One day after the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded the assault had been planned 10 days earlier by an al-Qaeda affiliate, according to documents released Monday by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.
“The attack on the American consulate in Benghazi was planned and executed by The Brigades of the Captive Omar Abdul Rahman,” said a preliminary intelligence report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, obtained through a lawsuit following a Freedom of Information Act request.
The group, which also conducted attacks against the Red Cross in Benghazi, was established by Abdul Baset Azuz, a “violent radical” sent by al-Qaeda to set up bases in Libya, the defense agency report said.
The attack was planned on Sept. 1, 2012, with the intent “to kill as many Americans as possible to seek revenge” for the killing of a militant in Pakistan and to memorialize the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the report said.
Four Americans were killed in the Benghazi attack, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The incident became politically controversial because the White House initially described the attack as the result of a spontaneous protest. Republican critics said the White House intentionally played down that it was a terrorist attack, because it occurred so close to President Obama’s re-election.
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who’s now seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, was to appear this week before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, but the hearing was canceled after Clinton and the committee chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., failed to agree on whether all the documents Gowdy requested had been given to the panel.
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Other documents released by Judicial Watch show that U.S. personnel in Libya had been monitoring weapons transfers from Benghazi to opposition forces in Syria, where al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood had taken the lead against Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war. In late August 2012, the weapons included 500 sniper rifles, 300 rocket-propelled grenades and 400 howitzer missiles sent to small Syrian ports that handle little cargo, according to one of the reports.
The documents also predicted “dire consequences” of the Syrian civil war: that al-Qaeda’s well-established network in Syria, together with the ongoing conflict there and the influx of weapons and fighters, would lead to a resurgence for al-Qaeda in Iraq. That group, which had been defeated in Iraq by U.S. forces allied with Sunni tribes, did make a resurgence last year, when it broke with al-Qaeda, changed its name to the Islamic State and conquered huge swaths of Iraq and Syria.
“These documents are jaw-dropping,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “If the American people had known the truth – that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other top administration officials knew that the Benghazi attack was an al-Qaeda terrorist attack from the get-go – and yet lied and covered this fact up – Mitt Romney might very well be president.”
Messages to the White House, the State Department and Clinton’s campaign spokesman were not immediately answered.
Salwa Bugaighis carries a wreath with a photo of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens as she and others pay their respects to the victims of an attack on the U.S. consulate, on Sept. 17, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11 during the attack.Salwa Bugaighis carries a wreath with a photo of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens as she and others pay their respects to the victims of an attack on the U.S. consulate, on Sept. 17, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11 during the attack. (Photo: Mohammad Hannon, AP)
Salwa Bugaighis carries a wreath with a photo of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens as she and others pay their respects to the victims of an attack on the U.S. consulate, on Sept. 17, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11 during the attack. Libyan military guards check a burned-out building at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 14, 2012. Glass, debris and overturned furniture are strewn inside a room at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 12, 2012, a day after the attack. A man walks through a damaged room. A man investigates the inside of the U.S. consulate. A person looks at a destroyed vehicle at the entrance of the American consulate building. An empty bullet casing lies on the ground near a destroyed vehicle. A man looks at documents at the U.S. consulate. People inspect the destroyed consulate. A man walks past the U.S. consulate. A building was burned during the attack. A destroyed car rests outside a burned building at the U.S. consulate. Vehicles belonging to Libyan investigators’ cars are parked in front of the U.S. consulate on Sept. 15, 2012.
The Benghazi attack occurred less than two months before Obama’s bid for reelection in a tight race against Romney. The White House and State Department at first blamed the attack on protests to an anti-Islam film that sparked protests across the Muslim world, but later admitted there was no protest in Benghazi before the attack.
Administration officials later said conflicting information, including false media accounts, caused a delay of more than a week to identify the attack as pre-planned act of terrorism. Conservative critics have charged that information was withheld to preserve Obama’s claims at campaign events that al-Qaeda was “on the run.”
“These documents show that the Benghazi cover-up has continued for years and is only unraveling through our independent lawsuits,” Fitton said. “The Benghazi scandal just got a whole lot worse for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”
A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee said in January 2014 that talking points used by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice in Sunday talk shows after the attack contained erroneous information, although they reflected what the intelligence community believed at the time.
Oren Dorell, USA TODAY 8:26 a.m. EDT May 19, 2015