Cii News and Agencies | 25 September 2012
After days of inferring that the attack on the US consulate in Libya earlier this month was connected to protests over an anti-Islam movie, American officials have now been forced to concede that no proof exists to link the two events.
Speaking on Sunday, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers (R-Mich) said the United States has “seen no information” suggesting that the attack outside the American consulate in Benghazi was somehow related to the film mocking the Prophet Muhammed(PBUH).
“I have seen no information that shows that there was a protest going on as you have seen around any other embassy at the time. It was clearly designed to be an attack,” Rogers told CNN.
“It was clear it had to be a pre-planned event,” he said, alleging that an ‘Al Qaida’ affiliated group was possibly behind the assault.
Rogers’s comments followed heightened skepticism over US President Barack Obama’s official version of the assault on the US consulate in Benghazi, in which four Americans, including ambassador Christopher Stevens were killed.
CBS News cited witnesses as saying that “there was never an anti-American protest outside the [US] consulate [in Benghazi],” and that the mission “came under planned attack.”
The report concluded that the new testimony “is in direct contradiction to the [Obama] administration’s account of the incident” and therefore, “what’s clear is that the public won’t get a detailed account of what happened until after the election.”
Last week, a senior Obama administration official also for the first time conceded that the consulate attack was not the result of a demonstration over the anti-Islam video that had been cited as the spark for protests in dozens of countries over the past week.
Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, acknowledged that the attack which left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans dead was a “terrorist attack” apparently launched by local fighters and foreigners linked to al Qaida’s leadership or regional allies.
“I would say they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack,” Olsen reportedly told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
On Thursday, the White House reinforced Olsen’s statements, saying it was “self-evident” that what happened in Benghazi was a “terrorist attack.” However, no clarification as to whether the administration believed the attack was preplanned was forthcoming.
To date, the White House has maintained that the attack was spontaneous, resulting from the hijacking of a demonstration over the “Innocence of Muslims” film denigrating the Prophet Muhammad(PBUH).
In the fortnight that has elapsed since the event, Muslim communities and scholars around the world have prematurely condemned the attack on the basis that it was carried out seeking revenge for the anti-Islam movie. ““The violence must be condemned unconditionally. To attack innocents, diplomats and to kill indiscriminately is anti-Islamic by its very nature. Muslims cannot respond to insults to their religion in this way,” wrote prominent European Muslim intellectual, Tariq Ramadan, on his blog.
On Sunday, the New York Times revealed that the attack in Benghazi had dealt a major setback to the CIA efforts in the turbulent North African nation.
“Among the more than two dozen American personnel evacuated from the city after the assault on the American mission and a nearby annex were about a dozen C.I.A. operatives and contractors, who played a crucial role in conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city,” it reported.
“It’s a catastrophic intelligence loss,” said one American official who had served in Libya and spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity because the F.B.I. is still investigating the attack. “We got our eyes poked out.”
Though the CIA has reportedly been cooperating with the new post-Qaddafi Libyan intelligence service, the size of the C.I.A.’s presence in Benghazi apparently perturbed some Libyan leaders. The deputy prime minister, Mustafa Abushagour, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal saying that he only learned about some of the delicate American operations in Benghazi after the attack on the mission, in large part because a surprisingly large number of Americans showed up at the Benghazi airport to be evacuated.
“We have no problem with intelligence sharing or gathering, but our sovereignty is also key,” said Mr. Abushagour.Tags: Anti-Islam film, Benghazi, CIA, FBI, innocence of muslims, Libya, Obama, US Consulate, USA