The 60 Minutes piece by Lara Logan on the Benghazi attacks was well done. It included excerpts of interviews with State Department whistleblower Gregory Hicks, Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, and a British security official who was in charge of the Libyans who were hired to provide security, Libyans he didn’t seem impressed by.
Here’s the report via 60 Minutes; commentary to follow:
Well done, yes but also a bit incomplete and possibly misleading in some respects.
First, here we are more than one year later and Logan reports it’s now “well established” that the compound was attacked by al-Qaeda. When was this established? It would seem that this is a bit of a bombshell, would it not? Initially, the attack was about a video; then it was a group called Ansar Al-Sharia. Now, a “well established” fact that al-Qaeda was involved. This is a bit of news if for no other reason than it is officially acknowledged.
Earlier this week, Fox News’ Catherine Herridge reported that the attack had connections to “Al-Qaeda Core” in Pakistan. Again, huge bombshell because it leads to Ayman al-Zawahiri, whose first cousin was Mohammed Mursi’s chief of staff.
The 60 Minutes piece went in a curious direction when it seemed to imply that the guy who could take the fall for the attack is Abu Anas al Libi, who was apprehended by U.S. Special Forces in Tripoli earlier this month. Al Libi is wanted for his role in the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. He was not a suspect in the Benghazi attack but Logan reported he is being questioned to find out what he knew about it.
Completely absent from the report was any reference to Egypt’s involvement. For example, the Jamal Network’s involvement in the Benghazi attacks is far more established than any connection al Libi may have. The network’s founder Muhammad Jamal Abdo Al-Kashif is currently sitting in an Egyptian jail and has even been identified by the U.N. Security Council as a lead suspect in the attack with connections to Ayman al-Zawahiri (yes, that Ayman al-Zawahiri).
Let’s also not forget that Thomas Pickering inadvertently divulged information from his Accountability Review Board’s “classified” report when he mentioned an Egyptian connection. He was almost undoubtedly referring to the Jamal Network. A few weeks after doing so, the U.S. State Department identified Al-Kashif and his network as terrorists. Unlike the U.N., State did not identify Al-Kashif or his network as suspects in the Benghazi attack but it did acknowledge his connection to and correspondence with Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Publicly acknowledging that al Libi was involved in the Benghazi attacks is far more preferable to the Obama administration than putting the spotlight on the Jamal Network for several reasons. Among them is that Al-Kashif was released from prison after the fall of Mubarak and subsequently founded his network. There are multiple Arabic reports that say Mursi pardoned him. This would mean that the President of a nation state pardoned the guy whose network was responsible for the murder of a U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans.
We also know that Al-Kashif is connected to Al-Zawahiri. Making this even more potentially explosive are reports that Mursi and al-Zawahiri collaborated to release jihadists and open terror camps in the Sinai and along Egypt’s border with Libya.
Let’s go back to the 60 Minutes piece again. Take note of what is said about the attack on the CIA Annex. Lt. Col. Andrew Wood said it was highly coordinated and extremely professional, likening the direct hits that killed Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods to sinking basketball after basketball into a net without looking.
Again, this leads to the Jamal Network and one of its leaders – perhaps above Al-Kashif himself. That man’s name is Tarek Taha Abu Al-Azm and, like Al-Kashif, is currently in an Egyptian jail. Al-Azm was a major in the Egyptian military and was subsequently trained by the U.S. Air Force according to multiple Arabic sources. He is suspected of having been involved in the attacks in Benghazi.
Again, identifying al Libi as the fall guy would be preferable to the Obama administration than would be exposing the Jamal Network’s complicity. Remember, State identified the network as a terrorist entity, the U.N. identified the network’s involvement in the attacks, and Pickering admitted an Egyptian connection.
Pointing to al Libi is not just a reach; it’s a distraction.