CNN has released redacted copies of emails to the White House from someone at the State Department reporting that a terrorist organization, Ansar al-Sharia, claimed responsibility for the Benghazi attacks on their social media sites hours after the initial incident. CNN also reports, that group later retracted their claims of responsibility; but these emails are likely to be further fodder for right-wing extremists to claim some sort of conspiratorial cover-up by the White House to hide the terrorist attack from the public.
A group claiming responsibility on social media does not prove a terrorist attack. Although we now know that Benghazi wasn’t the work of an innocent mob, I don’t see how these emails are convincing evidence of a White House cover-up; more likely, there was LOTS of information coming from the intelligence community in the wake of the attacks, some of it contradictory and all of which needed to be sorted through and verified.
Initial intelligence reports cited numerous violent protests throughout the region in response to the anti-Muslim video that coincided with the timing of the attack. It was initially a far more parsimonious conclusion that the Benghazi attack was related.
While the response to Benghazi was clearly mishandled by the White House and/or the intelligence community, I think this is also something of a manufactured controversy. I think the administration was keeping the public apprised of the situation as they felt they were able to do, and (as sometimes happens when you’re doing this kind of work) the initial conclusions based on the available evidence were wrong, as more evidence was uncovered.
Also, imagine for example the alternative: what would’ve been the consequences had the White House claimed that the Benghazi attacks were a terrorist action, and were later found to be wrong? Would we really have wanted the White House to rush to a conclusion that pointed fingers at various terrorist organizations, without having all the facts?