Either New York Times writer David Kirkpatrick is ignoring his own colleagues’ work, or the Hillary Clinton supporters are laying out early foundations to combat what will be the biggest criticism of her tenure as Secretary of State if she decides to run for the Oval Office.
The New York Times’ assertion that Al Qaeda’s involvement in the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi is particularly questionable considering the preponderance of evidence that shows otherwise.
In his piece, Kirkpatrick writes, ”But the Republican arguments appear to conflate purely local extremist organizations like Ansar al-Shariah with Al Qaeda’s international terrorist network. The only intelligence connecting Al Qaeda to the attack was an intercepted phone call that night from a participant in the first wave of the attack to a friend in another African country who had ties to members of Al Qaeda, according to several officials briefed on the call,” he claims. “But when the friend heard the attacker’s boasts, he sounded astonished, the officials said, suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault.”
A September 2012 P.J. Media piece by Patrick Poole shows how bizarre the recent New York Times piece’s attempt to downplay Libya’s Ansar al-shariah’s connection to Al Qaeda. At the time, Fox News reported that Abu Sufyan Bin Qumu, a former GITMO detainee and head of Ansar al-Shariah, was on the ground in Benghazi the week of the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans:
A former Guantanamo Bay detainee with Al Qaeda ties was in Benghazi the night of the Sept. 11 attack, according to a source on the ground in Libya.
The source told Fox News that ex-detainee Sufian bin Qumu, who is suspected of running camps in eastern Libya where some of the assailants trained, is also a “respected member” of Ansar al-Sharia — one of the Islamist groups identified in State Department email traffic two hours after the attack.
Two sources familiar with the investigation, when asked about bin Qumu’s whereabouts the night of the attack, did not dispute the claim he was in Benghazi.
While it is not clear whether bin Qumu was directing the assault, his security file from Guantanamo may be revealing. Having already trained in Usama bin Laden’s camps, in 1998 bin Qumu joined the Taliban in Pakistan and “communicated with likely extremist elements via radio during this period indicating a position of leadership,” the file shows.
In April 2011, as the Obama administration called for military action against Qaddafi in Libya, the New York Times published a piece describing Bin Qumu as a “U.S. ally, of sorts”:
For more than five years, Abu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamuda bin Qumu was a prisoner at the Guantánamo Bay prison, judged “a probable member of Al Qaeda” by the analysts there. They concluded in a newly disclosed 2005 assessment that his release would represent a “medium to high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interests and allies.”
Today, Mr. Qumu, 51, is a notable figure in the Libyan rebels’ fight to oust Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, reportedly a leader of a ragtag band of fighters known as the Darnah Brigade for his birthplace, this shabby port town of 100,000 people in northeast Libya. The former enemy and prisoner of the United States is now an ally of sorts, a remarkable turnabout resulting from shifting American policies rather than any obvious change in Mr. Qumu.
The 2011 New York Times piece goes on to say that the leader of Ansar al-Shariah, the group that Kirkpatrick now says has no connection to Al Qaeda, escaped from a Libyan prison in 1993 and went on to Afghanistan to train at a camp run by Osama bin Laden :
“The Libyan Government considers detainee a ‘dangerous man with no qualms about committing terrorist acts,’ ” says the classified 2005 assessment, evidently quoting Libyan intelligence findings, which was obtained by The New York Times. “ ‘He was known as one of the extremist commanders of the Afghan Arabs,’ ” the Libyan information continues, referring to Arab fighters who remained in Afghanistan after the anti-Soviet jihad.
When that Guantánamo assessment was written, the United States was working closely with Colonel Qaddafi’s intelligence service against terrorism. Now, the United States is a leader of the international coalition trying to oust Colonel Qaddafi — and is backing with air power the rebels, including Mr. Qumu.
The classified Guantánamo assessment of Mr. Qumu claims that he suffered from “a non-specific personality disorder” and recounted — again citing the Libyan government as its source — a history of drug addiction and drug dealing and accusations of murder and armed assault.
In 1993, the document asserts, Mr. Qumu escaped from a Libyan prison, fled to Egypt and went on to Afghanistan, training at a camp run by Mr. bin Laden. At Guantánamo, Mr. Qumu denied knowledge of terrorist activities. He said he feared being returned to Libya, where he faced criminal charges, and asked to go to some other country where “You (the United States) can watch me,” according to a hearing summary.
Left out of the Times’s account are the many leads tying the attackers to al Qaeda’s international network. For instance, there is no mention of Muhammad Jamal al Kashef, an Egyptian, in Kirkpatrick’s retelling. This is odd, for many reasons. On October 29, 2012 three other New York Times journalists reported that Jamal’s network, in addition to a known al Qaeda branch (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), was directly involved in the assault. The Times reported (emphasis added): “Three Congressional investigations and a State Department inquiry are now examining the attack, which American officials said included participants from Ansar al-Shariah, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Muhammad Jamal network, a militant group in Egypt.”
Jocelyn also points to key suspect Faraj al-Shibli, a Libyan who according to U.S. intelligence officials contacted by The Weekly Standard served as Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard during the 1990s. Kirkpatrick stands by his story; he claimed on NBC’s Meet The Press that the Benghazi attackers were only local attackers, but in order to truly believe that one would have to think other players and events reported on by the New York Times itself never existed or happened.