An armed man waves his rifle after buildings and cars were set on fire inside the US Consulate compound in Benghazi late on Sept. 11.
Credit: STR

After continued review the evidence, the US Director of National Intelligence revised his assessment of the September 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya and now calls it a “deliberate and organized terrorist attack.”

Director James Clapper’s office initially called the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three staff members at the US Consulate spontaneous.

“As the intelligence community collects and analyzes more information related to the attack, our understanding of the event continues to evolve,” the statement said.

“Throughout our investigation we continued to emphasize that information gathered was preliminary and evolving.”

Clapper’s staff said the poorly made, short film on YouTube called “Innocence of Muslims” triggered protests in Cairo that eventually spilled over into Libya.

That assessment has now changed to acknowledge at least a peripheral relationship that Al Qaeda had to the attackers.

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“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,” the DNI said.

“However, we do assess that some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

Both Reuters and CNN called Friday’s announcement “unusual.”

CNN’s Suzanne Kelly wrote that DNI is trying to “distance itself from the political debate over whether the Obama administration is being fully forthcoming about its understanding of events.”

Various US politicians or intelligence bodies offered differing opinions on the attack.

The National Counterterrorism Center said it was terrorism, but not planned.

UN Ambassador Susan Rice blamed the protest; however, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said terrorists are “clearly” responsible last week.

That day, CNN reported a senior US intelligence official said evidence pointed to Al Qaeda.

Clapper’s statement said the investigation continues.

“For its part, the intelligence community will continue to follow the information about the tragic events in Benghazi wherever it leads,” the statement said.

“The president demands and expects that we will do this, as do Congress and the American people. As the Intelligence Community, we owe nothing less than our best efforts in this regard, especially to the families of the four courageous Americans who lost their lives at Benghazi in service of their country.”

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