they were not authorized to talk to the press.”

Other journalists would follow up on Lake’s reporting, confirming that AQIM members were in contact with the attackers.

On October 18, the Wall Street Journal reported that “Intelligence officials now have evidence that al Qaeda-linked militants were at the scene of the attack, although those militants may not have been its leaders, according to people briefed on the matter.”

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