WASHINGTON—The mother of a victim in the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attack blasted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an interview with WORLD, saying a recent article in The New York Times is only trying to protect Clinton’s 2016 presidential aspirations.
“They’re just covering up for Hillary,” Pat Smith, mother of slain foreign-service officer Sean Smith, told me by phone. “Hillary killed my son. … As far as I can tell from all my sources, she was responsible—directly.”
Lawmakers, media outlets, and analysts have all criticized a front-page story in Saturday’s edition of The New York Times, in which reporter David Kirkpatrick, after “months of investigation,” concluded neither al-Qaeda nor other international terrorist groups were involved in the 9/11 anniversary attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Kirkpatrick, whose story is part of his forthcoming book, also wrote that “contrary to claims by some members of Congress, [the attack] was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”
Smith told me that conclusion doesn’t jibe with reports from her sources, many of whom have reached out to give her information since she testified before Congress in September. She said she’s “very upset” about the Times article, which doesn’t mention Clinton and offers no explanation for why security was porous or why reinforcements were told not to go help during the all-night attack.
“All the [U.S. Navy] SEALs and everybody I’ve talked to recently, they say they would never, ever, ever leave someone to be sacrificed. And that’s what happened—they were sacrificed,” she said.
The Times story contradicted the sworn testimony of Gregory Hicks, then the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, who in May told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the YouTube video was a non-event for Libyans. Hicks—who spoke by phone with Stevens during the attack, the last known conversation the ambassador had—said he talked with Clinton at 2 a.m. local time, and the video was never discussed as even a possible reason for the attack. Hicks said he was stunned when he heard the administration blaming the film: “My jaw dropped. And I was embarrassed.”
According to Victoria Toensing, Hicks’ legal counsel, Kirkpatrick made no attempt to talk to Hicks for his article or the book. “It’s obvious he didn’t want to talk to my client,” she told me. “It’s inexplicable to me why he did not call.”
Kirkpatrick built his story mostly on sources, including numerous anonymous ones, from Benghazi, which Toensing said was like going to Japan during World War II to ask if they attacked at Pearl Harbor. “The story is based on proving a negative,” she said. “I was shocked that The New York Times published something so unsophisticated.”
The story says al-Qaeda had been unable to establish a foothold in Libya, a claim that runs counter to the U.S. government’s findings a month before the attack. An August 2012 Library of Congress report said al-Qaeda “has established a core network in Libya,” though it “remains clandestine and refrains from using the al-Qaeda name.” It said Ansar al-Sharia, the group that immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, “has increasingly embodied al-Qaeda’s presence in Libya.”
Kirkpatrick acknowledged Ansar al-Sharia’s role in the attack but found “no evidence” to suggest a “direct role” for al-Qaeda. Kirkpatrick contended only local extremists, led by an “eccentric” militia leader named Ahmed Abu Khattala, carried out the assault.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of that committee, both told Fox News the Times story was misleading. Rogers said the FBI is targeting people with “strong al-Qaeda ties” in connection with the attack, and Schiff said, “The intelligence indicates al-Qaeda was involved.”
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the Times story largely tracks with what the State Department believes happened in Benghazi, though the investigation is still ongoing. When asked if she agreed that al-Qaeda played no role, she chose her words carefully, saying no “core al-Qaeda” members directed or planned the attack, but “extremists were involved. … These were clearly terrorists.”
Clare Lopez, a former CIA officer who is part of the Citizens Commission on Benghazi, said it would be very easy to identify what kind of attack took place if the administration would release the surveillance.
“They’ve got a lot of camera footage, and they’re not releasing it,” she told me. “They knew who broke through, when they broke through, and what weapons they were carrying.”
Lopez said the article fails to mention several key facts, including the possibility of U.S. gun-running and the video al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released on Sept. 10, 2012, calling for attacks to avenge the death of his deputy, who was killed three months earlier in a drone strike.
Lopez said the complete absence of Clinton from the piece is a glaring omission.
“She’s so whitewashed she’s invisible,” Lopez said. “It was her responsibility to make sure the facilities are safe. … Not only did she not provide security; she stripped it away.”