Report: CIA tagged Libya raid a terrorist strike hours after attack

The agency's station chief in Libya uncovered information on the terrorist connection to the Benghazi attack within 24 hours of the assault, The Associated Press reported Friday. 

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However, it remains unclear how high that field report from Libya reached into the CIA's chain of command. 

The CIA station chief in Libya cabled intelligence reports based on eyewitness accounts of the Benghazi strike to intelligence officials in the U.S. the day after the Sept. 11 strike. 

The report theorized the attack was a coordinated assault against the consulate by Libyan militants, who used anti-American demonstrations against the U.S. Embassy in Egypt as a way to pass off the strike as spontaneous event.

The CIA cable from Libya reached Washington on Sept. 13, according to U.S. officials interviewed by the AP.

But two days later, agency officials told Congress the "demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault," according to CIA briefings obtained by the AP. 

"There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations," according to the congressional briefings; however, they did not include eyewitness accounts directly tying the strike to Libyan terror groups. 

On Friday, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) renewed their calls for more information from the intelligence community on the Benghazi attack. 

In a letter to CIA chief David Petraeus, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan, the senators again demanded the intelligence officials clarify the "public confusion and shifting official explanations" over the Libya attack. 

The agency's account of the attack flies in the face of recent White House criticism of the intelligence community for the administration's initial flawed assessment that the raid was the result of a protest that spiraled out of control. 

“The intelligence community told us that,” Vice President Biden said during last Thursday's vice presidential debate with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

“As they learned more facts about exactly what happened, they changed their assessment," he said. 

Shortly after the debate, former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden said the administration had no one to blame but itself for its flawed explanation of the Benghazi attack. 

"It is clear that any failure was not on the part of the intelligence community, but on the part of White House decision-makers who should have listened to, and acted on, available intelligence," Hayden said in a joint statement with former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff issued last Friday. 

Hayden told The Hill in September the Libya strike looked “more planned, more intentional” than the violent protest that erupted at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on the same day. 

Benghazi, Hayden noted at the time, is home to the al Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). 

Friday's report will also likely provide GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney with plenty of ammunition to go after President Obama on the issue during next Monday's third and final presidential debate. 

The former Massachusetts governor took Obama to task over Libya during Tuesday's presidential debate, hammering the White House for taking nearly two weeks to admit the strike was the work of Islamic militants in the country. 

Obama fired back that he did, in fact, call the Benghazi strike an act of terror the day after the attack during a speech at the White House. 

The transcript of the president's speech shows that Obama vaguely drew the connection between the strike and "acts of terror" against the United States. 

“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for,” the president said during that Sept. 12 speech. 

"We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done," the president said at the time.