One yearafter four Americans died in an attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya,
there is no one in custodywho can tell U.S. counterterrorism officials specifics about when, where, and by whom the plot was devised.
Meanwhile Libya has become more volatile — a powerful explosion caused serious damage to Libya’s Foreign Ministry building in central Benghazi on Wednesday — while no American officials have been held accountable for U.S. missteps in the Libyan port city.
Sources told CNN that 35 Americans were in Benghazi that night — 21 of whom were working out of the annex — and that several were wounded, some seriously.
One source said: “You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation.”
Among the questions are whether CIA missteps contributed to the security failure in Benghazi and, more importantly, whether the Agency’s Benghazi operation had anything to do with reported heavy weapons shipments from the local port to Syrian rebels.
Here’s what we know about that tragic night after one year:
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012.
At about 9:40 p.m. local time on Sept. 11, a mob of Libyans attacked a building housing U.S. State Department personnel. At 10:20 p.m. a small Global Response Staff led by former Navy SEAL and CIA contractor Tyrone Woods arrived from a CIA annex located 1.2 miles away to help the besieged Americans.
At 11:15 p.m. they fled with survivors back to the secret outpost. Armed Libyans followed them and attacked the annex with rockets and small arms from around midnight to 1:00 a.m., when there was a lull in the fighting.
Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL and CIA security contractor, was with a team of Joint Special Operations Command military operators and CIA agents in Tripoli at the time of the attack. When they received word of the assault on the mission, Doherty and six others bribed the pilots of small jet with $US30,000 cash for a ride to Benghazi.
At about 5:15 a.m., right after Doherty’s group arrived, the attackers began shooting mortars at the annex, leading to the death of Doherty and Woods.
At 6 a.m. Libyan forces from the military intelligence service arrived and subsequently took more than 30 Americans — only seven of whom were from the State Department — to the Benghazi airport.
The CIA’s response to go to the mission where Ambassador Christopher Stevens was located, after being held back for 20 minutes, saved American lives but also ended up exposing the annex.
According to Paula Broadwell, the mistress of David Petraeus when he was CIA director, the CIA may have also provided an impetus for the attack by holding prisoners: “Now I don’t know if a lot of you heard this, but the CIA annex had taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back.”
‘At its heart a CIA operation’
The top-secret presence and location of the CIA outpost was first acknowledged by Charlene Lamb, a top official in the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, during Congressional testimony in October.
“I totally object to the use of that photo,” Chaffetz. said. “I was told specifically while I was in Libya I could not and should not ever talk about what you’re showing here today.”
In November The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. mission in Benghazi “was at its heart a CIA operation.”
In January, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress that the CIA was leading a “concerted effort to try to track down and find and recover … MANPADS [man-portable air defence systems]” looted from the stockpiles of toppled Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi.
The State Department “consulate” served as diplomatic cover for the previously-hidden annex.
The location of the U.S. “consulate” and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya
Weapons from Benghazi to Syria
Also in October we reported the connection between Ambassador Stevens, who died in the attack, and a reported September shipment of SA-7 surface-to-air anti-craft missiles (i.e. MANPADS) and rocket-propelled grenades from Benghazi to Syria through southern Turkey.
That 400-ton shipment — “the largest consignment of weapons” yet for Syrian rebels — was organised by Abdelhakim Belhadj, who was the newly-appointed head of the Tripoli Military Council.
Stevens’ last meeting on Sept. 11 was with Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin, and a source told Fox News that Stevens was in Benghazi “to negotiate a weapons transfer in an effort to get SA-7 missiles out of the hands of Libya-based extremists.”
Syrian rebels subsequently began shooting down Syrian helicopters and fighter jets with SA-7s akin to those in Qaddafi’s looted stock. (The interim Libyan government also sent money and fighters to Syria.)
The CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya
What did the CIA know?
Collectively these details raise the question of what the CIA knew, given that Agency operatives in Libya were rounding up SA-7s, ostensibly to destroy them, while operatives in southern Turkey were funelling weapons to the rebels.
The State Department told CNN that it was not involved in any transfer of weapons to other countries, but it “can’t speak for any other agencies.”
Ambassador Stevens presumably would have known if the new Libyan government were sending 400 tons of heavy weapons to Turkey from Benghazi’s port, just like the CIA would know if those the weapons arrived in Turkey and began showing up in Syria.
Right after the attack, American Matthew VanDyke, who fought with Libyan rebels during their revolution, told us he suspected that extremist groups in the nearby mountains — who felt marginalized by the new Libyan government — “saw their opportunity to pounce.”
In May Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kent.) told CNN: “I’ve actually always suspected that, although I have no evidence, that maybe we were facilitating arms leaving Libya going through Turkey into Syria. … Were they trying to obscure that there was an arms operation going on at the CIA annex? I’m not sure exactly what was going on, but I think questions ought to be asked and answered.”
So now that the White House has released more than 100 pages of Benghazi emails and suspended State Department officials have been reinstated, the only thing to explore is what the CIA was really doing.
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