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

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© 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

Analysis: CIA role in Benghazi underreported

To really understand the push-pull over the bungled talking points in the wake of the Benghazi attack, you have to understand the nature of the U.S. presence in that city.

Officially, the U.S. presence was a diplomatic compound under the State Department’s purview.

“The diplomatic facility in Benghazi would be closed until further notice,” then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland announced last October.

But in practice – and this is what so few people have focused on – the larger U.S. presence was in a secret outpost operated by the CIA.

About 30 people were evacuated from Benghazi the morning after the deadly attack last September 11; more than 20 of them were CIA employees.

Clearly the larger mission in Benghazi was covert.

The CIA had two objectives in Libya: countering the terrorist threat that emerged as extremists poured into the unstable country, and helping to secure the flood of weapons after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi that could have easily been funneled to terrorists.

The State Department was the public face of the weapons collection program.

“One of the reasons that we and other government agencies were present in Benghazi is exactly that. We had a concerted effort to try to track down and find and recover as many MANPADS [man-portable air defense systems], and other very dangerous weapons as possible,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before Congress in January.

The CIA’s role during and after the attacks at the diplomatic post and the CIA annex in Benghazi have so far escaped much scrutiny.

The focus has been on the failure of the State Department to heed growing signs of the militant threat in the city and ensure adequate security, and on the political debate over why the White House seemed to downplay what was a terrorist attack in the weeks before the presidential election.

But the public needs to know more about the agency’s role, said Republican congressman Frank Wolf, of Virginia.

“There are questions that must be asked of the CIA and this must be done in a public way,” said Wolf.

Sources at the State Department say this context explains why there was so much debate over those talking points. Essentially, they say, the State Department felt it was being blamed for bungling what it saw as largely a CIA operation in Benghazi.

Current and former U.S. government officials tell CNN that then-CIA director David Petraeus and others in the CIA initially assessed the attack to have been related to protests against an anti-Muslim video produced in the United States.

They say Petraeus may have been reluctant to conclude it was a planned attack because that would have been acknowledging an intelligence failure.

Internally at the CIA, sources tell CNN there was a big debate after the attacks to acknowledge that the two former Navy SEALs killed – Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty – were CIA employees. At a 2010 attack in Khost, Afghanistan, when seven CIA officers were killed in the line of duty, the agency stepped forward and acknowledged their service and sacrifice. But in this instance – for reasons many in the Obama administration did not fully understand – it took the CIA awhile to “roll back their covers.” Petraeus did not attend their funerals.

Wolf said he and his office are getting calls from CIA officials who want to talk and want to share more.

“If you’re 50 years old and have two kids in college, you’re not going to give your career up by coming in, so you also need subpoena power,” said the Republican congressman. “Let people come forward, subpoena them to give them the protection so they can’t be fired.”

But is the secrecy surrounding the CIA’s presence in Benghazi the reason for the administration’s fumble after fumble when trying to explain what happened the night of the attack?

There were 12 versions of talking points before a watered down product was agreed upon– suggesting an inter-government squabble over words that would ultimately lay the blame on one agency, or the other.

Perhaps the State Department did not want to get in the line of fire for a CIA operation that they in many ways were just the front for, the CIA “wearing their jacket,” as one current government official put it.

The CIA did have an informal arrangement to help the mission if needed, but it was not the primary security for the mission. The State Department had hired local guards for protection.

People at the CIA annex did respond to calls for help the night of the attack. But despite being only a mile away, it took the team 20 to 30 minutes to get there. Gathering the appropriate arms and other resources was necessary.

None of this diminishes questions about how the White House, just weeks before the presidential election, seemed to downplay that this was a terrorist attack. Or the State Department’s initial refusal to acknowledge that it had not provided adequate security for its own officials there.

But the role of the CIA, its clear intelligence failure before the attack, and – as it continued to push the theory of the anti-Muslim video – after the attack, bears more scrutiny as well.

Posted by Jake Tapper
May 15th, 2013
07:48 PM ET

Find this story at 15 May 2013

© 2012 Cable News Network

Letting us in on a secret

When House Republicans called a hearing in the middle of their long recess, you knew it would be something big, and indeed it was: They accidentally blew the CIA’s cover.

The purpose of Wednesday’s hearing of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee was to examine security lapses that led to the killing in Benghazi last month of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others. But in doing so, the lawmakers reminded us why “congressional intelligence” is an oxymoron.

Through their outbursts, cryptic language and boneheaded questioning of State Department officials, the committee members left little doubt that one of the two compounds at which the Americans were killed, described by the administration as a “consulate” and a nearby “annex,” was a CIA base. They did this, helpfully, in a televised public hearing.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was the first to unmask the spooks. “Point of order! Point of order!” he called out as a State Department security official, seated in front of an aerial photo of the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, described the chaotic night of the attack. “We’re getting into classified issues that deal with sources and methods that would be totally inappropriate in an open forum such as this.”

A State Department official assured him that the material was “entirely unclassified” and that the photo was from a commercial satellite. “I totally object to the use of that photo,” Chaffetz continued. He went on to say that “I was told specifically while I was in Libya I could not and should not ever talk about what you’re showing here today.”

Now that Chaffetz had alerted potential bad guys that something valuable was in the photo, the chairman, Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), attempted to lock the barn door through which the horse had just bolted. “I would direct that that chart be taken down,” he said, although it already had been on C-SPAN. “In this hearing room, we’re not going to point out details of what may still in fact be a facility of the United States government or more facilities.”

May still be a facility? The plot thickened — and Chaffetz gave more hints. “I believe that the markings on that map were terribly inappropriate,” he said, adding that “the activities there could cost lives.”

In their questioning and in the public testimony they invited, the lawmakers managed to disclose, without ever mentioning Langley directly, that there was a seven-member “rapid response force” in the compound the State Department was calling an annex. One of the State Department security officials was forced to acknowledge that “not necessarily all of the security people” at the Benghazi compounds “fell under my direct operational control.”

And whose control might they have fallen under? Well, presumably it’s the “other government agency” or “other government entity” the lawmakers and witnesses referred to; Issa informed the public that this agency was not the FBI.

“Other government agency,” or “OGA,” is a common euphemism in Washington for the CIA. This “other government agency,” the lawmakers’ questioning further revealed, was in possession of a video of the attack but wasn’t releasing it because it was undergoing “an investigative process.”

Or maybe they were referring to the Department of Agriculture.

That the Benghazi compound had included a large CIA presence had been reported but not confirmed. The New York Times, for example, had reported that among those evacuated were “about a dozen CIA operatives and contractors.” The paper, like The Washington Post, withheld locations and details of the facilities at the administration’s request.

But on Wednesday, the withholding was on hold.

The Republican lawmakers, in their outbursts, alternated between scolding the State Department officials for hiding behind classified material and blaming them for disclosing information that should have been classified. But the lawmakers created the situation by ordering a public hearing on a matter that belonged behind closed doors.

Republicans were aiming to embarrass the Obama administration over State Department security lapses. But they inadvertently caused a different picture to emerge than the one that has been publicly known: that the victims may have been let down not by the State Department but by the CIA. If the CIA was playing such a major role in these events, which was the unmistakable impression left by Wednesday’s hearing, having a televised probe of the matter was absurd.

The chairman, attempting to close his can of worms, finally suggested that “the entire committee have a classified briefing as to any and all other assets that were not drawn upon but could have been drawn upon” in Benghazi.

Good idea. Too bad he didn’t think of that before putting the CIA on C-SPAN.

danamilbank@washpost.com
By Dana Milbank,

Find this story at 10 October 2012

© The Washington Post Company

Telefonüberwachung Handy-Daten verraten illegale CIA-Operation

Ein CIA-Team reist nach Italien, entführt einen Verdächtigen nach Ägypten. Dort wird er mehr als ein Jahr lang verhört und gefoltert. Auf der IT-Konferenz Black Hat berichtete ein Reporter jetzt, wie Telefon-Metadaten die CIA-Operation verrieten – und Dutzende Agenten enttarnten.

“Ich habe keinen technischen Hintergrund”, entschuldigt sich Matthew Cole, Journalist bei NBC News, bei den Besuchern der IT-Sicherheitskonferenz Black Hat in Las Vegas, “aber ich habe eine Geschichte für euch.” Einen Spionagethriller, bei dem Metadaten eine geheime Entführung der CIA verraten.

Der Zugriff erfolgt am 17. Februar 2003 in Mailand. Nach wochenlanger Beobachtung entführt ein CIA-Team den Imam Abu Omar aus Italien und bringt ihn mit einem kleinen Flugzeug über Ramstein in Deutschland nach Ägypten. Dort wird er 14 Monate lang gefangen gehalten und verhört. “Es war die Zeit nach den Anschlägen vom 11. September, die CIA suchte wie besessen weltweit nach Qaida-Anhängern”, sagt Cole. Der SPIEGEL berichtete im Jahr 2006 ausführlich über den Fall.

Abu Omar, der in der Mailänder Islamistenszene gegen die USA gehetzt und selbst in Afghanistan gekämpft hatte, stand im Verdacht, Kämpfer für al-Qaida zu rekrutieren. Die CIA handelt, ohne die italienischen Behörden zu informieren, und lässt Abu Omar verschwinden. Die italienische Staatsanwaltschaft nimmt Ermittlungen auf. Sie weiß durch eine Zeugin, wann das Entführungsopfer wo zuletzt gesehen wurde. “Die Polizei hatte den Ort und den Tag des Verschwindens”, sagt Cole. Von den Mobilfunkprovidern fordern die Ermittler die Funkzellendaten an. Sie wollen wissen, welche Mobiltelefone sich am Tag der Entführung in der Gegend befunden haben. “Aber es gab ein paar Probleme, das zog sich hin”, sagt Cole.

Muster und Zusammenhänge in großen Datenmengen

Dann klingelt bei Abu Omars Ehefrau in Mailand das Telefon: Die Ägypter haben ihn freigelassen, nach 14 Monaten. Abu Omar erzählt von seiner Entführung und von Folter. Die italienischen Ermittler hören mit, der Anschluss wird überwacht. Der Verdacht bestätigt sich nun: Es gab eine verdeckte Operation, die USA könnten dahinterstecken. “Gleichzeitig konnten die Daten ausgewertet werden”, sagt Cole. Die Italiener nutzen dazu eine Software namens Analyst’s Notebook. Das Programm findet in großen Datenmengen Muster und Zusammenhänge.

Tatsächlich liefert Analyst’s Notebook einen Hinweis: eine Reihe von Handys, deren Besitzer nur untereinander kommunizieren. Die italienischen Ermittler sehen sich diese Telefonnummern genauer an, untersuchen die Verbindungsdaten und stoßen auf ein Netzwerk: “Sie fanden 18 Personen und 35 Telefone”, sagt Cole. Mit den Daten, welches Telefon wann in welcher Funkzelle eingebucht war, können sie Bewegungsprofile erstellen. Zwei Monate vor der Entführung werden die Telefone aktiviert, zwei Tage danach abgeschaltet.

Die CIA-Agenten nehmen nicht die Akkus aus den Handys

Mehr als ein Jahr nach der Entführung können die italienischen Behörden nachvollziehen, wie die Operation abgelaufen war. “Sie konnten sehen, wie die CIA-Agenten Abu Omar observierten. Nach einem Acht-Stunden-Tag nahmen die Agenten nicht etwa den Akku aus den Telefonen, sondern sie gingen schlafen.”

Die Telefone lagen eingeschaltet über Nacht mehrere Stunden an einem Ort. “Also gingen die Ermittler los, fanden Hotels und fragten nach amerikanischen Gästen.” Einer der Agenten, der für den Kontakt zwischen dem Entführungsteam und dem örtlichen CIA-Quartier zuständig war, hatte dabei seinen richtigen Namen genutzt. Cole macht ihn später in den USA ausfindig. “Ich kann nicht empfehlen, bei ihm zu Hause an die Tür zu klopfen. Er reagiert etwas empfindlich auf seine Enttarnung”, sagt Cole. Einen Schlag ins Gesicht habe er abbekommen.

Die italienischen Ermittler haben Glück: Sie können eine Verbindung zur CIA nachweisen. Nachlässigkeiten seitens des Geheimdiensts tragen dazu bei: “Die Agenten hatten Kreditkarten mit ähnlichen Nummern.” Außerdem finden sie durch die Verbindungsdaten heraus, das ein Telefon, das bei der Entführung genutzt wurde, später mit neuer Sim-Karte für Kontakte zur CIA-Station genutzt wurde.

“Metadaten verraten viel mehr”

“In der aktuellen Debatte um Metadaten heißt es doch: Inhalte von Gesprächen würden nicht erfasst, es gebe kein Problem mit der Privatsphäre”, sagt Cole. Die aufgedeckte CIA-Operation zeige das Gegenteil: “Metadaten verraten viel mehr.” Mit Hilfe von Netzwerkanalyse und Datenvisualisierung kommt die Staatsanwaltschaft der CIA auf die Spur. 2009 verurteilt ein Gericht in Mailand 22 US-Staatsbürger zu fünf Jahren Gefängnis, ein Angeklagter bekommt acht Jahre Gefängnis, drei Amerikaner werden mit dem Verweis auf diplomatische Immunität freigesprochen.

“Der Fall hat immer noch reale Konsequenzen”, sagt Cole. “Soweit ich weiß, gibt es keinen Auslieferungsantrag.” Italien wolle es sich wohl mit den USA nicht verscherzen. “Aber die enttarnten Agenten können nicht mehr ohne weiteres reisen”, sagt Cole. Beim Geheimdienst sei der Fall als “Italian Job” bekannt, benannt nach einem Filmklassiker. Bei der Untersuchung, wie das alles passiere konnte, soll einer der Agenten gesagt haben: Ihnen sei erzählt worden, dass ein Handy versteckt in einer Packung Chips keine Signale mehr aussenden könne. “Er meine wohl einen Faradayschen Käfig. Dafür ist eine Chipstüte nicht stark genug”, sagt Cole.

Ein weiterer Fall, in dem Metadaten zur Enttarnung von CIA-Mitarbeitern genutzt wurde, ging für den Geheimdienst weniger glimpflich aus. Cole erzählt, dass die Hisbollah 2011 in Beirut zwei Doppelagenten einschleusen konnte. “Die Hisbollah hat dann 90 Prozent des Informanten-Netzwerks im Libanon aufgedeckt. Sie haben sich die Metadaten angesehen, die Telefone ausgewertet.” Viele der Informanten und Agenten seien festgenommen und vermutlich getötet worden, sagt Cole.

Korrektur: In einer früheren Version dieses Artikels wurde ein US-Staat namens North Virginia erwähnt. Natürlich gibt es einen Staat dieses Namens nicht, nur Virginia und West Virginia. Wir haben den Fehler entfernt und bitten, ihn zu entschuldigen.

02. August 2013, 12:38 Uhr
Aus Las Vegas berichtet Ole Reißmann

Find thhis story at 2 August 2013

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2013

Lockerbie bomber release linked to arms deal, according to secret letter

The release of the Lockerbie bomber was linked by the Government to a £400 million arms-export deal to Libya, according to secret correspondence obtained by The Sunday Telegraph.

An email sent by the then British ambassador in Tripoli details how a prisoner transfer agreement would be signed once Libya “fulfils its promise” to buy an air defence system.

The disclosure is embarrassing for members of the then Labour government, which always insisted that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s release was not linked to commercial deals.

The email, which contained a briefing on the UK’s relations with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, was sent on June 8 2008 by Sir Vincent Fean, the then UK ambassador, to Tony Blair’s private office, ahead of a visit soon after he stepped down as prime minister.

Mr Blair flew to Tripoli to meet Gaddafi on June 10, in a private jet provided by the dictator, one of at least six visits Mr Blair made to Libya after quitting Downing Street.

The briefing, which runs to 1,300 words, contains revealing details about how keen Britain was to do deals with Gaddafi. It also suggests that:
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• the UK made it a key objective for Libya to invest its £80  billion sovereign wealth fund through the City of London

• the UK was privately critical of then President George Bush for “shooting the US in the foot” by continuing to put a block on Libyan assets in America, in the process scuppering business deals

• the Department for International Development was eager to use another Libyan fund worth £130 million to pay for schemes in Sierra Leone and other poverty-stricken countries.

The release of Megrahi in August 2009 caused a huge furore, with the Government insisting he had been released on compassionate grounds because he was suffering from terminal cancer, and that the decision was taken solely by the Scottish government.

Megrahi had been convicted in 2001 of the murder of 270 people when PanAm flight 103 from London to New York blew up over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988. It remains Britain’s single worst terrorist atrocity.

Libya had been putting pressure on the UK to release Megrahi and in May 2007, just before he left Downing Street, Mr Blair travelled to Sirte to meet Gaddafi and Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi, Libya’s then prime minister.

At that meeting, according to Sir Vincent’s email, Mr Blair and Mr Baghdadi agreed that Libya would buy the missile defence system from MBDA, a weapons manufacturer part-owned by BAE Systems. The pair also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA), which the Libyans believed would pave the way for Megrahi’s release.

The British government initially intended the agreement to explicitly exclude Megrahi. However, ministers relented under pressure from Libya.

In December 2007, Jack Straw, then justice secretary, told his Scottish counterpart that he had been unable to secure an exclusion, but said any application to transfer Megrahi under the agreement would still have to be signed off by Scottish ministers.

With Mr Blair returning in June 2008 — as a guest of Gaddafi on his private jet — the government appears to have used the chance to press its case for the arms deal to be sealed. At the time, Britain was on the brink of an economic and banking crisis, and Libya, through the Libyan Investment Authority, had billions of pounds in reserves.

Sir Vincent gave Mr Blair’s office a briefing on the state of relations with Libya. The email suggests that Mr Blair was being used as a conduit.

Sir Vincent wrote: “There is one bilateral issue which I hope TB [Tony Blair] can raise, as a legacy issue. On 29 May 07 in Sirte, he and Libya’s PM agreed that Libya would buy an air defence system (Jernas) from the UK (MBDA). One year on, MBDA are now back in Tripoli (since 8 June) aiming to agree and sign the contract now — worth £400 million, and up to 2,000 jobs in the UK.

“Saif [Gaddafi’s son] says they are to come back to conclude; but there is opposition within the Libyan armed forces, from those in the Russian defence equipment camp. We think we have Col Q’s [Gaddafi’s] goodwill for this contract: it would be very helpful if he expressed it more clearly. This issue can also be raised with Libya’s PM, and the Planning Minister. It was PM Baghdadi who told the media on 29 May 07 that Libya would buy British.

“Linked (by Libya) is the issue of the 4 bilateral Justice agreements about which TB signed an MoU with Baghdadi on 29 May. The MoU says they will be negotiated within the year: they have been. They are all ready for signature in London as soon as Libya fulfils its promise on Jernas.”

The PTA was signed in November 2008 by Bill Rammell, a foreign office minister.

Megrahi was diagnosed with prostate cancer and released in August 2009 on compassionate grounds when he was given three months to live. He died in May 2012.

The Libyans never signed the arms deal, MBDA said yesterday. “MBDA operates, at all times, strictly within the limits of clearly defined export licensing regimes issued by the relevant Government authorities,” a spokesman said.

“All MBDA’s dealings with Libya were purely commercial and in accordance with the EU directive at the time.”

The disclosure of the email, which was obtained by The Sunday Telegraph as a result of a Freedom of Information request, angered the relatives of victims of the bombing.

Pam Dix, whose brother Peter died at Lockerbie, said: “It appears from this email that the British government was making a clear correlation between arms dealing with Libya and the signing of the prisoner transfer agreement.

“We were told Megrahi’s release was a matter strictly for the Scottish government but this shows the dirty dealing that was going on behind the scenes.”

Lord Mandelson, who was business secretary when Megrahi was released, said he was unaware of any possible links between commercial deals and negotiations over a release.

He said: “Based on the information that I was given at the time, I made clear the government’s position. I was not aware of the correspondence covered in this FOI request.”

Jack Straw, who negotiated the PTA, said no deals were done over Megrahi, and it was always a decision for the Scottish government.

The email from Sir Vincent also informed Mr Blair on the latest stage of Megrahi’s bid for release, and urged him to fend off any demands that he be sent back. By 2008, Megrahi was appealing against his conviction for mass murder.

“Col Q may very well raise Megrahi,” wrote Sir Vincent, “Saif [Gaddafi’s son] raised the case … last week. It is now before the Scottish Appeal Court and sub-judice.

“While the appeal is current, no request to invoke the PTA can be made in that case. Were the appeal to fail and a request for Megrahi’s return to Libya were to be made subsequently, it would be for Scottish ministers to decide on any such request — not a question for HMG [Her Majesty’s Government].”

A spokesman for Mr Blair said that the prisoner transfer agreements did not relate to Megrahi. The email, he added, did not show “that the UK government was trying to link the defence deal and Megrahi”.

He said: “Actually it shows the opposite — that any linkage was from the Libyan side.

“As far as we’re aware there was no linkage on the UK side. What the email in fact shows is that, consistent with what we have always said, it was made clear to the then Libyan leader that the release of Megarahi was a matter for Scotland and was not a matter for Her Majesty’s Government.

“As we’ve said before, the subjects of the conversations during Mr Blair’s occasional visits was [sic] primarily Africa, as Libya was for a time head of the African Union; but also the Middle East and how Libya should reform and open up.

“Of course the Libyans, as they always did, raised Megrahi. Mr Blair explained, as he always did, in office and out of it, that it was not a decision for the UK government but for the Scottish Executive [formerly the name for the Scottish government].”

By Robert Mendick, and Edward Malnick
9:03PM BST 27 Jul 2013

Find this story at 27 July 2013

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2013

CIA’s Global Response Staff emerging from shadows after incidents in Libya and Pakistan

The rapid collapse of a U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya exposed the vulnerabilities of State Department facilities overseas. But the CIA’s ability to fend off a second attack that same night provided a glimpse of a key element in the agency’s defensive arsenal: a secret security force created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Two of the Americans killed in Benghazi were members of the CIA’s Global Response Staff, an innocuously named organization that has recruited hundreds of former U.S. Special Forces operatives to serve as armed guards for the agency’s spies.

The GRS, as it is known, is designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.

But a series of deadly scrapes over the past four years has illuminated the GRS’s expanding role, as well as its emerging status as one of the CIA’s most dangerous assignments.

Of the 14 CIA employees killed since 2009, five worked for the GRS, all as contractors. They include two killed at Benghazi, as well as three others who were within the blast radius on Dec. 31, 2009, when a Jordanian double agent detonated a suicide bomb at a CIA compound in Khost, Afghanistan.

GRS contractors have also been involved in shootouts in which only foreign nationals were killed, including one that triggered a diplomatic crisis. While working for the CIA, Raymond Davis was jailed for weeks in Pakistan last year after killing two men in what he said was an armed robbery attempt in Lahore.

The increasingly conspicuous role of the GRS is part of a broader expansion of the CIA’s paramilitary capabilities over the past 10 years. Beyond hiring former U.S. military commandos, the agency has collaborated with U.S. Special Operations teams on missions including the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and has killed thousands of Islamist militants and civilians with its fleet of armed drones.

CIA veterans said that GRS teams have become a critical component of conventional espionage, providing protection for case officers whose counterterrorism assignments carry a level of risk that rarely accompanied the cloak-and-dagger encounters of the Cold War.

Spywork used to require slipping solo through cities in Eastern Europe. Now, “clandestine human intelligence involves showing up in a Land Cruiser with some [former] Deltas or SEALs, picking up an asset and then dumping him back there when you are through,” said a former CIA officer who worked closely with the security group overseas.

Bodyguard details have become so essential to espionage that the CIA has overhauled its training program at the Farm — its case officer academy in southern Virginia — to teach spies the basics of working with GRS teams.

The security apparatus relies heavily on contractors who are drawn by relatively high pay and flexible schedules that give them several months off each year. In turn, they agree to high-risk assignments in places such as Benghazi and are largely left on their own to take basic precautions, such as finding health and life insurance.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said the GRS has about 125 employees working abroad at any given time, with at least that many rotating through cycles of training and off-time in the United States.

At least half are contractors, who often earn $140,000 or more a year and typically serve 90- or 120-day assignments abroad. Full-time GRS staff officers — those who are permanent CIA employees — earn slightly less but collect benefits and are typically put in supervisory roles.

The work is lucrative enough that recruiting is done largely by word of mouth, said one former U.S. intelligence official. Candidates tend to be members of U.S. Special Forces units who have recently retired, or veterans of police department SWAT teams.

Most GRS recruits arrive with skills in handling the weapons they will carry, including Glock handguns and M4 rifles. But they undergo additional training so they do not call attention to the presence or movements of the CIA officers they are in position to protect.

Although the agency created the GRS to protect officers in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan, it has been expanded to protect secret drone bases as well as CIA facilities and officers in locations including Yemen, Lebanon and Djibouti.

In some cases, elite GRS units provide security for personnel from other agencies, including National Security Agency teams deploying sensors or eavesdropping equipment in conflict zones, a former special operator said. The most skilled security operators are informally known as “scorpions.”

“They don’t learn languages, they’re not meeting foreign nationals and they’re not writing up intelligence reports,” a former U.S. intelligence official said. Their main tasks are to map escape routes from meeting places, pat down informants and provide an “envelope” of security, the former official said, all while knowing that “if push comes to shove, you’re going to have to shoot.”

The consequences in such cases can be severe. Former CIA officials who worked with the GRS still wince at the fallout from Davis’s inability to avoid capture as well as his decision to open fire in the middle of a busy street in Pakistan. The former security contractor, who did not respond to requests for comment, said he was doing basic “area familiarization” work, meaning learning his surroundings and possibly mapping routes of escape, when he was confronted by two Pakistanis traveling by motorcycle.

Davis became trapped at the scene, and his arrest provoked a diplomatic standoff between two tense allies in the fight against terrorism.

The CIA took heavy criticism for the clumsiness of the Davis episode, temporarily suspending the drone campaign in Pakistan before U.S. payments to the families of the men Davis had killed helped secure his release.

By contrast, the CIA and its security units were praised — albeit indirectly — in a report released last week that was otherwise sharply critical of the State Department security failures that contributed to the deaths of four Americans in Libya three months ago.

In Benghazi, a GRS team rushed to a burning State Department compound in an attempt to rescue U.S. diplomats, then evacuated survivors to a nearby CIA site that also came under attack. Two GRS contractors who had taken positions on the roof of the site were killed by mortar strikes.

Among those killed was Glen Doherty, a GRS contractor on his second CIA assignment in Libya who had served in about 10 other places, including Mexico City, according to his sister, Kathleen Quigley.

“Was he aware of the risks? Absolutely,” Quigley said in an interview, although she noted that “he wasn’t there to protect an embassy. He was there to recover RPGs,” meaning he was providing security for CIA teams tracking Libyan stockpiles of rocket-propelled grenades.

Doherty took the CIA job for the pay and abundant time off, as well as the chance to continue serving the U.S. government abroad, Quigley said.

By Greg Miller and Julie Tate, Thursday, December 27, 2:00 AM

Find this story at 27 December 2012

© The Washington Post Company

Alexander Litvinenko accusation puts MI6 in an unflattering light

 

Allegations of involvement in Libyan rendition and the death of the Russian spy raise questions about MI6’s handling of sources

The MI6 headquarters in Vauxhall, London. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

Spying is a dangerous game, in reality as in fiction. It is also exotic. Sometimes the sheer adrenaline and excitement can make the spy drop his – or her – guard and judgment can be affected. Spies – both spymasters and their agents – can be seduced by the prospect of praise heaped on them by their political masters.

MI6 may have succumbed to these pressures and temptations in their handling of the former KGB spy, Alexander Litvinenko – and also of two prominent Libyan dissidents it helped to abduct and render to Muammar Gaddafi. The two cases are separate but they will both bring unwelcome publicity to Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service for months to come.

Litvinenko was killed in November 2006, poisoned by the radioactive isotope polonium-210. Yesterday, at a pre-inquest hearing into her husband’s death, Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, articulated her belief that MI6 failed to protect him. Her counsel, Ben Emmerson, said: “Mr Litvinenko had been for a number of years a regular and paid agent and employee of MI6 with a dedicated handler whose pseudonym was Martin.”

He added that at the behest of MI6, Litvinenko was also working for the Spanish security services, where his handler was called Uri (the Russian was supplying the Spanish with information on organised crime and Russian mafia activity in Spain, the hearing heard). Emmerson said the inquest should consider whether MI6 failed in its duty to protect Litvinenko against a “real and immediate risk to life”.

He suggested there was “an enhanced duty resting on the British government to ensure his safety when tasking him with dangerous operations involving engagement with foreign agents”. Emmerson continued: “It is Marina Litvinenko’s belief that the evidence will show that her husband’s death was a murder and that Andrey Lugovoy [also a former KGB officer] was the main perpetrator”.

It is easy for victims of espionage to blame the spymaster. MI6 should know that. What risks the MI6 handlers took with Litvinenko, what advice and warnings they gave him, whether or not he heeded them, may – or may not – emerge during the inquest.

MI6 did not emerge well from another inquest earlier this year. The coroner at the inquest into the death of Gareth Williams a GCHQ employee seconded to MI6 and found dead in a zipped-up bag in his London flat, sharply attacked MI6 officers for hampering the police investigation into the case. For more than a week after Williams’s disappearance, MI6 did not alert the police or get in touch with any member of his family. A senior MI6 officer identified as F blamed G, Williams’s close colleague, referring to a “breakdown in communications”.

Ironically, perhaps, in light of Emmerson’s comments at Thursday’s pre-inquest hearing, G said Williams was frustrated by the bureaucracy – what he called “the amount of process risk mitigation” – inside MI6. Williams’s family solicitor said their grief was exacerbated by MI6’s failings.

Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6 apologised “unreservedly”, saying lessons in the Williams case had been learned, “in particular the responsibility of all staff to report unaccounted staff absences”.

Lessons may have been learned over Litvinenko’s death. We can be sure they are also being learned over the abduction in 2004 of two prominent Libyan dissidents – Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhaj – and their families. Al-Saadi settled on Thursday, accepting an offer of £2.2m in compensation. Belhaj intends to keep fighting and pursue his court case against ministers and officials.

Richard Norton-Taylor
guardian.co.uk, Friday 14 December 2012 16.45 GMT

Find this story at 14 December 2012

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Intelligence officials edited talking points on Libya attack; Intelligence officers, with CIA input, removed the terms ‘attack, ‘Al Qaeda’ and ‘terrorism’ from the Benghazi talking points used by Susan Rice, an official says.

WASHINGTON — Authorities with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the CIA, decided to remove the terms “attack,” “Al Qaeda” and “terrorism” from unclassified guidance provided to the Obama administration several days after militants attacked the U.S. mission in Benghazi, a senior official said Tuesday.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, relied on the so-called talking points when she appeared on several Sunday TV talk shows five days after the Sept. 11 attacks in eastern Libya. She asserted that the violence, which killed four Americans, erupted out of a protest over a film made in the U.S. that mocked Islam.

Critics accused Rice and other administration officials of twisting the intelligence for political reasons when it later emerged that the CIA had concluded that the lethal assault involved militants, some of whom had links to Al Qaeda’s North African affiliate. The White House has argued that Rice was relying on information provided by the CIA and other agencies and didn’t deviate from it.

U.S. intelligence officials supported the administration claims Tuesday, contending that language in the talking points was changed by intelligence officers to protect information that was classified at the time.

“Early drafts of the talking points included several analytic judgments that were debated and adjusted during the internal intelligence community coordination process,” said the senior intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue involved classified material. “The adjustments were focused on producing talking points that provided the best information available at the time, protected sensitive details and reflected the evolving nature of rapidly incoming intelligence.”

Officials at the CIA and at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, headed by James R. Clapper, “were all communicating on an email chain, which is normal in our coordination process,” the official said. “Suggestions were being made and implemented in a collaborative manner.”

The CIA drafted the initial talking points, and they were not “edited to minimize the role of extremists, diminish terrorist affiliations, or play down that this was an attack,” said a second U.S. official familiar with how the material was edited.

David H. Petraeus, the former CIA director, told the House and Senate intelligence committees in closed hearings Friday that he believed almost immediately that the Benghazi assault was an organized terrorist attack, according to lawmakers who attended the hearings. But he said the CIA initially withheld reports that extremists with links to Al Qaeda were involved to avoid tipping off the terrorists.

Petraeus also said some early classified reports supported the possibility that some attackers were motivated by violent protests in Cairo earlier that day over the anti-Islam video.

When the CIA drafted language that Rice could use for her TV appearances, it circulated the language to officials at Clapper’s office, which has a supervisory role in the intelligence community. In the editing process, the word “attack” was changed to “demonstration,” and the phrase “with ties to Al Qaeda” was removed, officials said. The word “terrorism” also was removed.

If intelligence professionals were responsible for the changes, it might dispel charges from some Republicans that political operatives at the White House had manipulated the narrative to downplay the possibility of an Al Qaeda attack when the Obama administration was campaigning on its successes in degrading the terrorist group.

One of the most vocal critics, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said he was “somewhat surprised and frustrated” Tuesday after CBS broke the news.

ken.dilanian@latimes.com

By Ken Dilanian, Los Angeles Times

12:26 AM PST, November 21, 2012

Find this story at 21 November 2012

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

Petraeus affair: Agent Shirtless, FBI man who sparked inquiry, is named

Frederick W Humphries II unmasked as investigator who was banned from case because of relationship with Jill Kelley

Jill Kelley complained to FBI agent Frederick Humphries about threatening emails from Paula Broadwell, who had an affair with David Petraeus. Photograph: Chris O’Meara/AP

The FBI agent who set in motion the investigation that brought down David Petraeus as CIA director, but was ordered to stay away from the case because of his alleged infatuation with a woman who prompted the inquiry, has been identified as a veteran terrorism investigator, Frederick W Humphries II.

The New York Times revealed the agent’s name and reported that his colleagues described him as having “conservative political views and a reputation for aggressiveness”.

Before his name was made public, Humphries had been dubbed Agent Shirtless after it was revealed that he once sent a topless picture of himself to Jill Kelley. Kelley’s subsequent complaint to Humphries about harassing emails from Petraeus’s mistress, Paula Broadwell, set in motion the investigation that forced the CIA director from office.

Humphries, a former military intelligence officer in the US army, is himself under internal investigation. The FBI ordered him to stay away from the Petraeus case, which did not fall within his expertise, because of his close ties to Kelley. Last month Humphries revealed the Petraeus probe to members of Congress because he said he was concerned about a cover-up. But the move could be seen as political with the potential to embarrass the president ahead of last week’s election.

“Fred is a passionate kind of guy,” a former colleague told the New York Times. “He’s kind of an obsessive type. If he locked his teeth on to something he’d be a bulldog.”

Lawrence Berger, general counsel for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, spoke to Humphries and then told the New York Times that he sent a shirtless picture of himself to Kelley in jest and that it was not sexual. “That picture was sent years before Ms Kelley contacted him about this, and it was sent as part of a larger context of what I would call social relations in which the families would exchange numerous photos of each other,” Berger said.

Humphries shot dead a soldier at MacDill air force base, home of the US military’s central command where he became friends with Kelley, in 2010. The FBI agent, who was off duty at the time, killed an army veteran, Ronald Bullock, who confronted him with a knife while trying to flee the base after a confrontation with security officials. Humphries was cleared in a subsequent investigation that found he “operated within the scope of the FBI’s deadly force policy”.

Humphries has been involved in a number of terrorism investigations including one involving Abu Hamza al-Masri who was extradited from Britain to the US in October on charges of involvement with al-Qaida and planning to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon.

Chris McGreal
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 15 November 2012 03.00 GMT

Find this story at 15 November 2012

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

David Petraeus denies classified leaks ahead of Benghazi testimony

 

Former CIA director insists no information was passed to Paula Broadwell as closed-door congressional hearing begins

David Petraeus resigned his post as CIA director after the FBI uncovered his extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former CIA director David Petraeus has denied passing classified documents to his lover, Paula Broadwell, as the FBI investigation focuses on how the general’s biographer came to have restricted material on a personal computer and in her house.

Petraeus also told CNN that his resignation was solely the result of the affair and was not linked, as some Republicans have hinted, to the CIA’s role during the Benghazi attack in which the US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans, including two CIA security men, were killed.

The CIA said it had opened an “exploratory” investigation into the conduct of Petraeus. “At the CIA we are constantly reviewing our performance. If there are lessons to be learned from this case, we’ll use them to improve,” a CIA spokesperson said in a statement. “But we’re not getting ahead of ourselves; an investigation is exploratory and doesn’t presuppose any particular outcome.”

Petraeus has agreed to give evidence on Friday to congressional intelligence committees looking into the security failures around Stevens’ death, including allegations that the state department turned down appeals from US officials in Libya for more protection, and accusations that the CIA and other agencies failed to heed warning signs of an attack.

The closed-door hearings opened with appearances by Petraeus’s replacement, acting CIA director Michael Morell, and the national intelligence director, James Clapper.

CNN did not directly quote Petraeus. It said he had had a conversation with one of its reporters, Kyra Phillips, who has previously interviewed him. She said that although Petraeus was no longer formally required to testify to congressional intelligence committees about the Benghazi attack once he resigned as CIA director, he was keen to do so.

“He said this has nothing to do with Benghazi, and he wants to testify,” she said on CNN.

Petraeus’s affair prompted the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, to order a review of ethics training for military officers. The FBI is scrutinising classified material discovered in Broadwell’s house and on her computer. But Phillips said Petraeus denied giving secret documents to her.

The Pentagon withdrew Broadwell’s security clearance as a lieutenant colonel in the military intelligence reserve as the focus of the FBI investigation shifted to how she came to have classified documents. Her security clearance gave her access to “secret” and “top secret” material. However, it would not necessarily have permitted her to keep hold of it.

Concerns that Petraeus may have spoken to Broadwell about secret information were raised after it was revealed that in a speech at the University of Denver last month, Broadwell said the Benghazi attack on 11 September was prompted by the CIA holding militiamen prisoner there. The CIA has denied the claim.

The intelligence committees of both houses of Congress are keen to speak to Petraeus about what the CIA told the White House in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack as well as whether it had picked up warnings of an imminent assault and security failings.

Chris McGreal
The Guardian, Friday 16 November 2012

Find this story at 16 November 2012
© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Benghazi consulate that came under attack by Al Qaeda militants was being used for CIA operations

Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in a six-hour, commando-style attack on the US Mission on September 11
CIA Director David Petraeus did not attend the ceremony when the coffins arrived back in US to conceal the CIA operation in eastern Libya
Al Qaeda in North Africa and Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia were implicated
Timeline of CIA involvement blows open the dramatic sequence of events, revealing that of 30 American officials there, 23 were with the CIA
CIA team had been operating out of a building known as ‘the annex’, less than half a mile away from the consulate in central Benghazi
Timeline reveals heroic rescue effort by CIA team and the terrifying firefight they encountered

The CIA was operating a covert mission in the U.S. consulate in Libya when it came under attack by al Qaeda-linked militants on September 11, intelligent chiefs have admitted.

Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the six-hour, commando-style attack on the US Mission in the Libyan city, for which al-Qaeda and Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia have been blamed.

The CIA made the revelation as it laid bare the heroic rescue by a handful of its agents in which they fought off wave after wave of mortar and rocket attacks with just their handguns as they sought to infiltrate the compound and shepherd its American staff to safety.

A timeline, released by the agency, has blown open the dramatic sequence of events, revealing for the first time that of the 30 American officials evacuated from the country following the deadly attack, just seven worked for the State Department.

Burning issue: Mr Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a six-hour, commando-style attack on the US Mission in Benghazi on September 11, for which Al Qaeda in North Africa and Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia were implicated

The rest were part of a crack team of intelligence and security experts on a secret mission aimed at counterterrorism and securing heavy weapons held by the embattled regime.

They had been operating out of a building known as ‘the annex’, around a mile away from the consulate in central Benghazi.

Intelligence officials told how when the annex received a call about the assault, about a half dozen members of a CIA security team tried to get heavy weapons and other assistance from the Libyans.

But with time running out, the team went ahead with the rescue attempt armed only with their standard-issue small arms.

Killed: Ambassador Christopher Stevens (left) died of smoke inhalation, while agent Sean Smith (right) died in a desperate battle with insurgents

Heroic: Former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty (left) and Tyrone Woods (right) were killed in a mortar attack

A fierce firefight ensued and the team managed to get into the consulate and shepherd its occupants back to the annex under constant attack from machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

‘The security officers in particular were genuine heroes,’ an official said. ‘They quickly tried to rally additional local support and heavier weapons, and when that could not be accomplished within minutes, they still moved in and put their own lives on the line to save their comrades.

‘At every level in the chain of command, from the senior officers in Libya to the most senior officials in Washington, everyone was fully engaged in trying to provide whatever help they could.’

The CIA revelations come after Barack Obama’s administration came under sharp attack over its handling of the incident amid claims Washington told officers on the ground to ‘stand down’ before the rescue took place.

Heroic: CIA agents engaged in a fierce firefight with heavily-armed insurgents at the consulate before shepherding its occupants to safety under constant attack from machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades

‘There was no second-guessing those decisions being made on the ground, by people at every U.S. organization that could play a role in assisting those in danger,’ the official added. ‘There were no orders to anybody to stand down in providing support.’

In the first days after the attack, various administration officials linked the Benghazi incident to the simultaneous protests around the Muslim world over an American-made film that ridiculed Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Only later did they publicly attribute it to militants, possibly linked to al-Qaeda, and acknowledged it was distinct from the film protests.

The changing explanations have led to suspicions that the administration didn’t want to acknowledge a terror attack on U.S. personnel so close to the Nov. 6 election, a charge Obama has strongly denied.

Inferno: Armed attackers dumped cans of diesel fuel and set ablaze the consulate’s exterior

Siege: The compound came under heavy mortar and gunfire during the attack, which lasted several hours

According to the timeline, around 9:40 p.m. Benghazi time, officials at the CIA’s relatively fortified and well-defended base in Benghazi got a call from State Department officials at the U.S. diplomatic mission about a mile away that the less-fortified public mission complex had come under attack from a group of militants.

Other official sources said that the initial wave of attacks on the diplomatic mission involved setting fires using diesel fuel.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS: HOW THE RESCUE OPERATION UNFOLDED

9.40pm – CIA officials in ‘The Annex’ get a distress call from the consulate saying they are under attack.

10.05pm – Armed only with handguns, team of about six CIA security officers leave their base for the public diplomatic mission compound.

10.30pm – With bullets whistling overhead, the CIA team move into the compound after unsuccessfully trying to get heavy weapons and help from local Libyan allies.

11.10pm – A Defense Department drone, which had been on an unrelated mission some distance away, arrived in Benghazi to help officials on the ground gather information.

11.30pm – U.S. personnel who had been working or staying at the mission all accounted for, except for Ambassador Stevens.

11.40pm – Driving back to the secure base, the evacuees come under further fire.

12am – The installation itself comes under fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

12am – A CIA security team based in Tripoli, which included two U.S. military officers, lands at Benghazi airport and begins plotting how to locate the missing ambassador.

1am – The patchy attacks on the base begin to die down after 90 minutes of fierce fighting.

4am – The reinforcements from Tripoli take a convoy of vehicles to the CIA base to prepare for evacuation.

4.30am – a fresh round of mortar attacks is launched on the base, killing two U.S. security officers.

5.30 – A heavily armed Libyan military unit arrive at the CIA base to help evacuate the compound of U.S. personnel to the Benghazi airport.

From 6am – Roughly 30 Americans, as well as the bodies of Stevens and the other three Americans killed during the attacks, were loaded on planes and flown out of the city, several U.S. officials said.

The dense smoke created by the fuel both made it hard for people at the compound to breathe and to organise a response to the attack.

About 25 minutes after the initial report came into the CIA base, a team of about six agency security officers left their base for the public diplomatic mission compound.

Over the succeeding 25 minutes, the CIA team approached the compound, and tried, apparently unsuccessfully, to get local Libyan allies to bring them a supply of heavier weapons, and eventually moved into the burning diplomatic compound, the intelligence official said.

At around 11:10 p.m., a Defense Department drone, which had been on an unrelated mission some distance away, arrived in Benghazi to help officials on the ground gather information.

By 11:30, U.S. personnel who had been working or staying at the mission had been rounded up except for Ambassador Stevens, who was missing, the intelligence official said.

When they tried to drive out of the diplomatic compound to return to the CIA base, however, the convoy carrying U.S. evacuees came under fire.

Once they got back to the CIA base, that installation itself came under fire from what the intelligence official described as small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

These patchy attacks went on for roughly 90 minutes, the intelligence official said.

Around the same time, a CIA security team based in Tripoli, which included two U.S. military officers, landed at Benghazi airport. Upon its arrival, however, the team spent some time trying both to arrange local transport and to locate the missing Ambassador Stevens.

After some time trying to solve these problems, the security team that had flown in from Tripoli eventually arranged for an armed local escort and extra transportation, but decided not to go the hospital where they believed Stevens had been taken.

In part this was because they had reason to believe Stevens was likely dead, and because security at the hospital was believed, at best, to be ‘uncertain,’ the intelligence official said.

By Matt Blake

PUBLISHED: 12:11 GMT, 2 November 2012 | UPDATED: 17:16 GMT, 2 November 2012

Find this story at 2 November 2012

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