David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times continues to claim that, notwithstanding the reporting of his own newspaper, claims of an al Qaeda connection to the Benghazi attack are “bogus” or, alternatively, “tenuous” (which is it, David?). How does Kirkpatrick square his claim with the Times’ reporting? By mischaracterizing that reporting. He told Anderson Cooper:
I think that the reporting in our paper [of involvement by Muhammad Jamal's terrorist group which is linked to al Qaeda] was citing some congressional officials saying they thought this Jamal group might have been involved. And the congressional officials in turn were citing a report in the Wall Street Journal and that report seems to me to the best of my knowledge to have come from Egyptian intelligence. And at the end of the day, what it asserts is just that this character Jamal may have run a training camp someplace and people who had been at that training camp may have been involved in the attack.
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.
This passage cannot be read as attributing the al Qaeda connection to congressional investigators. Kirkpatrick’s claim to the contrary isn’t just bogus, it’s dishonest.
So too is Kirkpatrick’s claim that congressional officials were relying on a Wall Street Journal article that was based on information from Egyptian intelligence sources. Nothing in the WSJ story suggests that it relies on information from Egyptians. The Journal stated:
U.S. officials working with Libyans to investigate the consulate assault in Benghazi have identified some of the attackers and believe some are associates of [Jamal]. Also believed present were militants affiliated with other groups, including Ansar al Sharia, a local group, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has origins in Algeria.
Notice that (1) again, it is U.S. officials, not congressional staffers, who draw the link to al Qaeda and (2) there is no reference to Egyptians.
Moreover, the WSJ story goes on to state that the U.S. officials relied at least in part on Libyan sources:
U.S. officials working with Libyans to investigate the consulate assault in Benghazi have identified some of the attackers and believe some are associates of [Jamal].
In any event, why would the use of Egyptian sources render the information “bogus?” Much of Kirkpatrick’s information came from Libyans who have an obvious interest in downplaying al Qaeda involvement and in blaming the attack on an anti-Islam video.
If Kirkpatrick can build his story on such self-serving comments, why couldn’t U.S. officials legitimately use information from Egyptian intelligence (assuming they did)? The Egyptians have a strong national security in knowing what the Jamal network is up to.
Kirkpatrick has also claimed that his view that al Qaeda wasn’t involved in the Benghazi attack is supported by the U.S. intelligence community. He told NBC’s Meet the Press:
I don’t think I`m out on a limb there. I think honestly if you asked anybody in the U.S. intelligence business, they would tell you the same thing.
But according to Joscelyn, “several U.S. intelligence officials have told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that multiple al Qaeda-affiliated groups and individuals are suspected of playing a direct role.” Moreover, “members of the House Intelligence Committee have received numerous briefings on Benghazi from the U.S. intelligence community.” The Committee chairman, Mike Rogers, continues to assert that al Qaeda-affiliated groups and individuals are suspected of playing a direct role.
Finally, the WSJ has reported that “U.S. intelligence officials identified operatives from [Jamal's] network at the scene of the fatal attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.” Thus, Kirkpatrick’s claim that everybody “in the U.S. intelligence business” agrees with him is bogus.
In a previous post, I cited my reasons for believing that Kirkpatrick’s report was presented in bad faith. His bogus defense of his report helps confirm this view.