Rep. Peter King (R-NY) on US Consulate attack in Benghazi & if Al Qaeda is stronger after President Obama took office.
Jen Psaki, the Obama campaign’s traveling press secretary, argues that the violent protests in Benghazi, Libya broke out in response to the American-made anti-Islamic film despite claims of several politicians that the attack was a premeditated and coordinated effort.
“Unfortunately, this is a response to a video that we had nothing to do with that is disgusting and we have repudiated strongly,” Psaki says. “And now we're working every day to make sure that we can address this, and make sure we can ensure the security of our people serving abroad.”
While Republicans criticize the president’s policies, Psaki further argues that the United States under President Obama remains capable of protecting its interests and embassies abroad.
“The president is someone who said, 'I'm going to go after Osama bin Laden.' And he did. And he's dead. He said, 'I'm going to go after al Qaeda.' And he's decimated them. He's restored our place in the world. This is a crisis we're dealing with, the president is focused on every single day,” argues Psaki, who also worked as the White House deputy communications director for the Obama administration.
CNN is following the attacks against U.S. embassies in the Middle East from all angles this morning. From Cairo, Egypt to Benghazi, Libya, protests have now erupted at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen. Republican Congressman Mike Rogers from Michigan is the Chair of the Intelligence Committee. He is thoroughly briefed about the situation developing in the Middle East and joins Brooke Baldwin and John Berman on “Starting Point” this morning with the latest.
Congressman Rogers describes the series of attacks as “opportunities that are stacking up for individuals who want to go after American stations abroad.” “This is a very important time for us to have a very clear sense and communicate that to across the Middle East what U.S. policy is, how we’re going to handle people who cross the wall," he says. "This is a pretty serious matter. We’ve gotta stop it now. If we’re still talking about other embassies in several weeks, we’ve got a real trouble.”
Congressman Rogers cannot say whether the attacks were made by groups working together, but “the effort on the compound in Benghazi clearly was a coordinated type effort.” “It certainly has all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda operation, or an al Qaeda affiliate,” Congressman Rogers says.
Rogers also comments on the protests in Egypt and recent statements made by both Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy and President Obama. President Morsy condemned the anti-Muslim film that sparked the attack, but not the embassy attack itself. President Obama called Egypt neither an “ally” nor an “enemy”. Congressman Rogers says about Egypt, “They have a little bit of anti-Israeli rhetoric, a little bit of anti-American rhetoric weaved through some of their speeches and some of their policies in Egypt. So that’s why, right now, there is a question mark. Which direction is Egypt going to go? Are they going to be a friend and ally of the United States? Or are they going to go off in their own path, which is going to set up a whole new set of problems for Egypt?”
Baldwin refers to the images of protests, last perceived as celebratory, and asks the congressman if the Arab Spring is now coming back to haunt us. Congressman Rogers says it is too early to tell. He explains that those who were responsible for the revolution in Egypt were the youth, the highly educated and the disenfranchised, who very well connected to social media, but they “aren’t really part of the government now.”
Congressman Rogers says that this is the problem filtering around the Arab Spring. “You see these changes where people still, on the day of the free election, still feel disenfranchised,” he says, “and that’s something we haven’t quite gotten our arms around yet.”
Eleven years have passed since the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, claiming the lives nearly 3,000 people. Droves of family members and others gather at the ground zero site every year in lower Manhattan to hear the names of those that were killed there. Last week former U.S. Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette’s new book entitled, “No Easy Day” was released documenting his firsthand account of how he and other members of SEAL Team Six killed Osama bin Laden.
On Monday, the Defense Ministry said Yemeni forces killed Said al-Shihri, second in command of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Fmr. Bush Homeland Sec. Adviser, Fran Townsend says, “this is a real blow” to the al Qaeda leadership. “The al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are the most active group in terms of targeting American interests, particularly aviation.” Townsend goes on to explain that this particular sect of al Qaeda are responsible for “that underwear bomb that one Christmas a few years ago but also that computer cartridge and more recently the disrupted plot.”
Top Homeland Security expert says, “this is a very active group, taking out a senior member of their leadership is very significant.”
CNN’s Fran Townsend reports.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Ghaith Abdul-Ahad was an Israeli reporter, when in fact he is a native Iraqi. Apologies to Mr. Abdul-Ahad.
Iraqi reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad traveled to Yemen to discover the Al Qaeda base firsthand and offers Soledad O'Brien a chilling glance into the terrorist regime on "Starting Point" this morning.
Al Qaeda has previously found strength in its guerilla tactics and unorganized domain, but Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is a cohesive unit, well-known for terrorist acts such as the bombing of the USS Cole, the unsuccessful underwear bomber, and the 2010 cargo plane bomb plot. It's a move for independence, Abdul-Ahad says, and a move for the group to control their own state.
"This is the new phase of Al Qaeda," says Abdul-Ahad. "It's post-Osama Bin Laden, post-Pakistan, post-Afghanistan."
The documentary focuses on three cities in Yemen that have been overtaken and cultivated by Al-Qaeda, and the differences between the three show the diversity in the group's reign.
Abdul-Ahad says Jaar, for the most part, is life as usual - except the court systems and police force are completely run by Al Qaeda. Azzan, a mountain-town, is what he calls the "citadel" of Al Qaeda: isolated and confident. But the city of Lawder fights constantly to fend off the Al Qaeda rule.
"Al-Qaeda can take over a town, can take over a part of a population, but when the population turns against Al Qaeda, this is the end of Al Qaeda," Abdul-Ahad says.
The full half-hour PBS Frontline special "Al Quaeda in Yemen" aired last night and can be viewed on PBS.org.
Fmr. FBI special agent Ali Soufan on how the failed bomb plot provides new information on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) says foiled terror plot shows a 'new level of sophistication' in Al Qaeda terror plans.
A weekend drone attack by the U.S. against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula agent Fahd Mohammed Ahmed Al-Quso and a foiled terror plot are linked, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY) tells Soledad O'Brien on "Starting Point" this morning. This comes after a report was released yesterday that the CIA was able to stop a terrorist plot to blow up a plane in the u.S.
"I was told by the White House they are connected, they're part of the same operation, and that's why I said this operation is still ongoing," Rep. King says.
A source says the Saudis provided a tip on the plot.
We're also learning that the device is similar to that of the failed Christmas Day underwear bombing attempt nearly three years ago. The FBI says it's now testing and analyzing the device to see if it could have passed through an airport metal detector. All of it – a sobering reminder of Al Qaeda's threat.
In addition, CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend says Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula uses putty-type explosive that is non-metallic that may have been involved in the foiled plot.