Policy & Strategy

Questions remain on Gitmo detainee ties to Libya attack

Sufian bin Qumu, a former terror detainee at the American facility in Cuba, was discussed as a person of interest in relation to the consulate raid in Benghazi, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said after a classified briefing by top diplomatic, defense and intelligence officials.

{mosads}Smith declined to go into detail on the information provided by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on Bin Qumu’s involvement, except to say the Libyan national was brought up in relation to the consulate raid. 

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) refused to comment on the information lawmakers received from administration officials on bin Qumu during the brief, citing the classified nature of the meeting. 

But Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), a member of the House intelligence committee, told reporters after the same briefing there was “no evidence at this time” bin Qumu was one of the gunmen who assaulted the consulate. 

However, the Maryland Democrat noted that more information could surface regarding bin Qumu when FBI teams on the ground in Benghazi conclude their investigation into the strike. 

The attack, in which Libyan gunmen raked the U.S. diplomatic outpost with a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun fire, ended with the deaths of four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Recent news reports linking bin Qumu to the Benghazi attack began to surface Wednesday, two days before White House officials briefed Capitol Hill on the strike. 

Bin Qumu was being detained by the United States for his alleged role in financing the 9/11 terrorist attacks. His family was also reportedly receiving monthly payments from al Qaeda’s payroll, according to recent reports. 

Prior to the consulate attack, bin Qumu was handed over to Libyan security forces under the assumption he would remain in custody after being transferred to Tripoli. 

But in 2010, Saif Gadhafi, son of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, released bin Qumu from government custody as part of a deal with the Libyan Islamic Liberation Group (LIFG). 

The LIFG is an al Qaeda-affiliated terror cell headquartered in Benghazi.

Details regarding bin Qumu’s release from Libyan custody were included in a congressional report, drafted in part by the irregular warfare division of the Pentagon’s Combating Terrorist Technical Support Office.

The report, released a month before the Benghazi attack, identified bin Qumu as the leader of the Libyan faction of Ansar al-Sharia, an al Qaeda branch that first arose as part of the group’s Yemen terror cell. 

To congressional and Pentagon analysts, bin Qumu “could be the new face of al-Qaeda in Libya,” according to the report. 

But the growing uncertainty among lawmakers, especially Republicans, on bin Qumu’s role in the strike is symptomatic of the Obama administration’s failure to disclose all it knows about the raid to Congress. 

The White House took tremendous flak from the GOP after it reversed its stance on the attack. Initially administration officials claimed the raid was the result of a violent protest against the consulate that got out of hand. 

On Thursday, the White House said the attack was a coordinated terrorist attack against American diplomats in Benghazi. 

“I really think they hurt themselves tremendously from the standpoint of trying to build trust,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters on the White House changing its characterization on the attack. 

“If anything, [it] built far greater distrust in what’s happening than in answering questions. It was pretty unbelievable,” Corker said after Thursday’s classified briefings.

Tags Adam Smith Bob Corker Hillary Clinton John McCain

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