Less than two weeks ago, on December 28, David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times trumpeted the results of his investigation into the attacks on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, writing that there was “no evidence that al Qaeda or other international terrorists had any role in the assault.” The Times piece specifically ruled out any meaningful involvement of an ex-Guantanamo detainee named Sufian Ben Qumu, who has longstanding ties to al Qaeda and is currently the leader of Ansar al Sharia in Derna, Libya.
According to the Times on Dec. 28, “neither Mr. Qumu nor anyone else in Derna appears to have played a significant role in the attack in the American Mission, officials briefed on the investigation and the intelligence said.”
But on January 7, Adam Goldman of the Washington Post first reported that the U.S. State Department will formally designate Ansar al Sharia Derna as a terrorist entity, a designation that includes Sufian Ben Qumu. The designation will specifically mention Ansar al Sharia Derna’s involvement in the attack, as some of Ben Qumu’s men participated in the assault.
As THE WEEKLY STANDARD pointed out after the Post’s piece was published, the reporting in the designation directly contradicts Kirkpatrick’s conclusion.
Kirkpatrick wrote that no one from Derna “played a significant role” in the Benghazi attack. The State Department disagrees.
A re-write was in order.
On January 8, Kirkpatrick and the Times contributed a follow-up to the Post’s reporting. Kirkpatrick recasts his original reporting from less than two weeks ago, acknowledging that fighters from Ansar al Sharia Derna did, in fact, participate in the Benghazi attack and conceding Ben Qumu’s ties to the al Qaeda network.
Kirkpatrick now reports that the upcoming designation was “expected to apply to Ansar al-Shariah of Derna, Libya” and “is expected to assert that its fighters were also involved in the attack.”
Beyond this concession, however, the Times seeks to disconnect the dots, thereby limiting any further re-writes to its preferred narrative.
It is exceedingly difficult to ignore the connections between Sufian Ben Qumu, who leads Ansar al Sharia Derna, and al Qaeda.
Kirkpatrick tries to get around this red flag by reporting the following (emphasis added):
The designation was also expected to apply to Sufian bin Qumu, a former driver for a company controlled by Osama bin Laden and a former inmate at the United States military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He is identified as a leader of Ansar al-Shariah in Derna, but officials briefed on the designations and the intelligence reports said that there was no evidence linking him to the attack.
Let’s compare Kirkpatrick’s reporting with the Washington Post’s article. They both deal with the upcoming designation and cite officials familiar with the investigation into Benghazi.
Kirkpatrick’s sources say there is “no evidence” linking Ben Qumu himself to the attack – presumably beyond the involvement of his fighters. This is not what the Post reported.
The title of the Post’s article is “Former Guantanamo detainee implicated in Benghazi attack.”
The opening line of the Post’s article reads (emphasis added):