The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) admitted late Friday that the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was a “deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists,” according to a statement.
In the days following the attack on the U.S. Consulate that killed four U.S. diplomats, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, several Obama administration officials maintained that the attacks were spontaneous and not related to any terror group.
That information quickly proved false, as reports began to indicate that affiliates of the terror organization al Qaeda had organized the attack well in advance.
DNI admitted in its statement that it initially provided the president with incorrect intelligence assessments related to the assault.
“In the immediate aftermath, there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo,” the statement reads. “We provided that initial assessment to Executive Branch officials and members of Congress, who used that information to discuss the attack publicly and provide updates as they became available. Throughout our investigation we continued to emphasize that information gathered was preliminary and evolving.”
DNI shifted its assessment as more information came to light, according to the statement.
“As we learned more about the attack, we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists,” the statement reads.
However, “unanswered questions” still remain, DNI said.
“It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attack, and if extremist group leaders directed their members to participate,” DNI said. “However, we do assess that some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al Qaeda.”
U.S. intelligence organizations are still unclear about many of the details surrounding the attack, DNI admits in the statement.
“We continue to make progress, but there remain many unanswered questions,” the statement said. “As more information becomes available our analysis will continue to evolve and we will obtain a more complete understanding of the circumstances surrounding the terrorist attack.”
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, took heat from politicians and pundits in the days after the attack when she claimed that the siege was “spontaneous” and resulted from protests related to an anti-Islam film that inflamed extremists across the Middle East.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated after the attack that there was “no actionable intelligence” preceding the attack.
A Newsweek report contradicted the administration and contradicts DNI’s claims that it initially remained unclear if al Qaeda was behind the attack.
“Within 24 hours of the 9/11 anniversary attack on the United States Consulate in Benghazi,” Newsweek reported, “U.S. intelligence agencies had strong indications al Qaeda–affiliated operatives were behind the attack.”
The DNI statement highlights a series of questionable comments and intelligence lapses from Director James Clapper.
Clapper declared last year that the Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular,” despite much evidence to the contrary.
Clapper also raised eyebrows last year when he appeared to be unaware about a high-profile terror event in London, sitting “silently after an interviewer asked him about the arrest of 12 terrorist suspects in London,” according to a Politics Daily report.