In an article published shortly before 5 a.m. EDT on the morning of Sept. 26, The Daily Beast's Eli Lake revealed that three separate U.S. intelligence officials confirmed to him that within 24 hours of the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the Obama administration had strong reason to suspect al Qaeda ties to the deadly violence.
Lake noted that the identities of at least four of the participants in the attack on the consulate were found within 24 hours, one of which has been tracked by his use of social media. This of course conflicts with the administration's early story. You may recall that four days after the attack, on Sept 16, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations insisted to CBS' Bob Schieffer that the attack was spontaneous and tied to an obscure video on YouTube.
If true, Lake's story suggests that the Obama administration was misleading the public, if not outright lying. Yet none of the network morning news programs cited Lake's story. NBC's Today, however, did air an exclusive Ann Curry interview with the Libyan president, who has maintained all along that the consulate attack was thoroughly pre-planned and terroristic in nature. (see video/transcript below)
To be fair, Lake admitted that at present "It’s unclear whether any of these suspected attackers have been targeted or arrested, and intelligence experts caution that these are still early days in a complex investigation." This is still an ongoing story and all the pieces of the puzzle aren't in place, but it's still a significant development warranting news coverage, especially as members of Congress are expressing frustration at the information the administration may be holding back from them.
The Obama Administration briefed the House and Senate on Thursday, Sept. 20, but Senate Republicans accused them of offering more vital information to The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. This is according to a blog post on The Hill, published on Saturday, Sept. 22. Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn-R) was quoted saying, "That is the most useless, worthless briefing I have attended in a long time."
While there was no mention of Lake's recently published piece on Today, Curry's interview with Libyan President Mohammed Magarief on Wednesday, Sept. 26 covered much of the same thing. Magarief insisted, contrary to the Obama administration's insistence, that the controversial film that mocked Muhammad had "nothing to do" with the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Magarief has "no doubt" it was an act of terrorism and thought if the reaction had been genuine, it would've been six months earlier -- not on a certain date in September.
The Libyan government's ongoing investigation of the matter has targeted 40 people who may have been involved.
It'll be interesting to see if this evening's broadcast news mention Lake's story, but given the media's general lack of interest in the story, we're not going to hold our breath.
The Today Show
Sept. 26, 2012
7:13 a.m. EDT
ANN CURRY: Would you call the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi an act of terrorism?
MOHAMMED MAGARIEF: I have no doubt about that, and it's a pre-planned act of terrorism directed against American citizens.
CURRY: What is your evidence that it was a pre-planned act of terrorism?
MAGARIEF: Number one, is choosing the date, the eleventh of September has all the significance. If we take all the facts about the way it was executed. You can see there's enough proof that it is a pre-planned act of terrorism.
CURRY: Describe the attack based on your investigation.
MAGARIEF: It's too early for me to give the details about this, but it was launched with a high degree of accuracy which means the perpetrators must have had some kind of exercise on how to hit and launch these rockets.
CURRY: You're confirming that RPG's were used in the initial attack?
CURRY: Mortars were use in the subsequent attack.
MAGARIEF: At the safe house, yes.
CURRY: And do you know how many mortars were used?
MAGARIEF: About five.
CURRY: And you're saying these were fired with such accuracy.
CURRY: That this could not have been done by someone who did not have experience?
MAGARIEF: Experience and knew what he was doing.
CURRY: And this is what is helping convince you that this was a pre-planned attack, not a reaction to a controversial movie?
MAGARIEF: Yes. I have no doubt about this.
CURRY: Do you think the movie had anything to do with this attack on the consulate?
MAGARIEF: Not on this attack, it has nothing to do with this attack.
CURRY: So do you know then who is behind this attack and what the motive was?
MAGARIEF: I think it has Al Qaeda elements, hiding in Libya.
CURRY: Is there any direct evidence that it is Al Qaeda behind this attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi?
MAGARIEF: So far not. So far not. As the investigation progresses, there is the likes of that that will show that the attack on the consulate was pre-planned with the intention of killing Ambassador Stevens, that's too early to say.
MATT LAUER: The Libyan president went on to tell Ann at least 40 people have been interrogated. Still no mastermind has been arrested, but he's confident that it will happen.
7:15 AM EDT