Matthew Olsen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing yesterday that the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was a terrorist attack that appeared to involve several groups with ties to al-Qaeda, including its north African franchise, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb . . . a White House spokeman today dropped the administration's previous claim that the attack was not an act of terrorism and backed Olsen's assessment . . . however, Olsen also said his agency believes the attacks were opportunistic and not pre-planned . . . Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Senator Susan Collins disagreed and said it appeared the attacks were pre-planned . . . the committee’s chairman, Senator Joe Lieberman, said he tended to agree with Collins but wanted to wait for the conclusion of the investigation to make up his mind . . . meanwhile, Fox News reported yesterday that last week’s attacks on the Cairo embassy may have been related to a September 9 web statement by an Egyptian Islamist group calling on its supporters to pressure the United States to release Omar Abdel-Raman, the blind sheik behind the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, “even if it requires burning the embassy down with everyone in it” . . . Fox News based this report on a 3-page US intelligence report it has acquired . . . LIGNET believes US intelligence agencies will find evidence that last week’s violence and anti-American protests were pre-planned by Islamist extremists – probably al-Qaeda – to coincide with the 11th anniversary of 9/11 . . . it is too early to determine whether the Cairo embassy attacks were instigated by the effort to win the release of the blind sheik although it is likely that this played some role in the violence.