By Suzanne Kelly
The United States intelligence community does not believe the core of al Qaeda was behind this week's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a U.S. intelligence official told CNN Thursday.
The official said the picture is becoming clearer within the intelligence community as to what group or groups were responsible for the attack. Given what officials know about al Qaeda in Libya, U.S. intelligence believes it is very unlikely that core al Qaeda was behind the attack. But the official said the intelligence does not rule out that the attack was perpetrated by al Qaeda sympathizers.
The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee told CNN on Thursday that the strike "has all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda operation or an al Qaeda affiliate."
"One of the things that we've noticed over the last six or seven months is that al Qaeda in the Maghreb, northern Africa, have said they're really eager to strike northeastern targets. We've seen cells in Libya and Egypt starting to develop," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, on said CNN's “Starting Point.”
A lot of intelligence had come in over the previous 24 hours, a U.S. official said Thursday, and as they sift through that information, American intelligence agents continue to believe the attack was not premeditated.
However, other U.S. officials are not as sure. A congressional source said State Department Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy told congressional staff members he briefed on Wednesday that, because of the extensive nature of the attack and the "proliferation" of small and medium weapons, his opinion is the attack was planned.