Wednesday, October 24, 2012

E-mails detail Benghazi attack was terrorism - doesn't bode well for Obama


 It was six weeks ago on Tuesday that terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Now, the media  has obtained email alerts that were leaked by the State Department detailing  the attack as it  unfolded. 

Four Americans were killed in the attack, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. These emails contain the earliest description so far of what happened at Benghazi the night of the attack.

 At 4:05 p.m. Eastern time, on September 11, an alert from the State Department Operations Center was issued to a number government and intelligence agencies. Included were the White House Situation Room, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI. "US Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack" -- "approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well. Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM (Chief of Mission/embassy) personnel are in the compound safe haven."

 At 4:54 p.m., less than an hour later, another alert: "the firing... in Benghazi...has stopped...A response team is on site attempting to locate COM (embassy) personnel."

 Then, at 6:07 p.m., State sent out another alert saying the embassy in Tripoli reported the Islamic military group "Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibilty for Benghazi Attack"... "on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli."

 The emails are just a few in what are likely a large number traded throughout the night. They are likely to become part of the ongoing political debate over whether the administration attempted to mislead in saying the assault was an outgrowth of a protest, rather than a planned attack by terrorists.

One of the e-mails -- sent from a State Department address to various government agencies -- specifically identifies Ansar al-Sharia as claiming responsibility for the attack on its Facebook page and on Twitter.

The e-mails raise further questions about the seeming confusion on the part of the Obama administration to determine the nature of the September attack and those who planned it.

The attack left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.

on September 13, a senior U.S. official told CNN that the violence in Libya was not the work of "an innocent mob."

"The video or 9/11 made a handy excuse and could be fortuitous from their perspective, but this was a clearly planned military-type attack," the official said.

But it wasn't until September 19 that the administration began to call the attack the work of terrorists.

The e-mails provide additional insight into the Benghazi attack.

The first one, sent at 4:05 p.m. ET, or 10:05 p.m. in Libya, describes a diplomatic mission under attack.

The subject line reads: "Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack."

The email says: "Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.

The Facebook claim of involvement was subsequently denied by the group at a news conference in the following days, but not very convincingly.

"We are saluting our people for this zeal in protecting their religion, to grant victory to the prophet," a spokesman for Ansar al-Sharia said at the time. "The response has to be firm."

Administration spokesmen, including White House spokesman Jay Carney, citing an unclassified assessment prepared by the CIA, maintained for days that the attacks likely were a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim film.

While officials did mention the possible involvement of "extremists," they did not lay blame on any specific militant groups or possible links to al Qaeda or its affiliates until intelligence officials publicly alleged that on September 28.


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