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The Times Disconnects the Dots on Benghazi, Again

10:12 AM, Jan 9, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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U.S. officials suspect that a former Guantanamo Bay detainee played a role in the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and are planning to designate the group he leads as a foreign terrorist organization, according to officials familiar with the plans.

Conveniently, the Times’s sources say there is no evidence that Ben Qumu himself was involved, even though his fighters were. But just one day prior, the Post’s sources were saying the opposite – Ben Qumu is suspected of playing “a role in the attack.”

THE WEEKLY STANDARD reported last November that Ben Qumu is, in fact, a suspect and that his men directly participated in the attack.

Ben Qumu was part of al Qaeda in the years leading up to his confinement in late 2001. He was in contact with the al Qaeda network once again by the middle of last year, according to the Times. (Kirkpatrick’s sources tell him that “by mid-2013…Mr. Qumu was known to have contacts and communication with Al Qaeda or its regional affiliates, such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”) And as THE WEEKLY STANDARD reported previously, a report published by the Library of Congress in August 2012 connected Ben Qumu to al Qaeda’s clandestine network inside Libya prior to the Benghazi attack.

In other words, Ben Qumu’s dossier is littered with al Qaeda ties. And if he was involved in the Benghazi attack, then that means a terrorist who has long operated as part of al Qaeda’s network was involved.

Kirkpatrick asserts, based on his anonymous sources, that “there is no evidence that the fighters from Ansar al-Shariah of Derna who were involved in the attack came to Benghazi for that reason.” They apparently just happened to be in town for a successful terrorist attack.

But the Post, citing its own anonymous sources, left it more open-ended (emphasis added):

Witnesses have told American officials that Qumu’s men were in Benghazi before the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, according to the officials. It’s unclear whether they were there as part of a planned attack or out of happenstance. The drive from Darnah to Benghazi takes several hours.

Thus, the Times’s unidentified sources, speaking through Kirkpatrick, declare that there is “no evidence” Ansar al Sharia Derna’s fighters were in town specifically for the attack. The Post’s sources left it an open question, saying it is “unclear.”

It is interesting that Kirkpatrick’s sources can quickly dismiss an issue that the Post’s sources found uncertain just the day before.

Moreover, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence – it is certainly possible that the Ansar al Sharia Derna fighters were dispatched to Benghazi specifically for the attack and U.S. investigators have simply not uncovered that fact. It is also possible that U.S. officials do not know how much foreknowledge of the attack Ben Qumu had. He is not in U.S. or Libyan custody and has not been questioned.

The intelligence world is one of probabilities. And the Times is asking readers to assume unlikely scenarios are the most probable ones.

Contrary to the Times’s original reporting, members of Ansar al Sharia in Derna took part in the Benghazi attack. The paper now wants readers to believe they were in Benghazi out of happenstance and that their boss, an experienced al Qaeda terrorist, had no idea what they were going to do. From the Times’s perspective, they spontaneously took part in a terrorist attack that left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead.

But while Kirkpatrick’s sources are playing disconnect the dots on all of this, other U.S. officials (including those cited by the Post) are not.

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