One of the first things that President Obama tried to do upon taking office in 2008 was try to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It didn’t take. One of the major objections to the President’s plan was the idea of bringing those prisoners into America and the American justice system, instead favoring releasing these prisoners into the custody of foreign governments.
In 2007, that’s what the outgoing Bush administration did with Abu Sufian bin Qumu, releasing him from Guantanamo Bay into the custody of the Libyan government. In less than a year, he walked away a free man. According to unnamed U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Post, Qumu is “the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in the Libyan city of Darnah, [and] participated in the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.”
This revelation contradicts the conclusion made by a recent New York Times piece that identifies Qumu by saying, “neither Mr. Qumu nor anyone else in Derna appears to have played a significant role in the attack on the American Mission.” This information was provided to the Times by U.S. officials, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Post acknowledges that Ahmed Abu Kattala, the central figure of the Times report, was involved in the attack in addition to Qumu and Sief Allah bin Hassine. The report says these men and their groups will be designated as “specially designated global terrorists.”
This does not mean that the Benghazi attack was a carefully planned and coordinated one. “We will never be able to know what motivated everyone involved in this attack, and one of the things the investigation is looking at right now is the level of planning that may have gone into it,” says a source for the Post.
It’s possible that like the other groups involved, Qumu saw an opportunity and acted on it with little advance planning. However due to the deeply partisan and political rhetoric tied to this attack, few people are willing to go on-the-record about the story. The only person who has used a false name and a false story in the 60 Minutes report that CBS has scrubbed from their website (but can still be found here).
These conflicting reports may indicate how divided those conducting this investigation are amongst themselves. Things like the motivation for the attack and what role the “Muhammad Movie Trailer” video played in the attack will almost always exist as speculation and impossible to prove with conventional intelligence. Yet, one should hope they could at least agree on the roles each of these groups played in the attack.