Sources say U.S. intelligence agencies knew within 24 hours that al Qaeda was behind the attacks in Libya
September 27, 2012
Sources say intelligence agencies knew within a day that al Qaeda affiliates were behind the attacks in Benghazi, Libya-they even knew where one of the attackers lived. Eli Lake reports.
Within 24 hours of the 9-11 anniversary attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, U.S. intelligence agencies had strong indications al Qaeda-affiliated operatives were behind the attack, and had even pinpointed the location of one of those attackers. Three separate U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said the early information was enough to show that the attack was planned and the work of al Qaeda affiliates operating in Eastern Libya.
Nonetheless, it took until late last week for the White House and the administration to formally acknowledge that the Benghazi assault was a terrorist attack. On Sunday, Obama adviser Robert Gibbs explained the evolving narrative as a function of new information coming in quickly on the attacks. "We learned more information every single day about what happened," Gibbs said on Fox News. "Nobody wants to get to the bottom of this faster than we do."
The intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast did so anonymously because they weren't authorized to speak to the press. They said U.S. intelligence agencies developed leads on four of the participants of the attacks within 24 hours of the fire fight that took place mainly at an annex near the Benghazi consulate. For one of those individuals, the U.S. agencies were able to find his location after his use of social media. "We had two kinds of intelligence on one guy," this official said. "We believe we had enough to target him."
Another U.S. intelligence official said, "There was very good information on this in the first 24 hours. These guys have a return address. There are camps of people and a wide variety of things we could do."
A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment for the story. But another U.S. intelligence official said, "I can't get into specific numbers but soon after the attack we had a pretty good bead on some individuals involved in the attack."
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.