President Obama’s spokesman downplayed the significance of a State Department email that informed the White House, on the day of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, that an extremist group had claimed responsibility for the assault.
“[T]his was an open-source, unclassified email about a posting on a Facebook site,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters today. “I would also note I think that within a few hours, that organization itself claimed that it had not been responsible. Neither should be taken as fact — that’s why there’s an investigation underway.”
The email raises questions about the Obama administration’s insistence — over a period of days — that the the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi grew out of a protest against an anti-Islam Youtube video produced in the United States.
“Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack,” a State Department official emailed to the 32 government officials, including two in the White House, within hours of the attack. “Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”
Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen has been designated as an alias for al-Qaida by the State Department, which also says that Ansar al-Sharia in Libya is a “separate entity.”
The intelligence community might not have been certain, as Carney argued, that the report contained in the email was true. They certainly had some indication (however unconfirmed) that terrorists were involved in the assault, which contradicts Carney’s earlier statements on the matter.
“All I can tell you is that based on the information we had at the time – we have now – we do not yet have indication that it was pre-planned or pre-meditated,” Carney told reporters on September 19th.