The question of whether an L.A. propaganda film helped to inspire the fatal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens might have been answered by The New York Times over the weekend.
After “months of investigation,” including interviews with several players on the ground during the Libyan violence, the paper concluded in an epic report that the answer is mostly yes.
More importantly, the investigation found that al-Qaeda, the organization behind the attacks of 9/11, had no involvement in Benghazi:
The news comes after 15 months of political debate over the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attack.
Republicans have used the violence to argue that, in the wake of Osama bin-Laden's demise, the Obama Administration doesn't have a handle on his organization, al-Qaeda.
Republicans also have charged that the administration lied about the roots of the attack by pointing the finger at Cerritos' Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who inflamed the Islamic world with a movie trailer that clowned its religion.
Produced in L.A., the film, Innocence of Muslims, was translated into Arabic and quickly led to uprisings in the summer of 2012.
The Times says that, on the day of the attack, “There is no doubt that anger over the video motivated many attackers:”
A Libyan journalist working for The New York Times was blocked from entering by the sentries outside, and he learned of the film from the fighters who stopped him. Other Libyan witnesses, too, said they received lectures from the attackers about the evil of the film and the virtue of defending the prophet.
The report indicates local militia leader Abu Khattala was a key instigator. But there were other influences:
The violence … also had spontaneous elements. Anger at the video motivated the initial attack. Dozens of people joined in, some of them provoked by the video and others responding to fast-spreading false rumors that guards inside the American compound had shot Libyan protesters. Looters and arsonists, without any sign of a plan, were the ones who ravaged the compound after the initial attack, according to more than a dozen Libyan witnesses as well as many American officials who have viewed the footage from security cameras.
One element was missing from the Times' investigation, though: al-Qaeda. The paper found that …
… the only intelligence connecting Al Qaeda to the attack was an intercepted phone call that night from a participant in the first wave of the attack to a friend in another African country who had ties to members of Al Qaeda, according to several officials briefed on the call. But when the friend heard the attacker's boasts, he sounded astonished, the officials said, suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault.
Federal prosecutors went after Nakoula for using the Internet, which they said violated the terms of his 2010 bank fraud conviction, which barred him from going online.
He was put behind bars and then was released a little more than a year after the attack on the Benghazi compound.
The filmmaker had been under the supervision of the federal Community Corrections Office in San Pedro and has been maintaining a low profile since his release.