An intelligence source on the ground in Libya told Fox News that there was no demonstration outside the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi prior to last week’s attack — challenging the Obama administration’s claims that the assault grew out of a “spontaneous” protest against an anti-Islam film.
“There was no protest and the attacks were not spontaneous,” the source said, adding the attack “was planned and had nothing to do with the movie.”
The source said the assault came with no warning at about 9:35 p.m. local time, and included fire from more than two locations. The assault included RPG’s and mortar fire, the source said, and consisted of two waves.
The account that the attack started suddenly backs up claims by a purported Libyan security guard who told McClatchy Newspapers late last week that the area was quiet before the attack.
“There wasn’t a single ant outside,” the unnamed guard, who was being treated in a hospital, said in the interview.
These details appear to conflict with accounts from the Obama administration that the attack spawned from an out-of-control protest. The Libyan president also said Sunday that the strike was planned in advance.
But a senior Obama administration official told Fox News on Monday morning that the Libyan president’s comments are not consistent with “the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community,” which has been investigating the incident, and are accordingly not credible.
“He doesn’t have the information we have,” the U.S. official said of Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif. “”He doesn’t have the (data) collection potential that we have.”
The Libyan leader told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the government in Tripoli harbors “no doubt” that the Sept. 11 attack that killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was “preplanned, predetermined.” That assessment conflicted directly with the preliminary conclusion offered on Sunday by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who appeared on all five Sunday morning talk shows.
There, Rice maintained that the Benghazi incident “was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo, as a consequence of the video,” and that after the protest outside the U.S. consulate gathered steam, “those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons.”
Asked if the timing of the Benghazi incident – the eleventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks — was simply a coincidence, the senior U.S. official said on Monday: “It is coincidental. All evidence we have points to this video being the spark of these events. In all of the intel and traffic, there was no one out there saying, ‘Oh, it’s September 11th, we must avenge…'”
The senior U.S. official added that this is “the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community at this point,” and that Rice “was not out there volunteering her own opinions.”
The official also discounted as “not accurate” reports that staff at U.S. embassy in Egypt warned the State Department — in a cable purportedly sent on the afternoon of Sept. 10 — about the effect the anti-Islam video was having, and the likelihood of violent protests in Cairo, but received no response from Washington.
“There was cable traffic, involving discussion of the video and the potential for protests, the Embassy was aware,” the U.S. official told Fox News. “There were discussions about protests between the relevant agencies — intel and State — but the idea that there was no response from State is false.”
Officials at the State Department and the White House continue to express satisfaction with the cooperation they are receiving from foreign governments in the protection of American diplomats and their families. This is said to be especially the case in those instances where President Obama has reached out to foreign heads of state, namely Egypt, Yemen and Libya.
Still, the State Department over the weekend — in a shift of plans that occurred sometime after Friday evening — announced the evacuation of diplomats’ family members and “non-essential” personnel from U.S. Embassies in Tunisia and Sudan, sites of some of the most violent scenes on Friday.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, James Rosen and Pamela Browne contributed to this report.