The Question of Benghazi: An Independent Investigation Into the Attack on the US Embassy

Devon Douglas-Bowers

What occurred on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi, Libya has been mired in controversy, political agendas, stories appearing and disappearing, and rumors. This report is an attempt to go past all of the political nonsense and the varying political opinions to get to the heart of exactly what went on that night to the best that one can ascertain.
Immediate Aftermath

Immediately after the attacks on the US embassy in Benghazi, the Obama administration began pushing a narrative based on a video. The official narrative was that “The violence began around 10 p.m. Tuesday amid a protest by the radical Islamist group Ansar Al-Sharia against a film mocking Islam’s prophet. Four hours later, the consulate was destroyed, its walls blackened by shooting flames.”[1] The following week, on September 18th, Press Secretary Jay Carney stated that “Our belief based on the information we had was that it was the video that caused the unrest in Cairo and the video that – and the unrest in Cairo that helped – that precipitated some of the unrest in Benghazi and elsewhere.” [2] The idea was that the attack had been over a video insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

However, even then, there were some whispers that the attack may have been planned[3] well in advance, and this only grew as more evidence came out. US officials and experts noted that the attack “involved the use of a rocket-propelled grenade and followed an al-Qaeda call to avenge the death of a senior Libyan member of the terrorist network.”[4] Further evidence came out with regard to the protest that allegedly occurred before the attack, with a Libyan guard saying that the assault “was a planned attack by armed Islamists and not the outgrowth of a protest over an online video that mocks Islam and its founder, the Prophet Muhammad.”[5]

The nail in the coffin finally came when new Libyan president, Mohammed Magarief, said that “the controversial film that mocked Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and ignited protests throughout the Muslim world had ‘nothing to do’ with the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, and that he [had] ‘no doubt’ it was an act of terrorism.”[6] The evidence was so overwhelming that the Obama administration was forced to admit the following month that there were, in fact, no protests before the attack.[7]

Early in October 2012, video evidence was added to the mix which “[showed] an organized group of armed men attacking the compound, according to two U.S. intelligence officials who have seen the footage and are involved in the ongoing investigation.”[8] Later that month, Business Insider revealed that ” Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show.”[9] While the question of what caused the attack was put to rest, another question was raised: What about security?
Security

The first discussions of security around the embassy came up soon after the attack occurred. The Independent reported that “American diplomats were warned of possible violent unrest in Benghazi three days before the killings of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three members of his team, Libyan security officials say,” and that Libya’s “interim President, Mohammed el-Megarif, said his government had information that the attack on the US consulate had been planned by an Islamist group with links to al-Qa’ida and with foreigners taking part.”[10] The interim President’s statement brings up the question: Were Al Qaeda-linked groups with the Libyan rebels?

There is a strong possibility AQ-linked groups were among the rebels. The Guardian reported in 2011 that, while some individuals had left the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, “Other top ex-LIFG figures remain in al-Qaida.” [11] The Telegraph quoted Libyan rebel leader, Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, as saying that the “members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader [Gaddafi].” There was even some background information on the relationship between the LIFG and Al Qaeda: “Even though the LIFG is not part of the al-Qaeda organisation, the United States military’s West Point academy has said the two share an ‘increasingly co-operative relationship’.”[12] Thus, this creates the strong possibility that the attack was carried out by terrorists, as the Libyan president noted.

Furthermore, on the question of Al Qaeda-linked members to the embassy attack, The Daily Beast wrote in December 2013 that according to ” two members of the House intelligence committee, Republican Mike Rogers and Democrat Adam Schiff,” the “U.S. intelligence assessments concluded al-Qaeda did play a role in the attack.”[13] This was in response to an earlier New York Times article which asserted that, based on “extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context,” there was “no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.”[14]

According to both Rogers and Schiff, there was no talk of the Jamal Network, a group that “In October, the State Department designated Jamal Network as a terrorist group tied to al Qaeda,” and that theTimes itself reported information regarding their source, Ahmed Abu Khattala, that he “was close to a leader of the militia the U.S. had entrusted to protect its facilities in Benghazi in light of an attack.” [15]What was the name of the militia that the US had trusted its Benghazi facilities to? They were called the February 17 Martyrs Brigade.[16] The group is an affiliate of the organization, Ansar al-Sharia. [17]It should be noted that, “While both organizations are nominally independent, each has outwardly expressed either a direct or indirect affiliation with the terror brand known as Al Qaeda.”[18]

So, why were Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists protecting the embassy? According to a US Senate Committee report, this occurred due to the fact that the Libyan government itself wasn’t strong enough to provide security. However, even then, “Throughout 2012, Department of State officials questioned the February 17 Brigade’s competence and expressed concerns about its abilities.”[19] In addition to this, “In early September [2012], a member of the February 17 Brigade told another [Regional Security Officer] in Benghazi that it could no longer support U.S. personnel movements. The RSO also asked specifically if the militia could provide additional support for the Ambassador’s pending visit and was told no.” [20] Therefore, not only were US personnel questioning the competence of the Brigade, but the Brigade had flatly told the Americans that they were not going to provide security support for J. Christopher Stevens.

The State Department can also be viewed as problematic as they admitted in early October 2012 that “it rejected appeals for more security at its diplomatic posts in Libya in the months before a fatal terrorist attack in Benghazi.”[21] Later that month, Fox News reported that there was “an urgent request for military help during last month’s terrorist attack on the US consulate there ‘was denied by the CIA chain of command” and “a Special Operations team had been moved to US military facilities in Sigonella, Italy – approximately two hours away – but were never told to deploy.”[22] The Pentagon denied those assertions, stating that ” The U.S. military did not get involved during the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya last month because officials did not have enough information about what was going on before the attack was over” and then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta saying that “there was no ‘real-time information’ to be able to act on.”[23]

Next year, according to NBC News, “A small team of Special Forces operatives was ready to fly from Tripoli to Benghazi last year after Libyan insurgents attacked the U.S. mission there, but was told it was not authorized to board the flight by regional military commanders” and that the “flight [would not have arrived] in time for their presence to have had an impact in the fighting.”[24] So, while it is true that the US could not have provided much aid during the actual attack, they could have acted proactively by providing an increase in security.

Yet, the journey does not end there as there are more questions surrounding the extent and nature of security around the embassy. The CIA is bought into the mix as CIA members at a nearby annex stated “that they asked permission to leave for the consulate immediately and twice were told to wait. The CIA says the base chief was trying to arrange Libyan help.”[25] This brings up the question of what exactly was the CIA doing in Libya.
The CIA’s Gun-Running

According to a 2012 Business Insider article, “the State Department presence in Benghazi ‘provided diplomatic cover’ for the previously hidden CIA mission, which involved finding and repurchasing heavy weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals,” [26] according to unnamed officials. While this may sound ludicrous on its face, the claim was later confirmed to be true.

The allegations started earlier than 2012. In 2011, there were already reports of Libyan fighters going into Syria. Russia Today reported that the Libyan government “has sent 600 of its troops to support local militants against the Assad regime.”[27] Jordanian news outlet Al Bawaba wrote that “Libyan sources conveyed in recent days that 600 rebel fighters have already gone from Libya to Syria in order to support the Syrian opposition” and that “there is coordination between the Libyan interim government and the Syrian opposition.” [28]

In October 2012, Fox News wrote that “Stevens was in Benghazi to negotiate a weapons transfer, an effort to get SA-7 missiles out of the hands of Libya-based extremists.” However, they also noted that “the Libyan-flagged vessel Al Entisar, which means ‘The Victory,’ was received in the Turkish port of Iskenderun — 35 miles from the Syrian border — on Sept. 6, just five days before Ambassador Chris Stevens, information management officer Sean Smith, and former Navy Seals’ Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed during an extended assault by more than 100 Islamist militants.” [29] The allegations went further into the mainstream in 2013 when it was reported by CNN that “a CIA team was working in an annex near the consulate on a project to supply missiles from Libyan armories to Syrian rebels.” [30] The proverbial hammer came down in 2015 when Judicial Watch, via a FOIA request, received documents which showed that weapons were shipped from Libya to Syria. Specifically, Defense Department documents noted that “Weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya to the Port of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria. The weapons shipped during late August 2012 were sniper rifles, RPGs, 125mm and 155mm howitzers missiles.”[31]

It is interesting to note, though, that the new Libyan government was also providing the Syrian rebels with weaponry. In November 2011, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that “Syrian rebels have held secret talks with Libya’s new authorities, aiming to secure weapons and money for their insurgency against Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” and that, “At the meeting, which was held in Istanbul and included Turkish officials, the Syrians requested assistance from the Libyan representatives and were offered arms and, potentially, volunteers.” [32] Both the Libyan government and the US were aiding the Syrian rebels. So, what does this mean? It means that the US was actively aiding in the destabilization of Syria and the new government in Libya was more than happy to aid in the cause of helping their Islamist friends [the new Libyan government was extremely Islamist as Sharia law was to be the main source of legislation [33]]. However, it also raises the question: Why was the US government smuggling guns and fighters when the Libyans seemed more than willing to do it themselves? It may have to do with the fact that gun-running was already aiding them in their regional plans and that the Libyan government happened to contribute to the cause.

Now it is time to look at the problems and revelations in the House and Senate Reports.
US Government Reports

In January 2014, the US Senate report on Benghazi determined that the Benghazi attack was preventable.[34] The report stated that, in the months following up to the attack, “the [intelligence community] provided ample strategic warning that the security situation in eastern Libya was deteriorating and that US facilities and personnel were at risk in Benghazi.” [35] It also noted a number of other aforementioned issues, such as that regarding the need for increased security.

What is of real interest is the House report, which came out in November 2014. Initially, the mainstream media claimed the report found that the Obama administration had done no wrong.[36]However, a further look at the report reveals that some of the statements made are problematic.

There are two glaring problems with the House Benghazi report. The second conclusion of the report is that “there was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks. In the months prior, the [intelligence community] provided intelligence about previous attacks and the increased threat environment in Benghazi, but the [intelligence community] did not have specific, tactical warning of the September 11th attacks.” [37] This is nothing more than a slight of hand. Given the fact that they did have warning of the attack, ten days to be specific according to newly released Defense and State Department documents[38], in addition to the fact that extra security was denied, there was definitely a mixture of intelligence and security shortfalls.

The other claim made in the House report is that they “found no evidence that the CIA conducted unauthorized activities in Benghazi and no evidence that the [intelligence community] shipped arms to Syria.”[39] Given all of the aforementioned information, including the newly disclosed documents, that argument is patently false. The CIA did in fact ship weapons from Libya to Syria.

Therefore, only one question remains, which concerns a major political figure and presumed party presidential nominee: Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton

In March 2015, Hillary Clinton made headlines regarding her emails as related to the assault on Benghazi. Reuters reported that “Huge gaps exist in the emails former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has provided to a congressional committee investigating the 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.”[40] Due to this, Clinton was asked to hand over her email server[41]; and, while she did this, she deleted more than 30,000 emails [42] and even wiped her server clean[43]. This only added to the suspicion regarding her involvement.

While the New York Times stated that the emails showed nothing incriminating[44], that eventually turned out to be false as in February 2015, Judicial Watch obtained emails via a FOIA request which show that Clinton’s advisers knew of the nature of the armed attack as it occurred.

An email from September 11, 2012, sent at 4:22 pm, reads that the “[Diplomatic Security Command Center] received a phone call from [REDACTED] in Benghazi, Libya initially stating that 15 armed individuals were attacking the compound and trying to gain entrance. The Ambassador is present in Benghazi and currently is barricaded within the compound. There are no injuries at this time and it is unknown what the intent of the attackers is.”[45] (emphasis added) This was also reported in the Wall Street Journal, which makes note that the emails “show at least some of the details about the worsening security environment in Benghazi that were presented directly to her.”[46]

The initial narrative presented by the Obama administration has been unraveling since the day officials began making statements. Now is the time to push for the truth to be revealed.

Notes

[1] Sarah Aarthun, “4 Hours of Fire and Chaos: How the Benghazi Attack Unfolded,” CNN, September 13, 2012 ( http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/12/world/africa/libya-consulate-attack-scene/ )

[3] Michael Birnbaum, William Branigin, Karen DeYoung, “U.S. Officials: Attack on consulate in Libya may have been planned,” Washington Post, September 12, 2012 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/news-agencies-us-ambassador-to-libya-killed-in-attack-outside-consulate/2012/09/12/665de5fc-fcc4-11e1-a31e-804fccb658f9_story.html )

[4] Mark Hosenball, “US Intelligence Now Says Benghazi Attack ‘Deliberate and Organized,” Reuters, September 28, 2012 ( http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/28/us-usa-libya-intelligence-idUSBRE88R1EG20120928 )

[5] Nancy A. Youssef, Suliman Ali Zway, “No Protest Before Attack, Wounded Libyan Guard Says,”McClatchy DC, September 13, 2012 ( http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/09/13/168415/no-protest-before-benghazi-attack.html )

[6] Dylan Stableford, “Libyan President: Benghazi Attack Was a ‘Pre-Planned Act of Terrorism,” Yahoo News, September 26, 2012 ( http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/the-lookout/libya-president-benghazi-attack-terrorism-133154516.html )

[7] Maggie Haberman, “Officials: No protests before Benghazi attack,” Politico, October 10, 2012 (http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/10/officials-no-protests-before-benghazi-attack-137978.html )

[8] Eli Lake, “Video From Benghazi Consulate Shows Organized Attack,” The Daily Beast, October 12, 2012 ( http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/12/video-from-benghazi-consulate-shows-organized-attack.html )

[9] Business Insider, These Emails Make It Hard To Believe The White House Thought Benghazi Attackers Were Just Protesters, http://www.businessinsider.com/white-house-officials-were-told-of-militant-gangs-two-hours-after-benghazi-attack-2012-10 (October 24, 2012)

[10] Kim Sengupta, “Libya: We Gave Three-Day Warning of Benghazi Attack,” The Independent, September 18, 2012 ( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/libya-we-gave-us-threeday-warning-of-benghazi-attack-8145242.html )

[11] Ian Black, “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group- from Al-Qaida to the Arab Spring,” The Guardian, September 5, 2011 ( http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/sep/05/libyan-islamic-fighting-group-leaders )

[12] Duncan Gardham, Nick Squires, Praveen Swami, “Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links,” The Telegraph, March 25, 2011 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8407047/Libyan-rebel-commander-admits-his-fighters-have-al-Qaeda-links.html )

[13] Eli Lake, “Yes, There Is Evidence Linking Al Qaeda to Benghazi,” The Daily Beast, December 29, 2013 ( http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/12/29/yes-there-is-evidence-linking-al-qaeda-to-benghazi.html )

[14] David D. Kirkpatrick, “A Deadly Mix in Benghazi,” New York Times, December 28, 2013 (http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/benghazi/#/?chapt=0)

[15] Ibid

[16] Fred Burton, Samuel M. Katz, “40 Minutes in Benghazi,” Vanity Fair, August 2013 (http://www.vanityfair.com/news/politics/2013/08/Benghazi-book-fred-burton-samuel-m-katz )

[17] Lawrence Myers, “Source: Clinton Directly Involved In Terrorist Group ‘Security Force’ At Benghazi,” Townhall, September 29, 2014 (http://townhall.com/columnists/lawrencemeyers/2014/09/29/source-clinton-directly-involved-in-terrorist-group-security-force-at-benghazi-n1897853 )

[18] Eric Draitser, “Benghazi, the CIA, and the War in Libya,” Global Research, June 9, 2014 (http://www.globalresearch.ca/benghazi-the-cia-and-the-war-in-libya/5386266 )

[19] U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee On Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs, Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi (Washington, D.C.: Committee On Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs, 2012), pg 11

[20] Ibid

[21] Anna Gearan, “State Dept. acknowledges rejecting requests for more security in Benghazi,”Washington Post, October 10, 2012 ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/state-dept-downgraded-security-in-libya-before-deadly-attack-ex-officer-claims/2012/10/10/d7195faa-12e6-11e2-a16b-2c110031514a_story.html )

[22] Brad Knickerbocker, “Benghazi attack: Urgent call for military help ‘was denied by chain of command,” Christian Science Monitor, October 27, 2012 (http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2012/1027/Benghazi-attack-Urgent-call-for-military-help-was-denied-by-chain-of-command )

[23] Chris Lawrence, “Panetta on Benghazi attack: ‘Could not put forces at risk,” CNN, October 26, 2012 ( http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/26/panetta-on-benghazi-attack-could-not-put-forces-at-risk/ )

[24] Lisa Myers, “Official: US Special Forces Team Wasn’t allowed to fly to Benghazi during attack,”NBC News, May 6, 2013 ( http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/06/18086898-official-us-special-forces-team-wasnt-allowed-to-fly-to-benghazi-during-attack )

[25] Jennifer Griffin, Adam Housley, “Military Timeline from night of Benghazi attack begs more questions,” Fox News, November 11, 2012 ( http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/11/11/military-timeline-from-night-benghazi-attack-begs-more-questions/ )

[26] Michael B Kelley, “There’s A Reason Why All The Reports About Benghazi Are So Confusing,”Business Insider, November 3, 2012 ( http://www.businessinsider.com/benghazi-stevens-cia-attack-libya-2012-11#ixzz2Ea3tvDzg )

[27] Russia Today, Bomb voyage: 600 Libyans ‘already fighting in Syria, http://rt.com/news/libya-syria-fighters-smuggled-475/ (November 29, 2011)

[28] Al Bawaba, Libyan fighters join “free Syrian army” forces, http://www.albawaba.com/news/libyan-fighters-join-free-syrian-army-forces-403268 (November 29, 2011)

[29] Pamela Browne, Catherine Herridge, “Was Syrian Weapons Shipment Factor In Ambassadors Benghazi Visit?” Fox News, October 25, 2012 ( http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/10/25/was-syrian-weapons-shipment-factor-in-ambassadors-benghazi-visit/ )

[30] Damien McElroy, “CIA ‘running arms smuggling team in Benghazi when consulate was attacked,”The Telegraph, August 2, 2013 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/10218288/CIA-running-arms-smuggling-team-in-Benghazi-when-consulate-was-attacked.html )

[31] Judicial Watch, Defense, State Department Documents Reveal Obama Administration Knew that al Qaeda Terrorists Had Planned Benghazi Attack 10 Days in Advance ,http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-defense-state-department-documents-reveal-obama-administration-knew-that-al-qaeda-terrorists-had-planned-benghazi-attack-10-days-in-advance/ (May 18, 2015)

[32] Ruth Sherlock, “Libya to arms rebels in Syria,” Sydney Morning Herald, November 27, 2011 (http://www.smh.com.au/world/libya-to-arm-rebels-in-syria-20111126-1o088.html )

[34] Tom McCarthy, “Benghazi embassy attack was ‘preventable,’ US Senate report finds,” The Telegraph, January 15, 2014 ( http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/15/benghazi-embassy-attack-preventable-us-senate-report )

[35] U.S. Congress, Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence, Review of the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 Together with Additional Views (Washington, D.C.: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 2014), pg 9

[36] Carolyn Lochhead, “House Panel: No Administration Wrongdoing in Benghazi Attack,” San Francisco Gate, August 1, 2014 ( http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/House-panel-No-administration-wrongdoing-in-5663509.php )

[37] U.S. Congress, House, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 (Washington D.C., Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 2014) pg 1

[38] Judicial Watch, Defense, State Department Documents Reveal Obama Administration Knew that al Qaeda Terrorists Had Planned Benghazi Attack 10 Days in Advance ,http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-defense-state-department-documents-reveal-obama-administration-knew-that-al-qaeda-terrorists-had-planned-benghazi-attack-10-days-in-advance/

[39] Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 , pg 2

[40] Timothy Gardner, Lisa Lambert, “Huge Gaps’ in Clinton email record, Benghazi probe chief says,”Reuters, March 8, 2015 ( http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/08/us-usa-politics-clinton-emails-idUSKBN0M40US20150308 )

[41] Krishnadev Calamur, “Benghazi Panel Asks Clinton To Hand Over Her Email Server,” NPR, March 20, 2015 ( http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/03/20/394355939/benghazi-panel-asks-clinton-to-hand-over-her-email-server )

[42] Hunter Walker, “Why did Hillary Clinton Delete about 30,000 Emails?” Business Insider, March 10, 2015 ( http://www.businessinsider.com/why-did-hillary-clinton-delete-about-30000-emails-2015-3 )

[43] Fredreka Schouten, “Clinton Wipes Server After Handing Over Emails,” USA Today, March 28, 2015 ( http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/03/28/hillary-clinton-emails/70583404/ )

[44] Michael S. Schmidt, “In Clinton Emails On Benghazi, a Rare Glimpse at Her Concerns,” New York Times, March 23, 2015 ( http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/23/us/politics/in-clinton-emails-on-benghazi-a-rare-glimpse-at-her-concerns.html?_r=0 )

[45] Judicial Watch, Documents Obtained by Judicial Watch Reveal Top Hillary Clinton Advisers Knew Immediately that Assault on Benghazi was Armed Attack, http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/documents-obtained-judicial-watch-reveal-top-hillary-clinton-advisers-knew-immediately-assault-benghazi-armed-attack/ (February 26, 2015)

[46] Peter Nicholas, Byron Tau, “Emails Show Clinton Was Warned Over Security in Benghazi Ahead of Attack,” Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2015 ( http://www.wsj.com/articles/hillary-clintons-benghazi-emails-to-be-released-by-state-department-1432309888 )

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