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Friday, February 14, 2014

CIA Files From Benghazi: Now in the Hands of Al Qaeda?

Clare Lopez  —   February 14, 2014

The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released its Review of the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 on January 15, 2014.

One of the most disturbing sections in the entire report comes on page 42, where the report cites then-FBI Director Robert Mueller in testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies telling Congress that “as many as 15 individuals supporting the investigation or otherwise helpful to the United States have been killed in Benghazi since the attacks [of September 11, 2012].”

While Director Mueller rightly noted the “lawless and chaotic circumstances in eastern Libya,” the SSCI report also added that “It is unclear whether their killings were related to the Benghazi investigation.”

While calling post-Qaddafi Libya “lawless and chaotic” is something of an understatement, the SSCI’s suspicions about these particular killings and the possibility that they could be connected to the Benghazi investigation should be noted and noted carefully.

The identity of these individuals has not been revealed publicly, but it is certain that the SSCI and the Intelligence Community for which it holds oversight responsibility know who they were. And while it is certainly possible that each and every one of these 15 killings can be explained by the continuing battles among the Al Qaeda militias that led the uprising against former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, the possibility that these are targeted killings – assassinations – must also be considered, even as the SSCI seems to hint that it has thought of this, too.

The WSJ use of the term “agents” would seem to indicate that these local Libyans were CIA recruited assets, who either were trusted enough for this assignment or perhaps were all they had to turn to at that point. They may have been Libyan officials, whether uniformed police or others such as intelligence and security officials.

We do not know and the SSCI report does not tell us. In any case, what that short section of the SSCI report does tell us, at a minimum, is that sensitive documents and equipment were believed by the CIA to have remained in the CIA Annex the day after the attack, that they had not been destroyed or removed by the fleeing Americans and were of sufficient concern to the CIA that it was willing to take a chance on tasking local Libyans to retrieve whatever was there.

What became of any such materials and whether they were successfully recovered or not is not noted in the SSCI report. Tom Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), writing in the Weekly Standard on January 7, 2014 about the Obama administration’s belated admission about the role that Abu Sufian Ben Qumu (a former GITMO detainee) and his group — the Derna, Libya branch of Ansar al-Shariah — played in the Benghazi attack provides a possible follow-up, however.

In the very last line of his piece, “Obama Administration’s Benghazi Bombshell,” Joscelyn writes that two U.S. intelligence officials say that Faraj al Chalabi, an identified Libyan jihadi, “is suspected of bringing materials from the compound in Benghazi to senior al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan.”

This report begs the question: How is it possible for U.S. intelligence officials to so specifically name al-Chalabi as someone who may have taken materials from Benghazi to al-Qa’eda leadership in Pakistan?

What materials have they identified as having been removed from the CIA Annex and how do they know (or why would they suspect) such materials have been taken to Ayman al-Zawahiri in Pakistan in the first place? In fact, it doesn’t seem possible – unless U.S. intelligence officials themselves perhaps were the ones who dispatched al-Chalabi or an associate to the compound to recover those “documents and equipment.”

When the materials likely later were confirmed to be missing from the compound but hadn’t been delivered as expected, the panic would have begun to build.

Both Joscelyn and Fox News have reported that al-Chalabi is a known associate of the Al-Qaeda “inner core” with ties that go back to the late 1990s. He has been identified as a former bodyguard for Osama bin-Laden. READ MORE>>