He also told the committee that the NCTC was looking into a possible al-Qaida connection.
“As well, we are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to al-Qaida or al-Qaida’s affiliates, in particular al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb,” he said.
But Olson insisted that the evidence didn’t yet indicate the attack was pre-planned, at least not significantly so.
“The best information we have now indicates that this was an opportunistic attack,” he said.
“What we don’t have at this point is specific intelligence that there was significant advance planning or coordination for this attack.”
The Obama administration’s first response was to blame the attack on an anti-Islam YouTube clip.
“First of all, let’s be clear about what transpired here,” American ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Sunday on “This Week.”
“What happened this week in Cairo, in Benghazi, in many other parts of the region was a direct result of a heinous and offensive video that was widely disseminated that the U.S. government had nothing to do with, which we have made clear that it’s reprehensible and disgusting.”
By Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney was echoing Olson and at least suggesting that al-Qaida may have been responsible for the attack.
“I don’t think the fact that we hadn’t is not — as our NCTC director testified yesterday, 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 in a press gaggle on Air Force One. “We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to al-Qaida or al-Qaida’s affiliates, in particular al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.”
But, he added, “[W]e have no information at this point that suggests that this was a significantly pre-planned attack, but this was the result of opportunism, taking advantage of and exploiting what was happening as a result of reaction to the video that was found to be offensive.”
Michael Rubin, a foreign policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller that “initial White House denials in the face of overwhelming evidence suggest the complete politicization of national security under President Barack Obama and Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton.”
“There is no such thing as a spontaneous mass rally in the Middle East; they are always planned in advance,” he continued in an email. “Protestors sacking consulates and embassies are not like a flash mob of bored kids converging on a food court. Nor is it a coincidence that skilled al-Qaida operatives were in the right place, at the right time, with the right intelligence.”
FBI officials are currently in Libya investigating the attack.