Nearly 16 months after the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, the details about the perpetrators, their tactics and their motives continue to get spun, bounced and reinterpreted like a political pingpong ball.
The latest player was The New York Times, which over the weekend ran a detailed article about what Libyan militias think happened during the attack under a sweeping headline that critics claimed appeared bent on politically absolving former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The newspaper unequivocally asserted its reporters found “no evidence that al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.”
But current and former U.S. officials, congressional sources and outside analysts briefed on the attack told The Washington Times on Monday that the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment about al Qaeda’s links to the Benghazi tragedy has not changed.
The consensus, they said, remains today, as it has for more than a year, that Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda and its evolving North African affiliates executed the attack, which was preceded by some degree of planning despite being launched during a spontaneous opportunity that presented itself on the 11th anniversary of al Qaeda’s horrific Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
“The intelligence community has not changed its position from Day One as far as its position of al Qaeda and its involvement in the attack,” Rep. Lynn A. Westmoreland, Georgia Republican and a key member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a telephone interview Monday. “As far as the intelligence community goes, they still understand that it was definitely al Qaeda-linked.”
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