One week after an assault in Benghazi left an US ambassador and three fellow Americans dead, conflicting reports into the details surrounding their passing from both the White House and Libyan officials leave the facts of the raid uncertain.
Tuesday marks one week since Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed after a US consulate in Benghazi was destroyed on September 11, but reports describing the events that led up to his death differ depending on the source. The Obama administration insists that a mob stormed the consulate to show their contempt with an American-made film that mocked the Islamic prophet Mohammad, but overseas the explanation is much different.
Some authorities in Libya say the attack on the consulate that killed Ambassador Stevens had roots with al-Qaeda, and that the White House has whitewashed the facts in order to make the explanation more favorable for American audiences on the eve of a presidential election.
On Tuesday this week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters, "We have provided information about what we believe was the precipitating cause of the protest and violence based on the information that we have had available," and that the US stands by the claim that “spontaneous” attacks on the consulate resulted in the loss of four Americans.
"[W]e do not have any indication at this point of premeditation or pre-planned attacks," said Carney, adding, however, that "we're not making declarations ahead of the facts here."
In the American media, the story has largely been the same: protests erupted over an anti-Islamic film leaked to the Arab World called ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ and outrage in Cairo quickly spread to Libya. It’s there, though, that officials disagree with the White House’s explanation.
“The way these perpetrators acted and moved, and their choosing a specific date for this so-called demonstration, I think that this leaves us with no doubt that this was pre-planned, pre-determined,” Libyan parliament chief Mohammad Magarief, the head of the Libyan National Congress, said Sunday, McClatchy reports.
According to a report by Radio Free Europe, Magarief went on to explain the raid as “definitely” planned, and not the spontaneous storming of the consulate that American authorities claim. Additionally, Magarief believes that the assaults were planned by Islamic extremists, mostly foreigners, some of whom he considers “affiliates and sympathizers” with al-Qaeda.
To Fox News, an intelligence source on the ground in Libya told the outlet on condition of anonymity that the “spontaneous” protest claims were incorrect, and the attack "was planned and had nothing to do with the movie."
An al-Qaeda led assault on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks doesn’t seem unlikely, but could significantly hinder US President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign if true. The president has relied heavily on the execution of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to drum up support, and showing that the US failed to act on a premeditated strike targeting its own citizens could show that the War on Terror is far away from over.
To Fox News, a senior White House official remarked anonymously that Magarief’s comments shouldn’t be consider factual because “he doesn't have the information” the Obama administration does.
Meanwhile, both federal and private investigators alike have opened a probe into ‘Innocence of Muslims” and the filmmaker behind the flick in order to see if the amateur producer had intended to provoke mass protests, which continue one week later. Researchers have so far uncovered a trove of information about the filmmaker, identified as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula of Los Angeles, perhaps most significant being that he cooperated with federal prosecutors to serve as a government informant during a check fraud investigation as recently as 2010.
After serving time for his role in a check scheme himself, Nakoula told prosecutors in 2010, “I decided to cooperate with the government to retrieve some of these mistakes or damage happened. I want to cooperate with the government so that they can catch with this other criminals who is their involvement.”