New York Times disconnects the Benghazi dots

David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times is trying to salvage some credibility in the aftermath of the refutation, including by the Washington Post, of his revisionist account of the attack in Benghazi. As Tom Joscelyn shows, Kirkpatrick does not succeed.

In his initial piece, Kirkpatrick ruled out any meaningful involvement in the attack by ex-Guantanamo detainee Sufian Ben Qumu, who has longstanding ties to al Qaeda and is currently the leader of Ansar al Sharia in Derna, Libya. Kirkpatrick also claimed that no one from Ansar al Sharia in Derna “played a significant role” in the Benghazi attack.

However, as the Post subsequently reported, the U.S. State Department is going to designate Ansar al Sharia Derna as a terrorist entity, a designation that includes Sufian Ben Qumu. The designation will specifically mention Ansar al Sharia Derna’s involvement in the attack — involvement that Kirkpatrick denied.

Kirkpatrick now acknowledges that the upcoming designation was “expected to apply to Ansar al-Shariah of Derna, Libya” and “is expected to assert that its fighters were also involved in the attack.” He also admits that the designation is expected to apply to Sufian bin Qumu. However, Kirkpatrick claims that “officials briefed on the designations and the intelligence reports said that there was no evidence linking him to the attack.”

But this claim is at odds with the Post’s reporting, which states that “U.S. officials suspect that a former Guantanamo Bay detainee [Qumu] played a role in the attack.” U.S. officials would not suspect Qumu of being involved if “no evidence” supported that suspicion.

Kirkpatrick also finds “no evidence that the fighters from Ansar al-Shariah of Derna who were involved in the attack came to Benghazi for that reason.” He wants us to believe that this fighting force, led by a long-time al Qaeda terrorist, just happened to show up in Benghazi, several hours by car from Derna, by coincidence.

And what about the Egyptians trained by Muhammad Jamal, a terrorist with al Qaeda connections dating back to the 1980s. According to Kirkpatrick’s own newspaper (in a report to which Kirkpatrick contributed), U.S. officials concluded that they also showed up in Benghazi and participated in the attack. Was their presence a coincidence too?

As Tom concludes:

It is no secret that some U.S. officials are desperately trying to dismiss the ties between the al Qaeda network and the Benghazi attack. It is easy to find sources who will approve a disconnect the dots storyline.

Their motive is obvious. President Obama’s reputation as an effective opponent of terrorism depends on the narrative that he destroyed bin Laden’s terrorism network (what else can Obama point to?). The involvement of members of that network in another 9/11 attack that killed four Americans including an Ambassador undermines that narrative. Thus, it must be combatted.

The protectors of the narrative found a willing accomplice in the Times’ Kirkpatrick. Fortunately, the Post’s Adam Goldman was unwilling to forfeit his credibility.

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