Shawn Turner, the spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement Friday trying to explain the changing explanations of what happened after the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi was attacked, an area that has brought much scrutiny and criticism to the Obama administration in recent days.
“In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on U.S. personnel and facilities in Benghazi, Libya, the Intelligence Community launched a comprehensive effort to determine the circumstances surrounding the assault and to identity the perpetrators.” Turner writes. “We also reviewed all available intelligence to determine if there might be follow-on attacks against our people or facilities in Libya or elsewhere in the world. As the Intelligence Community collects and analyzes more information related to the attack, our understanding of the event continues to evolve.”
First, Turner says, in the immediate aftermath of the attack, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, “there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo. 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.”
But intelligence came in that caused officials to revise their “initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists,” Turner writes. “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. However, we do assess that some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al-Qa’ida. We continue to make progress, but there remain many unanswered questions. 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.”