After a New York Times investigation into the Benghazi, Libya attacks this weekend concluded that neither al Qaeda nor any other terrorist group was involved, the GOP has been quick to fire back. Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) went on Meet the Press to discuss the investigation and to stand by an al Qaeda link: "There was a group that was involved that claims an affiliation with al Qaeda," Issa said. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers also defended the conservative position on Fox News Sunday, saying the Times report was inaccurate, and calling the timing of the story "odd." (Suggesting the story could have run to "exonerate" Hillary Clinton for her involvement — a commentary picked up by other news outlets.) "One of the biggest hurdles in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s potential path to the White House may have become easier to clear," the Washington Times wrote.
New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick, who originally reported on the embassy attacks in September 2012, spared few in the new investigation. He points out that the White House originally framed the event as a spontaneous reaction, but found a number of warning signs that indicate the attack was more planned than the Obama administration let on.
The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
“Security vacuum,” Ambassador Stevens wrote in his personal diary on Sept. 6 in Tripoli, in one of the few pages recovered from the Benghazi compound. “Militias are power on the ground,” he wrote. “Dicey conditions, including car bombs, attacks on consulate,” he continued. “Islamist ‘hit list’ in Benghazi. Me targeted on a prominent website (no more off compound jogging).”
A large part of the discussion following the attacks was how partisanship played out in the reporting of event. Case in point is a CBS report based around an eyewitness account, when in fact, the subject in question was at his "seaside villa." Such reporting revealed how the investigative process had shifted from a constructive one of building a case — to a destructive one of undermining credibility. Now, with conservative outlets like the Washington Times eager to call Kirkpatrick's piece a 'whitewashing' of the incident, it's hard to know who to trust.
“It was a coordinated attack. It is completely false to say anything else. … It is completely a lie,” said one unnamed witness in a Fox report published yesterday. The source alleged the attack was definitely tied to al Qaeda.
But if the tables were turned, with Fox breaking the same story under a Republican administration, would the case really be any different? Congressman Alex Schiff also appeared on Meet the Press to say that Kirkpatrick's piece told a complex story — but not the entire one:
"I do not think the New York Times report is designed to exonerate security lapses within the State Department that left our people vulnerable. I do think it adds some valuable insights. The intelligence indicates that al-Qaida was involved, but there were also plenty of people and militias that were unaffiliated with al-Qaida that were involved. I think the intelligence paints a portrait that some people came to murder, some people came to destroy property, some merely came to loot, and some came, in part, motivated by those videos.”
Although Kirkpatrick positions militant extremist Ahmed Abu Kattala as a prime suspect, after more than a year, no one has yet officially been charged for the attack. The only thing Kirkpatrick and Issa seem able to agree on is that security in Benghazi was pretty awful — despite "warning signs" leading up to the attack.