CBS’ Lara Logan has been roundly criticized for using Dylan Davies as a source, and by all accounts he was a fraudulent one. This does not, however, mean that all other elements of her report were entirely false, a theory that was put forward by Nancy A. Youssef, a reporter at McClatchy News. Youssef’s reporting seems to indicate that she’s changed her thinking over the past month. Either that, or she’s operating in a strange world of doublethink. And Logan, who was placed on leave for her retracted “60 Minutes” report, is now set to return early next year.
Youssef penned a piece on November 13 that took apart Logan’s reporting and her hyper-reliance on the idea that al Qaeda took part in the Benghazi attacks and guarded the hospital where the Ambassador’s body was taken. “Logan claimed that ‘it’s now well established that the Americans were attacked by al Qaida in a well-planned assault,’” in her 60 Minutes feature, wrote Youssef. “But al Qaida has never claimed responsibility for the attack, and the FBI, which is leading the U.S. investigation, has never named al Qaida as the sole perpetrator,” she continued.
Al Qaeda may have never been named the sole perpetrator of the attacks, but the 100 pages of emails released by the Obama administration show the CIA and FBI fingering core al-Qaeda operatives as early as September 14, 2012—just two days after the attack. In an email sent that day from the CIA, a staffer wrote “Thanks… Fyi FBI says AQ (not AQIM) was involved and they are pushing that theory.”
“So we are not ahead of law enforcement now.”
This clearly establishes that, internally, at least, the FBI and CIA were pointing to core al Qaeda for the attacks.
“While Logan had multiple sources and good reasons to have confidence in them, her assertions that Al Qaeda carried out the attack and controlled the hospital were not adequately attributed in her report,” concluded Al Ortiz in his internal investigation of Logan’s “60 Minutes” report.
Youssef’s account is hardly unbiased. She continues, “Rather, it is believed a number of groups were part of the assault, including members and supporters of al Qaida and Ansar al Shariah, as well as attackers angered by a video made by an American that insulted Prophet Muhammad” (emphasis added). “The video spurred angry protests outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo hours beforehand.”
So, according to Youssef, al Qaeda’s role in the attacks was overblown by Logan; and the YouTube video, “Innocence of Muslims,” truly did help spark the attack on the Special Mission Compound. Must the false YouTube video narrative be re-litigated time and again before the media?
According to Youssef, “The report repeatedly referred to al Qaida as solely responsible for the attack on the compound and made no mention of Ansar al Shariah, the Islamic extremist group that controls and provides much of the security in restive Benghazi and that has long been suspected in the attack.”
“While the two organizations have worked together in Libya, experts said they have different aims—al Qaida has global objectives while Ansar al Shariah is focused on turning Libya into an Islamic state,” she reports.
That’s not the impression the U.S. government gave in August 2012, shortly before the attacks. And that’s not the impression “experts” give in Youssef’s December 2013 analysis, either. The 2012 report, al Qaeda in Libya: a Profile, stated that “Al-Qaeda has established a core network in Libya, but it remains clandestine and refrains from using the al-Qaeda name.”
And, the authors wrote, “Ansar al-Sharia (Supporters of Sharia), a militia group led by Sufian Ben Qhumu, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, could be the new face of al-Qaeda in Libya despite its leader’s denial” (emphasis added). The report speaks of an al-Qaeda “clandestine network” that has infiltrated the Libya Salafist movement “with which it shares a radical ideology and a general intent to implement sharia in Libya and elsewhere.” In other words, al Qaeda in Libya isn’t going to operate officially under the umbrella of al Qaeda; it’s just going to act like it.
In fact, the report characterizes Ansar al Sharia as an extension of al Qaeda, a fact Youssef quickly forgets. “Two of these local Islamist-oriented militias—Ansar al-Sharia and al-A’hrar Libya—are the tip of the iceberg,” write the authors. “They broadcast typical al-Qaeda-type propaganda on the Internet, and they have adopted the black flag, which symbolizes commitment to violent jihad promoted by [Al Qaeda senior leadership].”
“In a different direction, Ansar al-Sharia may become the new brand name under which jihadist groups in the Arab world seek to organize,” the report states (emphasis added). These are strong words to describe a locally oriented group.
Ironically, Youssef is the author of a more recent December 12 piece on Islamist militants in Libya, where international jihadis are being trained before shipping off to other countries. Her own reporting proves that Ansar al Sharia is not just locally oriented. “It also raises questions about the role of Libya’s homegrown militia, Ansar al Shariah, in the global jihadi movement,” Youssef writes, in a dramatic reversal. “Ansar al Shariah has its roots in the anti-Gadhafi uprising and it’s thought to have participated in the attack last year on U.S. facilities in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.”
“Any effort to train al Qaida-linked fighters here is unlikely to have gone forward without the backing of Ansar al Shariah, experts in the organization say” (emphasis added). If only Youssef would have said that much in November. What a difference just one month makes in her reporting.
This commentary originally appeared at AIM.org and is reported here with permission.