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White House knew Benghazi attack was a terrorist act from day one

Published time: September 27, 2012 16:26
Edited time: September 29, 2012 14:31
US President Barack Obama.(AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

US President Barack Obama.(AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

From day one, the Obama administration was aware that the September 11 assault on the US consulate in Benghazi was a pre-planned terrorist attack, despite offering up conflicting explanations in the weeks since.

Unnamed officials confirm to Fox News that the White House knew that al-Qaeda-linked terrorists were behind the murder of four Americans in Libya, but only today did US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta publicly acknowledge the truth.

Secretary Panetta now admits that the Pentagon knew within hours of the assault on America’s Benghazi consulate that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others dead that it was an act of terrorism.

The Obama administration has altered their explanation repeatedly in the weeks since Mr. Stevens and three others were killed on September 11, 2012 while on assignment in Libya. On Thursday, the Defense Department confirmed the attack as having been hatched by terrorists, despite earlier statements made by the White House that suggested an anti-Islam film produced in the US had triggered a spontaneous assault.

"The reason I think it pretty clearly was a terrorist attack is because a group of terrorists obviously conducted that attack on the consulate and against our individuals," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey. "What terrorists were involved I think still remains to be determined by the investigation. But it clearly was a group of terrorists who conducted that attack against that facility."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested earlier in the week that the attack in Benghazi may have been hatched by an al-Qaeda affiliate, yet another drastic change of heart from an Obama appointee this week.

In New York City on Wednesday, Secretary Clinton told attendees at a special United Nations meeting that the September 11 assault first thought by the White House to be a spontaneous response to an Anti-Islam film made in America could have been orchestrated by extremists in North Africa, specifically those subscribed to an off-shoot of al-Qaeda.

“For some time, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other groups have launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighboring countries,” Clinton told the crowd this week. “Now, with a larger safe haven and increased freedom to maneuver, terrorists are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions. And they are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions underway in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi.”

Secretary Clinton’s address was delivered at a United Nations meeting on instability in the Sahel, the region of Africa that includes Mali and, apparently, terrorist operatives conducting assaults on Americans for al-Qaeda.

Immediately following the September 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, the Obama administration all but confirmed their suspicious than “Innocence of Muslims,” an America-made film that mocked Islamic prophet Mohammed, was likely to blame for the violence. The movie was believed to have sparked protests in Cairo earlier in the day, which the White House then suggested spread to Libya and elsewhere in the Muslim world. Both the State Department and the White House initially hinted that the film was to blame for the Benghazi raid, and on September 16 Susan E. Rice, US ambassador to the United Nations, directly linked the movie with the mayhem.

Days later, what was once a “spontaneous” response was reconsidered by many as something more.

“I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy,” National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told Congress on September 19.

The next day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said it’s “self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.” Nearly a week later on September 26, Carney altered the official explanation to say, “it is certainly the case that it is our view as an administration, the President’s view, that it was a terrorist attack.”

Carney’s reluctance to identify the assault as the act of terrorists could easily be explained as the White House’s unwillingness to admit a defeat in their War in Terror, not just on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks but so close to the November presidential elections. The United States has so far invested a substantial amount of men and money into efforts to allegedly free the Libyan people from the regime of fallen former leader Muammar Gaddafi, but now it appears as a man considered a ruthless dictator by Washington has only been replaced by rampant terrorism courtesy of al-Qaeda affiliates.

Now Secretary Clinton says that the assault was more than just an act of violent extremism and that the men behind the mob attack may have ties to America’s most notorious foe: al-Qaeda.

"We’re working with the Libyan government and other partners to find those responsible for the attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi and bring them to justice.But we are also expanding our counterterrorism partnerships to help countries meet their own growing threats,” she added at the UN meeting. “ We’re taking aim at the support structure of al-Qaida and its affiliates – closing safe havens, cutting off finances, countering their ideology and denying them recruits."

Earlier in the week, US President Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly, “I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity.”