A reader who has previously contributed to this series writes to comment on David Kirkpatrick’s New York Times story on the Benghazi massacre. I have tried to set off the quotations he includes in the text of his message with links to sources. If I have missed any such quotations below, it is an oversight on my part. I think the message makes a contribution to understanding this chapter of the Benghazi aftermath. I have slightly edited the message for purposes of clarity, though I have retained the ellipses in the text of the message. Our reader writes:
After Susan Rice disgraced herself on Meet the Press after the 9/11 attack on our consulate in Benghazi, I was so incensed that I wrote you about my research which made it very clear that the attack was not a spontaneous reaction to the YouTube video, and was undertaken by Ansar al Sharia, which is Al Qaeda affiliated.
After reading the New York Times whitewash of the Benghazi affair today, I find myself feeling like I did after watching Susan Rice on Meet the Press. The Times story is a transparent attempt to provide cover for Hillary Clinton’s upcoming run for POTUS in 2016. I find it incredible that the Times produced such a lengthy story filled with statements that are so easily refuted by facts that are readily available to anybody with half a brain and an Internet connection. There are so many misstatements that it is hard to know where to begin.
Ansar al Sharia and their link to Al Qaeda…Downplaying the important connection between Al Qaeda and Libya in general as well as Ansar al Sharia specifically is perhaps the most appalling thing about the story the Times tells. The links are deep and extensive which I will demonstrate. The Al Qaeda presence in Libya, contrary to the Time reporting, is wide and deep.
The Times claims…Al Qaeda was having its own problems penetrating the Libyan chaos. Three weeks after the attack, on October 3, 2012, leaders of the group’s regional affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, sent a letter to a lieutenant about efforts to crack the new territory. The leaders said they had sent four teams to try to establish footholds in Libya. But of the four, only two in the southern Sahara “were able to enter Libyan territory and lay the first practical bricks there,” the letter said.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Per capita, Libya has provided more fighters to Al Qaeda over the years than any other country. The number 2 man in Al Qaeda (Abu Yahya al Libi) was a Libyan and was killed in a drone attack in June of 2012. The first attack on the consulate (which was filmed and uploaded to YouTube by Al Qaeda here) proves that Al Qaeda not only had a presence in Benghazi before 9/11/2012, but had already conducted an operation against the consulate through their affiliate The Brigades of the Imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman.
The Times does make mention of “the black flag of Islam” being flown in a parade of jihadi vehicles through Benghazi…”Black flag of Islam” is an interesting take on things. Other media outlets such as the UK Telegraph have another way to describe the significance of those flags…story here (subhead: “The black flag of Al Qaeda has been spotted flying over a public building in Libya, raising concerns that the country could lurch towards Muslim extremism”)….Interesting that in Nov. 2011, the black flag of Islam in Benghazi was recognized as a symbol of Al Qaeda, but to the Times, it is just a symbol of your run of the mill militant jihadist, not related to Al Qaeda at all. To me it is a distinction without a difference.
Ansar al Sharia, contrary to the Times claims has ties to Al Qaeda that are deep and extensive. The only person captured as a result of the attack was a Tunisian member of Ansar al Sharia, Ali Harzi.
And at least one of Harzi’s brothers fought against the US-led coalition in Iraq previously. According to the Associated Press, Harzi’s father has said that he encouraged his sons to wage “jihad in the cause of God.” This raises the possibility that the Harzi family became involved with Al Qaeda in Iraq’s operations. In 2005, Harzi and another of his brothers were sentenced to more than two years in prison for contacting their jihadist kin.
Fox News reported that Harzi “is part of a North African Islamist network, with family ties to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other extremists.” Senator Saxby Chambliss told the cable network that Harzi “has been confirmed to be a member of Ansar al Sharia.” This past January Tom Joscelyn reported:
Members of a militia named Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi took part in the attack on the US Consulate.
Saif Allah Bin Hussein, known by the pseudonym Abou Iyadh al-Tunisi, co-founded the Tunisian branch of Ansar al-Sharia in April 2011. He had previously co-founded the al-Qaeda-affiliated Tunisian Fighting Group before being apprehended in 2003.
He was linked with the assassination of the Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud in Afghanistan two days before Sept. 11, 2001.
Abou Iyadh was serving a 40-year prison term in Tunisia but was among the 2,000 Salafists who benefited from a blanket prison release shortly after the 2011 uprising.
“His links with al-Qaeda are longstanding and well established,” said Andrew Lebovich, an analyst focusing on political and security affairs in North Africa.
Security forces abandoned their first effort to arrest Abou Iyadh at his home on Sept. 14, 2012, after he challenged them about their lack of a legal summons. His group was the cause of considerable concern for Tunisian liberals, but Ennahdha’s position was that such groups should be given freedom in postrevolutionary Tunisia.
Abou Iyadh became a wanted man again following the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis that September. Yet even since that attack, the Ansar al-Sharia co-leader has shown a remarkable ability to evade arrest.
Read more here.
Anybody with a brain can see the connection between Ansar al Sharia Libya and the Tunisian branch of Ansar al-Sharia. Evidently, the long story the Times spins saw fit to focus only on the one militia leader Abu Khattala and did not see fit even to mention the one man arrested for his involvement while downplaying the organizations he was associated with.
The Times further reports the only real Al Qaeda worries our government had was OBL’s former driver and GITMO resident Sulfian bin Qumu, who they claim had no involvement in the attack. That is funny, because this Fox News story reports to the contrary:
A former Guantanamo Bay detainee with Al Qaeda ties was in Benghazi the night of the Sept. 11 attack, according to a source on the ground in Libya.
The source told Fox News that ex-detainee Sufian bin Qumu, who is suspected of running camps in eastern Libya where some of the assailants trained, is also a “respected member” of Ansar al-Sharia — one of the Islamist groups identified in State Department email traffic two hours after the attack.
Two sources familiar with the investigation, when asked about bin Qumu’s whereabouts the night of the attack, did not dispute the claim he was in Benghazi.
While it is not clear whether bin Qumu was directing the assault, his security file from Guantanamo may be revealing. Having already trained in Usama bin Laden’s camps, in 1998 bin Qumu joined the Taliban in Pakistan and “communicated with likely extremist elements via radio during this period indicating a position of leadership,” the file shows.
Fox News’ ongoing reporting on the attack has shown that at least four key Benghazi suspects have ties to the Al Qaeda senior leadership in Pakistan. They include bin Qumu and Muhammad Jamal, whose network is also suspected of training jihadists for the attack. Jamal was held, and later released by, Egyptian authorities.
Earlier this month, the State Department’s terrorist designation for Jamal and his network cites letters he exchanged with Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, where Jamal asked for money and explained the scope of his training camps, which included Libya and the Sinai.
In short, the Times story does not pass the smell test. I continue to be amazed by the MSM taking the Times seriously and parroting its reports as if they are gospel.
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