Nightly News   |  December 29, 2013

Report: Al Qaeda wasn’t involved in Benghazi attack

A new report reignites debate about what exactly happened that deadly dad yin Benghazi. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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>>> a "new york times" report today has reignited a long-running battle between the white house and republicans over the circumstances surrounding last year's attack on the u.s. consulate in benghazi , libya, that killed four americans, including ambassador christopher stevens. our white house correspondent kristen welker is here with details.

>> good evening. the report is significant because it is the first to suggest that al qaeda did not play a role in the attack and that an american-made video which many perceived as anti-muslim may have sparked the unrest. republican congressman darryl issa, one of the most outspoken critics of the white house 's handling of the benghazi attack, stood by his version of the september 11 events on "meet the press" today.

>> al qaeda is not decimated, and there was a group there that was involved that is linked to al qaeda .

>> issa has long asserted the administration lied about what led to the 2012 attack. four americans were killed, including ambassador christopher stevens.

>> so we have seen no evidence that the video was widely seen in benghazi . a very isolated area. or that it was a leading cause.

>> "the new york times" david kirkpatrick , who spent months interviewing libyans on the ground, tells a different story, writing that an american-made anti-muslim tape fueled the incident, and benghazi was not infiltrated by al qaeda but nonetheless contained grave local threats to american interests.

>> the people who attacked the compound were members of the militia the u.s. expected to protect the same mission.

>> white house officials say they don't dispute "the times" report. the administration has pill laired by republicans who accused president obama of trying to down play a link to al qaeda for political purposes and his entire administration was on defense.

>> i take responsibility.

>> but it was susan rice , the u.n. ambassador at the time, who took the most heat after making this now infamous comment.

>> what happened in benghazi was, in fact, officially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in cairo . almost a copy cat of the demonstrations against our facility in cairo , which were prompted, of course, by the video.

>> today kirkpatrick said his report wasn't bolstering the original assessment.

>> in fact, she made some clear misstatements there. this was not a street protest , and it was not a copy cat of what happened in cairo . that was an unarmed street protest . this is a group of armed men who inspired by a video deliberately attacked the compound.

>> foreign policy expert david rode said politics are overshadowing the continuing threat.

>> what's frustrating is we're missing the real lessons here, which there are other threats in the middle east that aren't members of al qaeda .

>> now, the administration has vowed to prosecute those responsible for the benghazi attack, but so far no one has been