Daveed Gartenstein-Ross Fails to Scratch the Surface in response to our work on Benghazi
By Walid Shoebat and Ben Barrack
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross testified as an expert witness at a recent House Joint Subcommittee hearing about Benghazi. A couple of weeks later, he wrote an article entitled “Rumor Busting” and attempted to discredit our reports on Benghazi. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) spent his time at the hearing asking the witnesses questions about our report and then asked them to respond to it in writing.
Instead of examining all the evidence, Gartenstein-Ross attempted to “bust” portions of what we presented by twisting the evidence (which we will clearly show) and then created possible doubt in regards to a Libyan document without proof, claiming that torture could have been applied. Based on the myriad of speculations he made, Gartenstein-Ross actually lent even more credibility to much of what we’ve been saying. By his own admission:
“Arabic-language media outlets have recently featured reports that are in line with Shoebat’s claim… so it’s possible that this theory will receive more attention soon… Shoebat’s report provides a case study in how to evaluate intriguing data points in areas where there is a dearth of publicly available evidence … there is no specific reason to believe that this document [Libyan document] is fraudulent… So Shoebat’s claim that Egyptian militants were involved is not new—and all available evidence suggests that this claim is correct.”
However, Gartenstein-Ross’s report attempted to shed doubts on either a Muslim Brotherhood or Ansar Al-Sharia connection to Benghazi. He completely denied in his testimony at the House Joint Subcommittee that Ansar Al-Sharia “engaged in terrorism”. This claim included all branches of Ansar Al-Sharia. Gartenstein-Ross testified, falsely stating:
“Sir, its (Ansar Al-Sharia) is a known Jihadist organization. In a number of countries, they’re not actually engaged in terrorism on the ground, but they make clear that they are aligned with Salafi Jihadists ideals…”
He then (either deliberately or otherwise) twisted crucial evidence from a video shot from the ground at the time of the attack and in order to shed more doubt, gave an alternative translation in which he combined the statements of several individuals, selected choice words, and altered the true context of the recording. We will show through confirmation of others, that our translation was accurate.
He then ignored monumental video evidence from Ansar Al-Sharia leaders, both in Egypt and Libya, which we document here.
In order to make his claim, Gartenstein-Ross put forth a report that looks more like the work of a defense attorney taking the side of the U.S. Government’s silence on the issue. Rather than perform a fair and unbiased examination of the data available, he ignored scores of evidence implicating the Muslim Brotherhood, which we will re-introduce here.
In order to divert from our findings, Ross blames Benghazi on one suspect named Jamal Abu Ahmad and concludes without presenting a shred of evidence that:
“The alternative hypothesis, that the Egyptian attackers were connected to the Jamal network, still appears to be the most plausible explanation.”
In his report, he provides nothing to support his theory and then writes a litany of doubts and insinuations, including blatant falsifications of the video captured at the scene in an attempt to thwart our evidence.
If everything Gartenstein-Ross wrote to shed doubt on our arguments were applied to his claim about the Jamal network (especially since the U.S. Government has provided little or no details as to how Jamal Abu Ahmad is involved in the attacks) it would become obvious how weak his arguments are. According to many in Congress, the Obama administration stalls and obstructs when having to deal with the case of the Benghazi attacks. In reality they have not held anybody accountable.
It should be noted that the controversial talking points had the name Ansar al-Sharia scrubbed from them, not the Jamal network.
We can also ask: What set of “data points” and exhibits has Gartenstein-Ross and company provided to back up his claim that Abu Ahmad was likely involved? And we ask: Why then attack our findings? Is it an attempt to switch the blame to take a position that is more politically motivated? Which of the two arguments has more data points and exhibits of evidence – his or ours?
It is obvious that we provided several, while Gartenstein-Ross and company provided nothing but a ‘political’ position that attempts to thwart Republicans who continue – according to the mainstream media – to “beat the Benghazi drum”. This becomes obvious the moment the table is turned around and by using Gartenstein-Ross’s own arguments as to why he attempts to debunk our findings and provides no attempts to debunk the administration’s findings.
Perhaps this alone helps to explains the motives of Gartenstein-Ross and company but let’s point to the errors in his claims.
FALSE CLAIMS ABOUT VIDEO EVIDENCE
Claim: The video translation was faulty.
“the individual speaking appears to say: ‘I said nobody run, Dr. Morsi sent a car. It just arrived.’ There is obviously a large, and extremely consequential, distinction between saying We were sent by Morsi and Dr. Morsi sent a car.”
Response: Gartenstein-Ross, intentionally or not, twisted and manipulated evidence.
Analysis of video transcript from the ground of the battle at Benghazi, one would consider evidence from the scene of the crime while the action and the heat of battle was going on should be considered crucial evidence. While Gartenstein-Ross insists that the names of the investigators be mentioned in the Libyan document, he fails to mention who his Arabic researcher is (possibly Aaron Zelin). Whoever it was, this person could not spell the name of Libya’s head of intelligence, Salim Al-Nahasi (Arabic for Mr. Copper), he spelled as Al-Hasy (Arabic for Lick Me) and he expects Congress to trust his alternative translation to our work. Ross writes:
“Assuming the video is authentic, there are two problems with Shoebat’s analysis. First, the translation is questionable. Though the audio quality is poor, the individual speaking appears to say: “I said nobody run, Dr. Morsi sent a car. It just arrived.” There is obviously a large, and extremely consequential, distinction between saying We were sent by Morsi and Dr. Morsi sent a car. It just arrived. Reviewing the audio, the spoken Arabic for this phrase (it is repeated several times starting at 1:33 of the video) appears to be: sayara doktor mursi ba-at-ha taw waslah”.
The first falsity that Gartenstein-Ross made in the case of the video was to say: “the individual speaking”. What Ross did was mix conversations of at least 3 separate individuals, selected whatever words, discarded other words, and combined them as a statement from one individual.
The proof of our claim here can be noticed instantly; as anyone would notice that there are several individuals with clearly separate voices that are easily distinguished from each other.
Gartenstein-Ross stated that the controversy begins at 1:33. No, it starts at 1:27 and is when someone is speaking of a car; that individual says nothing about Mursi at all:
1:27 – 1:31: “sayara ya a’lam, sayara ya-a’lam hau ho” English: O people, someone [bring] a car, hey, hey
1:32 – 1:33: “Inbateh Inbateh” English: Get down! Get down!
This is not the same individual; he is close to the recording cell phone telling the person running to lay down.
1:33 – 1:37: “Doctor Mursi Ba’atna, Ba’atna, El-Youm Wasel” English: Dr. Mursi sent us, he sent us, I just arrived today.
While one individual says to get down, another refuses to since they are running for a mission from Dr. Mursi. This is clearly speaking of arriving from somewhere after having been sent by a “Dr. Mursi”.
Dr. Muhammad Mursi has over two million hits as “Dr.” and Ross even confirms the use of “Dr. Mursi”. It is how Muhammad Mursi of Egypt is casually addressed as Dr. of theology. How many other Dr.’s of theology named Mursi are there? Any other assumption must insinuate that the use of “Dr.” would have to be of a medical profession, that a medical doctor sends terrorists to the scene of the attack at Benghazi is absurd. In addition, does Ross assume that his interpreter is better than the Al-Karma TV host and countless other Arab speaking individuals are all less worthy than his unnamed interpreter?
Now to Ross’s statement:
“Dr. Morsi” referred to in the cell phone video is in fact Mohamed Morsi. Because Morsi is a common surname in Egypt this could be (and the odds are that it is) a reference to somebody else.”
Sure, Mursi is a common name in Egypt, but not “Dr. Mursi” in Benghazi, Libya. Why would Gartenstein-Ross presume to say “Egypt”? Because he knows the facts.
Here again is that video:
FALSE CLAIMS ABOUT ANSAR AL-SHARIA
Claim: “(Ansar Al-Sharia) is a known Jihadist organization in a number of countries. They are not actually engaged in terrorism on the ground, but they make clear that they are aligned with Salafi Jihadists ideals…” (Gartenstein-Ross testimony at the House Joint Subcommittee hearing about Benghazi)
During the questioning by Rohrabacher, Gartenstein-Ross again gave false information.
Rohrabacher: So, this (Ansar al-Sharia) is a known terrorist organization?
Gartenstein-Ross: Sir, it’s a known jihadist organization.
Claim: Ansar Al-Sharia was not involved with the Muslim Brotherhood but simply that “Egyptian militants were involved”.
Claim: Gartenstein-Ross’s colleague Aaron Zelin, another expert at the hearing and senior fellow at the Washington Institute stated:
“…there’s no evidence to suggest based off of anything I’ve seen that the Muslim Brotherhood is linked to Ansar al-Sharia in Libya …”
Gartenstein-Ross also wrote:
Thus, Egyptian involvement in the Benghazi affair had been known long before Shoebat’s report through the incident’s connection to the Jamal (Abu Ahmad’s) network.
Ansar al-Sharia rose to prominence during the Libyan civil war and grew in strength after the death of Muammar Gaddafi. Made up of former rebels from the Abu Obayda Bin Aljarah Brigade, Malik Brigade and February 17 Brigade which carried out various security and law and order tasks in eastern Libya and Kufra in the south including guarding embassies with the foreknowledge of the U.S. The February 17th Martyrs Brigade also flies the al-Qaeda flag on their Facebook page and have been al-Qaeda sympathizers for a very long time. They were involved in the Benghazi attacks, they support Mursi and are very well involved in terrorism, with links to several terrorist organizations as we will present from multiple sources:
A—Ansar Al-Sharia is involved with the Muslim Brotherhood and is actually one of the main defenders of Mohammed Mursi. According to Youm7, another Arabic source, allegiance to Mursi was pledged on the Ansar Al-Sharia Facebook page:
“The page, which dates its inception on Facebook to July 1, 2012 and wrote in her description of herself a letter addressed to Dr. Mohamed Morsi, President of the Republic. It reads: “A letter to President – do not back down and we are with you, even if one of us is killed, we shed our blood as a guardian, each stage has its sacrifices, and we are ready.”
B—On September 11, 2012, the United States Department of State Operations Center advised the White House Situation Room and other U.S. security units that Ansar al-Sharia was claiming responsibility for the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that had just occurred. An interim progress report by members of the House Republican Conference backed this up after more than six months of investigating the attacks. Conversely, Josh Rogin – a writer for the left-wing Daily Beast – had an article appear in Foreign Policy on October 25, 2012. Entitled, Leaked State Dept Benghazi e-mails might have been wrong, Rogin cites Zelin in at attempt to sow seeds of doubt that Ansar al-Sharia may not have been involved. As an aside, Rogin’s name was on the participant list of the U.S.-Islamic World Forum, which took place in Doha, Qatar this past June. This forum was rife with Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers (more on this in “other claims” below).
Witnesses said they saw vehicles with the group’s logo at the scene of the assault and that fighters there acknowledged at the time that they belonged to Ansar al-Sharia. Witnesses also said they saw Ahmed Abu Khattala, a commander of Ansar al-Sharia, leading the embassy attack. Khattala was at one time leader in Al-Jarrah Brigade, also Abu Salim and Ansar Al-Sharia which shows how easily these groups can co-mingle under different names. Khattala gives the same narrative as the spokesperson of Ansar Al-Sharia Hani Al-Mansour that:
“the guards inside the headquarters of the consulate – Libyans or the Americans, where it was not sure – initially fired on demonstrators, which led to provoke them…”
C—Moreover, we obtained additional video to give probable cause that Ansar Al-Sharia was involved. The spokesman for Ansar Al-Sharia Libya, Hani Al-Mansour (As Marjan Salem did before him), denied any involvement in the Benghazi attack two days after 9/11/12. But evidence examined from Ansar Al-Sharia’s own spokesperson – in Arabic – should cast doubt on this denial. We obtained the video, which was made available to Gartenstein-Ross and company for examination:
The key excerpt comes at the 1:18 mark, where Al-Mansour says:
“The demonstration in front of the embassy we insist was peaceful, but the firing from the embassy on the demonstrators, changed the situation.”
In other words, Ansar Al-Sharia claims self-defense was the motive and by that they really deny guilt. This would also mean they weren’t at the scene but magically appeared there once they were fired upon.
D—Arab sources add more to this. Elmihwar reports (translated):
“Hassan Alkhanshali works as a key military adviser to Muhammad Zawahi, the Emir (Prince) of Ansar al-Sharia battalion in Benghazi. Our sources state that Hassan Alkhanshali… worked under the leadership of Abdul Razzaq El Para, fielded by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, Prince battalion of the masked brigades, in order to help Mohammed Zahawi on the implementation of terrorist attacks against Western interests (France, Britain and the United States of America). The Algerian security investigations proved that the terrorist (Hassan Alkhanshali) was present in one of the hideouts of Ansar al-Sharia, Libya, during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which led to the killing of the American ambassador in Libya.”
Ansar Al-Sharia is a terrorist group, not “Jihadi” sympathizers.
E—Ansar Al-Sharia is a terrorist group. According to Al-Ahram, a prominent Egyptian newspaper, along with several others, Egyptian Ansar Al-Sharia set up training camps to recruit terrorists and provide armed training in Egypt to commit terrorism there after Mursi was ousted.
“Ansar Al-Sharia Egypt has been assigned to threaten and kill. On its webpage, they published a list of high-profile individuals they promised to assassinate in Egypt in December, 2012. This was published by Al-Yawm Al-Sabi’ (Seventh Day) newspaper in Egypt on December 11th, 2012. The threats include significant leaders Dr. Mohamed El Baradei and Amr Moussa, this according to Ansar Al-Sharia facebook page is in response to the call by Ayman Zawahiri of Al-Qaeda in which they posted his letter. Masress newspaper explained: “… Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda leader describes them as traitors and agents of the West customers who want to destroy our beloved Egypt. The names in Ayman al-Zawahiri message: d. Mohamed El Baradei, Hamdeen Sabahi and Amr Moussa.”
More names are mentioned…
“A web page on the social networking site “Facebook”, which calls itself, “Battalion Ansar al-Sharia – Egypt”, created controversy among visitors to the site due to the publishing of threats and a list of figures who would be targeted in the event of what it called “the fall of the state,” on the objectives page and intended to publish the list at this time. List and placed on top media personalities, politicians and some owners satellite channels and businessmen, including Khaled Salah, editor of “The Seventh Day”, and Magdy Al-Jallad chief editor of Al-Watan newspaper, and Yusri Fouda presenter on Channel Online TV, and politicians such as Abu Ezz Hariri, and Ahmad Zind head of the Judges Club, Ahmed Shafik, a former prime minister and former candidate for the presidency, and Hamdeen Sabahi, and Dr. Mohamed El Baradei and Amr Moussa.”
Here is a more extensive list – at the top of which states, “The Battalion of Ansar al-Sharia: Egypt announces the list of personalities it will target if the state [under Mursi] falls – of the names of individuals targeted for assassination. More here and here.
G—According to the group’s Constitutional Statement, fighting the United States is declared as its first intent:
“The Salafist movement is launched as a Salafist movement to strive to find and resist by word and sword all the projects of colonialism and global hegemony of arrogant states of the infidels and their slaves in the Islamic world, which has become a target for colonization led by America”.
H—Ansar Al-Sharia involvement in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia, via Libya al-Mostakbal:
“Suspected to be the leader of this organization is Saifullah bin Hussein, also known as Abu Ayyad, who fought with al-Qaeda and is said to be the organizer of the attack on the U.S. Embassy [In Tunisia]. It has recently threatened to wage war on the government, accusing Ennahda of pursuing a policy contrary to Islam.”
I—Ansar Al-Sharia is linked to the Al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) .
In April of this year, Al-Jazeera reported that Al-Qaeda in Iraq merged with Al-Nusra in Syria, the main opposition group fighting the Assad regime. Just a few months earlier, Al-Jazeera reported that the United States formally designated Al-Nusra as a terrorist organization and that State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland echoed this sentiment.
Al-Nusra also has a strong presence in Lebanon. Arabi-Press reported that terrorists who gave their allegiance to Al-Nusra in Lebanon are supported by Ansar al-Sharia:
“Mohamed Ahmed Dokhi (aka Khardaq) and Osama Shehabi gave allegiance to Al-Nusra terrorist organization in Lebanon and have become subordinate to it… Hossam Al-Sabbagh is a leader in the front of the Al-Nusra… Sabbagh and Shehabi, are supported by Ansar al-Sharia and the Libyan Nation Brigade who have forged a bridge for military and financial assistance and many (fighters).”
J—Ansar Al-Sharia partners with The Masked Brigades terrorist group.
The Masked Brigades’ Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a confirmed terrorist who was behind the hostage-taking operation in Algeria earlier this year at the Amenas gas facility, is tied to both Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda. The terrorist attack on the plant resulted in the deaths of 39 innocent foreigners. CNN reported on Belmoktar’s stated reason for the attack:
“Belmoktar’s demand during the siege for the release from U.S. prisons of Omar Abdul Rahman (the blind sheikh) and Aafia Siddiqi, two hugely popular figures in pro-al Qaeda circles, may have been a calculated effort to boost his popularity.
This demonstrates that the terrorist Belmoktar’s desire to have the “Blind Sheikh” released was a shared desire of Mursi.”
As for Belmoktar’s Masked Brigades, see the excerpt from the Elmihwar article translated above.
“Alkhanshali was working under the leadership of the masked brigades, which was led by Khalid Abu Al-Abbas (Belmoktar)… Algerian intelligence also stated that he plays a major role in other missions in supplying military training to Takfiris (Salafists) from Tunis who reside in secret camps in Libya and he is thought to have transferred important weapons caches to these camps… Derna, Libya is a hub for terrorist recruiting of the best fighters who joined the wars in Iraq, Afganistan and Syria. It also stated that Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, east of Libya, was related to the attack in September against the American diplomatic mission in which the ambassador and three other Americans were killed.”
Elmihwar reported that witnesses placed members of this group at the scene of the September 11th attack.
It would seem that Ansar al-Sharia is a thuggish terrorist organization bent on bullying institutions and individuals for the benefit of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mursi and his agenda, such as attempting to get the Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman released. As such, the claim made by Gartenstein-Ross, that the group is “jihadist” sympathizer and not “terrorist” would be blatantly false and is an utter insult to the intelligence of Congress.
If anyone should know about this two-sided coin, it’s Gartenstein-Ross whose words have the effect of deceiving Congress. He claims to have converted to Islam in his mid-twenties and worked at the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation but “pulled back” just before becoming radical and claims to have left Islam altogether. Al-Haramain was identified in the 9/11 Commission Report as a “Wahhabi-funded organization” that was “exploited by extremists”. Like ‘jihadist’ and ‘terrorist’, ‘wahhabist’ and ‘extremist’ are synonymous terms.
There were terrorist organizations, not “militant individuals” involved in Benghazi. Egyptians who belonged to terrorist organizations conducted the Benghazi attack and not simply “Egyptian militants”. This “Egyptian involvement” is undermined by Ross who does what attorneys typically do – twist something crucial in order to plant seeds of doubt by using the phrase, “Egyptian militants” without ascribing any affiliation to a specific organization.
K—Libyan intelligence (which Gartenstein-Ross dismisses as irrelevant). Egypt received evidence of the involvement of Mursi and deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the murder of U.S. diplomats.
Translated from Arabic media by Walid Shoebat
7/21/2013 7:12 AM
Security sources revealed that the visit of the Libyan intelligence chief Salem Al-Nahasi, who arrived in Cairo on Saturday evening, comes within the framework of coordination and exchange of information, documents and positions between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Libya, especially regarding the status of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
The sources revealed that Salem Al-Nahasi carried with him to Egypt, evidence and documents that involves the leaders of the Guidance Bureau and especially Mohamed Morsi and Mahmoud Ezzat, deputy leader Essam and Jihad Al-Haddad in the assassination of U.S. diplomats in Libya.
The sources added that Al-Nahasi also carried with him the investigation including information and documents that reveal the role of Al-Shater in the smuggling of arms deals to Egypt.
The sources said that the Saudi authorities in a meeting with Al-Nahasi alluded to the growing dissent of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, but stressed on its support for the Libyan authorities provided support and endorsement of the Egyptian revolution and abandon support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and not to get involved in demanding Egypt to accept mediating in the case of the removed leader in addition to helping Egyptian security authorities to stop the smuggling of arms into the country across the border with Libya.
The arrival of Salem Al-Nahasi in Egypt was on a private plane from Medina, in a two-day visit during which he will meet with a number of Egyptian officials, headed by Egyptian intelligence chief and interior minister and director of the National Security Agency, Major General Khaled Tharwat.
http://www.raynews.net/index.php?action=newsArchive&offset=1300 (More can be found at Addendum B of our initial report).
L—Ansar Al-Sharia is a terrorist group. Contrary to Gartenstein-Ross’s attempt to assert otherwise, Ansar al-Sharia is a branch of al-Qaeda. Al-Shorouk News states:
“Under the title ‘Ansar Al-Sharia’, Al-Qaeda settles in Egypt.”
Ansar al-Sharia has a 16-point plan to achieve its goals. One of those points states:
“Support the mujahideen [terrorists] and their movements and their communities in various Muslim countries to resist colonization and this comes as a top priority.”
“The initial investigation shows that the membership of the group [belongs] to the jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia in Egypt which was established and led by Egyptian cleric Marjan Salem.”
The credibility of this document does not stand on its own; it is confirmed by Al-Rai Kuwaiti News and Akhbar Al-Watan. Gartenstein-Ross himself nearly concedes the document is authentic but points to the rubber stamp signature and the possibility that the subjects were tortured into confessing.
The U.S. Intelligence community is in the business of determining such things. Did they? Have U.S. authorities talked to these six individuals? If not, why not?
M—Marjan Salim, the leader of Ansar Al-Sharia in Egypt admitted to having killed Americans in the past as we provided video proof.
In a program titled Al-Sha’b Yureed (The People Want) aired in Egypt. In this brilliantly done interview with Marjan, who repeatedly denied several things, an interrogation-style interview caused Marjan to proudly make some astonishing confessions after being drilled by an excellent pro-West Egyptian interviewer on Al-Tahrir (Freedom) TV which gives credence to the Libyan Intelligence Document and that both Marjan Salim and Ansar Al-Sharia in Egypt are terrorists. Here are translations of key points:
Interviewer (1:00): “You were in Afghanistan and Yemen and then you returned to go to Syria, Correct?”
Marjan: “Yes, correct, these are our countries”.
Marjan (2:00) confesses: “Yes we destroyed the embassy in Islamabad because these were filth and cowards …”
Interviewer (2:22): “When you break into churches, homes and blow up banks and cafes…”
(None of these charges were denied by Marjan, including kidnappings in Sinai and the support of terrorists in the Sinai)
Marjan (5:26): “I was going after Russians and Americans.”
Interviewer: “How many Americans did you kill?”
N—Ansar al-Sharia and Marjan Salim is linked to Ayman Al-Zawahiri of Al-Qaeda
Marjan already operates in the Sinai and the younger brother of al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri – Mohammed al-Zawahiri – is a prominent figure within the group. The Muslim Brotherhood government was headed by the Muslim Brotherhood and led by Muhammad Mursi that released such terrorists.
Zelin didn’t appear to be entirely forthcoming about what he knew, especially in light of information he has access to. Gartenstein-Ross, who presumably studied our Addendum A for his “Rumor Busting” piece (he did quote from it), considered virtually none of our findings in his rebuttal. Even one month after the Benghazi attacks, Zelin and Gartenstein-Ross wrote:
“Other released Egyptian inmates seem to have returned to operational and media roles, including Murjan Salim, who has been directing jihadis to training camps in Libya. Figures like Shaykh Jalal al Din Abu al Fatuh and Shaykh Ahmad ‘Ashush, among others, have helped loosely reorganize networks through media outlets al-Bayyan and al-Faruq.” [emphasis ours]
That would be the same Marjan Salem who leads Ansar al-Sharia Egypt and who is now involved in Libya by the admission of both Zelin and Gartenstein-Ross. Ashush is also a prominent figure in the group. Gartenstein-Ross and Zelin knew this one month after the Benghazi attacks but appeared to be disinterested in these connections nearly one year later at a House Subcommittee hearing.
The full name of this individual is Marjan Mustafa Salem Al-Jawhari but he is most commonly known as Abdul Hakim Hassan, code name Abu Amru. Marjan resided in Afghanistan, alongside other terrorists who hide in the Afghan mountains prior to entering Egypt and sentenced to over 40 years, then released alongside Muhammad Zawahiri, the younger brother of Ayman Zawahiri, the Al-Qaeda leader by the Muslim Brotherhood run government.
On 9/11/12, outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, just hours before the embassy was attacked, CNN’s Nic Robertson spoke with both the younger Zawahiri and the son of Omar Abdel-Rahman (the “Blind Sheikh”). Robertson reported that protesters at that location before the attack were calling for the Blind Sheikh’s release; the CNN reporter said nothing of an anti-Muhammad video.
In his written testimony for the committee, Gartenstein-Ross stated:
“Muhammad al-Zawahiri has connected his brother, al-Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri, with Egyptian militant Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad… In addition to Muhammad al-Zawahiri, another connection the Jamal network has to militancy in Egypt is Marjan Salim, a militant who was released from prison following Mubarak’s fall, and who served as the head of Egyptian Islamic Jihad’s sharia committee when Ayman al-Zawahiri led the group in the late 1990s.” (emphasis ours)
Gartenstein-Ross and company failed to mention that Marjan Salem is the head of Ansar Al-Sharia in Egypt and runs an organization that is steeped in terrorism, kidnappings for terrorist exchanges and his organization publicly stated that it intends to assassinate several Egyptian figures including Mohammed Al-Baradei and is geared toward operating an agenda to kidnap and assassinate both low and high profile figures.
Marjan rejects the use of the term “terrorist” as is evident in his interview with Tahrir (Freedom) TV. Gartenstein-Ross actually supports Marjan’s view of himself since he objects to the term “terrorist” being applied to this organization and – like Marjan – simply wants this organization to be known as “jihadist”.
O—The Muslim Brotherhood and Mursi does have ties with individuals mentioned in the Libyan Intelligence Document
Another name that appears in the Libyan Intelligence document is Safwat Hijazi, who along with Mursi, was identified by the six members of Ansar al-Sharia Egypt. Mursi and Hijazi are quite familiar with one another. Hijazi is credited with launching Mursi’s presidential campaign last year. During his speech, with Mursi seated directly behind him, Hijazi spoke of a dream that involved the “United States of the Arabs” with “Jerusalem as the capital”. Mursi can be seen nodding in approval. Note that Al-Nas TV – also mentioned in the Libyan Intelligence document – is credited with this broadcast:
It is not insignificant that Mursi, Hijazi, and Saudi businessman Mansour Bin Kadasa (owner of Al-Nas) were all named by captured members of Ansar al-Sharia Egypt, which was founded by Marjan Salem.
No one can deny that the spark of attacks on American Embassies was initiated by Al-Nas TV, that is Safwat Hijazi, the close friend of Mursi. We have done the research on this, not CNN or the Wall Street Journal.
P—Mursi publicly asked for the release of the blind sheikh and condemned the U.S. before and even after the attack in Benghazi, where Americans were killed.
Gartenstein-Ross operates from a false premise when he dismisses Mursi’s involvement, saying it would be bad strategy. He writes:
“This claim—improbable on its face because of how little strategic sense it would make for the actors involved…”
FACT: This ignores that Mursi released terrorists and asked repeatedly for the blind Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman’s release before and especially days after the attacks (strategic sense?) in Benghazi. Wouldn’t releasing terrorists make “little strategic sense” for any head of state too? Mursi specifically did that. Comparing a terrorist mindset with western strategy is comparing apples to oranges, which is exactly why Gartenstein-Ross should not consider Mursi as having sound ‘strategic sense’. The way he was ousted should more than demonstrate that.
One day after the attack in Benghazi, compassion from the Brotherhood was in short supply. In fact, the group blamed the anti-Muhammad video for the deaths, via Massai Ahram (translated):
“For its part, Brotherhood leaders opened fire on the U.S. administration because of the film offending the Prophet,” said Dr. Mahmoud Ghozlan, media spokesman of the group. “The insulting of the Prophet, peace be upon him, in the film, requires us to stand up against the U.S. administration and the film’s producers.”
The other issue Gartenstein-Ross takes issue with is the Libyan Intelligence Document. Without offering any proof, he asks the reader to believe that the individuals were “tortured” and implies that their confessions should be dismissed; this is pure conjecture. The document is real (even Gartenstein-Ross seems to concede this point). Yet, he wants the reader to believe his speculation while diminishing hard evidence and following leads.
As for the “data points” that Gartenstein-Ross suggests we didn’t look at, we’d like to point out that in our initial report, we presented Exhibits A thru Y – along with Addendums A and B and have since added Exhibit Z (Z1, 2, and 3). In his attempted rebuttal of our work, Gartenstein-Ross only addressed our Exhibits A and B; 25-2=23 points he missed, this would be only 8% of our data that Ross used. Will he be able to rebut the 92% remainder? We think not.
ATTEMPTS TO DISCREDIT
In his conclusion, Gartenstein-Ross points to two of our previous articles in an attempt to paint us as being on the fringe. Of the first article, he writes:
“…on June 27th, Shoebat urged the U.S. Congress to declare war on Egypt on the basis of the two data points I have analyzed. Had politicians heeded Shoebat’s advice, it would have easily constituted the gravest mistake that the U.S. has made in the past dozen years—and indeed, one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in American history.”
As you’ll note, our headline of that article was “Should Congress Declare War on Egypt?” Does that constitute urging it? Our point, which we believe Ross intentionally missed was that there is sufficient cause to investigate further the potential involvement of Mursi in the Benghazi attack. If that can be proven, it will have meant that the head of a nation state perpetrated an act of war against the United States in which four Americans were murdered. If that’s not sufficient reason to declare war, what is? At minimum, it should be on the table.
We submit that if Mursi was involved in committing an act of war against the U.S., responding by not declaring war might be the reckless position. Fortunately, since we wrote that, Egypt’s military removed Mursi from power; they did what we may have been called for had Mursi been involved in the Benghazi attack. Unfortunately, the Obama administration wants him released and Ross doesn’t seem interested in investigating Mursi’s possible involvement in Benghazi.
The second article Ross pointed to was one in which we accused the Democratic Party of being the Party of Satan; he didn’t think we looked at enough “data points” so we added some more. A consequence of attacking this piece is that Gartenstein-Ross ends up defending the Democratic Party. As far as our conclusion, we’ll stand by it.
As for the attempt to paint us as fringe, it was Gartenstein-Ross’s colleague Zelin who once said of Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf Al-Qaradawi:
“He’s a pretty popular mainstream cleric in the region. He’s not fringe, he’s got weight behind him.”
If a virulently anti-semitic leader who thinks Hitler levied “divine punishment” against the Jews is considered mainstream in any region, what does that say about the region?
OTHER FALSE CLAIMS
(Made by Gartenstein-Ross)
Claim: (Shoebat) claims to provide “ironclad” proof that both the Brotherhood and Morsi were involved (in the Benghazi attacks)
Fact: The title of our report is “Ironclad: Egypt Involved in Benghazi Attacks”, an assessment that Gartenstein-Ross says is “not new”. As for Mursi’s involvement, we argue – with dozens of exhibits and addendums – that there is more than enough probable cause to warrant a serious investigation.
Claim: Ross accuses us of “over-interpret(ing) a limited set of data points” in drawing our conclusion, which is – contrary to his interpretation of it – that enough probable cause exists to investigate Mursi’s inovlement.
Fact: We presented Exhibits A thru Y, along with two addendums that consist of multiple data points. Yet, Ross only directly responded to Exhibits A and B. As for Addendum A – a report in its own right – Ross excerpted one quote in which we tied his name to the word “confusion” without addressing any claim in the report that led us to that conclusion. Here is a list of data points in Addendum A that Ross overlooked:
- When Rep. Rohrabacher asked Ross if Ansar al-Sharia was a “terrorist organization”, Ross would not say “yes”. Instead, he identified it as a “jihadist organization”. We found this confusing.
- A frequent co-author with Ross – Aaron Zelin – implied that when Islamists join moderate political parties, they can suddenly become “moderate” too. We found this confusing.
- Ross seems to enjoy citing the work of Daniel Byman favorably, calling him “incisive” and endorsing his work. Byman was one of the subcommittee’s other expert witnesses whom Gartenstein-Ross referred to as a “colleague” during the hearing while taking questions from Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX). Byman’s name appeared on the participant list of the U.S.-Islamic Forum, held in Doha, Qatar in June of this year. That conference was a who’s who of Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers and members.
- Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB) Chairman Thomas Pickering was also on the list of IWF participants. We believe this may constitute a significant conflict of interest for the man who was charged with leading the ARB investigation into what happened with security in Benghazi.
- Byman, a professor at Georgetown University, appears to have a connection to another GU Professor and Muslim Brotherhood apologist, John Esposito. Both men also serve as Miller Center Fellowship Mentors and, like Byman, Esposito attended the IWF in Qatar.
- Esposito serves on the Board of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA), an entity founded by al-Qaeda financier, Abdullah Omar Naseef.
- Blind Sheikh Brigades claimed responsibility for attacking U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in June of 2012.
- One of the terrorists mentioned in the Libyan Intelligence document as being involved in the Benghazi attack is Marjan Salem. Though Ross is quite familiar with Marjan, who founded Ansar al-Sharia in Egypt, he ignores an interview we discovered during which Marjan admits to killing Americans and promises to release Egyptian soldiers who are being held captive in the Sinai.
- Spokesman for Ansar al-Sharia Libya denied his group’s involvement in Benghazi but then said they only shot after being shot at. We found this confusing.
There are several other data points Ross did not consider.
Addendum B is a collection from various Arabic sources that reported Libya’s intelligence chief traveled to Egypt on July 21, 2013 with information implicating Mursi in the attacks. Ross did not cite our Addendum but attempted to diminish the importance of all of these reports.
What is apparent is that Ross seems more interested in debunking evidence than in acknowledging it. Again, we are making the case for probable cause. Ross doesn’t seem to admit this. We find that confusing.
According to Eric Trager, who also works at the Washington Institute, Mahmoud Ghozlan is a deputy supreme guide with the Muslim Brotherhood and a colleague of Mursi. As such, a colleague of Mursi blamed the Benghazi attack on the anti-Muhammad video that has since been proven to have nothing to do with the attack.
Gartenstein-Ross, Zelin, and Byman all appear to be interested in focusing more on individuals involved in the Benghazi attacks rather than in the organizations they represent. By calling attention to the obscure “Jamal network” instead of Ansar al-Sharia in Egypt, for example, the perception is created that any response to the attack requires dealing with random, “freelance” terrorists who are acting on their own. This is a fatally flawed notion and makes no “strategic sense”, to use Gartenstein-Ross’s words.
Perhaps the quintessential example of this being manifest is the contracting of the February 17 Martyrs Brigade to handle security at the U.S. Special Mission Compound (SMC) in Benghazi. This group is comprised of many individuals who have belonged to Ansar al-Sharia and vice versa.
Both groups are bad and so are the individuals who comprise them. It is safe to say that the U.S. State Department consciously decided to allow the fox to guard the hen house while falling for a sick game of good cop / bad cop.
We suggest new experts be consulted on such matters in the future.
Note: In the interest of consistency, we always refer to the former president of Egypt as “Mursi”. When we quote others who spell it differently, we keep their spelling.