FNC’s Catherine Herridge reports that the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center told lawmakers the Benghazi assault appeared to be an al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-affiliated attack in a Sept. 13 briefing, contradicting a briefing by CIA Director David Petraeus that took place the next day:
Two days after the deadly Libya terror attack, representatives of the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center gave Capitol Hill briefings in which they said the evidence supported an Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-affiliated attack, Fox News has learned.
The description of the attack by those in the Sept. 13 briefings stands in stark contrast to the now controversial briefing on Capitol Hill by CIA Director David Petraeus the following day — and raises even more questions about why Petraeus described the attack as tied to a demonstration. …
On Capitol Hill, Petraeus characterized the attack as more consistent with a flash mob, where the militants showed up spontaneously with RPGs. Petraeus downplayed to lawmakers the skill needed to fire mortars, which also were used in the attack and to some were seen as evidence of significant pre-planning. …
Fox News is told that Petraeus was “absolute” in his description with few, if any, caveats. As lawmakers learned more about the attack, including through raw intelligence reports, they were “angry, disappointed and frustrated” that the CIA director had not provided a more complete picture of the available intelligence.
Without seeing a transcript, it’s hard to know exactly how absolute Petraeus’s description was, though FNC reports he “seemed wedded” to the spontaneous demonstration narrative.
NCTC director Matthew Olsen was the first administration official to call it a terrorist attack in a Sept. 19 congressional hearing, which makes sense if his office had told lawmakers about al-Qaeda evidence in an earlier briefing. But if the NCTC had evidence of al-Qaeda involvement from the beginning, why did the Office of the Director of National Intelligence say its initial assessment was that the attack was a spontaneous response to the protests? The NCTC reports to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as well as directly to the president. It’s hard to imagine this information wouldn’t have made it up either line, especially since the whole point of the NCTC is to act as a hub to integrate intelligence from across multiple agencies.
This is also a key addition to the timeline: The FBI and the NCTC believed al-Qaeda or affiliates were linked to it as early as Sept. 13. Yet not a single administration official even publicly called it a “terrorist attack” until over a week later — and the White House didn’t call it that until September 26, via Jay Carney.
The silence on this story from the vast majority of the political media is deafening. It’s like they’re trying to marginalize it as a manufactured controversy, or at least deprive it of enough oxygen so that it fades before the election. It’s similar to what happened with the Fast and Furious and Solyndra scandals, both of which were broken by the Center for Public Integrity, hardly a conservative outlet. These stories never got the attention they deserved from the press, and they’re only kept alive by conservative reporters, a few serious mainstream journalists, and congressional Republicans. The Benghazi attack is more consequential, and more difficult for the press to ignore, but it looks like it’s getting the similar treatment.