Guy Benson
For a story that the White House ("happened a long time ago") and our last two Secretaries of State ("what difference does it make?" / "more important things to worry about") insist is basically over, the Benghazi attack continues to make headlines.  CNN is reporting that at least three Al Qaeda operatives took part in the 9/11 raid.  The administration knew within the first few hours of the assault that it was the work of radical Islamist terrorism.  How long have they known that the specific organization that attacked America in 2001 was directly involved?

Several Yemeni men belonging to al Qaeda took part in the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi last September, according to several sources who have spoken with CNN. One senior U.S. law enforcement official told CNN that "three or four members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," or AQAP, took part in the attack. Another source briefed on the Benghazi investigation said Western intelligence services suspect the men may have been sent by the group specifically to carry out the attack. But it's not been ruled out that they were already in the city and participated as the opportunity arose. If the AQAP members were dispatched to Benghazi, it would be further evidence of a new level of co-operation among jihadist groups throughout the Middle East and North Africa, counterterrorism analysts say.  According to one source, counterterrorism officials learned the identity of the men and established they had spent two nights in Benghazi after the attack. Western intelligence agencies began trying to track the men in the aftermath of the terrorist attack, but were always behind in their manhunt.


Was the US up to speed on anything that night?  The FBI has finally released photos of three jihadi participants in the raid, nearly eight months after they carried out their murderous rampage.  No arrests have been made thus far, even though our government is reportedly aware of at least one suspected attacker's identity.  Of course, some of the terrorists may be dead, and more Americans may be alive, if a special ops reinforcement contingencies had been set into motion during the eight-hour ordeal.  Fox News' source -- video of whom we posted earlier in the week -- says rescue plans were drawn up, only to be rejected or ignored by the White House and State Department:

On the night of the Benghazi terror attack, special operations put out multiple calls for all available military and other assets to be moved into position to help -- but the State Department and White House never gave the military permission to cross into Libya, sources told Fox News.  Authority was also reverted to the U.S. State Department, and Fox News is told oversight of the response to the attack that night also fell to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy, who were calling the shots. Sources said that shortly after the attack began around 9:40 p.m., special forces put out the calls for assets to be moved into position.  However, the source said, "Assets did not move."

The failure of the State Department or White House to give the military permission to go into Libya, according to the source, only accentuates the significant breakdown in communication among the State Department, military, CIA and White House. "I can see the initial confusion in the beginning. I mean, you have a situation that's developing. The problem with the State Department is they don't have procedures in place. And if they do, they haven't practiced or exercised them. And now they are making up for all the mistakes they have made, with excuse. And there is no excuse," the source said, describing a "huge breakdown between State and military."

Which returns us to one of the great mysteries of Benghazi: With high-level American officials in grave danger during a coordinated terrorist attack against a US diplomatic mission in an exceedingly dangerous region -- all on the anniversary of the worst terror attack in our nation's history, no less -- where was the Commander-in-Chief?  Fox's source speaks of catastrophic communications and command breakdowns between the military, special ops forces and State Department leaders in Washington.  Meanwhile, two besieged ex-SEALS begged for help as they fended off the enemy for hours, providing detailed information regarding their whereabouts.  With our government paralyzed or unwilling to risk a rescue, our outnumbered and out-gunned men finally succumbed.  Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were abandoned to die.  Why?  The administration's own internal investigation tied everything up neatly, meting out virtually no accountability.  Now that investigative panel is itself under investigation from an Inspector General, with additional House hearings scheduled for next Wednesday.  This isn't over. 

Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography