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  • Documents show ties between Libyan spy head, CIA (2011)

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    Associated Press= TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The CIA and other Western intelligence agencies worked closely with the ousted regime of Moammar Gadhafi, sharing tips and cooperating in handing over terror suspects for interrogation to a regime known to use torture, according to a trove of security documents discovered after the fall of Tripoli.

    The revelations provide new details on the West’s efforts to turn Libya’s mercurial leader from foe to ally and provide an embarrassing example of the U.S. administration’s collaboration with authoritarian regimes in the war on terror.

    The documents, among tens of thousands found in an External Security building in Tripoli, show an increasingly warm relationship, with CIA agents proposing to set up a permanent Tripoli office, addressing their Libyan counterparts by their first names and giving them advice. In one memo, a British agent even sends Christmas greetings.

    The agencies were known to cooperate as the longtime Libyan ruler worked to overcome his pariah status by stopping his quest for weapons of mass destruction and renouncing support for terrorism. But the new details show a more extensive relationship than was previously known, with Western agencies offering lists of questions for specific detainees and apparently the text for a Gadhafi speech.

    They also offer a glimpse into the inner workings of the now-defunct CIA program of extraordinary rendition, through which terror suspects were secretly detained, sent to third countries and sometimes underwent the so-called enhanced interrogation tactics like waterboarding.

    The documents mention a half dozen names of people targeted for rendition, including Tripoli’s new rebel military commander, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj.

    Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, which helped find the documents, called the ties between Washington and Gadhafi’s regime “A very dark chapter in American intelligence history.”

    “It remains a stain on the record of the American intelligence services that they cooperated with these very abusive intelligence services,” he said Saturday.

    The findings could cloud relations between the West and Libya’s new leaders, although Belhaj said he holds no grudge. NATO airstrikes have helped the rebels advance throughout the six-month civil war and continue to target regime forces as rebels hunt for Gadhafi.

    Belhaj is the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a now-dissolved militant organization that sought to assassinate Gadhafi.

    Belhaj says CIA agents tortured him in a secret prison in Thailand before he was returned to Libya and locked in the notorious Abu Salim prison. He insists he was never a terrorist and believes his arrest was in reaction to what he called the “tragic events of 9/11.”

    Two documents from March 2004 show American and Libyan officials arranging Belhaj’s rendition.

    Referring to him by his nom de guerre, Abdullah al-Sadiq, the documents said he and his pregnant wife were due to travel to Thailand, where they would be detained.

    “We are planning to arrange to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” they tell the Libyans. The memo also requested that Libya, a country known for decades for torture and ill-treatment of prisoners: “Please be advised that we must be assured that al-Sadiq will be treated humanely and that his human rights will be respected.”

    The documents coincide with efforts by the Gadhafi regime over the last decade to emerge from international isolation, even agreeing to pay compensation to relatives of each of the 270 victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland.

    The documents show the CIA and MI6 advising the regime on how to work to rescind its designation as a state sponsor of terror — a move the Bush administration made in 2006. Both agencies received intelligence benefits in return.

    The validity of the documents, not written on official letterhead, could not be independently verified, but their content seems consistent with what has been previously reported about intelligence activities during the period.

    Later correspondence deals with technical visits to Libya to track the regime’s progress in dismantling its weapons programs.

    In one undated memo, the CIA proposes establishing a permanent presence in Libya.

    “I propose that our services take an additional step in cooperation with the establishment of a permanent CIA presence in Libya,” it says. It is signed by hand “Steve.”

    Another memo is a follow-up query to an apparent Libyan warning of terror plots against American interests abroad.

    One document is a draft statement for Gadhafi about his country’s decision to give up weapons of mass destruction.

    “Our belief is that an arms race does not serve the security of Libya or the security of the region and contradicts Libya’s great keenness for world peace and security,” it suggests as wording.

    But much of the correspondence deals with arrangements to render terror suspects to Libya from South Africa, Hong Kong and elsewhere. One CIA memo from April 2004 tells Libyan authorities that the agency can deliver a suspect known as “Shaykh Musa.”

    “We respectfully request an expression of interest from your service regarding taking custody of Musa,” the memo says.

    CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood declined to comment Saturday on specific allegations related to the documents.

    “It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats,” Youngblood said. “That is exactly what we are expected to do.”

    British Foreign Secretary William Hague also declined to comment on intelligence matters.

    In Tripoli, Anes Sherif, an aide to Belhaj, said the documents provided little new information: “We have known for a long time that (the British and U.S. governments) had very close relations with Gadhafi’s regime.”

    Amid the shared intelligence and names of terror suspects are traces of personal relationships.

    In one letter from Dec. 24, 2003, a British official thanks Gadhafi’s spy chief Moussa Koussa — who later became foreign minister and defected early in the uprising — for a “very large quantity of dates and oranges” and encourages him to continue with reforms.

    “Your achievement realizing the Leader’s initiative has been enormous and of huge importance,” the British official says. “At this time sacred to peace, I offer you my admiration and every congratulation.

    AP foreign, Saturday September 3 2011
    BEN HUBBARD

    Find this story at 3 September 2011

    © 2015 Guardian News

    MI6, the CIA and Turkey’s rogue game in Syria

    World View: New claims say Ankara worked with the US and Britain to smuggle Gaddafi’s guns to rebel groups

    The US’s Secretary of State John Kerry and its UN ambassador, Samantha Power have been pushing for more assistance to be given to the Syrian rebels. This is despite strong evidence that the Syrian armed opposition are, more than ever, dominated by jihadi fighters similar in their beliefs and methods to al-Qa’ida. The recent attack by rebel forces around Latakia, northern Syria, which initially had a measure of success, was led by Chechen and Moroccan jihadis.
    America has done its best to keep secret its role in supplying the Syrian armed opposition, operating through proxies and front companies. It is this which makes Seymour Hersh’s article “The Red Line and The Rat Line: Obama, Erdogan and the Syrian rebels” published last week in the London Review of Books, so interesting.

    Attention has focussed on whether the Syrian jihadi group, Jabhat al-Nusra, aided by Turkish intelligence, could have been behind the sarin gas attacks in Damascus last 21 August, in an attempt to provoke the US into full-scale military intervention to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. “We now know it was a covert action planned by [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s people to push Obama over the red line,” a former senior US intelligence officer is quoted as saying.

    Critics vehemently respond that all the evidence points to the Syrian government launching the chemical attack and that even with Turkish assistance, Jabhat al-Nusra did not have the capacity to use sarin.

    A second and little-regarded theme of Hersh’s article is what the CIA called the rat line, the supply chain for the Syrian rebels overseen by the US in covert cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The information about this comes from a highly classified and hitherto secret annex to the report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee on the attack by Libyan militiamen on the US consulate in Benghazi on 11 September 2012 in which US ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed. The annex deals with an operation in which the CIA, in cooperation with MI6, arranged the dispatch of arms from Mu’ammer Gaddafi’s arsenals to Turkey and then across the 500-mile long Turkish southern frontier with Syria. The annex refers to an agreement reached in early 2012 between Obama and Erdogan with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar supplying funding. Front companies, purporting to be Australian, were set up, employing former US soldiers who were in charge of obtaining and transporting the weapons. According to Hersh, the MI6 presence enabled the CIA to avoid reporting the operation to Congress, as required by law, since it could be presented as a liaison mission.

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    The US involvement in the rat line ended unhappily when its consulate was stormed by Libyan militiamen. The US diplomatic presence in Benghazi had been dwarfed by that of the CIA and, when US personnel were airlifted out of the city in the aftermath of the attack, only seven were reportedly from the State Department and 23 were CIA officers. The disaster in Benghazi, which soon ballooned into a political battle between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, severely loosened US control of what arms were going to which rebel movements in Syria.

    This happened at the moment when Assad’s forces were starting to gain the upper hand and al-Qa’ida-type groups were becoming the cutting edge of the rebel military.

    The failure of the rebels to win in 2012 left their foreign backers with a problem. At the time of the fall of Gaddafi they had all become over-confident, demanding the removal of Assad when he still held all Syria’s 14 provincial capitals. “They were too far up the tree to get down,” according to one observer. To accept anything other than the departure of Assad would have looked like a humiliating defeat.

    Saudi Arabia and Qatar went on supplying money while Sunni states turned a blind eye to the recruitment of jihadis and to preachers stirring up sectarian hatred against the Shia. But for Turkey the situation was worse. Efforts to project its power were faltering and all its chosen proxies – from Egypt to Iraq – were in trouble. It was evident that al-Qa’ida-type fighters, including Jahat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and Ahrar al-Sham were highly dependent on Turkish border crossings for supplies, recruits and the ability to reach safety. The heaviest intra-rebel battles were for control of these crossings. Turkey’s military intelligence, MIT, and the paramilitary Gendarmerie played a growing role in directing and training jihadis and Jabhat al-Nusra in particular.

    The Hersh article alleges that the MIT went further and instructed Jabhat al-Nusra on how to stage a sarin gas attack in Damascus that would cross Obama’s red line and lead to the US launching an all-out air attack. Vehement arguments rage over whether this happened. That a senior US intelligence officer is quoted by America’s leading investigative journalist as believing that it did, is already damaging Turkey.

    Part of the US intelligence community is deeply suspicious of Erdogan’s actions in Syria. It may also be starting to strike home in the US and Europe that aid to the armed rebellion in Syria means destabilising Iraq. When Isis brings suicide bombers from across the Turkish border into Syria it can as easily direct them to Baghdad as Aleppo.

    The Pentagon is much more cautious than the State Department about the risks of putting greater military pressure on Assad, seeing it as the first step in a military entanglement along the lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel are the main opponents of a greater US military role. Both sides in the US have agreed to a programme under which 600 Syrian rebels would be trained every month and jihadis would be weeded out. A problem here is that the secular moderate faction of committed Syrian opposition fighters does not really exist. As always, there is a dispute over what weapons should be supplied, with the rebels, Saudis and Qataris insisting that portable anti-aircraft missiles would make all the difference. This is largely fantasy, the main problem being that the rebel military forces are fragmented into hundreds of war bands.

    It is curious that the US military has been so much quicker to learn the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya than civilians like Kerry and Power. The killing of Ambassador Stevens shows what happens when the US gets even peripherally involved in a violent, messy crisis like Syria where it does not control many of the players or much of the field.

    Meanwhile, a telling argument against Turkey having orchestrated the sarin gas attacks in Damascus is that to do so would have required a level of competence out of keeping with its shambolic interventions in Syria over the past three years.

    PATRICK COCKBURN
    Sunday 13 April 2014

    Find this story at 13 April 2014

    © independent.co.uk

    Inside the FBI’s secret relationship with the military’s special operations

    When U.S. Special Operations forces raided several houses in the Iraqi city of Ramadi in March 2006, two Army Rangers were killed when gunfire erupted on the ground floor of one home. A third member of the team was knocked unconscious and shredded by ball bearings when a teenage insurgent detonated a suicide vest.

    In a review of the nighttime strike for a relative of one of the dead Rangers, military officials sketched out the sequence of events using small dots to chart the soldiers’ movements. Who, the relative asked, was this man — the one represented by a blue dot and nearly killed by the suicide bomber?

    After some hesi­ta­tion, the military briefers answered with three letters: FBI.

    The FBI’s transformation from a crime-fighting agency to a counterterrorism organization in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been well documented. Less widely known has been the bureau’s role in secret operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other locations around the world.

    With the war in Afghanistan ending, FBI officials have become more willing to discuss a little-known alliance between the bureau and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that allowed agents to participate in hundreds of raids in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The relationship benefited both sides. JSOC used the FBI’s expertise in exploiting digital media and other materials to locate insurgents and detect plots, including any against the United States. The bureau’s agents, in turn, could preserve evidence and maintain a chain of custody should any suspect be transferred to the United States for trial.

    The FBI’s presence on the far edge of military operations was not universally embraced, according to current and former officials familiar with the bureau’s role. As agents found themselves in firefights, some in the bureau expressed uneasiness about a domestic law enforcement agency stationing its personnel on battlefields.

    The wounded agent in Iraq was Jay Tabb, a longtime member of the bureau’s Hostage and Rescue Team (HRT) who was embedded with the Rangers when they descended on Ramadi in Black Hawks and Chinooks. Tabb, who now leads the HRT, also had been wounded just months earlier in another high-risk operation.

    James Davis, the FBI’s legal attache in Baghdad in 2007 and 2008, said people “questioned whether this was our mission. The concern was somebody was going to get killed.”

    Davis said FBI agents were regularly involved in shootings — sometimes fighting side by side with the military to hold off insurgent assaults.

    “It wasn’t weekly but it wouldn’t be uncommon to see one a month,” he said. “It’s amazing that never happened, that we never lost anybody.”

    Others considered it a natural evolution for the FBI — and one consistent with its mission.

    “There were definitely some voices that felt we shouldn’t be doing this — period,” said former FBI deputy director Sean Joyce, one of a host of current and former officials who are reflecting on the shift as U.S. forces wind down their combat mission in Afghanistan. “That wasn’t the director’s or my feeling on it. We thought prevention begins outside of the U.S.”

    ‘Not commandos’

    In 1972, Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, exposing the woeful inadequacy of the German police when faced with committed hostage-takers. The attack jolted other countries into examining their counterterrorism capabilities. The FBI realized its response would have been little better than that of the Germans.

    It took more than a decade for the United States to stand up an elite anti-terrorism unit. The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team was created in 1983, just before the Los Angeles Olympics.

    At Fort Bragg, N.C., home to the Army’s Special Operations Command, Delta Force operators trained the agents, teaching them how to breach buildings and engage in close-quarter fighting, said Danny Coulson, who commanded the first HRT.

    The team’s mission was largely domestic, although it did participate in select operations to arrest fugitives overseas, known in FBI slang as a “habeas grab.” In 1987, for instance, along with the CIA, agents lured a man suspected in an airline hijacking to a yacht off the coast of Lebanon and arrested him.

    In 1989, a large HRT flew to St. Croix, Virgin Islands, to reestablish order after Hurricane Hugo. That same year, at the military’s request, it briefly deployed to Panama before the U.S. invasion.

    The bureau continued to deepen its ties with the military, training with the Navy SEALs at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, based in Dam Neck, Va., and agents completed the diving phase of SEAL training in Coronado, Calif.

    Sometimes lines blurred between the HRT and the military. During the 1993 botched assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex., three Delta Force operators were on hand to advise. Waco, along with a fiasco the prior year at a white separatist compound at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, put the FBI on the defensive.

    “The members of HRT are not commandos,” then-FBI Director Louis J. Freeh told lawmakers in 1995. “They are special agents of the FBI. Their goal has always been to save lives.”

    After Sept. 11, the bureau took on a more aggressive posture.

    In early 2003, two senior FBI counterterrorism officials traveled to Afghanistan to meet with the Joint Special Operations Command’s deputy commander at Bagram air base. The commander wanted agents with experience hunting fugitives and HRT training so they could easily integrate with JSOC forces.

    “What JSOC realized was their networks were similar to the way the FBI went after organized crime,” said James Yacone, an assistant FBI director who joined the HRT in 1997 and later commanded it.

    The pace of activity in Afghanistan was slow at first. An FBI official said there was less than a handful of HRT deployments to Afghanistan in those early months; the units primarily worked with the SEALs as they hunted top al-Qaeda targets.

    “There was a lot of sitting around,” the official said.

    The tempo quickened with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. At first, the HRT’s mission was mainly to protect other FBI agents when they left the Green Zone, former FBI officials said.

    Then-Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal gradually pushed the agency to help the military collect evidence and conduct interviews during raids.

    “As our effort expanded and . . . became faster and more complex, we felt the FBI’s expertise in both sensitive site exploitation and interrogations would be helpful — and they were,” a former U.S. military official said.

    In 2005, all of the HRT members in Iraq began to work under JSOC. At one point, up to 12 agents were operating in the country, nearly a tenth of the unit’s shooters.

    The FBI’s role raised thorny questions about the bureau’s rules of engagement and whether its deadly-force policy should be modified for agents in war zones.

    “There was hand-wringing,” Yacone said. “These were absolutely appropriate legal questions to be asked and answered.”

    Ultimately, the FBI decided that no change was necessary. Team members “were not there to be door kickers. They didn’t need to be in the stack,” Yacone said.

    But the FBI’s alliance with JSOC continued to deepen. HRT members didn’t have to get approval to go on raids, and FBI agents saw combat night after night in the hunt for targets.

    In 2008, with the FBI involved in frequent firefights, the bureau began taking a harder look at these engagements, seeking input from the military to make sure, in police terms, that each time an agent fired it was a “good shoot,” former FBI officials said.

    ‘Mission had changed’

    Members of the FBI’s HRT unit left Iraq as the United States pulled out its forces. The bureau also began to reconsider its involvement in Afghanistan after nearly a dozen firefights involving agents embedded with the military and the wounding of an agent in Logar province in June 2010.

    JSOC had shifted priorities, Joyce said, targeting Taliban and other local insurgents who were not necessarily plotting against the United States. Moreover, the number of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan had plummeted to fewer than 100, and many of its operatives were across the border, in Pakistan, where the military could not operate.

    The FBI drew down in 2010 despite pleas from JSOC to stay.

    “Our focus was al-Qaeda and threats to the homeland,” Joyce said. “The mission had changed.”

    FBI-JSOC operations continue in other parts of the world. When Navy SEALs raided a yacht in the Gulf of Aden that Somali pirates had hijacked in 2011, an HRT agent followed behind them. After a brief shootout, the SEALs managed to take control of the yacht.

    Two years later, in October 2013, an FBI agent with the HRT was with the SEALs when they stormed a beachfront compound in Somalia in pursuit of a suspect in the Nairobi mall attack that had killed dozens.

    That same weekend, U.S. commandos sneaked into Tripoli, Libya, and apprehended a suspected al-Qaeda terrorist named Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai as he returned home in his car after morning prayers. He was whisked to a Navy ship in the Mediterranean and eventually to New York City for prosecution in federal court.

    Word quickly leaked that Delta Force had conducted the operation. But the six Delta operators had help. Two FBI agents were part of the team that morning on the streets of Tripoli.

    By Adam Goldman and Julie Tate, Published: April 10 E-mail the writers

    Find this story at 10 April 2014

    © 1996-2014 The Washington Post

    Nicolas Sarkozy embarrassed: A saga of Gaddafi, €50m, phone-taps and the French M15

    Intercepted conversations imply that the former President was anxious to be kept informed over a probe into his alleged funding by the Libyan dictator

    Nicolas Sarkozy badgered the head of the French security service for information on the progress of inquiries into his alleged funding by the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, it has emerged.

    Judges investigating the alleged illegal financing of the former President’s 2007 election campaign tapped two phone calls by Mr Sarkozy to the head of the French equivalent of MI5, Le Monde has reported.

    As a result, Patrick Calvar, head of the Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur (DCRI) was questioned as a “witness” in the case by the two judge last Friday, according to Le Monde?

    The approaches made by Mr Sarkozy, and similar calls by the head of his private office, are not illegal. They imply, however, that the former President was anxious to be kept informed about an investigation that he has publicly dismissed as “absurd” and “infamous”.

    The revelations also give weight to previous allegations that Mr Sarkozy has used his contacts as a former head of state in relation to a tangle of judicial investigations into his alleged financial misconduct.

    Mr Sarkozy and friends will, on the other hand, point to the latest development as further evidence of what he claims is a “Stasi-like” persecution by the Socialist administration of President François Hollande. Last month it was revealed that the judges had bugged phone conversations between Mr Sarkozy and his lawyer. It now emerges that police officers working with the judges were also listening in two calls – in June last year and in January this year – between Mr Sarkozy and the head of the French internal security service.

    Inquiries by investigating magistrates in France are entirely independent of the government of the day. Nonetheless, Mr Sarkozy alleged in a long newspaper article last month that the tapping of his phone had been inspired by the government and that his political opponents had been reading transcripts of his intimate, personal conversations.

    Mr Sarkozy has been accused by one of Mr Gaddafi’s sons and several ex-Gaddafi aides of taking either €20m or €50m from the late Libyan dictator to fund his successful 2007 presidential campaign. No clear evidence to back the claims has emerged. One document leaked to the French press proved to be a forgery.

    Nonetheless, according to Le Monde, Mr Sarkozy personally phoned the head of the DCRI, Mr Calvar, to ask whether the security service was helping in the investigations. In one call, according to the leak, he was especially keen to know whether the DCRI had questioned Mr Gaddafi’s personal interpreter, Moftah Missouri.

    In June last year – just before the first of Mr Sarkozy’s calls – Mr Missouri told a French TV documentary that Mr Gaddafi had informed him “verbally” of a €20m payment to the future French president.

    According to Le Monde, the DCRI head, Mr Calvar, refused to tell Mr Sarkozy whether his agency was investigating the Libyan allegations or not. He also refused to comment when questioned by the judges last Friday, saying DCRI business was a “state defence secret”.

    JOHN LICHFIELD Author Biography PARIS Thursday 03 April 2014

    Find this story at 3 April 2014

    © independent.co.u

    Out of Office, Sarkozy Is Still Front and Center

    PARIS — The scandal, intrigue and occasional vaudeville of Nicolas Sarkozy’s five years in the presidency made for great headlines, and French journalists once fretted that politics under his successor, François Hollande, who pledged to be a “normal” president, might prove unbearably dull.

    But that fear overlooked the court cases, judicial investigations and general whiff of malfeasance that would trail Mr. Sarkozy and his lieutenants out of the corridors of power and, it now appears, entangle even Mr. Hollande.

    The current president’s tumultuous love life has made for a bit of public drama in recent months, with reports that he had a mistress and slipped off to trysts via motor scooter. But the French no longer seem much to care, if they ever did, and a knot of holdover scandals from the Sarkozy era are now making for the best reading. Through a bizarre sequence of government missteps, by the weekend they had become as much a crisis for Mr. Hollande as for Mr. Sarkozy.

    The almost universal expectation that Mr. Sarkozy will make a bid for the presidency in 2017 has only heightened the drama.

    Justice Minister Christiane Taubira with wiretapping memos that suggested she was better informed than she had claimed. Credit Philippe Wojazer/Reuters
    Chief among the affairs is the allegation, now under investigation by two special magistrates, that Mr. Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign received as much as 50 million euros, or about $70 million, in illegal funds from Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya.

    This month, the newspaper Le Monde revealed that investigators had tapped the phones of Mr. Sarkozy, two of his former ministers and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, beginning last year. The practice is not illegal, though lawyers have called the surveillance of Mr. Herzog’s phone a possible violation of attorney-client privilege. Mr. Sarkozy appears to be the first former French president to have his private conversations monitored by investigators.

    He has denied the claims of Libyan financing, made by former loyalists to Colonel Qaddafi and one of his sons, and says they are meant to damage him in revenge for the international military intervention he helped orchestrate in Libya in 2011 that led to Colonel Qaddafi’s ouster and death.

    It is unclear if the phone-tapping did anything to corroborate the claims, but it has led to unrelated suspicions involving Mr. Sarkozy and a well-placed magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, who is believed to have served as his informer in the courts.

    In their recorded conversations, Le Monde reported, Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Herzog discussed an investigation into whether Mr. Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign received illegal funding from Liliane Bettencourt, the 91-year-old L’Oréal heiress who is France’s richest woman. Some of the evidence in that case is being used in yet another case implicating Mr. Sarkozy, this one involving a $550 million state payout in 2008 to Bernard Tapie, a colorful businessman with a checkered past.

    Mr. Sarkozy had been kept quietly informed about a court’s plans for the evidence by Mr. Azibert, according to Le Monde and government documents. Mr. Azibert, who is nearing retirement, is said to have intimated that he might like some assistance in obtaining a post in the seaside principality of Monaco, and Mr. Sarkozy said he would help, in exchange for information.

    An investigation into breach of judicial secrecy and influence-peddling has been opened, and the homes and offices of Mr. Azibert and Mr. Sarkozy’s lawyer have been searched. Mr. Azibert was recently hospitalized, and there is speculation he might have attempted suicide.

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    Inauspicious as this may seem for Mr. Sarkozy and the right, it is the center-left government of Mr. Hollande that is now on the defensive. After first insisting that they had learned of the phone-tapping only through the news media, government ministers including the justice minister, Christiane Taubira, admitted they were informed as early as last month.

    The French judiciary is not entirely independent of the executive branch, and it is not uncommon for the minister of justice to be apprised of judicial investigations, especially if celebrities or public officials are involved. But the government, and Ms. Taubira in particular, were not altogether forthcoming about their knowledge of the case. Their political opponents, who presumably should be on the defensive, have pounced.

    Jean-François Copé, leader of the Union for a Popular Movement, Mr. Sarkozy’s party, has called for Ms. Taubira’s resignation.

    Ms. Taubira has refused, and has insisted she did not lie. At a news conference last week, she said that she had indeed been told about the tapping last month, but that she had been given no information about what it revealed. But the internal papers she strangely chose to flash before reporters to prove her point were captured in news photographs, and closer observation of the documents suggests Ms. Taubira was far better informed than she claimed.

    Mr. Copé and his party renewed their attacks. But those sallies have been widely viewed as a diversionary tactic, considering that Mr. Copé is embroiled in a scandal of his own. According to the newsmagazine Le Point, Mr. Copé gave a sweetheart contract to a company run by two friends to organize rallies during Mr. Sarkozy’s unsuccessful 2012 campaign. The party spent $11 million with the firm, more than one-quarter of its entire declared campaign spending, paying double the going rate for several of the services provided, Le Point reported last month.

    Because French political parties depend heavily on public funding, much of that money would have come from taxpayers.

    Mr. Copé declared himself a victim of hateful press and suggested the report was concocted to hurt his party before municipal elections later this month. He did not, however, deny it. A judicial investigation into the party’s campaign spending was opened this month.

    In still another embarrassment for Mr. Sarkozy and the right, secret recordings made by a close aide to Mr. Sarkozy during his presidency appeared recently on a news website, Atlantico, and in transcribed form in an investigative newspaper, Le Canard Enchaîné.

    The recordings do not seem to reveal anything illegal, but Mr. Sarkozy and his wife, the singer and model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, can be heard discussing money — she paid the bills during his presidency, it seems — and Mr. Sarkozy’s advisers can be heard crudely insulting government ministers, as well as Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy.

    It is unclear how the recordings were leaked. The aide who recorded the conversations, Patrick Buisson, a shadowy political operative with deep ties to the far right, initially said he had made the recordings for his own records. His lawyer later claimed the recorder had mysteriously switched on, repeatedly, unbeknown to Mr. Buisson.

    Claiming a breach of his privacy rights, Mr. Sarkozy on Friday obtained an injunction requiring that the recordings be removed from the website and that Mr. Buisson pay him $14,000 in damages.

    “Many French doubt, already, political officials’ sense of the public interest,” Le Monde wrote in a front-page editorial last week castigating the country’s political class. “These new developments can only reinforce their mistrust and disgust. In one manner or another, majority and opposition will pay the price.”

    By SCOTT SAYAREMARCH 15, 2014

    Find this story at 15 March 2014

    © 2014 The New York Times Company

    Sarkozy election campaign was funded by Libya

    Gaddafi son Saif al-Islam threatens to publish details of bank transfers to punish French PM for backing Libyan rebels

    Muammar Gaddafi’s son has claimed that Libya helped finance Nicolas Sarkozy’s successful election campaign in 2007, and demanded that the French president return the money to “the Libyan people”.

    In an interview with the Euronews TV channel, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said Libya had details of bank transfers and was ready to make them public in a move designed to punish Sarkozy for throwing his weight behind opposition forces.

    Last week, the Libyan government threatened to reveal a “grave secret” that would bring down Sarkozy, with Saif al-Islam calling him “a clown”.

    The regime is furious at Sarkozy’s efforts to galvanise international action to impose a “no-fly zone” that would prevent Gaddafi from using air power against rebels based in Benghazi.

    Asked what he felt about the French president’s so far unsuccessful efforts to muster support for military intervention, Saif said: “Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign. We funded it. We have all the details and are ready to reveal everything. The first thing we want this clown to do is to give the money back to the Libyan people. He was given the assistance so he could help them, but he has disappointed us. Give us back our money.”

    Libya has yet to release any incriminating evidence but officials hinted last night that they were preparing to do so.

    A spokeswoman for the Elysée Palace told the Guardian she had no information or comment about the claim. But Le Monde later quoted a spokesman as saying: “We deny it, quite evidently.”

    Libyan sources have separately told the Guardian substantial funds were paid into accounts to support Sarkozy’s presidential campaign in 2007.

    Well-placed sources in Tripoli made clear that the leak of this information was in retaliation for France’s leading role in the campaign to impose a no-fly zone and for its unique recognition of the rebel Libyan National Council. “Sarkozy is playing dirty, so we are playing dirty, too,” said a senior Libyan source.

    The Guardian has been unable to confirm the Libyan claims independently.

    French law places strict limits on party donations to candidates. Last year, Sarkozy was hit by a political scandal involving alleged illegal donations to his party funds by France’s richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt.

    Eyebrows were raised when Gaddafi visited Paris in late 2007 and was permitted to pitch his trademark bedouin tent in the gardens of the Hotel Marigny, the 19th-century mansion close to the Elysée Palace, which hosts visiting VIPs. That triggered a storm of adverse comment about the warmth of his reception by Sarkozy on international human rights day.

    Ian Black in Tripoli and Kim Willsher in Paris
    The Guardian, Wednesday 16 March 2011 12.01 GMT

    Find this story at 16 March 2014

    © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

    Britain’s MI6 linked to Libya torture scandal

    Al Jazeera investigates how information gathered through torture of Gaddafi dissidents was used to track Libyans in UK.
    Last updated: 18 Dec 2013 18:04
    Intelligence extracted by torture in Tripoli’s notorious Abu Salim prison has been linked to arrests of Libyan dissidents in the United Kingdom, an investigation by Al Jazeera’s People and Power has revealed.
    In this exclusive report, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, the leader of the anti-Gaddafi resistance group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), explains that he and fellow leader Sami al-Saadi were subjected to torture by his Libyan interrogators, which forced them to give up the names of innocent residents in the UK.
    Al-Saadi and Belhaj also claim foreign agents, including British agents, questioned them in Abu Salim prison. These allegations form the basis of a lawsuit against the British government.
    According to Belhaj’s lawyers, the men and their families were pawns in a deal struck by Britain in 2004.
    After Gaddafi’s fall, the role played by British intelligence agencies was discovered.
    “When the rebels came to Tripoli they ransacked all sorts of buildings … associated with Gaddafi’s old regime,” said Al Jazeera’s Juliana Ruhfus, who was involved in the investigation.
    “It was in the office of spy chief Moussa Koussa that they found a stash of documents that revealed, in startling detail, the collaboration between British and Libyan intelligence services.”
    Belhaj says he was pressured by Gaddafi’s interrogators to give up information about Libyans living in Britain.
    “Sometimes they would come to me with the questions and answers already done and force me to sign it. They would mention names to me and say that these people supported armed activities,” he said.
    One of the men named under torture was Ziad Hashem, a Libyan who obtained asylum in the UK after Belhaj’s rendition. Hashem claims he was arrested in Britain without any charges: “We were just put in prison arbitrarily without any explanation.”
    Hashem is part of yet another law suit against the British government. One of the things he is hoping to reveal is the flow of information between Libyan and British intelligence agencies which led to his detention.
    The British government says it is committed to investigating allegations of mistreatment, that it stands firmly against torture and that it never asks any other country to carry it out.
    But the dissidents accuse the British government of being complicit in their rendition into Gaddafi’s prisons, showing Al Jazeera documents from MI6 tipping off Gaddafi’s intelligence apparatus about their flight movements.
    Libya: Renditions airs on People & Power on Al Jazeera English from Wednesday 18 December at 10.30pm London time (22.30 GMT) and is available online at aje.me/libyarenditions
     
    Find this story at 18 December 2013
    Copyright Al Jazeera

    Egyptian is ‘the prime suspect for Lockerbie bombing’

    An Egyptian terrorist should be considered as a prime suspect in the Lockerbie bombing, according to a report by two leading investigators.
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    Evidence used to convict Libyan agent Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was faked and police may have been misled by a member of the US secret services, the investigators allege. Their report instead blames Mohammed Abu Talb, a terrorist with links to Palestinian militant groups who is currently living in Sweden after serving a prison sentence for bombings in Europe.
    Megrahi was given a life sentence for the bombing in 2001. He was released eight years later by the Scottish Government on compassionate grounds as he had terminal cancer, and died last year.
    The “Operation Bird” report – by Jessica de Grazia, former chief assistant district attorney in New York, and Philip Corbett, a former police officer and ex-security advisor to the Bank of England – concluded Talb had bribed a worker at Heathrow to smuggle the suitcase containing the bomb onto the flight.
    The report also said a key piece of the evidence – part of a circuit board allegedly used in the bomb’s timer – was faked and a shirt in which it was supposedly found had been tampered with.
    Ms de Grazia and Mr Corbett were commissioned to look into the case by Megrahi’s defence team while it was working on his second appeal, dropped after his release.
    Their report, which was written in 2002 but never published, suggested police were “directed off course” and that this was “most likely” done by a senior official in the CIA.
    “We have never seen a criminal investigation in which there has been such a consistent disregard of an alternative and far more persuasive theory of the case,” it added.
    Talb was jailed for life in Sweden after being convicted of carrying out terrorist bombings in 1985 in Copenhagen, Denmark and Amsterdam, Holland. He did not respond to a request for comment from Al-Jazeera television.
    Dr Jim Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora was a passenger on the plane, said Talb was “a life-long, proven terrorist”.
    “I believe he played a crucial part in causing the Lockerbie disaster,” Dr Swire told Exaro, an investigative news website. “My elected government actively prevented me from obtaining my human rights to know why my daughter’s life was not protected, and who it was who killed her.”
    Former MP Tam Dalyell, who helped enlist Nelson Mandela to negotiate the deal that saw Libya surrender Megrahi for trial, told The Independent that Megrahi was an innocent man used as a “sanctions buster” for Libya.
    “I was amazed they didn’t point the finger at Talb and condemned Megrahi. I was astonished at the outcome,” he said.
    John Ashton, co-author of Cover-Up of Convenience: The Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie, wrote on his blog that the Operation Bird report’s claim that Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Council and “fellow travellers, including Hezbollah” carried out the bombing was “likely true”.
    But he doubted Talb was the bomber, because he had recently been arrested then released by Swedish police and so would have suspected he was being followed.
    A Scottish Government spokeswoman said Megrahi’s relatives could ask for a posthumous appeal, “which Ministers would be entirely comfortable with”.
    Ian johnston
    Sunday 15 December 2013
    Find this story at 15 December 2013
    © independent.co.uk

    CIA held Syrian militants responsible for Lockerbie bombing

    Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan regime was publicly blamed by the US for the attack
    The wreckage of the PanAm airliner that exploded and crashed over Lockerbie Photo: AFP
    The CIA secretly held Syrian militants, rather than Libya, responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, according to newly unearthed testimony from a former US spy in the Middle East.
    Dr Richard Fuisz said in a sworn deposition in 2001 that he was told by up to 15 senior Syrian officials that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) had carried out the attack.
    He also testified that CIA bosses told him the PFLP-GC was responsible, according to a lawyer’s note of a second deposition. Ahmed Jibril, the group’s founder leader, who is still alive at 75, was singled out as being to blame for the downing of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland in December 1988, killing 270 people.
    “Numerous high officials in the Syrian government were quite affirmative on Jibril’s involvement in Pan Am 103,” Dr Fuisz told lawyers, during his deposition in Virginia in 2001.
    Dr Fuisz gave his depositions in 2000 and 2001 at the request of Megrahi’s defence lawyers. However, the evidence came too late to be used in the trial. They were first published by Channel 4 News.The CIA declined to comment.
    Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan regime was publicly blamed by the US for the attack, and Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of the bombing in 2001. He was later released and died last year in Libya.
    But serious doubts about the conviction have been raised by investigative journalists for several years, centring on forensic evidence, and Libya has strenuously denied involvement.
    The PFLP-GC were in fact the first prime suspects in the investigation.
    Experts suggested it may have been ordered by the Iranian government as revenge for the accidental shooting down of an Iranian passenger jet by a US battleship months earlier, killing 290.
    They added that blame may have been diverted from Iran in order to protect secret and delicate negotiations by George Bush’s US administration over western hostages.
    Dr Fuisz, a businessman who is said to have been a senior US intelligence asset in the Middle East in the 1980s and 90s, said that the Syrian officials he spoke to interacted with Jibril “on a constant basis” and that he was widely regarded to be the mastermind behind the bombing.
    Asked who the Syrian officials cited as their source for the information, he said: “My recollection is they were direct. They were not hearsay sources on their part.” Asked if that he understood that to mean that he was “being told by members of the Syrian government that Jibril, and or members of the PFLGC were taking credit for the bombing,” he replied: “Yes”.
    Jon Swaine
    10:32PM GMT 20 Dec 2013
    Find this story at 20 December 2013
    © Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2013

    Libya — the Benghazi Attacks Chronology

    News about Libya — the Benghazi Attacks, including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times.

    Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, son of the late Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi, and his spy chief Abdullah al-Senoussi are among those charged with murder in relation to country’s 2011 civil war.MORE »
    Aug. 21, 2013

    Four midlevel State Department officials placed on administrative leave after deadly 2012 attack on United States mission in Benghazi, Libya, have been reinstated by Sec of State John Kerry and given new assignments; Republican Rep Darrell Issa of California accuses State Department of shirking accountability.MORE »
    Aug. 7, 2013

    Federal law enforcement authorities have filed murder charges against Ahmed Abu Khattala, prominent militia leader in Benghazi, Libya, in connection with Sept 11, 2012, attacks on diplomatic mission there that killed Ambassador J Christopher Stevens and three other Americans; apprehending suspects is likely to prove both diplomatically and practically difficult.MORE »
    Jul. 28, 2013

    More than 1,000 prisoners escape from Libyan prison amid protests over wave of political assassinations and attacks on political offices across country.MORE »
    Jul. 11, 2013

    Libyan government takes back control of its Interior Ministry from an armed group that had besieged building for a week.MORE »
    Jun. 28, 2013

    Libyan Defense Min Mohammed al-Bargathi will be removed from his post after clashes between rival armed militias in Tripoli leave 10 people dead and more than 100 wounded.MORE »
    Jun. 22, 2013

    Weapons formerly in Col Muammar el-Qaddafi’s stockpile are making their way to antigovernment forces in Syria, financed largely by Qatar, which has strong ties with Libyan rebel groups; Libya’s former fighters sympathize with Syria’s rebels.MORE »
    Jun. 16, 2013

    Six Libyan soldiers are killed in Benghazi in overnight attacks believed to be retaliation for expulsion from city of powerful militia Libya Shield.MORE »
    Jun. 15, 2013

    Libya’s first independent television channel Libya Al-Hurra says that hand grenade was hurled at its building in Benghazi, injuring one employee.MORE »
    Jun. 12, 2013

    Salem al-Gnaidy, Libya’s new army chief of staff, calls for militias to put themselves under command of the Libyan Army after clashes in which 31 people were killed.MORE »
    Jun. 11, 2013

    Op-Ed article by Frederic Wehrey, former United States military attache in Libya, criticizes plan by Libyan Prime Min Ali Zeidan to establish general-purpose military force, consisting entirely of ‘nonmilitia’ recruits; argues plan is highly risky and could throw country deeper into strife.MORE »
    Jun. 10, 2013

    Massacre of 30 civilian protesters by powerful Libyan militia threatens to provoke backlash that could finally cow country’s freewheeling brigades into submitting to central government; militia leaders argue that weak transitional government still badly needs their superior firepower, but violence against civilians is beginning to erode their political power.MORE »
    Jun. 9, 2013

    At least dozen people are killed and many more wounded in Benghazi, Libya, when powerful militia known as Libya Shield fires on protesters surrounding group’s headquarters.MORE »
    Jun. 5, 2013

    NATO is sending team of experts to Libya to assess how alliance can provide security assistance, notably military training, to help nation combat Islamist militants claiming allegiance to Al Qaeda and other threats.MORE »
    Jun. 1, 2013

    International Criminal Court orders Libya to hand over Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, son of Col Muammar el-Qaddafi.MORE »
    May. 30, 2013

    Susan E Rice and Victoria Nuland, two high-ranking diplomats, are facing different fates amid political tempest over deadly attacks on American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya; internal roles of both were put on display in emails released by administration, but Nuland has escaped kind of harsh criticism leveled against Rice.MORE »
    May. 29, 2013

    Mohammed al-Megarif, speaker of Libyan Parliament who served under Col Muammar el-Qaddafi before becoming opposition leader in exile, resigns just weeks after lawmakers passed bill banning former Qaddafi officials from senior posts.MORE »
    May. 23, 2013

    Editorial holds Central Intelligence Agency’s role in attack on United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and its aftermath needs to be examined to understand what happened and how to better protect Americans.MORE »
    May. 18, 2013

    Rep Darrell Issa, chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issues subpoena to Thomas R Pickering, chairman of independent panel that investigated attacks on American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.MORE »
    May. 18, 2013

    White House press secretary Jay Carney, first full-time reporter to make jump to White House in a generation, fully embraces his role as spokesman in dealing with number of controversies, like attack on American mission in Benghazi, Libya, and Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative groups.MORE »
    May. 14, 2013

    Visit to Libya by Rep Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, shortly after 2012 attack on American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, is believed to have prompted concerns in State Department that Republicans were looking to use attack as political club against Pres Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.MORE »
    May. 14, 2013

    Editorial holds that Republican obsession with Obama administration’s inept initial talking points in wake of attack in Benghazi, Libya, is ultimately an act of political vengeance; argues that focus on talking points and baseless allegations of administration coverup are distractions from serious issues surrounding attack that need to be addressed.MORE »
    May. 14, 2013

    David Brooks Op-Ed column defends record of State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, arguing that she is being made into scapegoat by Republicans critical of Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi and intelligence officials who want to shift blame for Benghazi onto State Department.MORE »
    May. 14, 2013

    Op-Ed article by Ethan Chorin, former Foreign Service officer in Libya, argues that diplomatic security lapses that led to fatal 2012 attack on embassy in Benghazi are negligible when compared to flawed reasoning behind American military intervention there; holds that United States underestimated regional importance of Libya, and that lack of plan for reconstruction and reconciliation has fostered an environment in which terrorists can thrive.MORE »
    May. 14, 2013

    Car explodes on a busy street in Benghazi, Libya, killing at least four people; attack stirs new anger at failure of country’s transitional government to fill security vacuum left by ouster of Col Muammar el-Qaddafi.MORE »
    May. 14, 2013

    Pres Obama, facing re-energized Republican adversaries and new questions about administration’s conduct, dismisses furor over handling of 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya; does, however, join bipartisan chorus of outrage over disclosures that Internal Revenue Service had singled out conservative groups for special scrutiny.MORE »
    May. 13, 2013

    Thomas R Pickering, who led State Department board’s inquiry into the attack on United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, says there had been no need to interview then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, because it had already decided responsibility lay below her level.MORE »
    May. 12, 2013

    Maureen Dowd Op-Ed column examines controversy surrounding attack on consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and way in which competing fiefs, from Republicans to Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s supporters, are protecting mythologies they have created.MORE »
    May. 11, 2013

    Disclosure of e-mails show White House was more deeply involved in revising talking points about attack in Benghazi, Libya, than officials have previously acknowledged; e-mails, which administration turned over to Congress, show White House coordinating an intensive process with the State Department, CIA, FBI and other agencies to obtain final version of the talking points, used by Susan E Rice, ambassador to the United Nations, in television appearances after the attack.MORE »
    May. 11, 2013

    Bombs explode outside two police stations in Libya’s eastern city Benghazi, prompting Britain to temporarily cut staff at its embassy in Tripoli.MORE »
    May. 10, 2013

    House Republicans intensify their criticism of Obama administration for its handling of the assault on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, with Speaker John A Boehner calling for release of an e-mail that he says shows State Dept officials believed from the start that ‘Islamic terrorists’ were linked to attack but have declined to say so publicly.MORE »
    May. 10, 2013

    Editorial criticizes Republicans in Congress for their relentless effort to discredit Pres Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with hearings on attack on American consulate in Benghazi, Libya; contends that hearings have not proved an administration cover-up or other hysterical allegations, and asserts that real scandal is that serious follow-up on security in Libya is going unaddressed.MORE »
    May. 9, 2013

    Veteran diplomat Gregory Hicks, testifying before Congress, gives riveting minute-by-minute account of lethal terrorist attack on diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, then describes its contentious aftermath; says that after raising questions about the account of what happened, he felt distinct chill from State Department superiors.MORE »
    May. 8, 2013

    Congressional Republicans are anticipating official testimony of State Department official Gregory Hicks as damning indictment of White House response to attacks on American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.MORE »
    May. 6, 2013

    Libya’s transitional General National Congress, bowing to pressure from armed Islamists and other militiamen, passes law to exclude former officials of Qaddafi era from public office; text is so broadly written that it could force out many top officials but will certainly exclude from power Mahmoud Jibril, politician who leads main coalition in congress opposed to Islamists.MORE »
    May. 2, 2013

    FBI releases photos of three men wanted for questioning in connection with attacks on United States diplomatic mission and CIA outpost in Benghazi, Libya.MORE »
    Apr. 29, 2013

    Gunmen surround Libya’s Foreign Ministry in Tripoli, calling for a law banning officials who worked for deposed dictator Col Muammar el-Qaddafi from senior positions in the new administration.MORE »
    Apr. 24, 2013

    Car bomb destroys about half of French Embassy in Libya, in most significant attack against Western interest in the country since September killing of American ambassador J Christopher Stevens; attack is new blow to transitional government’s hope of improving sense of public security after ouster of Col Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011.MORE »
    Apr. 4, 2013

    Egyptian court rules against extradition to Libya of Ahmed Qaddaf al-Dam, former close aide of ousted dictator Col Muammar el-Qaddafi.MORE »
    Mar. 30, 2013

    Libyan security officials say they have arrested two men in kidnapping of five British aid workers.MORE »
    Mar. 25, 2013

    Libya’s transitional government is completing agreement with Egypt to deposit $2 billion in the Egyptian central bank; timing of what amounts to loan comes after at least Qaddafi loyalists in Cairo are rounded up for possible extradition.MORE »
    Mar. 14, 2013

    Pres Obama names career diplomat Deborah K Jones as new envoy to Libya, filling job that has been vacant since death of Ambassador J Christopher Stevens during attack on diplomatic compound in Benghazi; meets with Libya’s Prime Min Ali Zeidan, emphasizing need for his country’s help in finding attackers who carried out assault.MORE »
    Feb. 8, 2013

    Judges at International Criminal Court order Libyan government to immediately hand over Col Muammar el-Qaddafi’s former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, who has been charged with crimes against humanity; order rejects Libya’s request for more time to argue case for trying Senussi in Libya.MORE »
    Feb. 1, 2013

    British Prime Min David Cameron returns from trips to Algiers and Tripoli, Libya, with promises of further partnerships in fields of defense, counterterrorism and intelligence-sharing, but some worry that he is overextending Britain’s foreign

    Aug. 28, 2013

    Find this story at 28 August 2013

    © 2013 The New York Times Company

    Exclusive: US security flaws exposed in Libya

    Documents show State Department knew of security problems in Benghazi but failed to fix them.

    Creation of an Undersecretary for Diplomatic Security

    Exemptions of Security Requirements for Benghazi

    Source Document Complete Report of the Benghazi Panel

    State Department Memo Recommends Reforms

    The US Department of State has known for decades that inadequate security at embassies and consulates worldwide could lead to tragedy, but senior officials ignored the warnings and left some of America’s most dangerous diplomatic posts vulnerable to attack, according to an internal government report obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.

    The report by an independent panel of five security and intelligence experts describes how the September 11, 2012, attack on the US Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya, which left Ambassador J Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead, exploited the State Department’s failure to address serious security concerns at diplomatic facilities in high-risk areas.

    Among the most damning assessments, the panel concluded that the State Department’s failure to identify worsening conditions in Libya and exemptions from security regulations at the US Special Mission contributed to the tragedy in Benghazi. Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy approved using Benghazi as a temporary post despite its significant vulnerabilities, according to an internal State Department document included with the report.

    The panel cataloged a series of failures by State Department officials to address security issues and concluded that many Foreign Service officers are unclear about who is in charge of security.

    Among the problems Sullivan’s panel identified in the report:
    The State Department’s management of its security structure has led to blurred authority and a serious lack of accountability. The undersecretary for management oversees security issues while also handling many other responsibilities. A newly created undersecretary for diplomatic security would allow the State Department to better focus on security issues affecting diplomatic posts around the world, according to the report. Left unaddressed, the control problem “could contribute to future security management failures, such as those that occurred in Benghazi.”
    The Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the State Department security arm created following the 1983 bombings of the US Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, does not have a review process in place to learn from previous security failures. Inexplicably, Diplomatic Security officials never conducted what is known as a “hot wash” debriefing of Benghazi survivors to learn from their experience.
    No risk management model exists to determine whether high-threat posts, such as the one in Benghazi, are necessary given the danger to US officials. Risk decisions are made based on “experience and intuition,” not established professional guidelines.
    None of the five high-risk diplomatic facilities the panel visited in the Middle East and Africa had an intelligence analyst on staff, described as a “critical” need.
    Diplomatic security training is inadequate, with no designated facility available to train agents to work at high-risk diplomatic posts.
    Even low-risk diplomatic posts are vulnerable. The Obama administration, concerned about potential attacks, ordered the closure of diplomatic posts in the Middle East and North Africa in August 2013. Of the 19 posts closed, only four were designated as high threat.

    Sullivan’s panel noted that its findings and recommendations are not new to State Department officials. A 1999 report by government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton recommended similar reforms, including an undersecretary for security. Madeleine Albright, then the secretary of state, approved the recommendation – but it was never implemented. “This report,” the panel wrote, “was largely ignored by the Department.”

    Even when the State Department has enacted security reforms, agency officials have failed to comply with them or otherwise have exempted themselves from the new standards, Sullivan’s panel determined.

    Following the 1983 Beirut bombings, for example, the State Department implemented building safety standards for missions in high-risk areas, which became known as Inman standards, developed by a review panel headed by Bobby R Inman, the former director of the National Security Agency.

    “Thirty years later, neither the US Embassy chancery in Beirut nor a significant number of other US diplomatic facilities in areas designated as ‘high threat’ meet Inman standards,” Sullivan’s panel wrote.

    Security problems at diplomatic posts aren’t isolated, the panel said, pointing out that safety concerns can be found at US facilities worldwide. For decades, the State Department has failed to address these vulnerabilities, the panel said, suggesting that Benghazi was a tragedy that might have been avoided.

    Security standards exempted

    At best, security at the US Special Mission in Benghazi was porous. The mission took lease of a 13-acre walled compound on June 21, 2011, two months before the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and after the shuttering of the US Embassy in Tripoli due to increased fighting in the capital.
    Explosions target Benghazi judicial buildings

    Although the State Department reopened the embassy on Sept. 22, 2011, the Special Mission in Benghazi remained open despite serious security concerns. In December 2011, Undersecretary for Management Kennedy approved a one-year extension of the Benghazi post.

    A career diplomat, Kennedy was aware of the security problems in Benghazi. The number of Diplomatic Security officers there ranged from five to as few as one, and security was augmented by the February 17 Brigade, a ragtag group of Libyan militants who at the time of the 2012 attack were working under an expired contract and complaining about poor pay and long hours. In addition, the US Special Mission did not have adequate barriers to slow a ground assault.

    “Benghazi has demonstrated yet again the vulnerability of US facilities in countries where there is a willingness to protect US interests, but very little capacity to do so,” the panel wrote.

    The Benghazi post’s failure to meet security standards did not prevent its operation. State Department officials effectively waived the security requirements. For years, the State Department has fostered a culture of waiving such requirements when officials choose not to meet them.

    “Waivers for not meeting security standards have become commonplace in the Department; however, without a risk management process to identify and implement alternate mitigating measures after a waiver has been given, Department employees, particularly those in high threat areas, could be exposed to an unacceptable level of risk,” Sullivan’s panel wrote.

    The panel added: “It is unlikely that temporary facilities, in areas such as Benghazi, will ever meet Inman standards. The Department therefore identifies missions with special terminology to avoid its own high, but unattainable, standards and then approves waivers to circumvent those standards, thus exposing those serving under Chief of Mission authority to an unacceptable level of risk.”

    No ‘ground truth’

    In the six months leading up to the attack in Benghazi, the warning signs were ominous: security in the city had deteriorated and threats against Western officials were increasing.
    Inside Story – The battle for security in Libya

    From March through August 2012, 20 significant acts of violence occurred, including a homemade explosive device thrown over the wall of the US Special Mission and an attack on the Benghazi International Committee of the Red Cross with rocket-propelled grenades.

    On the morning of Sept. 11, 2012, diplomatic security officers issued a report that described Libyan security forces as “too weak to keep the country secure.”

    Yet no one at the State Department connected the intelligence dots to offer concerns about worsening security in Benghazi. According to Sullivan’s panel, this oversight occurred because the Benghazi facility did not have an intelligence analyst on site to determine the “ground truth.”

    Benghazi wasn’t unique in this. Sullivan’s panel visited high-risk embassies in Nairobi, Kenya; Juba, South Sudan; Cairo; Beirut; and Sanaa, Yemen. None had an intelligence analyst on staff.

    By contrast, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the United Nations employ experienced intelligence analysts in country to identify security concerns from the ground.

    Training problems

    While documenting security problems, Sullivan’s panel said that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, known as DS, is viewed as the “gold standard” among federal law enforcement and security officials.

    The State Department’s security arm protects 35,000 US employees worldwide, as well as 70,000 employee family members and up to 45,000 local civilian staff members.

    Sullivan’s panel viewed additional training of security agents as “critical” to addressing the problems identified in the report. But today the Bureau of Diplomatic Security is having difficulty handling its training load.

    The reason: the State Department, unlike other agencies, does not have a designated training facility for security agents. The department is now trying to identify a site near Washington, D.C., on which to build a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center.

    Until a center is built, the State Department must continue “begging hat-in-hand for use of others’ facilities,” the report stated.

    “The establishment of such an integrated, state-of-the-art facility is a best practice adopted long ago by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Secret Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration,” the panel wrote.

    Repeated security failures

    For the State Department, Benghazi became the latest in a long string of security failures. From 1998 to 2012, 273 significant attacks against US diplomatic facilities and personnel occurred.

    In 1998, concerned about increasing threats to the embassy in Kenya, Ambassador Prudence Bushnell and the US Department of Defence asked to be moved to a safer building. State Department officials denied the request, citing budgetary concerns.

    On August 7, 1998, simultaneous truck bombs exploded at the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, killing more than 250 people, including 12 Americans.

    A State Department review after the attacks found that at least two-thirds of the 262 US diplomatic facilities were so vulnerable to attack that they needed to be rebuilt or relocated.

    Ten years after the East Africa bombings, on September 16, 2008, in a diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks, the regional security officer in Sanaa, Yemen, informed his counterparts in Washington about a threat that British officials had intercepted and forwarded.

    The threat, written in Arabic, discussed a car bomb targeting American and British interests in Yemen.

    The next day, at about 9:15 am, a vehicle with men dressed in military uniforms shot through the gate of the US Embassy in Sanaa and detonated a car bomb. A second car breached the security gates and also exploded.

    An al-Qaeda-affiliated group claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed 18 people, including one American.

    Four years later, Benghazi happened.

    Members of Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit contributed to this report.

    Trevor Aaronson Last Modified: 04 Sep 2013 16:40

    Find this story at 4 September 2013

    © www.aljazeera.com

    40 Minutes In Benghazi

     

    When U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed in a flash of hatred in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, the political finger-pointing began. But few knew exactly what had happened that night. With the ticktock narrative of the desperate fight to save Stevens, Fred Burton and Samuel M. Katz provide answers.
    By Fred Burton and Samuel M. Katz

    THE INFERNO The U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya, in flames, on September 11, 2012. The attackers seemed to have detailed knowledge of the mission’s layout and even to know there were jerry cans full of gasoline near the compound’s western wall, which they would use to fuel the fire.

    Adapted from Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi, by Fred Burton and Samuel M. Katz, to be published in September by St. Martin’s Press; © 2013 by the authors.

    After the fall of Colonel Qaddafi, in 2011, Libya had become an al-Qaeda-inspired, if not al-Qaeda-led, training base and battleground. In the northeastern city of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, men in blazers and dark glasses wandered about the narrow streets of the Medina, the old quarter, with briefcases full of cash and Browning Hi-Power 9-mm. semi-automatics—the classic killing tool of the European spy. Rent-a-guns, militiamen with AK-47s and no qualms about killing, stood outside the cafés and restaurants where men with cash and those with missiles exchanged business terms.

    It was a le Carré urban landscape where loyalties changed sides with every sunset; there were murders, betrayals, and triple-crossing profits to be made in the post-revolution. The police were only as honest as their next bribe. Most governments were eager to abandon the danger and intrigue of Benghazi. By September 2012 much of the international community had pulled chocks and left. Following the kidnapping in Benghazi of seven members of its Red Crescent relief agency, even Iran, one of the leading state sponsors of global terror, had escaped the city.

    But Libya was a target-rich environment for American political, economic, and military interests, and the United States was determined to retain its diplomatic and intelligence presence in the country—including an embassy in Tripoli and a mission in Benghazi, which was a linchpin of American concerns and opportunities in the summer of the Arab Spring. Tunisia had been swept by revolution, and so had Egypt. “The United States was typically optimistic in its hope for Libya,” an insider with boots on the ground commented, smiling. “The hope was that all would work out even though the reality of an Islamic force in the strong revolutionary winds hinted otherwise.”

    The United States no longer had the resources or the national will to commit massive military manpower to its outposts in remnants of what was once defined as the New World Order. This wasn’t a political question, but a statement of reality. The fight against terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism was a brand of warfare that would not be fought with brigades and Bradley armored fighting vehicles. The footprint of the United States in this unsettled country and its ever important but dangerous second city would have to be small and agile.

    In 1984, Secretary of State George P. Shultz ordered the convening of an Advisory Panel on Overseas Security to respond to critical threats to American diplomats and diplomatic facilities encountered around the world. The panel was chaired by retired admiral Bobby Ray Inman, a former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. One of the primary findings of what would become known as the Inman Report was the need for an expanded security force to protect American diplomatic posts overseas, and on August 27, 1986, a new State Department security force and law-enforcement agency, the Diplomatic Security Service, an arm of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), was formed. Another important result from the report was a focus on physical-security enhancements for embassies and consulates. These force-protection specifications, unique in the world of diplomatic security, included blast-proofing innovations in architecture to mitigate the devastating yield of an explosion or other methods of attack, including rocket and grenade fire. These new embassies, known as Inman buildings, incorporated anti-ram walls and fences, gates, vehicle barriers, ballistic window film, and coordinated local guard forces to create impregnable fortresses that could withstand massive explosions and coordinated attempts to breach an embassy’s defenses.

    For over a decade following the 9/11 attacks, DS managed to contain the fundamentalist fervor intent on inflicting catastrophic damage on America’s diplomatic interests around the world—especially in the Middle East. But the wave of civilian unrest that swept through the Arab world in the Arab Spring took the region—and the United States—by surprise. Governments that had been traditional allies of the United States and that had sent police officers to anti-terrorism-assistance training were overthrown in instantaneous and unexpected popular revolutions. Traditionally reliable pro-American regimes were replaced with new governments—some Islamic-centered.

    In Libya, Qaddafi’s intelligence services had prevented al-Qaeda operatives from establishing nodes inside the country, as well as providing information on known cells and operatives plotting attacks in North Africa. With the dictator’s death, the years of secret-police rule came to an end.

    J. Christopher Stevens was the foreign-service officer who made sure that American diplomacy in Libya flourished. Chris, as he was called, was a true Arabist; he was known to sign his name on personal e-mails as “Krees” to mimic the way Arabs pronounced his name. Born in Grass Valley, California, in 1960, Chris had developed a passionate love for the Arab world while working for the Peace Corps in Morocco in the mid-1980s. Virtually all of his posts were in the Middle East and in locations that can be best described as dicey. It would be North Africa, however, where Chris Stevens would excel as a diplomat and as a reliable face of American reach. When the United States re-emerged as a political player in Libya, he jumped at the opportunity to work in this new arena for American diplomacy.

    Stevens was a greatly admired diplomat, respected by men and women on both sides of the political divide. Personable and self-effacing, he was described, in absolutely complimentary terms, as a “relic,” a practitioner of diplomacy from days past. He achieved agreements and cooperation through interpersonal relationships; he was known to have achieved more over cups of rocket-fuel coffee in a market gathering spot than could ever have been achieved in reams of paperwork or gigabytes’ worth of e-mails.

    In April 2011, Chris had been dispatched to Benghazi as a special envoy by then secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton. On this, his second tour to the country, he would be America’s man on the ground in the Arab Spring conflict to oust Qaddafi. Establishing a rapport with the many militias that were battling Qaddafi loyalists required a deft hand and a talent for breaking bread with men in camouflage fatigues who talked about long-standing relationships while walkie-talkies stood on the table next to their plates of hummus and AK-47s were nestled by their feet.

    When the civil war was over and Qaddafi’s humiliating end completed, Chris was an obvious choice to become ambassador, President Barack Obama’s personal representative to the new Libya. Stevens was based in the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, which had recently been reopened as the country emerged from the chaos, fury, and joyous hope of the Arab Spring.

    But Tripoli wasn’t the sole U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya. The U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, an ad hoc consulate not meeting all of the Inman security requirements, had been hastily set up amid the fluid realities of the Libyan civil war. “Expeditionary Diplomacy” dictated that DS do the best it could without the protections afforded official consulates.

    On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, five DS agents found themselves together in Benghazi protecting the Special Mission Compound and Ambassador Chris Stevens, who planned to be in the city for a week. They were known, as coined so aptly in the field office, as “hump agents.” Inexperienced yet willing to do what they were told and to work the worst shifts, they were the nuts and bolts of the protection backbone. The five men in Benghazi were a mixed bag of over-achievers: former street cops, U.S. Marines, a U.S. Army Iraq-war veteran, and academics. All had under 10 years on the job; some had less than 5.

    They will be identified as R., the temporary-duty regional security officer (RSO) who was the senior man among the group; he was on a long-term posting in Libya, borrowed from the RSO’s office in Tripoli. A. and B. were junior agents assigned temporary duty in Benghazi. C. and D. were young agents who constituted Ambassador Stevens’s ad hoc protective detail, and who had flown with him from Tripoli.

    In the post-9/11 world, DS men and women on the job no longer learned by being hump agents in a field office and flying from one city to another inside the United States to help out protecting the Dalai Lama on a Monday and a NATO foreign minister taking his family to Disneyland on a Friday. The new DS sent its newest agents into the eye of the storm, in Afghanistan and Kurdistan, where they could learn under fire. Like those locales, Benghazi was an assignment where there were no wrong and right decisions—only issues of reaction and survival. It was an assignment that would require each man to utilize the resourcefulness and think-on-your-feet instincts that DS was so good in fostering in its young agents.

    Although trained for every worst-case scenario imaginable, no agent ever expects it to happen, but each knows that when things start to go bad they go bad very quickly. In truth, time stands still for those engaged in the fight, and how quickly things go south is known only to those who have been there and done that. Who lives and dies depends a great deal on training, teamwork, and fate.
    2102 Hours: Benghazi, Libya

    T
    he Libyan security guard at the compound’s main gate, Charlie-1, sat inside his booth happily earning his 40 Libyan dinars ($32 U.S.) for the shift. It wasn’t great money, clearly not as much as could be made in the gun markets catering to the Egyptians and Malians hoping to start a revolution with coins in their pockets, but it was a salary and it was a good job in a city where unemployment was plague-like. The guards working for the Special Mission Compound tried to stay alert throughout the night, but it was easier said than done. To stay awake, some chain-smoked the cheap cigarettes from China that made their way to North Africa via Ghana, Benin, and Togo. The nicotine helped, but it was still easy to doze off inside their booths and posts. Sleeping on duty was risky. The DS agents routinely made spot checks on the guard force in the middle of the night. These unarmed Libyan guards were the compound’s first line of defense—the trip wire.

    All appeared quiet and safe. The feeling of security was enhanced at 2102 hours when an SSC (Supreme Security Council—a coalition of individual and divergently minded Libyan militias) patrol vehicle arrived. The tan Toyota Hilux pickup, with an extended cargo hold, decorated in the colors and emblem of the SSC, pulled off to the side of the road in front of Charlie-1. The driver shut off the engine. He wasn’t alone—the darkened silhouette of another man was seen to his right. The pickup sported twin Soviet-produced 23-mm. anti-aircraft guns—the twin-barreled cannons were lethal against Mach 2.0 fighter aircraft and devastating beyond belief against buildings, vehicles, and humans. The two men inside didn’t come out to engage in the usual small talk or to bum some cigarettes from the guards or even to rob them. The Libyan guards, after all, were not armed.

    Suddenly the SSC militiaman behind the steering wheel fired up his engine and headed west, the vehicle crunching the gravel with the weight of its tires.

    Later, following the attack, according to the (unclassified) Accountability Review Board report, an SSC official said that “he ordered the removal of the car ‘to prevent civilian casualties.’ ” This hints that the SSC knew an attack was imminent; that it did not warn the security assets in the Special Mission Compound implies that it and elements of the new Libyan government were complicit in the events that transpired.

    It was 2142 hours.

    The attack was announced with a rifle-butt knock on the guard-booth glass.

    “Iftah el bawwaba, ya sharmout,” the gunman ordered, with his AK-47 pointed straight at the forehead of the Libyan guard at Charlie-1. “Open the gate, you fucker!” The guard, working a thankless job that was clearly not worth losing his life over, acquiesced. Once the gate was unhinged from its locking mechanism, armed men appeared out of nowhere. The silence of the night was shattered by the thumping cadence of shoes and leather sandals and the clanking sound of slung AK-47s and RPG-7s banging against the men’s backs.

    Once inside, they raced across the compound to open Bravo-1, the northeastern gate, to enable others to stream in. When Bravo-1 was open, four vehicles screeched in front of the Special Mission Compound and unloaded over a dozen fighters. Some of the vehicles were Mitsubishi Pajeros—fast, rugged, and ever so reliable, even when shot at. They were a warlord’s dream mode of transportation, the favorite of Benghazi’s criminal underworld and militia commanders. The Pajeros that pulled up to the target were completely anonymous—there were no license plates or any other identifying emblems adorning them, and they were nearly invisible in the darkness, especially when the attackers disabled the light in front of Bravo-1.

    Other vehicles were Toyota and Nissan pickups, each armed with single- and even quad-barreled 12.7-mm. and 14.5-mm. heavy machine guns. They took up strategic firing positions on the east and west portions of the road to fend off any unwelcome interference.

    Each vehicle reportedly flew the black flag of the jihad.

    Some of the attackers removed mobile phones from their pockets and ammunition pouches and began to videotape and photograph the choreography of the assault. One of the leaders, motioning his men forward with his AK-47, stopped to chide his fighters. “We have no time for that now,” he ordered, careful not to speak in anything louder than a coarse whisper. “There’ll be time for that later.” (Editor’s note: Dialogue and radio transmissions were re-created by the authors based on their understanding of events.)

    Information Management Officer (IMO) Sean Smith was in his room at the residence, interfacing with members of his gaming community, when Charlie-1 was breached. The married father of two children, Smith was the man who had been selected to assist Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi with communications. An always smiling 34-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran and computer buff, he was ideally suited for the sensitive task of communicator. Earlier in the day, Smith had ended a message to the director of his online-gaming guild with the words “Assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures.” He was online when the enemy was at the gate, chatting with his guild-mates. Then suddenly he typed “Fuck” and “Gunfire.” The connection ended abruptly.

    One of the gunmen had removed his AK-47 assault rifle from his shoulder and raised the weapon into the air to fire a round. Another had tossed a grenade. The Special Mission Compound was officially under attack.

    R. sounded the duck-and-cover alarm the moment he realized, by looking at the camera monitors, that the post had been compromised by hostile forces. Just to reinforce the severity of the situation, he yelled “Attack, attack, attack!” into the P.A. system. From his command post, R. had an almost complete view of the compound thanks to a bank of surveillance cameras discreetly placed throughout, and the panorama these painted for him is what in the business they call an “oh shit” moment. He could see men swarming inside the main gate, and he noticed the Libyan guards and some of the February 17 Martyrs Brigade (a local Benghazi militia hired to protect the mission) running away as fast as they could. R. immediately alerted the embassy in Tripoli and the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) housed in the Annex, a covert C.I.A. outpost about a mile from the mission. The QRF was supposed to respond to any worst-case scenarios in Benghazi with at least three armed members. R.’s message was short and to the point: “Benghazi under fire, terrorist attack.”
    Night of Terror

    A
    . was the agent on duty that night who, according to the Special Mission Compound’s emergency protocols, would be responsible for safeguarding Stevens and Smith in case of an attack. A. rushed into the residence to relieve, or “push,” D., who ran back to the barracks to retrieve his tactical kit, through the access point in the alleyway connecting the two compounds. D. was wearing a white T-shirt and his underwear when the alarm sounded. The terrorists had achieved absolute surprise.

    The DS agents ran like sprinters toward their stowed weapons and equipment. Their hearts rushed up their chests, to the back of their throats; their mouths dried up in the surge of adrenaline. The agents attempted to draw on their training and keep their minds focused and fluid as they hoped to avoid an encounter when outnumbered and outgunned. The sounds of guttural Arabic voices, which sounded like angry mumbling to the Americans, grew, and the odd vicious shot was fired into the September sky. The bitter smell of cordite, like a stagnant cloud left behind following a Fourth of July fireworks display, hung in the air. Numerous figures, their silhouettes barely discernible in the shadows, chased the agents from behind, chanting unintelligibly and angrily.

    The agents got ready to engage, but hoped that they wouldn’t have to yet. It was too early in the furious chaos to make a last stand. Each agent asked himself the basic questions: How many gunmen were inside the perimeter? What weapons did they have?

    But one thing was absolutely certain in the minds of each and every one of the agents in those early and crucially decisive moments: that the U.S. ambassador, the personal representative of President Barack Obama, was the ultimate target of the attack. They knew that they had to secure him and get him out of the kill zone.

    A. ran up the landing to round up Ambassador Stevens and Smith and to rush them to the safe haven inside the residence. “Follow me, sir,” A. said in a calming though urgent tone. “We are under attack.”

    There was no time to get dressed or to grab personal items, such as a wallet or cell phone; there was no time to power down laptops or even to take them. A. insisted, however, that both Stevens and Smith don the khaki Kevlar body-armor vests that had been pre-positioned in their rooms. It was critical that the three men make it to the safe haven and lock the doors before the attackers knew where they were. A., following the room-clearing tactics he had been taught in his training, carefully turned each corner, his assault rifle poised to engage any threat. He also had a shotgun slung over his shoulder just in case; the shotgun is a no-nonsense tool of ballistic reliability that was an ideal weapon to engage overwhelming crowds of attackers. A.’s service-issue SIG Sauer handgun was holstered on his hip.

    A. heard voices shouting outside the walls; these were interrupted only by the sporadic volleys of automatic gunfire. The lights in the residence were extinguished. The gunfire alerted both Stevens and Smith to the immediacy of the emergency, but negotiating the dark path to the safe haven was made more difficult by the restrictive hug of the heavy vests. Every few feet A. would make sure that the two were following close behind him.

    When the three reached the safe haven, the mesh steel door was shut behind them and locked. A. took aim with his rifle through the wrought-iron grate over the window. The door, as well as the window, was supposed to be opened only when the cavalry arrived. When that would happen was anyone’s guess.

    Ambassador Stevens requested A.’s BlackBerry to make calls to nearby consulates and to the embassy in Tripoli. He spoke in hushed tones so as not to compromise their position to anyone outside. His first call was to his deputy chief of mission, Gregory Hicks, who was in Tripoli at the U.S. Embassy. Soon after, Hicks discovered a missed call on his phone from an unfamiliar number. He returned the call and reached Stevens, who told him of the attack.

    Stevens also called local militia and public-security commanders in Benghazi, pleading for help. He had developed a close and affectionate rapport with many of the most powerful men in the city—both the legitimate and the ruthless. For an unknown reason, Stevens didn’t call the Libya Shield Force, a group of relatively moderate fighting brigades that was, perhaps, the closest armed force in the country to a conventional military organization. The Shield of Libya did have an Islamist-leaning ideology, but it wasn’t jihadist. It answered to the Libyan Defense Ministry, and was under the command of Wisam bin Ahmid; Ahmid led a well-equipped and disciplined force in Benghazi called the Free Libya Martyrs. The Free Libya Martyrs fielded ample assets in the city. Reportedly, Wisam bin Ahmid could have responded, but he was never asked.

    Perhaps Stevens feared that members of the militia were participating in the attack.

    According to a press account, the Libya Shield Force militia had figured in a cable dispatched to the State Department earlier in the day by the ambassador. In the communication, there was mention of how Muhammad al-Gharabi and Wisam bin Ahmid might not continue to guarantee security in Benghazi, “a critical function they asserted they were currently providing,” because the United States was supporting Mahmoud Jibril, a candidate for the office of prime minister. The cable discussed the city of Derna and linked it to an outfit called the Abu-Salim Brigade, which advocated a harsh version of Islamic law.

    The list of whom Ambassador Stevens phoned that night remains protected, but it is believed to have included militia commanders who were quite proud to parade the president of the United States’ personal representative in front of their ragtag armies, but did not feel it wise or worthy to commit these forces for the rescue of a true friend.

    C. had initially rushed back to the Tactical Operations Center (TOC), but then redirected back to the agents’ quarters to grab his gear and back up D. It was procedure—and tactical prudence—for the remaining agents at the compound to work in teams of two. B. and R. were inside the TOC, locked down behind secured fire doors. The TOC was the security nerve center of the facility. Situated south of the residence, it was a small structure of gray cement with little windows sealed by iron bars. Perhaps the most fortified spot on the compound, it was just barely large enough for two or three individuals, as it was filled with communications, video-surveillance, and other emergency gear.

    C. and D. rushed out of the barracks, weapons in hand, hoping to reach the residence on the western side of the compound, but the two young agents found themselves seeking cover. Moving slowly, and peering around corners, the two tried to cross the alleyway that separated the two halves of the Special Mission Compound, but they feared the connecting path would turn into an exposed killing zone. There were just too many gunmen racing about and screaming to one another in Arabic. The DS agents realized that they were cut off, so they made their way back to the barracks. Some of the attackers carried R.P.G.’s slung over their shoulder, and the DS agents knew that they were facing superior firepower. C. radioed the TOC of their predicament and waited for the chance to attempt a breakout.

    Bad as the situation was, R., the TOC regional-security officer, had things in hand. Like an air-traffic controller, he knew that the stakes were high and that mistakes could lead to disaster. Ambassador Stevens was hunkered down, and so were the agents. Everyone just needed to hold tight until the cavalry arrived—the C.I.A.’s Global Response Staff and the QRF. The TOC had visual surveillance of the “tangos,” slang for terrorists, and could update the agents.

    With pinpoint Military Operations on Urban Terrain tradecraft, the terrorists assaulted the February 17 Martyrs Brigade command post, at the western tip of the northern perimeter, by lobbing a grenade inside and then, before the smoke and debris cleared, firing dedicated bursts of AK-47 fire into the main doorway. A number of February 17 Martyrs Brigade militiamen, along with one or two Libyan guards, were seriously wounded in the exchange, though they still managed to use an escape ladder to climb up to the rooftop, where they hid. The command-post floor was awash in blood.

    As they watched the attack on the mission unfold in real time on the video monitors, R. and B. attempted to count the men racing through both the Bravo-1 and Charlie-1 gates. However, the attackers had flowed through the northern part of the grounds so quickly and in such alarming numbers that R. and B. could not ascertain their numbers or armaments. It was only later, by reviewing the attack via the high-resolution DVR system, that the DS discovered there were 35 men systematically attacking the Special Mission Compound.

    They were not members of a ragtag force. Split into small groups, which advanced throughout the compound methodically, they employed military-style hand signals to direct their progression toward their objectives. Some were dressed in civil-war chic—camouflage outfits, black balaclavas. Some wore “wifebeater” white undershirts and khaki military trousers. A few wore Inter Milan soccer jerseys—Italian soccer is popular in Libya. Some of those who barked the orders wore mountaintop jihad outfits of the kind worn by Taliban warriors in Afghanistan. Virtually all of the attackers had grown their beards full and long. According to later reports and shadowy figures on the ground in Benghazi—organizers and commanders from nearby and far away—foreigners had mixed in with the local contingent of usual suspects. Many were believed to have come from Derna, on the Mediterranean coast between Benghazi and Tobruk. Derna had been the traditional hub of jihadist Islamic endeavors inside Libya and beyond.

    It was clear that whoever the men who assaulted the compound were, they had been given precise orders and impeccable intelligence. They seemed to know when, where, and how to get from the access points to the ambassador’s residence and how to cut off the DS agents as well as the local guard force and the February 17 Martyrs Brigade militiamen on duty that night. As is standard procedure, in the days leading up to the arrival of the ambassador, the regional security officer and his team had made a series of official requests to the Libyan government for additional security support for the mission. It appears that the attackers either intercepted these requests or were tipped off by corrupt Libyan officials. According to one European security official who had worked in Benghazi, “The moment notifications and requests went out to the Libyan Transitional National Council and the militias in advance of Stevens’s arrival, it was basically like broadcasting the ambassador’s itinerary at Friday prayers for all to hear.”

    The attackers had seemed to know that there were new, uninstalled generators behind the February 17 Martyrs Brigade command post, nestled between the building and the overhang of foliage from the western wall, as well as half a dozen jerry cans full of gasoline to power them. One of the commanders dispatched several of his men to retrieve the plastic fuel containers and bring them to the main courtyard. A gunman opened one of the cans and began to splash the gasoline on the blood-soaked floor of the February 17 command post. The man with the jerry can took great pains to pour the harsh-smelling fuel into every corner of the building before setting fire to one of the DS notices and igniting an inferno.
    In the Line of Fire

    A
    . watched from between the metal bars inside the safe haven as a fiery clap was followed by bright-yellow flames that engulfed the command post. He updated the TOC with what he could see and, more ominously, what he could smell.

    “A. here. I see flames and smoke.”

    “Roger that, me too,” said R., in the TOC.

    R. keyed the microphone again and said, “Backup en route.”

    And then there was silence.

    Silence on the radio means one of two things: either all is good or things are very bad. There are no in-betweens.

    Thick plumes of acrid gray and black smoke billowed upward to cloud the clear night sky. The Special Mission Compound was painted in an eerie orange glow. For added fury, some of the gunmen broke the windshields of several of the February 17 Martyrs Brigade vehicles parked near their command post and doused the interior of the vehicles with gasoline. A lit cigarette, smoked almost to the filter, was tossed in to ignite another blaze.

    The men carrying the fuel-filled jerry cans moved slowly as they struggled to slice a path to the ambassador’s villa. The 20 liters of fuel contained in each plastic jerry can weighed about 40 pounds, and the gunmen found them difficult to manage, with the fuel sloshing around and spilling on their boots and sandals. The men in charge barked insults and orders to the jerry-can-carrying crews, but intimidation was pointless.

    The survival equation at the Special Mission Compound was growing dim. R. summoned C. and D. over the radio:

    “Guys, TOC here. Several tangos outside your door. Stay put. Do not move.”

    “Copy,” replied one of the agents.

    “Backup on the way.”

    In the background, the TOC agent could hear the sound of the angry mob in the hallways, over the agent’s keyed microphone. R. communicated his situation to the C.I.A. Annex, the RSO in Tripoli, and the Diplomatic Security Command Center, in Virginia, via his cell phone. Well over a dozen terrorists were trying to break through the cantina at the residence. C. and D. had shut the main door and moved the refrigerator from inside the kitchen and barricaded the door with it. They hunkered down low, with their assault rifles in hand, prepared for the breach and the ballistic showdown. They were trapped. So, too, were R. and B., in the TOC.

    A. leaned upward, glancing out through the murky transparency of his window, peering across the bars at the violence before him. He watched as the fuel bearers inched their way forward toward the residence, and he limbered up the fingers of his shooter’s hand as he laid a line of sight onto the targets closing the distance to the villa. He controlled his breathing in preparation to take that first shot. He found himself relying on his instincts, his experience, and, above all, his training. The purpose of the training that DS agents receive—the extensive tactical and evasive-driving skills that are hammered into each and every new member—is to show them how to buy time and space with dynamic skill and pragmatic thought. The DS trains its agents to analyze threats with their minds and gut instincts and not with their trigger fingers.

    In that darkened bunker of the villa’s safe haven, A. faced a life-changing or life-ending decision that few of even the most experienced DS agents have ever had to make: play Rambo and shoot it out or remain unseen and buy time? Buying time takes brains—and, according to a DS agent with a plethora of experiences in counterterrorist investigations, “we hire people for their brains.” But A. found himself in the unforgiving position of being damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. As retired DS agent Scot Folensbee reflected, “When you are faced with immediate life-and-death decisions, you know that ultimately, if you survive, you will be second-guessed and criticized. So, the only thing to do is realize that in these cases of ‘Should I shoot or not shoot,’ you as the agent are the one making the decision and you the agent will have to live with that decision. There wasn’t a right decision here, and there wasn’t a wrong one, either.” As A. scanned the horizon, taking aim at which of the attackers he would have to shoot first, he understood that he would either be congratulated or criticized; dead or alive were mere afterthoughts.

    The Special Mission Compound in Benghazi on that night was not a textbook case. No classroom, no training officer, and certainly no armchair general could understand the nuances of those terrifying uncertain moments of the attack. The attackers had managed to cut off and isolate two two-man tandems of armed support, and the local militia, paid to stand and fight, had cut and run. A.’s decision was his and his alone. And he chose to do whatever was humanly feasible to keep Stevens and Smith alive. There was no honor in a suicidal last stand before it was absolutely the time to commit suicide. Every second that the three could hang on was another second of hope that rescue would come.

    It was 2200 hours.

    The attackers moved quickly into the villa. The front door had been locked, and it took some effort to get it open. Finally, an R.P.G. was employed to blow a hole through the door. As they penetrated the villa the attackers were furious and violent, with an animal-like rage. They happily sated their appetite for destruction on anything before them, ripping the sofas and cushions to shreds. Bookshelves, lighting fixtures, vases were bashed and crushed. TVs were thrown to the ground and stomped on; the kitchen was ransacked. The computers left behind, perhaps containing sensitive and possibly even classified information, were simply trashed.

    A. raised his weapon at the ceiling, trying to follow the footsteps of the invaders as they stomped on shards of broken glass above. The TOC was providing him with a play-by-play description of the frenetic orgy of destruction. As the gunmen searched the house, determined to retrieve a captive, either a defiant ambassador or the corpse of one, they headed down toward the safe haven.

    All that separated A., Stevens, and Smith from the terrorists was the steel-reinforced security gate, of the kind installed inside the apartments of diplomats serving in “normal” locations in order to prevent criminal intrusions. The metal gate wasn’t a State Department-spec forced-entry-and-blast-resistant door, like the ones used in Inman buildings.

    A. knew that unless help arrived soon they were, to use a DS euphemism, “screwed.” Screwed was an understatement. The terrorists would use explosives or an R.P.G. to blast their way into the safe haven; they had, he believed, used one to blast through the doors at the main entrance. R.P.G.’s and satchels of Semtex were virtually supermarket staples in Benghazi, and with one pull of the grenade launcher’s trigger or one timed detonation, the armored door to the safe haven would be a smoldering twist of ruin. But fire was a much cheaper and far simpler solution to a frustrating obstacle.

    Burning down an embassy or a diplomatic post was so much easier than blowing it up, and historically, when a diplomatic post’s defenses had been breached, the end result was usually an inferno. As the frenzy of destruction began to simmer down, the roar of fire was loud and ominous. R. radioed A. with the news. “Smoke is seen from the villa’s windows, over.” The message was superfluous. The three men could hear the flames engulfing the building, and they could feel the oven-like heat growing hotter and more unbearable as each moment passed. The lights from behind the door began to flicker. The electricity began to falter, and then it died.

    Once the fires began and the gunmen discovered the path to the safe haven, A. moved onto his knees to take aim with his assault rifle in case the attackers made it through this final barrier. The attackers flailed their hands wildly in the attempt to pry the gate open. None fired into the room; the mesh steel made it difficult for them to poke the barrels of their AK-47s to a point where they would be able to launch a few rounds. Stevens, Smith, and A. were safely out of view, crouched behind walls. A. cradled his long gun with his left hand, wiping the sweat from his right. He knew he had to be frugal with his shots. He didn’t know if he had enough rounds to stop 10 men, let alone more. As A. moved his sights from target to target, the fiery orange glow behind them made the dozen or so men look like a hundred.

    Just before the fire was set, the gunmen had emerged from the villa, relaxed and joyous. They fecklessly fired their AK-47s into the air and watched the villa erupt in a wild blaze. Whoever was inside the doomed building would most certainly die. Their work for the night was nearly done.

    The smoke spread fast as A. ordered Stevens and Smith to drop to their knees and led them in a crawl from the bedroom toward the bathroom, which had a small window. Towels were taken off their fancy racks and doused with water. A. rolled them loosely and forced them under the door to keep the smoke from entering the smaller space the three men had retreated to. Nevertheless, the acrid black vapor was eye-searing and blinded the men in the safe haven. The three, crawling around on the bathroom floor, gasped for clean air to fill their lungs. They couldn’t see a thing in the hazy darkness. The men began to vomit into the toilet. Getting some air was now more important than facing the wrath of the attackers.

    The situation inside the safe haven was critical. A. attempted to pry open the window, but in seeking ventilation he exacerbated the situation; the opening created an air gust which fed the intensity of the flames and the smoke. The safe haven became a gas chamber. A. yelled and pleaded with Stevens and Smith to follow him to an adjacent room with an egress emergency window, but he couldn’t see the two through the smoke. He banged on the floor as he crawled, hoping they would hear him. A. found himself in the throes of absolute terror. He was, however, unwilling to surrender to the dire environment. He pushed through toward the window, barely able to breathe. With his voice raw from smoke, he mustered whatever energy he had left to yell and propel Stevens and Smith forward.

    The egress window was grilled, and within the grille was a section that could be opened for emergency escape. It had a lock with the key located near the window but out of reach from someone outside. It did not open easily. Using all the strength of his arms and shoulders, A. managed to pry the window slightly ajar. He yelled for Stevens and Smith to follow him as he forced his body through the opening. The taste of fresh air pushed him ahead, and he was determined to get his ambassador and his IMO to safety, no matter what.

    Coughing up soot, he reached inside to help Stevens and Smith out. There was no response, though; they had not followed him. A. heard the crackling of AK-47 gunfire in the distance, and he heard the whooshing sound of shots flying overhead. Some of the gunmen, who had by now begun to retreat from the blaze, began firing at him. A. didn’t care at this point. Showing enormous courage and dedication, he went back into the safe haven several times to search for both men. The heat and the intensity of the fire and smoke beat him back each time.

    Later, A. could not remember the number of attempts he had made to search for Stevens and Smith, but they were numerous. His hands were severely burned, and the smoke inhalation had battered his body to the point where even minor movements caused excruciating pain. Still, he resolved to get the two men out of the inferno, dead or alive. But at approximately his sixth attempt to go back inside, A. found he couldn’t go back anymore. His body, weakened by a lack of oxygen and severe pain, had been humbled by the hellacious reality. Stoically he gathered himself and made toward an emergency ladder near the egress window. He climbed to the roof as the flames rushed upward from the windows that had exploded. While rounds were flying by him, he tried to pull off a metal grate over a skylight on the top of the roof. The building resembled a funeral pyre.

    Atop the building, A. struggled his way toward the wedge-shaped sandbag firing emplacement that the DS Mobile Security Deployment operators had affixed the last time they had been to Benghazi. The sandbags shielded A. from the odd shots still ringing out in the night; greenish beams of tracer fire littered the roofline, as the gunmen still hoped to have a chance to engage some of the Americans in a battle to the end. A. used his radio and weapon to smash open the skylight in the hope of ventilating the building. He prayed this would cause the fire to burn itself out, enabling him to rush down into the labyrinth of destruction and save the lives of the ambassador and Sean Smith.

    But, as pillars of fire and smoke surged up through the shattered remnants of the skylight, the collapse of the weakened roof seemed imminent. Struggling with every breath he took, he gathered his strength and pressed down on the talk button of his Motorola handset. “I don’t have the ambassador,” he yelled. “Repeat, over?” B. responded. He couldn’t hear what A. had said. As the flames roared around A., he struggled to speak. He found it excruciating to hold the radio in his burned hands. But they had to know. He took a lung-filling gasp of air. “I don’t have the ambassador!”

    By Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters/Landov.

    Find this story at august 2013

    Vanity Fair © Condé Nast Digital

     

     

     

     

     

     

    CIA accused of ‘pure intimidation’ to silence agents on Benghazi: reports

    Central Intelligence Agency operatives on the ground during the Sept. 11, 2011, fatal attack on America’s embassy in Benghazi have since been subjected to so many lie detector tests that several sources say they’re being bullied and threatened into silence.

    Some of the agents on the ground that day have been ordered to take multiple polygraph tests since January — and for some, it’s been a monthly detail, The Daily Mail reported.

    The paper cited sources with direct knowledge of the situation and said agents are being asked questions like: Are you talking about Benghazi with the media? Are you talking about the attacks with members of Congress?

    A source who spoke to CNN described the queries and polygraphs as “unprecedented,” and added, “You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation.”

    Another source said the CIA was exerting “pure intimidation” to silence the agents, The Daily Mail reported.

    CNN analyst Robert Baer said CIA operatives are normally subjected to internal agency questioning and lie detector tests once every few years, “never more than that,” The Daily Mail said.

    “If somebody is being polygraphed every month, or every two months, it’s called an issue polygraph, and that means that the polygraph division suspects something, or they’re looking for something, or they’re on a fishing expedition,” Mr. Baer said, in the report. “But it’s absolutely not routine at all to be polygraphed monthly, or bimonthly.”

    CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said the agency is not hiding anything.

    “CIA employees are always free to speak to Congress if they want,” he said in a statement reported by The Daily Mail. “We are not aware of any CIA employee who has experienced retaliation, including any non-routine security procedures, or who has been prevented from sharing a concern with Congress about the Benghazi incident.”

    CNN reported that up to 35 CIA agents had been on the ground in Benghazi as the attack progressed.

    By Cheryl K. Chumley
    Friday, August 2, 2013

    Find this story at 2 August 2013

    © Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC.

    CIA ‘running arms smuggling team in Benghazi when consulate was attacked’

    The CIA has been subjecting operatives to monthly polygraph tests in an attempt to suppress details of a reported US arms smuggling operation in Benghazi that was ongoing when its ambassador was killed by a mob in the city last year, according to reports.

    Up to 35 CIA operatives were working in the city during the attack last September on the US consulate that resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, according to CNN.

    The circumstances of the attack are a subject of deep division in the US with some Congressional leaders pressing for a wide-ranging investigation into suspicions that the government has withheld details of its activities in the Libyan city.

    The television network said that a CIA team was working in an annex near the consulate on a project to supply missiles from Libyan armouries to Syrian rebels.

    Sources said that more Americans were hurt in the assault spearheaded by suspected Islamic radicals than had been previously reported. CIA chiefs were actively working to ensure the real nature of its operations in the city did not get out.

    So only the losses suffered by the State Department in the city had been reported to Congress.
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    “Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency’s missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency’s workings,” CNN reported.

    Frank Wolf, a US congressman who represents the district that contains CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, is one of 150 members of Congress for a new investigation into the failures in Benghazi.

    “I think it is a form of a cover-up, and I think it’s an attempt to push it under the rug, and I think the American people are feeling the same way,” he said. “We should have the people who were on the scene come in, testify under oath, do it publicly, and lay it out. And there really isn’t any national security issue involved with regards to that.”

    A CIA spokesman said it had been open about its activities in Benghazi.

    “The CIA has worked closely with its oversight committees to provide them with an extraordinary amount of information related to the attack on US facilities in Benghazi,” a CIA statement said. “CIA employees are always free to speak to Congress if they want,” the statement continued. “The CIA enabled all officers involved in Benghazi the opportunity to meet with Congress. We are not aware of any CIA employee who has experienced retaliation, including any non-routine security procedures, or who has been prevented from sharing a concern with Congress about the Benghazi incident.”

    By Damien McElroy
    11:06AM BST 02 Aug 2013

    Find this story at 2 August 2013

    © Telegraph Media Group Limited 2013

    Exclusive: Dozens of CIA operatives on the ground during Benghazi attack

    CNN has uncovered exclusive new information about what is allegedly happening at the CIA, in the wake of the deadly Benghazi terror attack.

    Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the assault by armed militants last September 11 in eastern Libya.

    Programming note: Was there a political cover up surrounding the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans? Watch a CNN special investigation — The Truth About Benghazi, Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.

    Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.

    CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency’s Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.

    Read: Analysis: CIA role in Benghazi underreported

    Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency’s missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency’s workings.

    The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress.

    It is being described as pure intimidation, with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career.

    In exclusive communications obtained by CNN, one insider writes, “You don’t jeopardize yourself, you jeopardize your family as well.”

    Another says, “You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation.”

    “Agency employees typically are polygraphed every three to four years. Never more than that,” said former CIA operative and CNN analyst Robert Baer.

    In other words, the rate of the kind of polygraphs alleged by sources is rare.

    “If somebody is being polygraphed every month, or every two months it’s called an issue polygraph, and that means that the polygraph division suspects something, or they’re looking for something, or they’re on a fishing expedition. But it’s absolutely not routine at all to be polygraphed monthly, or bi-monthly,” said Baer.

    CIA spokesman Dean Boyd asserted in a statement that the agency has been open with Congress.

    “The CIA has worked closely with its oversight committees to provide them with an extraordinary amount of information related to the attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi,” the statement said.

    “CIA employees are always free to speak to Congress if they want,” the statement continued. “The CIA enabled all officers involved in Benghazi the opportunity to meet with Congress. We are not aware of any CIA employee who has experienced retaliation, including any non-routine security procedures, or who has been prevented from sharing a concern with Congress about the Benghazi incident.”

    Among the many secrets still yet to be told about the Benghazi mission, is just how many Americans were there the night of the attack.

    A source now tells CNN that number was 35, with as many as seven wounded, some seriously.

    While it is still not known how many of them were CIA, a source tells CNN that 21 Americans were working in the building known as the annex, believed to be run by the agency.

    The lack of information and pressure to silence CIA operatives is disturbing to U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, whose district includes CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

    “I think it is a form of a cover-up, and I think it’s an attempt to push it under the rug, and I think the American people are feeling the same way,” said the Republican.

    “We should have the people who were on the scene come in, testify under oath, do it publicly, and lay it out. And there really isn’t any national security issue involved with regards to that,” he said.

    Wolf has repeatedly gone to the House floor, asking for a select committee to be set-up, a Watergate-style probe involving several intelligence committee investigators assigned to get to the bottom of the failures that took place in Benghazi, and find out just what the State Department and CIA were doing there.

    More than 150 fellow Republican members of Congress have signed his request, and just this week eight Republicans sent a letter to the new head of the FBI, James Comey, asking that he brief Congress within 30 days.

    Read: White House releases 100 pages of Benghazi e-mails

    In the aftermath of the attack, Wolf said he was contacted by people closely tied with CIA operatives and contractors who wanted to talk.

    Then suddenly, there was silence.

    “Initially they were not afraid to come forward. They wanted the opportunity, and they wanted to be subpoenaed, because if you’re subpoenaed, it sort of protects you, you’re forced to come before Congress. Now that’s all changed,” said Wolf.

    Lawmakers also want to know about the weapons in Libya, and what happened to them.

    Speculation on Capitol Hill has included the possibility the U.S. agencies operating in Benghazi were secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.

    It is clear that two U.S. agencies were operating in Benghazi, one was the State Department, and the other was the CIA.

    The State Department told CNN in an e-mail that it was only helping the new Libyan government destroy weapons deemed “damaged, aged or too unsafe retain,” and that it was not involved in any transfer of weapons to other countries.

    But the State Department also clearly told CNN, they “can’t speak for any other agencies.”

    The CIA would not comment on whether it was involved in the transfer of any weapons.

    Posted by Drew Griffin, Kathleen Johnston
    August 1st, 2013
    05:00 PM ET

    Find this story at 1 August 2013

    © 2012 Cable News Network

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