House Benghazi Committee Hearing with Hillary Clinton a Cruel Hoax; Investigation Has Completely Failed to Find the Truth; CIA Assets Kill U.S. Envoy While CIA Team Is Ordered to Stand Down by Petraeus; Ham and Other CIA Assets Fail to Intervene; Stevens’ Mission Was to Transfer Fighters from Libya to Syria

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Morning Briefing | Friday, October 23, 2015

(Left): General Carter Ham (Right): General David Petraeus

Over the year we at the TWSP have exhaustively analyzed what happened in Benghazi. Today’s hearing of the House Benghazi committee has totally missed the main features of what actually happened. One important fact was that this was an October surprise in September designed to advance the fortunes of Mitt Romney in the upcoming elections. The following is a compendium of our analyses over the intervening three years.

The Benghazi consulate was prevalently a CIA post, with significant military capabilities. Ambassador Stevens had strong CIA connections and served as a liaison with the Al Qaeda-linked terrorists of the Benghazi-Derna-Tobruk corridor, whom the CIA is using for the attack on Syria. His last conversation with a Turkish diplomat was evidently a discussion on this topic. Stevens and others thought they had nothing to fear because their relations with the Islamist fighters were so cordial. The attack that killed Stevens was carried out by forces under the control of Sufiyan Qumu (also Kumu or Gumu), who had been held in Guantánamo for several years and released as a CIA asset for the overthrow of Qaddafi. A significant group of CIA paramilitaries stationed nearby was ordered to stand down by the CIA command structure. Another CIA asset, the February 17 Martyrs Brigade, which had in the summer of 2011 assassinated General Younes in order to help the CIA operative General Hifter to take control of the rebel army, had contracted to provide additional security, but also did not intervene. General Petraeus went to the movies that night. On September 14, Petraeus told the House Intelligence committee that the Benghazi incident had been spontaneous, a demonstration gone violent. This is the line which Susan Rice mouthed on television in mid-September. (She should be fired for other reasons.) The Obama administration was in any case eager to hide the fact that it had turned Libya over to Al Qaeda. The goal of Benghazi was an early October surprise to Carterize Obama, and the CIA was commanded by Petraeus.

Petraeus arrived at the CIA on September 6, 2011. Within a month, a new provocation was launched against Iran in the form of absurd accusations that members of the Quds Force were plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, DC. Intelligence community conduit David Ignatius wrote at the time that a big reason the implausible plot story gained credibility was the “fact the CIA [meaning Petraeus] and other intelligence agencies gathered information corroborating the informants’ juicy allegations” implicating the Quds Force and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. In reality, the patsies involved came from the Drug Enforcement Administration and/or the Mujaheddin E-Khalq (MEK), an anti-Iranian terrorist force maintained by the US in Iraq. The MEK has now been rewarded by being removed from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. (David Ignatius, “Those Keystone Iranians: Why Such a Crude Assassination Plot?”, Washington Post, October 12, 2011) The goal of the operation was to abort possible diplomatic solutions to tensions between NATO and Iran.

In Washington, the neocon Petraeus was always considered as General Betray-US, Bush’s warlord and the key frontman for the Iraq surge. He was the darling of the civilian chickenhawk neocons, who saw in him a presidential vehicle to return to power after the debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq. Petraeus’ neocon sherpas were Frederick Kagan and Max Boot, who also helped him to refurbish his image concerning Israel. Obama was always afraid that Petraeus would run for president, and when Romney took the nomination, feared that Petraeus might be a candidate for vice president.

Like General George Marshall on the evening of December 6, 1941 — who stayed conveniently out of the loop under various pretexts because he wanted the Pearl Harbor attack to occur as a means of damaging President Roosevelt – Petraeus was at the movies during the Benghazi attack, attending a private screening at the Canadian Embassy of the movie Argo with Ben Affleck, which deals with a 1979 covert CIA operation in Tehran.

An October Surprise in the Era of Early Voting

The Benghazi incident of September 11, 2012 was an October surprise which arrived a few weeks early. Its goal was to help defeat Obama, and to install Romney in the White House. (Interestingly, the name of Romney was never mentioned during the entire five-hour length of the Issa committee hearings.) There are tell-tale signs that the Benghazi incident was deliberately orchestrated by a cabal of generals and admirals favorable to Romney. Many of these flag officers have been removed from their posts over the past several months, but their ouster has generally been attributed to financial or sexual misdeeds. Even though Obama was primarily the target of the Benghazi incident, partisan Republicans are attempting anyway to blame him, betting Obama is too cowardly to go public with charges of what amounts to an attempted military coup in 2012. This is folly, since Obama’s inaction leaves much of the rogue military network intact and capable of striking again.

The so-called US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was in fact a CIA station with more than 50 personnel on hand to maintain liaison with the Al Qaeda death squads deployed by NATO intelligence in 2010 and 2011 for the purpose of overthrowing the Libyan government of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. Hillary Clinton was interested in building up the US presence in Benghazi in order to handle the growing workload generated by the airlift and sealift involved in this operation. By September, 2012 NATO was in the process of transferring large numbers of these terrorist fighters, along with weaponry plundered from the arms depots of Colonel Qaddafi, into Syria — with the goal of stoking a civil war against the Assad government. This transfer was being accomplished by way of southern Turkey, which explains why Ambassador Stevens’ last official meeting was with a Turkish diplomat.

The Obama administration showed reckless disregard for probable political retribution when it embarked on a policy of systematically using Al Qaeda terrorists in the form of secret armies to destabilize and overthrow several regimes in the Arab world. Awareness of this colossal vulnerability may also explain why the Obama White House has been so reticent to provide basic information about the Benghazi incident.

Benghazi Mission Was Moving Terrorists from Libya to Syria

Security was lax at the Benghazi facility because Ambassador Stevens and his State Department and CIA colleagues had been working closely with the Libyan jihadis for many months on redeploying these fanatical fighters to the Syrian front. As I reported in 2011, the Benghazi-Derna-Tobruk corridor had been identified by the United States Army some years earlier as the world’s most productive breeding ground for suicide bombers destined for the conflict in Iraq. The US intelligence community had decided to mobilize those fighters for the overthrow first of Qaddafi, and then of Assad.

By all accounts, Ambassador Stevens was assassinated by the organization known as Ansar al Islam, controlled by the infamous Sufian bin Qumu. Qumu, previously a member of the Al Qaeda affiliate calling itself Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, had been held up by the United States in the Guantánamo Bay concentration camp for several years until his release in 2007. Qumu had returned to Libya and set up al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a key part of the effort to overthrow Qaddafi. Qumu’s career points up the widely misunderstood role of Guantánamo, which is not just a prison, but is also a training center for terrorists destined to be recycled back into the field in the service of the CIA. Another example of the same pattern is the late Said Ali ah-Shihri, who was held in Guantánamo for six years and then sent to Yemen to help found Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Shihri then zealously carried out his assignment of destabilizing Yemen. As a rule, the only way to get out of Guantánamo alive is to become a double agent in the service of the CIA. When reactionary Republicans are confronted with this phenomenon, they whine that the terrorists have duped the CIA to obtain their freedom. In reality, the CIA is deliberately sending the Guantánamo alumni into the field for terror operations against targets the US wants to hit.

Thus, the headline for the murder of Ambassador Stevens might well read: “Top CIA Asset Kills US Ambassador.” The main question thus becomes why Qumu surprised the entire US mission by killing a man who might well have been his case officer and controller until the day before?

Ask General David Petraeus and General Carter Ham

At any point in the Benghazi story where malfeasance or nonfeasance by CIA personnel or local assets occurs, the scrutiny of investigators must be directed towards General David Petraeus, who was allegedly attending a screening of the pro-war movie Argo at the time of the Benghazi attacks. This obvious connection was totally ignored in the Issa hearings, including by the Democratic Party minority.

Another possible source of assistance for Ambassador Stevens and his beleaguered associates would have been a small but capable team of US special forces stationed in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, some 400 miles to the west of Benghazi. According to testimony at the Issa hearings, this Tripoli team was under the command of a certain Lt. Col. Gibson. According to the sworn testimony, Lt. Col. Gibson and his team were about to board a Libyan Hercules C-130 transport aircraft for the flight to Benghazi when he received an order to stand down, do nothing, and remain in Tripoli. The hearings featured a melodramatic invocation of how bitterly disappointed Lt. Col. Gibson was when he received this order.

One of the partisan pro-Republican witnesses at the Issa hearing was State Department official Gregory Hicks, who had served as Deputy Chief of Mission under Ambassador Stevens. Hicks tried to argue that the order moving Lt. Col. Gibson and his team from Tripoli to Benghazi needed to come from the Deputies’ Committee contained in the National Security Council structure at the White House. But, since Lt. Col. Gibson and his team were already in country, it is clear that they had full autonomy to proceed to Benghazi. By all indications, Lt. Col. Gibson and his team were under the command of US General Carter Ham, the boss of the United States African Command (US AFRICOM), located in Stuttgart, Germany. General Ham, who had directed US military operations against Libya in 2011, was removed from this command in the aftermath of Benghazi on October 18, 2012, when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Obama’s intention of replacing him with General David Rodriguez. General Ham, like General Petraeus, would therefore have to be thoroughly interrogated on his role in the Benghazi incident, and also in the context of the Seven Days in May scenario which hangs over the run-up to the November 2012 presidential election.

There was also the question of the ability of the United States military to deploy air assets over Benghazi in useful time. Pentagon officials have generally stated that US attack aircraft were too far away from Benghazi to make a difference, and that the two waves of the Benghazi attack would have been over long before these planes could have arrived. They also claimed that there were no tankers available for the necessary in-flight refueling. The acceptance of these fictitious arguments by Issa’s self-styled truth seekers testifies to the extremely primitive and ill-informed level of the Issa hearings.

Sigonella air base represented by number 7.

A layman listening to the Issa hearings would have come away convinced that the closest US military airbase to Benghazi was Aviano in northeast Italy, not far from the border with Slovenia. This is absurd. The closest US military airfield was that at Sigonella on the east coast of Sicily, in the shadow of Mount Etna, about 875 miles south of Aviano. The bombing of Libya in 2011 was largely conducted from Sigonella.

The distance from Sigonella to Benghazi is about 420 miles, which a modern fighter jet can cover in one to two hours. Tankers are unquestionably available at Sigonella. Could air assets from Sigonella have arrived in time to strafe Qumu’s forces, or intimidate them into a retreat? Here is a real question which the Issa committee was too poorly informed to even pose.

And who was in command of the US Naval Air Station at Sigonella on September 11, 2012? The answer seems to be General Carter Ham once again. Sigonella was also the home of Special-Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12.2, with 120 Marines ready to provide support to Marine Forces Africa and US Africa Command missions. Congressman Issa needs to question General Carter Ham about why forces from Tripoli and from Sigonella never intervened in Benghazi. Otherwise, the credibility of this investigation will be zero.

Naval assets in the Mediterranean might also have been brought to bear by either General Carter Ham or Admiral James Stavridis, the Supreme Commander of NATO and also of the US European command. Stavridis had been considered a candidate to become the top officer of the United States Navy, but his hopes were frustrated by accusations of relatively minor financial irregularities. Stavridis was then ousted from his NATO command in early 2013. Just before retiring, Stavridis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was eager for the United States to increase its meddling in Syria. He demanded the arming of the terrorist death squads with modern weapons, noting that this would be “helpful in breaking the deadlock and bringing down the Assad regime.” (AP, March 19, 2013) Many disgruntled generals and admirals regard Obama as insufficiently aggressive.

Part of the Republican mantra has been to ridicule the suggestion that a scurrilous anti-Islamic film made in Southern California had any role in preparing the Benghazi incident. One of the film’s major backers, the Egyptian Copt Joseph Nasrallah, was part of the so-called Islamophobia Network of pro-Israeli publicists, academics, retired military, and former government officials. The dominant personality and most famous participant in this Islamophobia Network (which had tried in 2011 to block the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan) was none other than neocon former State Department official John Bolton, in September 2012 a close adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who might have been considering him as a future secretary of state. Whatever the connection of this anti-Islamic film to events in Libya, there is no doubt that it played an important role in more than two dozen protests and riots around the world, including one that was going on that same day in Cairo, Egypt. In that instance, rioters had broken through the security perimeter and breached the wall of the US Embassy. It is understandable that the Republicans wish to minimize attention to this film, since it was to all intents and purposes produced by a branch of the Romney presidential campaign, quite plausibly with the goal of creating incidents that could be used to embarrass Obama.

However, even before the now legendary appearances of US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on a series of Sunday morning political programs, it was none other than CIA boss Petraeus who told a secret session of the House Intelligence committee that Benghazi incidents had been triggered by the anti-Islamic film.

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