A report published Saturday in the "New York Times" says Al Qaeda was not involved in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya that left Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three other Americans dead. The report says Republican claims of a coverup are baseless, but also casts doubt on the Obama administration's official version of events.
"The reality in Benghazi was different, and murkier, than either of those story lines suggests. Benghazi was not infiltrated by Al-Qaeda, but nonetheless contained grave local threats to American interests. The attack does not appear to have been meticulously planned, but neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs," according to the Times articlewritten by David D. Kirkpatrick.
However, a report from FOX News' Catherine Herridge this morning says the attack was an "Al Qaeda-led event according to multiple on-the-record interviews with the head of the House Intelligence Committee who receives regular classified briefings and has access to the raw intelligence to make independent assessments."
So far the White House has refused media requests for a comment on the Times report.
But Obama's former national security spokesman Tommy Vietor commented via Twitter, blasting Republicans for spending more than a year investigating the Beghazi attack:
"If Rs spent 1/50th as much time as @ddknyt [David D. Kirkpatrick] learning what really happened in #Benhazi, we could have avoided months of disgusting demagoguery," Vietor tweeted.
The Times report says it relied on "months of investigation" and "extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context." That raises an important question: should Americans believe testimony from survivors of the attack, or Libyans who claim to have direct knowledge?
Rep. Mike Rogers, (R-MI) clearly believes the survivors:
"I will tell you this, by witness testimony and a year and a half of interviewing everyone that was in the ground by the way, either by an FBI investigator or the committee: It was very clear to the individuals on the ground that this was an Al Qaeda-led event. And they had pretty fairly descriptive events early on that lead those folks on the ground, doing the fighting, to the conclusion that this was a pre-planned, organized terrorist event," Rogers told told Fox News in an interview in November.
The Times report also once again cites an anti-Muslim video as a catalyst for the attack:
"The violence, though, also had spontaneous elements, writes Kirkpatrick in the Times report. "Anger at the video motivated the initial attack. Dozens of people joined in, some of them provoked by the video and others responding to fast-spreading false rumors that guards inside the American compound had shot Libyan protesters."
But Rep. Rogers disagrees with that assessment as well:
"Not a video, that whole part was debunked time and time again," Rogers said, "which just leads to questions of why the administration hung with that narrative for so long when all the folks who participated on the ground saw something different."
As for Al Qaeda involvement, Rogers told FOX he has no doubt elements of the terror group participated in the attack:
"I can tell you we know the participants of the event were clearly Al Qaeda affiliates, had strong interest and desire to communicate with Al Qaeda core and others, in the process -- we believe before and after the event."
The Times report has sparked renewed debate over what actually happened in Benghazi, and despite the fact that the report largely supports the White House version of events, this is clealry an issue that President Obama and Democrats would like to see go away entirely. It doesn't appear that will happen any time soon.