(CNSNews.com) – National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen said Wednesday that there is no “specific intelligence” to suggest that the “terrorist attack” on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi was coordinated in advance and may have involved individuals with connections to al Qaeda or al Qaeda affiliates.
Olsen said the intelligence community is focused on who is responsible for the attack and “a number of different elements appear to have been involved in the attack, including individuals connected to militant groups that are prevalent in Eastern Libya, particularly in the Benghazi area.”
He said they are looking into “indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to al Qaeda or al Qaeda affiliates, in particular, al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb.
“What we don’t have at this point is specific intelligence that there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack. Again, we’re still developing facts and still looking for any indications of substantial advanced planning. We just haven’t seen that at this point,” Olsen told Senate Homeland Security Commitee Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) during a hearing on the current threats to U.S. homeland security.
Lieberman asked Olsen whether U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others died as the result of a terrorist attack.
“Certainly, on that particular question I would say yes. They were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our enemy,” Olsen replied.
Lieberman asked Olsen whether there is reason to believe that the terrorist attack was pre-planned for Sept. 11 “or did the terrorists who were obviously planning it – ‘cause it seemed to be a coordinated terrorist attack – just seized the moment of the demonstrations and protests against the film to carry out a terrorist attack.”
Olsen said that question was “more complicated” and one that “we are spending a great deal of time looking at even as we speak,” because the investigation is ongoing.
“The best information we have now, the facts that we have now, indicate that this was an opportunistic attack on our embassy (diplomatic post in Benghazi). The attack began and evolved and escalated over several hours…it appears that individuals who were certainly well-armed seized on the opportunity presented as the events unfolded that evening and into the morning hours of Sept. 12,” Olsen said.
He added that militants in that area are “well-armed and maintain those arms.”
“What we don’t have at this point is specific intelligence that there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack. Again, we’re still developing facts and still looking for any indications of substantial advanced planning. We just haven’t seen that at this point,” Olsen said.
A classified briefing for all of Congress on the attack in Benghazi is planned for Thursday, Olsen added.