A group affiliated with the al-Qaida terrorist organization was involved in the deadly Sept. 11, 2011 attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, Rep. Darrell Issa insists, despite a New York Times investigation that suggests otherwise.
“There was a group that was involved that claims an affiliation with al-Qaida,” Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told NBC “Meet the Press” host David Gregory Sunday.
Issa has long been one of the more outspoken critics of how the Obama administration handled the attack, including claims made by then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice that the embassy attack was a mirror image of an attack in Egypt after Muslims reacted over an inflammatory video about the Prophet Muhammad.
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Issa and other Republicans have maintained that the attack was a planned and organized raid backed by al-Qaida, but The New York Times lengthy investigative report, written by journalist David Kirkpatrick, concludes that local militants conducted the raid, not al-Qaida or other international terrorist groups. The report also says that while the video itself was not the entire cause of the attack, it helped inflame some of the attackers.
Issa conceded Sunday that Kirkpatrick did “very good work,” but he still has not seen conclusive evidence that the video led to the attack. Further, he said that it is time for the Obama administration to tell the truth about its misstatements.
“They went out on five stations and told the story that was at best a coverup for the CIA or at worst something that cast away this idea that there was a real terrorist operation in Benghazi,” Issa told Gregory.
Kirkpatrick, appearing at the beginning of the program, told Gregory that Issa and other Republicans may be combining the goals of Islamic groups with the al-Qaida network and its infamous leader, Osama bin Laden.
“If you’re using the term al-Qaida to describe even a local group of Islamist militants who dislike democracy or have a grudge against the United States, If you’re going to call anybody like that ‘al-Qaida,’ then, okay,” the New York Times journalist said.
Kirkpatrick denied Sunday that his piece bolsters Rice’s comments about the attacks being conducted by a mob inflamed by the video, however.
“No, we’re not bolstering that statement,” Kirkpatrick said. “This was not a street protest. This was not a copycat of Cairo. This was a group of armed men.”
But Kirkpatrick said the United States misunderstood the Libyan militias on the ground at the time.
“The attackers were the militias the Americans thought were there to protect the mission,” said Kirkpatrick.
Meanwhile, Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro told Gregory that he hopes Issa and other Republicans have learned a lesson from the report.
“They crusaded for over a year over what’s basically a fairy tale,” said Castro. He noted that as in an any other major event, there was a great deal of information released that needed to be verified.
“Susan Rice and the administration were doing their best to provide information,” said Castro. “Issa and the others took it and crusaded with it.
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By Sandy Fitzgerald