Internal Emails: State Dept. Immediately Attributed Benghazi Attacks to Terrorist Group

A newly-released government email indicates that within hours of the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya; the State Department had already concluded with certainty that the Islamic militia terrorist group Ansar al Sharia was to blame.

The private, internal communication directly contradicts the message that President Obama,
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice and White House
press secretary Jay Carney repeated publicly over the course of the next several weeks.
They often maintained that an anti-Islamic YouTube video inspired a spontaneous
demonstration that escalated into violence.

The email is entitled “Libya update from Beth Jones. ” Jones was then-Assistant Secretary
of State to Hillary Clinton. According to the email, Jones spoke to Libya’s Ambassador at
9:45am on Sept. 12, 2012 following the attacks.

“When [the Libyan Ambassador] said his government suspected that former Qaddafi regime elements carried out the attacks, I told him the group that conducted the attacks—Ansar Al Sharia—is affiliated with Islamic extremists,” Jones reports in the email.

There is no uncertainty assigned to the assessment, which does not mention a video or
a protest. The State Department provided the email to Congress in Aug. of 2013 under
special conditions that it not be publicly released at that time. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)
sought and received permission to release it Thursday.

“If the video was a cause, why did Beth Jones of the State Department tell the
Libyan Ambassador that Ansar Al Sharia was responsible for the attack?” said Chaffetz.
Patrick-F-Kennedy 2002
Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy
Photo Courtesy:
A Elizabeth Jones
From left: Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications; Jake Sullivan, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Obama and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Nov. 2012.
By Pete Souza (White House Flickr account –P112012PS-0453)
​Beth Jones, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Photo Courtesy: U.S. State Dept.

Among those copied on the emails: Deputy Secretary William Burns; Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman; Jake Sullivan, then-Deputy Chief of Staff (now promoted to national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden); Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy; Cheryl Mills, then-Secretary Clinton’s Chief of Staff (now on the board of directors of the global investment firm BlackRock); and Victoria Nuland, then-State Dept. spokesperson (now promoted to Asst. Secretary of State).

Two days after the email, documents show that Nuland raised concerns about an early draft of talking points in which the C.I.A. disclosed that it had warned of possible impending attacks. Nuland wrote that the C.I.A.’s disclosure to the public “could be abused by members of Congress to beat the State Department for not paying attention to [C.I.A.] warnings so why would we want to seed the Hill.”

The language about prior warnings was subsequently removed by then-Deputy C.I.A. Director Mike Morell over the objection of his then-boss, C.I.A. Director David Petraeus. That’s according to testimony last month from Morell, who has since been hired by Beacon Global Strategies, a PR communications firm dominated by former Clinton and Obama officials, and also works as an analyst for CBS News (where I was employed until March). Petraeus retired just after President Obama’s re-election amid allegations of a sex scandal.

Another State Department email sent at 5:55pm on Tues. Sept. 11, 2012, while the attacks were underway, includes a report that “the extremist group Ansar Al Sharia has taken credit for the attack in Benghazi” and that U.S. officials asked the offices of the [Libyan] President and [Prime Minister] to pursue Ansar al Sharia.” Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the Benghazi attacks.

The following month, the State Department designated Ansar al Sharia as “an alias” for the terrorist group “Al-Qaeda” in the Arabian Peninsula. In Jan. of 2014, the State Department designated the Benghazi chapter of Ansar Al Sharia as a foreign terrorist organization.

Two days after the State Department told Libyan officials that Ansar al Sharia was at fault, Secretary of State Clinton instead evoked the YouTube video at the ceremonial return of the victims’ bodies.

“This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with,” said Clinton.

Obama administration officials have not fully explained who was responsible for deciding to advance the incorrect video narrative eight weeks before the Presidential election. They have said that they were acting on “the best intelligence available at the time” and that they clarified the story as they got more information. However, the vast majority of government witnesses and documents released over the past year and a half indicate there was widespread belief from the start that the attacks were the work of terrorists, not protesters.

U.S. General: we should have done more?

​At a hearing before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday, now-retired Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell contradicted another widely-made Obama administration claim that nothing more could have been done to attempt a rescue while the attacks were underway.

Lovell, who was deputy director for intelligence at Africa Command in Stuttgart, German testified that the U.S. should have done more but, in some respects, didn’t even try.

“The point is we should have tried,” said Lovell. As another saying goes, ‘Always move to the sound of the guns.’”

Lovell said that the State Department was calling the shots in the military during the attacks and that “there was a lot of waiting for State Department for what it was that they wanted” while the military operations centers was in “desperation…to be able to do something to save people’s lives.”
“Did they ever tell you to go to Benghazi?” Rep. Chaffetz asked.

“No sir.”

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen and other military officials, as well as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon (R-Calif), have stated that they are satisfied that nothing more could have been done to mount a rescue.

Thursday, White House spokesman Carney again accused Republicans of waging a political battle without substance.

​”What we have seen since hours after the attack…beginning with a statement by the Republican nominee for president, is an attempt by Republicans to politicize a tragedy.”


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