Internet Surveillance? When Ansar al-Sharia Claimed on Facebook it Did Benghazi, Administration Blamed a YouTube Video

By Terence P. Jeffrey | June 7, 2013 | 10:47am EDT

The burnt-out shell of a building at the State Department's mission in Benghazi after the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

( - The National Security Agency may have been conducting massive surveillance of the Internet through its PRISM program, including surveillance of Facebook--as The Guardian and The Washington Post reported yesterday--but that did not prevent the administration from blaming the Benghazi terrorist attack, which a terrorist group was openly taking credit for on Facebook, on a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube.

While the Benghazi attack was still unfolding on the evening of Sept. 11, 2012, Ansar al-Sharia, a Benghazi-based terrorist group with links to al Qaeda, made a posting on Facebook taking responsibility for the attack. Despite Ansar al-Sharia's Facebook posting, the administration publicly explained the attack as the outgrowth of a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube.

At about 3:42 p.m. Washington, D.C., time on Sept. 11, 2012, a group of terrorists swarmed through the front gate of the State Department's Special Mission Compound in Benghazi.

Twenty-three minutes later, at 4:05 p.m., Washington, D.C., time, the State Department's Operations Center sent an email to the National Security Staff at the White House, to the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and to the Pentagon stating that the Benghazi facility was under attack.

That email carried the tagline: "U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack."

That email said: "The Regional Security Officer says the diplomatic mission is under attack. Embassy Tripoli reports approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well. Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM personnel are in the compound safe haven. The 17th February militia is providing security support. The Operations Center will provide updates as available."

At 6:07 p.m., the State Department Operations Center sent an update that again went to the National Security Staff at the White House.

The tagline on this update said: "Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack."

In the text, the email said: "Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli."

About four hours after the State Department Operations Center told the White House that Ansar al-Sharia was taking credit on Facebook for the attack in Benghazi--and as that attack was still unfolding--Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put out a statement linking the attack to "inflammatory material posted on the Internet."

Clinton's "Statement on the Attack in Benghazi" was released in the 10:00 p.m. hour on Sept. 11, 2012--which was before the terrorists had killed former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty in Benghazi.

“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious belief of others,” Clinton said in that statement.

Who told Clinton on Sept. 11, 2012 that the Benghazi attack was being justified "as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet?" When put that question to the State Department, the department did not answer it.

In the days that followed, the Obama administration would repeatedly assert that the terrorist attack in Benghazi arose out of a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube. At that time, the administration did not make reference to the Facebook posting by Ansar al-Sharia taking credit for the attack.

The existence of the State Department email, telling the White House on Sept. 11, 2012, that Ansar al Sharia was taking credit for the attack on Benghazi--and was doing it on Facebook--was first reported by Sharyl Attkisson at CBS News on Oct. 23.

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