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Congress, in bipartisan tone, disputes report Al Qaeda not involved in deadly Benghazi attack

 

House lawmakers on Sunday disputed a new report that concludes Al Qaeda played no role in the fatal 2012 terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

The report, published Saturday in The New York Times, found no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had a role in the assault that killed four Americans on Sept. 11, 2012, and stated the attack appeared largely fueled by anger over an American-made anti-Islamic video, as the Obama administration first claimed.

“I dispute that, and the intelligence community, to a large volume, disputes that,” Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told “Fox News Sunday.”  

He also repeatedly said the story was “not accurate.”

Rogers was joined on the show by California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who said, “intelligence indicates Al Qaeda was involved.”

The findings in the New York Times story also conflict with testimony from Greg Hicks, the deputy of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the attack. Hicks described the video as "a non-event in Libya" at that time, and consequently not a significant trigger for the attack

Sean Smith, a foreign service officer, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were also killed in the 2012 attack.

The responses by Rogers and Schiff Sunday follow New York Rep. Peter King, member and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, telling Fox News on Saturday the argument in the Times story that the militia group Ansar al-Shariah -- not Al Qaeda -- led the Benghazi attack is an academic argument over semantics.

“It’s misleading,” said King, considering Ansar al-Shariah is widely believed to be an affiliate terror group of Al Qaeda. “It’s a distinction without a difference.”

Schiff, a House Intelligence Committee member, said the story doesn’t conclude the attack was a flash mob attack or a “pre-planned, core Al Qaeda operation.”

Rogers declined to say whether he thought the recent Benghazi-related stories on TV and in print were politically motivated -- particularly to try to exonerate then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is eyeing a 2016 presidential bid.

But he took issue with Ambassador Susan Rice talking about the incident when Congress “still has an ongoing investigation.”

Schiff said the newspaper report “was not designed to exonerate State Department lapses.”