So on the one hand Kirkpatrick claims no one in the U.S. intelligence business believes al Qaeda and its affiliates played any role in Benghazi; on the other, many individuals in the U.S. intelligence business say they believe al Qaeda and its affiliates played a role in Benghazi.
Who to believe?
Perhaps the Times uncovered new information that invalidates those earlier claims.
Not according to Representative Adam Schiff. A Democrat who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, he responded to the New York Times piece by telling Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace that, while there were local militias and others who participated in the attacks, “the intelligence indicates that al Qaeda was involved.”
Several sources tell The Weekly Standard that the evidence of al Qaeda involvement has gotten stronger over the course of the investigation. Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, met privately with four U.S. government officials who were in Benghazi. “The latest information I have is based on interviews with the U.S. intel personnel on the ground before, during, and after the attacks. These interviews have solidified what U.S. officials knew within hours of the attacks—that al Qaeda was responsible for the deaths of four Americans, including the ambassador.”
Intelligence officials say operatives from the Muhamad Jamal network, based in Egypt, participated in the attacks, along with terrorists tied to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al Sharia in Libya.
The extent of coordination between these groups and al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan varies. Some in the intelligence community, including many national security officials in the Obama administration, are eager to separate “core al Qaeda” from regional and local affiliates. In some cases, local extremist groups are just that—local. But each of the groups involved in the Benghazi attacks has ties to broader al Qaeda—including its leadership.
Muhamad Jamal, the namesake of the Egyptian network, has ties to al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri and was corresponding with him in the months before the attacks.
An unclassified report published by researchers at the Library of Congress in August 2012, just a month before the Benghazi attacks, said that Ansar al Sharia “has increasingly embodied al Qaeda’s presence in Libya.” That study, “Al Qaeda in Libya: A Profile,” produced in coordination with terrorism analysts at the Pentagon, looked at the growing presence of al Qaeda in post-Qaddafi Libya. It concluded that “al Qaeda senior leadership (AQSL) and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have sought to take advantage of the Libyan Revolution to recruit militants and to reinforce their operational capabilities in an attempt to create a safe haven and possibly extend their area of operations to Libya.” Al Qaeda leaders “dispatched trusted senior operatives as emissaries and leaders who could supervise building a network. Al Qaeda has established a core network in Libya, but it remains clandestine and refrains from using the al Qaeda name.”
And contrary to the claims of the New York Times, many of those in the U.S. intelligence business continue to insist that members of this al Qaeda network participated in the Benghazi attacks.