One of the main contentions of the Times piece is that “contrary to claims by some members of Congress,” the Benghazi attack “was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”
“There is no doubt that anger over the video motivated many attackers,” continued the Times.
The New York Times article seeks to link the Benghazi attack to protests planned outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo.
Reads the Times piece: “[O]n Sept. 8, a popular Islamist preacher lit the fuse by screening a clip of the video on the ultraconservative Egyptian satellite channel El Nas. American diplomats in Cairo raised the alarm in Washington about a growing backlash, including calls for a protest outside their embassy.”
However, the Cairo protest on Sept. 11 was announced days in advance as part of a movement to free the so-called “blind sheik,” Omar Abdel-Rahman, held in the U.S. over the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The State Department’s 39-page Accountability Review Board report, or ARB, described a group acting to free Rahman was involved in previous attacks against diplomatic facilities in Benghazi.
The Times fails to report the anti-U.S. protest movement outside the Cairo embassy was a long-term project about freeing Rahman.
As far back as July 2012, Rahman’s son, Abdallah Abdel Rahman, threatened to organize a protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and detain the employees inside.
On the day of the Sept. 11, 2012, protests in Cairo, CNN’s Nic Robertson interviewed the son of Rahman, who described the protest as being about freeing his father. No Muhammad film was mentioned. A big banner calling for Rahman’s release can be seen as Robertson walked to the embassy protests.
The Times claim the Benghazi attack was fuelled by the anti-Muslim film also doesn’t jibe with an independent investigation that reportedly found no mention of the film on social media in Libya in the three days leading up to the attack.
A review of more than 4,000 postings was conducted by the leading social media monitoring firm Agincourt Solutions, reportedly finding the first reference to the film was not detected on social media until the day after the attack.
“From the data we have, it’s hard for us to reach the conclusion that the consulate attack was motivated by the movie. Nothing in the immediate picture – surrounding the attack in Libya – suggests that,” Jeff Chapman, chief executive with Agincourt Solutions, told Fox News.
The Times claim of popular protests about the Muhammad film further may not hold up to logic. The U.S. Special Mission was not a permanent facility, nor was its existence widely known by the public in Libya.
Indeed, State’s ARB report on the Benghazi attack itself documented the facility was set up secretively and without the knowledge of the new Libyan government.
“Another key driver behind the weak security platform in Benghazi was the decision to treat Benghazi as a temporary, residential facility, not officially notified to the host government, even though it was also a full-time office facility,” the report states.
No al-Qaida in Libya?
Another main contention of the New York Times article on Benghazi is there was “no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.”
However, the Times’ next statement in effect contradicts that claim. The Times relates, “The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi.”
Scores of news media reports documented those “fighters” included al-Qaida groups among their ranks. Many of those “fighters” were widely quoted in news media reports as fighting under the al-Qaida banner.
The Times further claims, “Benghazi was not infiltrated by Al Qaeda, but nonetheless contained grave local threats to American interests.”
A Library of Congress report detailed – one month before the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi – how al-Qaida established a major base of operations in Libya in the aftermath of the U.S.-NATO campaign that deposed Muammar Gadhafi and his secular regime.
The report documented al-Qaida and affiliated organizations were establishing terrorist training camps and pushing Taliban-style Islamic law in Libya while the new, Western-backed Libyan government incorporated jihadists into its militias.
The document named Benghazi as a new central headquarters for al-Qaida activities.
“Al-Qaeda adherents in Libya used the 2011 Revolution to establish well-armed, well-trained, and combat-experienced militias,” stated the congressional report.
The report also said a terrorist released from the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba became the leader of the al-Qaida-affiliate Ansar Al-Sharia in Libya, which espoused anti-Western ideology.
The Martyrs of 17 February Brigade, which was hired by the State Department to protect the U.S. facility in Benghazi, operates under the Ansar-Al-Sharia banner.
The document said scores of Islamic extremists were freed from Libyan prison after the U.S.-supported revolution in Libya.
The August 2012 document was prepared by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress under an inter-agency agreement with the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office’s Irregular Warfare Support Program.
More al-Qaida and organized extremist connections to the Benghazi attack were reported by the Daily Beast, which confirmed an October 2012 Wall Street Journal report that fighters affiliated with the Egypt-based, al-Qaida-linked Jamal Network group participated in the Benghazi attack.
The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake further quoted Seth Jones, associate director for the international security and defense policy center at the RAND Corporation, about Jamal’s involvement.
“There was at least one member and may have been more members from the Mohammed Jamal network on the compound for the attack on Benghazi along with members of Ansar al-Sharia and members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” Jones stated.
Another main claim by the Times piece is that the Benghazi attack was largely not premeditated, although the article allows some aspects were loosely planned that day.
“Surveillance of the American compound appears to have been underway at least 12 hours before the assault started,” reported the Times. “The violence, though, also had spontaneous elements. Anger at the video motivated the initial attack.”
The Times claims, “Looters and arsonists, without any sign of a plan, were the ones who ravaged the compound after the initial attack, according to more than a dozen Libyan witnesses as well as many American officials who have viewed the footage from security cameras.”
That description doesn’t fit with the State ARB investigation into Benghazi.
The ARB described a well-orchestrated attack with militants who seemingly had specific knowledge of the compound. It doesn’t focus on looters but rather on “men armed with AK rifles” who “started to destroy the living room contents and then approached the safe area gate and started banging on it.”
In another detail bespeaking a plan, the ARB states the intruders smoked up Villa C, likely to make breathing so difficult that anyone inside the safe room where Ambassador Chris Stevens was holed up would need to come out.
It may be difficult for keen observers to swallow the Times’ claim of unplanned looters in light of events that demonstrated the attackers knew the location of the nearby CIA annex, or that they set up checkpoints, as they did, to ensure against the escape by Americans inside the Special Mission.
Fox News reported late Florida Rep. Bill Young said he spoke for 90 minutes with David Ubben, one of the security agents severely injured in the assault. Young said the agent revealed to him the intruders knew the exact location of Stevens’ safe room.
“He (Ubben) emphasized the fact that it was a very, very military type of operation [in that] they had knowledge of almost everything in the compound,” stated Young. “They knew where the gasoline was, they knew where the generators were, they knew where the safe room was, they knew more than they should have about that compound.”