The top U.S. intelligence authority issued a public statement on Friday, declaring it now believed the Sept. 11 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, was a “deliberate and organized terrorist attack.”
The statement, by the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, said the allegedly planned attack was linked to al-Qaeda, but stressed that “many unanswered questions” remained.
During the attack on two U.S. government compounds in the eastern Libyan city, four U.S. personnel, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed.
“It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attack, and if extremist group leaders directed their members to participate,” Shawn Turner, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in a statement, according to AFP news agency.
“We do assess that some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al-Qaeda.”
Turner said that in the immediate aftermath of the attack, U.S. agencies came to the view that the Benghazi attack had begun spontaneously following protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo against a short film made in California mocking the Prophet Mohammed.
Turner said that as U.S. intelligence subsequently learned more about the attack, “We revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists.”
Rice to resign?
A top Republican lawmaker demanded Friday that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice resign, charging she misled Americans over the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Congressman Pete King’s intervention was the latest effort by Republicans to make the White House pay a political price over the fallout from the attack, according to AFP.
“I think Susan Rice should resign. She is America’s foreign policy spokesman to the world as ambassador to the U.N.,” the New York congressman told National Review Online.
King demanded the departure of Rice, a member of President Barack Obama’s inner circle, after she appeared on U.S. talk shows in the wake of the September 11 attack and dismissed suggestions it was a planned terrorist action.
“We don’t see at this point signs this was a coordinated plan, premeditated attack,” Rice said on “Fox News Sunday” on September 16.
“Obviously, we will wait for the results of the (FBI) investigation and we don’t want to jump to conclusions before then.”
Later Friday, on CNN, King said that Rice had been “irresponsible” to say there was no terrorist involvement in the Benghazi attack and argue instead that it evolved out of protests in the Arab world over an Internet video made on U.S. soil that denigrates Islam and its Prophet.
“The presumption should have been leaning toward it being terrorism,” said King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The White House quickly came to the defense of Rice, seen as a top candidate for the secretary of state post if Obama wins a second term in November.