September 14th, 2012
07:43 PM ET

In attack aftermath, disagreement over how it began

By Adam Levine

As the investigation into the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, continues, there is disagreement about whether the violence was a result of a mob gone awry, a planned terror attack or a combination of the two.

The White House said Friday there was no indication before the attack in Libya this week that something was in the works beforehand.

"We were not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent," presidential spokesman Jay Carney said.

The comment came as a top Libyan official and some within Congress and other aspects of the U.S. government said there are signs now that the attack on the consulate that killed the ambassador and three other Americans was not a spontaneous outgrowth of a mob angered by an anti-Muslim film.

A U.S. official told CNN's Suzanne Kelly that American intelligence was sufficiently concerned about the attention the movie was receiving online to warn the embassy in Egypt in a bulletin a few days before protesters stormed that compound in Cairo on Tuesday, the same day the consulate in Libya was attacked by armed militants.

The warning did not specify a threat and the source did not say if that intelligence bulletin was sent to American diplomats in Libya.

Several American officials have told CNN this week there was no intelligence in advance that there was a plot in the making. Some officials have said it does not appear it was a fully planned ahead of time.

But a senior U.S. official told CNN's Barbara Starr on Friday that while the United States is not ready to draw a conclusion about whether the attack was spontaneous or planned, there is some evidence pointing to the notion there was a level of organization and planning behind it, given the extensive nature of the attack.

Moreover, a congressional source told CNN's Suzanne Kelly on Friday that there is disagreement within the intelligence community over whether this was planned. When pressed individually, some analysts have hedged, according to the source.

The Libyan government believes the Benghazi attack was planned and intended to inflict maximum damage, a top Libyan official told CNN's Arwa Damon.

Mohammed al-Megaryef, the president of Libya's ruling General National Congress, said the attacks were carried out by extremists with the intent of driving apart Libyans and Americans and sabotaging the relationship.

The information points more to the attack having started as a spontaneous protest that lasted for hours before metastasizing into a more organized attack, according to Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Maryland.

Ruppersberger and other members of the House Intelligence Committee were briefed Friday by Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus.

"In the beginning, we feel that it was spontaneous – the protest – because it went on for two or three hours, which very [is] relevant because if it was something that was planned then they could have come and attacked right away," Ruppersberger said.

Ruppersberger spoke to reporters after the briefing and said he believes the attack was by an al-Qaeda related extremist group.

Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, told reporters that in his opinion the incident was a terrorist attack, in part because of the use of rocket propelled grenades.

McCain, who had just left a briefing by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, observed the weaponry is not what a normal protester would bring to demonstrate, according to CNN's Kate Bolduan and Ted Barrett.

"It's hard to know exactly what took place and how long it was planned. I don't have that information," McCain said. "The reporting is that 15 people, with beards, with weapons, such as RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] - people don't go to demonstrate and carry RPGs and automatic weapons. I mean, the facts on its face indicate this was not a mob action by a group of protesters."

"It was a terrorist attack, organized and carried out by terrorists," McCain said.

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin said there are indications the attack was planned in advance.

"I think there's evidence of that. There's been evidence of that," Levin, D-Michigan, said after the Panetta briefing. "I don't think we know whether they were connecting it to the protests but the attack looked like it was planned and premeditated, sure. But I don't think there was evidence that it was a coming."

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee agreed that while it does look like this was an organized attack, there was no indication the attack was coming.

"This was not just a mob that got out of hand. Mobs don't come in and attack, guns blazing," Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, in an interview with CNN." I think that there is a growing consensus it was preplanned, but please understand that is entirely different thing from saying we had intelligence about it. The people who did it, and it is looking increasingly like it was preplanned, we didn't have intelligence of their planning operation."

State Department Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy has said that the attack appeared to be planned because it was so extensive and because of the "proliferation" of small and medium weapons at the scene, a congressional source said earlier. He was briefing congressional staffers earlier this week when he offered that theory.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said earlier this week that it was a targeted attack.

"It is - it was clearly a coordinated attack, a well-coordinated attack, I might add, that was specifically planned to do and accomplish what you saw unfortunately unfold in Benghazi," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, in an interview on CNN's Situation Room.

But on Friday, Rogers' spokeswoman said that the congressman was making his own conclusion from what he had been told in briefings.

"The evidence that Congressman Rogers has seen does not definitively say one way or another whether the attack was planned or not," said Susan Phalen, the communications director for the intelligence panel. "But as a former FBI agent, this seems to make the most sense to him."

Given what officials know about al Qaeda in Libya, intelligence officials believe it is very unlikely that core al Qaeda was behind the attack, a U.S. intelligence official told CNN on condition of anonymity. But the official said the intelligence does not rule out that the attack was perpetrated by al Qaeda sympathizers, though officials are not ready to identify a specific group.

"In Libya there are many elements, including al-Qaeda. I think it's pretty clear that they would have had some involvement but again whether it was after the fact, whether there was a spontaneous demonstration that they tried to take advantage of, again all this is still very fluid," said the House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-New York.

There is a continuing question as to whether a message from al Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was influential in spurning the attack.

His specific call in a 9/11-anniversary video for Libyan Jihadists to attack Americans to avenge death of Abu Yahya al Libi was circulating at least 18 hours before the attack on the compound, according to terror analyst Ben Venzke of IntelCenter, leaving open the possibility that it played a role.

But Venzke told CNN terror analyst Paul Cruickshank that given the timing, it is hard to believe the message from Zawahiri instigated the attack in Libya.

"Based on more than a decade of threat analysis we have carried out, it would be unusual to have such a rapid correlation between a threat statement and an attack, but it is not outside the realm of possibility," Venzke said.

He said any statement of the kind made by Zawahiri would be taken seriously. However he said those providing threat assessments would not normally expect anything to happen within 24 hours.

He stressed Zawahiri's threat was only three lines in a forty something minute video tape. Given the language in the tape, analysts would tend not to have concluded an immediate attack was likely.

Post by:
Filed under: Barack Obama • Congress • Libya • White House
soundoff (577 Responses)
  1. pharmacepticacom

    sildenafil cheapest price in india

    June 28, 2021 at 1:18 am | Reply
  2. VelmSwa

    cialis generic date generic cialis cialis without prescription

    June 13, 2021 at 2:14 pm | Reply
  3. clupsAsd

    cialis generico cialis super active experiences resaonably priced cialis

    June 13, 2021 at 2:03 am | Reply
  4. fipleVed

    where can i buy cialis in canada viagra cialis combo pack how to take cialis 10mg

    June 12, 2021 at 6:33 pm | Reply
  5. VelmSwa

    price of cialis at walmart cialis 10 mg price cialis without a perscription

    June 12, 2021 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  6. reextGtv

    closest pharmacy store ativan canadian pharmacy encompass rx specialty pharmacy

    June 12, 2021 at 9:47 am | Reply
  7. cialis without a doctor prescription

    purchase peptides tadalafil buy cialis pills side effects for tadalafil

    June 10, 2021 at 11:14 am | Reply
  8. reextHtf

    cialis black vs cialis 30 mg cialis too much cialis jokes

    June 10, 2021 at 7:29 am | Reply
  9. chloroquine nz

    hydroxyquine side effects what is clonidine hydroxychloroquine hcq

    June 10, 2021 at 4:30 am | Reply
  10. reextDev

    rx pharmacy coupons review uf pharmacy online refill pharmacy rx one coupons

    June 9, 2021 at 11:08 pm | Reply
  11. reextHtf

    cialis no prescriotion buy cialis online reviews cialis alternative uses

    June 9, 2021 at 4:25 pm | Reply
  12. reextDev

    cialis 5 mg canadian pharmacy reviews of canadian pharmacies world rx pharmacy

    June 9, 2021 at 6:43 am | Reply
  13. fipleVed

    www cialis com coupon flomax and cialis does aetna cover cialis

    June 8, 2021 at 8:36 pm | Reply
  14. reextAni

    erectile dysfunction causes legit online pharmacy canadian pharmacy without a prescription

    June 8, 2021 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  15. fipleloh

    too much cialis what happens when you mix cialis with grapefruit? what is cialis 5mg used for

    June 8, 2021 at 6:15 pm | Reply
  16. reextGtv

    best ed pills are drugs legal in canada genuine canadian pharmacy

    June 8, 2021 at 12:40 pm | Reply
  17. clupsAsd

    cialis with out perscription cialis sale online cialis only

    June 8, 2021 at 12:04 pm | Reply
  18. tadalafil liquid

    vidalista tadalafil reviews how long does tadalafil last tadalafil from india reviews

    June 8, 2021 at 11:58 am | Reply
  19. fipleloh

    side effects of cialis vs viagra how long does it take for cialis 5mg to work viagra or cialis better

    June 7, 2021 at 8:44 pm | Reply
  20. VelmSwa

    free trial cialis cialis 80 cialis tablets australia

    June 4, 2021 at 4:48 pm | Reply
  21. fipleVed

    how much does cialis 20 mg cost dangers of cialis original cialis product dapoxetine

    June 4, 2021 at 1:16 am | Reply
  22. reextGtv

    tops pharmacy best canadian pharmacies reviews pharmacy online store

    June 3, 2021 at 9:29 pm | Reply
  23. reextHtf

    can you mix cialis and viagra average dose of cialis cialis 20mg online

    June 3, 2021 at 7:33 pm | Reply
1 2 3 4 5

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.