Months and months ago, when Barack Obama could be bothered to say anything at all about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, the president promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. That was before White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the attacks as something that “happened a long time ago.”
It’s been 16 months. The U.S. government has neither captured nor killed a single participant in those attacks, which left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.
Why? A new report on the attacks from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, along with more than 400 pages of newly declassified congressional testimony from senior military officials, provides fresh insight. The explanation for this failure—a lack of will, combined with a shameless mischaracterization of intelligence—is almost as outrageous as the failure itself.
Since the attack in Benghazi, the Obama administration has refused to publicly identify the parties responsible. But the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report confirms that the U.S. government’s investigation has turned up more and more ties to al Qaeda.
“Individuals affiliated with terrorist groups, including AQIM [Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb], Ansar al-Sharia, AQAP [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula], and the Mohammad Jamal Network, participated in the September 11, 2012, attacks,” according to the Senate Benghazi report, prepared under the supervision of Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, and signed by every Democrat on the panel.
Obama administration officials know this. And so, when questioned by the press, they increasingly rely on a false distinction. While some of the perpetrators may be tied to al Qaeda, the administration argues, they are not part of “core” al Qaeda.
State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf lectured reporters on this supposedly crucial distinction during a briefing on January 14. A reporter pointed out that Feinstein has openly disagreed with the idea that al Qaeda had nothing to do with the attack. “I believe that groups loosely associated with al Qaeda were” involved, she told the Hill last week. Feinstein’s comment was actually an understatement, but it was enough to draw a defensive response from Harf.
“Well, as I said, we have no information at this point that core al Qaeda, which I think is probably what the senator was referring to, was involved in planning or directing this attack,” Harf responded. Harf pointed to the State Department’s recent terrorist designation of Ansar al Sharia, one of the groups responsible, and conceded that there may be “some affiliations between some people in Ansar al Sharia and some people who may be affiliated with al Qaeda.” Still, Harf insisted: “But let’s be very clear that we don’t have evidence—which I think we should all rely on evidence here—in our investigation that links core al Qaeda to developing, planning this attack at this point.”
Harf is right that “we should all rely on evidence.” When we look at the available evidence it becomes crystal clear that the Obama administration is dissembling.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report found that terrorists “affiliated” with four organizations participated in the attack. The ties between those organizations and al Qaeda are direct. Two of those groups, AQIM and AQAP, are official branches of al Qaeda. Both have sworn allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda since the death of Osama bin Laden, and there is considerable evidence that they continue to follow the direction set forth by Zawahiri and his advisers.
Neither Harf nor any other administration official has offered a precise definition of “core” al Qaeda. The term, invented in the West, vaguely refers to the group’s top leaders in South Asia. But al Qaeda’s senior leaders are not confined to any one nation or region. They operate in several countries across the globe.