Two hours. 120 minutes. Just one-third of the way into the six-hour battle. That’s how soon officials in the Obama White House had been told that the assault in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.
Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show.
The emails, obtained by Reuters from government sources not connected with U.S. spy agencies or the State Department and who requested anonymity, specifically mention that the Libyan group called Ansar al-Sharia had asserted responsibility for the attacks.
The brief emails also show how U.S. diplomats described the attack, even as it was still under way, to Washington.
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Benghazi assault, which President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials ultimately acknowledged was a “terrorist” attack carried out by militants with suspected links to al Qaeda affiliates or sympathizers.
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.
No, they did not maintain the film gambit for days. They maintained it for weeks. Two weeks.
Reuters obtained three emails. The first came from the consulate 20-30 minutes into the attack, and said that the attack was underway. The second was evidently sent during a lull in the battle because it said that the compound had been secured.
The third email is a smoking gun.
A third email, also marked SBU and sent at 6:07 p.m. Washington time, carried the subject line: “Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack.”
The message reported: “Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”
Ansar al-Sharia is al-Qaeda. Or rather, Ansar al-Sharia is the new brand name al-Qaeda is using to attach itself to and lead the larger Islamic movement promoting sharia law. But it was known as of at least August 2012 to be al-Qaeda.
To whom did this information go in Washington?
While some information identifying recipients of this message was redacted from copies of the messages obtained by Reuters, a government source said that one of the addresses to which the message was sent was the White House Situation Room, the president’s secure command post.
The president. Barack Obama knew as the battle was progressing that rebranded al-Qaeda was involved. But he blamed a film and jailed the filmmaker here in the United States.
Piecing a few loose things together, Barack Obama had not been attending his Presidential Daily Briefings in the months leading up to the attack. He had spent his party convention selling America the story that “Osama bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda is on the run.” The first part of that was true, but the second part?
Benghazi proved it wrong. He had that email from the consulate sent during the attack, and would soon learn of the intercept in which al-Qaeda said that it would proceed with the attack, using the unrest in Cairo as cover.
His convention story about al-Qaeda had fallen apart, so he tried selling us another story: That a movie led directly to the murder of four Americans.
He built one lie on top of another, and both have collapsed of their own weight.
Benghazi was a cover-up, and it probably began that night in the White House as the battle transpired and Ambassador Stevens remained missing. Americans deserve to know who was involved in making the decision to engage in the cover-up. Who knew what, and when did they know it, and how did they respond to what they knew? Were senior administration officials involved, or did the campaign drive the decision, or was it a mix of both?
It’s important that we get answers. No matter what happens on Nov. 6, many of the potential instigators will remain in political life. Anyone involved in the decision to instigate this cover-up should have that future taken away from them.
More: Gretawire has the actual emails.
More: It’s not just that the White House Situation Room received these emails. The military or the CIA deployed a drone to monitor the battle from above, and the evidence strongly suggests that Obama himself and probably the vice president and some of his top intel lieutenants were watching that feed. Eli Lake reported that the drone monitored at least the last hour of the battle.
So Obama was in the Situation Room, with those emails on his screen, and that video feed on the monitor. The ambassador was missing. This was the heaviest night of Obama’s presidency since the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, but with the added twist of the missing Americans and the huge known known — we had no military on the ground or on the way to help them.
And Obama went to bed to get some shut-eye. Then the next day, he learned that Stevens and three others had been killed. He may have seen one or more of the defenders die. But that next day he blamed a movie for what he had seen the night before.
And then he skipped his intelligence briefing, again, and went to Vegas.
More: The NY Post reported on Oct 21 that the drone that monitored the final hour of the Benghazi battle was a Predator. So it’s very likely that that drone was armed, as the US used armed Predators during the Libyan revolution and uses them to dispatch terrorists as the opportunity arises. But there is no reporting that the drone fired any of its Hellfire missiles during the battle. It was relaying video back the United States where–
“They stood, and they watched, and our people died,” former CIA commander Gary Berntsen told CBS News.
The Post also reported:
Fighter jets and Specter AC-130 gunships — which could have been used to help disperse the bloodthirsty mob — were also stationed at three nearby bases, sources told the network.
More: “The video (from the drone) is damning.”
More: Was the Benghazi compound a hub in the known US effort running guns to jihadists in Syria? The evidence is scant and circumstantial but interesting. Stevens met with a “Turkish diplomat” on the night of the attack. According to the New York Times, the Obama administration has been engaged in an effort to broker arms to the Syrian rebels, and most of those arms are ending up in the hands of jihadists. Like the rebels in Libya, many of the Syrian rebels have what might charitably be called al Qaeda ties and influences. We’re arming them as they fight Assad, a secular tyrant who also acts as the Iranian mullahs’ stooge. The Times reports that the gun pipeline is mainly linked to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but where did CIA chief Petraeus travel last month to personally work on the effort? Turkey. So obviously there’s a Turkish connection to this effort. Libyan jihadists fighters have started turning up all over the place after the revolution, including the Palestinian territories. Libya is some distance from Syrian by land, but a direct boat ride across the Med is doable. Benghazi is up on the coast. It’s an interesting possibility.