WASHINGTON - A
spokesman for President Barack Obama said on Friday officials had no evidence
the attack that killed the US ambassador to Libya was pre-planned, an
assertion which added to confusion over the incident.
the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Tuesday night, US
officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, were quoted widely in the media
saying they believed the attack was well-planned and organized.
Friday, however, President Barack Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, offered a
different version of events. "We do not at this moment have information to
suggest or to tell you that would indicate that any of this unrest was
pre-planned," Carney told a press briefing.
The confusion over what the
US government knows about the attack was compounded by statements on Friday by
a leading US senator. Following a briefing by US Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta, Carl Levin, the Democrat who chairs the Senate Armed Services
Committee, told journalists he understood the attack was planned and
Another US official said: "Everything I have seen says
this was a highly armed, organized attack. Not a mob reacting to the movie.
Whether it was planned or not is another question."
While some of the key facts
remain unclear, if it is ultimately determined the attack was planned in
advance, that could prove embarrassing to Obama, who is fending off attacks from
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on his handling of escalating
anti-American violence in the Middle East.
US Ambassador to Libya
Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the
Officials of some agencies directly involved in investigating
the Benghazi attack said that, because the FBI has launched a full-scale
inquiry, they have been forbidden from publicly commenting on what is being
However, US officials familiar with the incident said the
White House assertion that it has no information indicating the violence was
planned, while arguably true in a limited context, simplifies what the US
The sources, who asked for
anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that based on information
currently available, most other government officials believe there was at least
some planning and organization behind the Benghazi attack.
anything else, the sources noted, heavy weaponry, including rocket-propelled
grenades and mortars, allegedly was used by militants during the course of the
attack. Deployment of such weaponry almost certainly would have required some
advance organization or planning.
One of the sources said that
accumulating evidence suggests that organized militants, with some modicum of
planning, may well have taken advantage of what started out as a spontaneous mob
demonstration protesting a short film, made in California, which lampooned the
At the same time, he said, hard evidence so far is
lacking that the planning behind the attack began long in advance of the mob
on Friday whether the US had any advance intelligence about a possible attack,
Carney insisted: "We were not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating
that an attack on the US mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent."