Washington: The top US intelligence authority has revised its assessment of the September 11 attack on its Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Issuing an unusual public statement on Friday, the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the attack on its diplomatic facilities in Benghazi was a "deliberate and organized terrorist attack."
The statement issued by Clapper’s office marks a sudden shift from its initial assessment that the Benghazi attack began spontaneously following a protest over an anti-Muslim film.
Acknowledging a change in the US intelligence assessment of how and why the attack happened, it said that it now believes the terrorist assault was carried out by extremists affiliated or sympathetic with al Qaeda.
It is to be noted that during the attack on two US government compounds in the eastern Libyan city, four US personnel, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed.
Shawn Turner, spokesman for Clapper's office, was quoted sa saying, “In the immediate aftermath of the attack, US agencies came to the view that the Benghazi attack had begun spontaneously after protests at the US Embassy in Cairo against a short film made in California lampooning the Prophet Mohammad.”
Turner said that as U.S. intelligence subsequently 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."
However, he said that it was still unclear if any individual or specific group commanded the attack. U.S. agencies nonetheless believe that some of the militants involved in the attack were "linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al-Qaida."
On September 14, three days after the attacks, President Barack Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, said the United States had no evidence the Benghazi attack was planned.
Two days later, Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said preliminary information suggested the attacks were not premeditated and were protests against the anti-Muslim film that provoked demonstrations in Egypt.
Last week, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, described the incident as a terror attack, but noted it was not "significantly planned."
With Agency Inputs
First Published: Saturday, September 29, 2012, 11:00