LIVE VIDEO: WTLV Live Video_1    Watch

E-mails: White House knew of extremist claims in Benghazi attack

8:45 AM, Oct 24, 2012   |    comments
  • In an e-mail obtained by CNN, State Department officials notify that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is under attack.
  • In an e-mail obtained by CNN, State Department officials notify that the attack is over.
  • In an e-mail obtained by CNN, State Department officials notify that the Ansar al-Sharia -- identified in the subject line of the email -- has taken responsibility for the attack.
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

WASHINGTON -- Two hours after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the White House, the State Department and the FBI were told that an Islamist group had claimed credit, government e-mails obtained by CNN show.

MORE: AP: Drones, forces set for possible Libya strike

One of the e-mails -- sent from a State Department address to various government agencies -- specifically identifies Ansar al-Sharia as claiming responsibility for the attack on its Facebook page and on Twitter.

MORE: Clinton says consulate security her responsibility

The e-mails raise further questions about the seeming confusion on the part of the Obama administration to determine the nature of the September attack and those who planned it.

The attack left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.

MORE: US embassy sought extension of security team

The day after it took place, President Barack Obama labeled the incident an "act of terror."

But in the days following the attack, White House spokesman Jay Carney maintained there was no evidence suggesting the attack was "planned or imminent."

MORE: House committee: Requests for security in Libya denied

The administration also suggested that an anti-Muslim video produced in the United States likely fueled a spontaneous demonstration in Benghazi as it had in Cairo, where the U.S. Embassy also was attacked.

MORE: White House: Libya was 'terrorist attack'

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland and Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, all cited the video as a motivating factor in the attack.

On September 13, a senior U.S. official told CNN that the violence in Libya was not the work of "an innocent mob."

MORE: Source: Slain ambassador Stevens said he was on al Qaeda list

"The video or 9/11 made a handy excuse and could be fortuitous from their perspective, but this was a clearly planned military-type attack," the official said.

But it wasn't until September 19 that the administration began to call the attack the work of terrorists.

MORE: Libyans express sorrow over killings

The e-mails provide additional insight into the Benghazi attack.

The first one, sent at 4:05 p.m. ET, or 10:05 p.m. in Libya, describes a diplomatic mission under attack.

MORE: Ex-SEALs, online gaming maven among Benghazi dead

"Approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well," the e-mail says. Stevens and four other mission staff are in the compound safe haven, it added.

Less than an hour later at 4:54 p.m. ET, another e-mail reports "firing at the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi has stopped and the compound has been cleared." It says a search was underway for consulate personnel.

The final e-mail, from 6:07 p.m., notes the claim of responsibility for the attack.

The subject line reads: "Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack."

The email says: "Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.

The Facebook claim of involvement was subsequently denied by the group at a news conference in the following days, but not very convincingly.

"We are saluting our people for this zeal in protecting their religion, to grant victory to the prophet," a spokesman for Ansar al-Sharia said at the time. "The response has to be firm."


Most Watched Videos