December 30th, 2013
06:52 AM ET

Lawmakers React to New Benghazi Report Claiming Al Qaeda Not to Blame

A top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee took issue Sunday with a report from The New York Times that states al Qaeda was not involved in the deadly 2012 attack against a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.

The Times' investigation "turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault," according to the report. "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."

It's a conclusion that CNN has also drawn in its previous reporting.

The New York Times story stands in contrast to what some lawmakers, many of them Republicans, and administration officials have said about the attack.

Rep. Mike Rogers, House Intelligence Committee chairman, said Sunday that intelligence has traced the Benghazi attack to al Qaeda.

"There was aspiration to conduct an attack by al Qaeda and their affiliates in Libya, we know that," Rogers said on "Fox News Sunday." "The individuals on the ground talked about a planned tactical movement on the compound."

At issue is the Islamist militia Ansar al Sharia, which is believed to have been one of the militias involved in the attack. There do not appear to be organizational links between Ansar al Sharia and al Qaeda, but there is solidarity. Rogers said Ansar al Sharia is not as independent as it says it is.

"Do they have difference of opinion with al Qaeda core? Yes. Do they have affiliations with al Qaeda core? Definitely," said Rogers, a Republican from Michigan.

When Rogers says "Al Qaeda core," he's referring to the al Qaeda created by Osama bin Laden and the group behind major terrorist attacks in the past two decades, including the 9/11 attacks in the United States. Other al Qaeda affiliates have formed across the Middle East, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb located in Northern Africa and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Gen. Michael Hayden, a former CIA director and former NSA director, described in an interview with CNN the al Qaeda movement as having three layers: "Al Qaeda main, affiliates and the like-minded." He added that he long suspected the Benghazi attack was orchestrated by the "highly like-minded" or those low in the affiliates.

The New York Times report states that other individuals involved in the Benghazi attack do not appear to be connected with al Qaeda, either.


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