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Right Turn
Posted at 12:55 PM ET, 09/20/2012

Unanswered questions about the attack in Libya

Two news reports suggest that the White House line of “the movie made them do it” is a false account of what occurred in the consulate attack and brutal murder of our diplomatic personnel in Libya. However, national security spokesman Thomas Vietor insisted to Right Turn that there is “no contradiction” between the definitive statements of the White House’s spokesman last Friday — that the attacks were spontaneous and related only to the anti-Muslim video — and more recent comments by administration officials that there may be a planned, terrorist aspect to this.

CBS News reports: “Witnesses of last week’s deadly attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya have told CBS News that the alleged anti-American protest that U.S. officials say morphed into the assault never actually took place. The new details add to the widening rift between U.S. and Libyan accounts of the attack as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to brief members of Congress behind closed doors Thursday. On Wednesday, a top U.S. counterterrorism official told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the assault was ‘opportunistic,’ but a ‘terrorist attack.’ ” A State Department source tells Right Turn that doesn’t mesh with information the department has. But there has been no effort to deny the report publicly. Vietor refused to comment on the report.

Meanwhile, unnamed intelligence sources tell Fox News that Sufyan Bin Qumu, a Gitmo detainee released in 2007 back to Libya, was involved in the attack. Tom Joscelyn with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tells Right Turn, “The reports coming out of Libya point to an organized terrorist attack, not a spontaneous protest that spun out of control. And it is looking more and more likely that an al Qaeda-affiliated group was responsible. According to some reports, a former Guantanamo detainee named Sufyan bin Qumu has been implicated in the assault. Whether that is true or not, Qumu is clearly an individual to be concerned about. An unclassified Pentagon report from August identifies Qumu as one of al-Qaeda’s key leaders inside Libya. That same report says that al-Qaeda has a plan for Libya and the group is in the final stage of formalizing its presence there. That’s the real story here: Al-Qaeda is rising in Libya, not falling.”

Again, Vietor would not comment on the possible Gitmo connection. [UPDATE: Vietor later emailed to say generically that “there’s a lot of inaccurate reporting out there.]

So what is going on? Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) released a statement yesterday concerning National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen’s testimony that the assault on the Benghazi consulate was a terrorist attack: “Director Olsen’s confirmation that the Libya attack was, indeed, a terrorist attack, directly contradicts Ambassador Rice’s comments on Sunday. Today’s testimony follows several days of mixed, conflicting information released by various Administration officials. I’m particularly troubled that the Obama Administration continues to categorize the attack solely as a reaction to a video, rather than an attack motivated by a radical, violent Islamist ideology that is threatened by freedom and democracy. That the administration insists on blaming it solely on an offensive video defies common sense.”

In a series of e-mail exchanges, Vietor denied that Olsen and White House press secretary Jay Carney are at odds, writing, “There is no contradiction.” But Vietor did not explain how an attack can be spontaneous and purely responsive to a movie and also, as Olsen said, a “terrorist attack.” There was this exchange:

DIR. OLSEN: We are focused on who was responsible for this attack. At this point, what I would say is that a number of different elements appear to have been involved in the attack, including individuals connected to militant groups that are prevalent in eastern Libya, particularly in the Benghazi area, as well. We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to al-Qaida or al-Qaida’s affiliates; in particular, al- Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
SEN. [JOSEPH] LIEBERMAN: Right. So that question has not been determined yet — whether it was a militant — a Libyan group or a group associated with al-Qaida influence from abroad.
DIR. OLSEN: That’s right. And I would — I would add that what — the picture that is emerging is one where a number of different individuals were involved, so it’s not necessarily an either/or proposition.

That, however, is a decidedly different proposition than Carney’s assertion that the attacks had nothing to do with America or American policy: “But this is not a case of protests directed at the United States writ large or at U.S. policy, but it is in response to video that is offensive to Muslims.”

Vietor wrote, “The protests were in reaction to the video. I don’t think anyone is disputing that.” But that certainly is in dispute. The CBS report said there were no such protests, and other contemporaneous reports noted that many of the demonstrators, not only in Libya but elsewhere, hadn’t seen or heard of the movie.

Lawmakers, like outside critics of the administration, are alarmed. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) have said the intelligence they have seen does not support the view this was a spontaneous event.

Outside analysts continue to accuse the administration of being less than candid. Thomas Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute tells me, “Even from the very first, it seemed obvious that events in Libya happened by design, not spontaneously. If anyone went off half-cocked in their response, it was the administration’s spokesmen.”

As for the Gitmo angle, Donnelly argues that “we’ve known about ‘Gitmo recidivism’ for some time, many past detainees were released in Libya, and the purported man in this case was let go in 2007, under Bush. It does serve as a reminder that terrorists are at war with us, not committing crimes. Despite the killing of Osama bin Laden, the enemy hasn’t given up.”

Right now there is mass confusion about what the administration knows, what facts it has at its disposal, what basis it has for attributing the demonstrations to the movie and what indicates otherwise. It seems that the administration owes the country and the relevant oversight committees a definitive explanation.

By  |  12:55 PM ET, 09/20/2012

 
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