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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 6th, 2013
06:12 PM ET

Rep. Schiff: We've identified many involved in Benghazi attack

Federal agents and prosecutors investigating the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi have filed charges against several people, including Ahmed Khattalah, a prominent member of a Libyan militia that officials believe was involved in the assault, people briefed on the investigation said.

The charges under seal are the first criminal counts to emerge from the probe.

The charges come nearly 11 months after the deadly September 11, 2012, attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he would not describe the investigation as proceeding rapidly.

"It's been frustrating for many of us that it hasn't moved faster, but it is a very difficult working environment for our agents," said Schiff. "Gathering evidence in Libya, you might imagine, is very difficult, finding, interviewing witnesses, extremely difficult."

Read: First criminal charges filed in Benghazi attack probe

But Schiff said there has been progress.

"We have identified many of the parties involved. We're still trying to identify what the command-and-control structure would be. A lot of missing pieces still, but we are finally making progress," said Schiff.

A pressing concern for national security at the moment is the closing of U.S. embassies around the world and the global terror alert issued last Friday.

Sources tell CNN the precautions were taken after communication between the head of al Qaeda in Pakistan, Ayman Al Zawahiri, and the head of al Qaeda in Yemen, Nasir al Wuhayshi, was intercepted – that intercept gave orders to attack.

Schiff would not confirm the report, but noted, "The threat is very real."

"There's a lot of corroboration and multiple sources in terms of the intelligence. We have a fairly high degree of confidence that there is an active plot afoot that's of grave danger to our personnel. And for that reason, I think members on both sides of the aisle view the steps taken by the administration in closing these embassies as very prudent steps," said Schiff.

Schiff has travelled to Sanaa, Yemen, and describes it as "a very hostile environment, very dangerous for our personnel."

The congressman said he does not believe the Yemen problem is going away any time soon.

"Plainly, the bad guys are following the reporting on this. They're going to adjust their timing perhaps or maybe their targets," said Schiff.

Yemen is also home to one of the most prolific, dangerous, and sophisticated bomb makers, said Schiff.

Read: Analysis: Is al Qaeda back?

But President Barack Obama said on the campaign trail last year that al Qaeda was on the run, on its heels.

Schiff said Obama did not overstate the situation, maintaining that the president was referring the core of al Qaeda, which has been decimated.

"But he has pointed out that the franchises have grown and proliferated. They're still very dangerous, but I think we need to put this in perspective. Even though we have shut down a lot of our embassies, and it's a worldwide threat, nonetheless, their capability of mounting the kind of attack we had on 9/11 is very remote," said Schiff.

"They can still harm us, but it's not the same threat as it was on 9/11," said Schiff.

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