Tag Archives: Jason Chaffetz

Sources : DOD memo sent after Benghazi attack listed suspects with Al Qaeda ties

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A targeting memo sent to the State Department by the Defense Department’s Africa Command two days after the Benghazi attack listed 11 suspects with ties to Al Qaeda and other groups, counter-terrorism and congressional sources confirmed to Fox News.

This is significant because it arrived two days before then-UN ambassador Susan Rice appeared on television shows blaming the assault on an inflammatory video. It also came nearly a day before presidential aide Ben Rhodes sent an email also suggesting the video – and not a policy failure – was to blame for the Sep, 11, 2012 attack that claimed four American lives.

The memo, which was referred to in passing during recent congressional testimony, was drawn up by the Defense Department’s Africa command, known as Africom, and was sent to the State Department as the best available intelligence in the early morning hours of September 14, 2012.

It included the names of 11 suspects, four connected to the Al Qaeda affiliate in North Africa known as AQIM, and seven connected to Ansar al-Sharia, a group with ties to the terrorist network.

“They knew from the get-go that Al Qaeda was involved in the attack so the idea that the Obama administration didn’t know that early on or they suspected it was something else entirely basically is willful blindness,”said counter-terrorism analyst Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

“You have to look at the facts and what the intelligence says and that intelligence was clear that known Al Qaeda personalities were involved in this attack.”

In her new book, “Hard Choices,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed the administration made new information available as soon as it was received.

“Every step of the way, whenever something new was learned, it was quickly shared with Congress and the American people,” she wrote. “There is a difference between getting something wrong, and committing wrong.”

While the contents of the email are stamped classified, an attachment including a flow chart showing the relationship among the suspects, is not classified, according to a leading Republican on the House Government Oversight Committee who has seen the memo and wants the administration to release it.

“This is a document from military intelligence widely distributed to the State Department, the White House, the Pentagon, the intelligence community,”said Rep.Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

“This was not buried in the bowels of some email chain. This was a widely distributed document. It demonstrated that Ansar al-Sharia and specifically Al Qaeda were involved in this attack. It should have been something that was put out immediately, not nearly two years after the fact.”

The memo was among some 3,000 documents recently released by the State Department to the oversight committee. With the House Speaker establishing a select committee to investigate Benghazi, all documents from the relevant House committee investigations were handed over.

Asked about the memo, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she was not familiar with it, adding “We described the perpetrators as terrorists from the beginning, we’ve discussed this fact over and over again of course from the podium and again that hasn’t changed.”

But a review of the State Department transcripts in the first week after the attack shows then-spokeswoman Victoria Nuland resisted the terrorism description, instead telling reporters on Sep.17, 2012 that the government was still investigating.

Asked by a reporter if the administration regarded the attack as “an act of terrorism,” Nuland replied, “I don’t think we know enough. I don’t think we know enough. And we’re going to continue to assess… We’re going to have a full investigation now, and then we’ll be in a better position to put labels on things, okay?”

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

David Ignatius: U.S. inattention to Libya breeds chaos – The Washington Post

54343For a case study of why America’s influence has receded in the Middle East, consider the example of Libya. Some simple steps over the past two years might have limited the country’s descent toward anarchy. But Libya became so toxic after the Benghazi attack that the United States has been slow to provide help.

When Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan visited Washington in March, he made a straightforward request: He needed U.S. help in training a “general-purpose force” that could protect officials of the democratically elected government and safeguard Libya’s basic services. He explained that, without such protection, government officials couldn’t move safely around the country to do their work.

Helping Libya should be a no-brainer. The United States and its NATO allies spent billions toppling the regime of Col. Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, and they have a big investment in creating a secure state. Instead, Libya has become a nation of lawless militias. Zeidan’s government can’t even hold meetings safely. The United States should have begun training security forces immediately after Gaddafi was toppled. Every day of delay is a mistake.

The Obama administration has approved, in principle, a plan to train 6,000 to 8,000 Libyans outside the country. But the situation in Tripoli is so chaotic that Libyans haven’t yet made a formal request for this assistance. U.S. officials said it won’t start until the spring, at the earliest.

President Obama is said to have decided at a Cabinet meeting this month that “we have not been doing enough” as the chaos grew in Libya and that he wants to “accelerate” assistance, according to a senior administration official. That’s good — better late than never — but it’s an open question whether Congress will let Obama do what’s needed.

Congressional Republicans deserve much of the blame. The GOP has staged more than a year of near-hysterical attacks about alleged failures and coverups involving the Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. compound in Benghazi that left four Americans dead. The relentless GOP sniping and second-guessing had the inevitable consequence: Nobody wanted to risk another Benghazi; U.S. diplomats hunkered down at the embassy in Tripoli; and Libya policy went in the deep freeze.

85Here’s how bad the Libya phobia has become: When the Department of Homeland Security recently began drafting a rule that would allow Libyan students and workers to come to the United States for education and training, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) thundered that “it is shocking that the Obama administration is turning a blind eye to real terrorist threats that exist in Libya today.” And Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) denounced the move as “unbelievable.”

What continued in the Libya vacuum were secret U.S. counterterrorism operations. These culminated in the Oct. 5 raid that snatched al-Qaeda militant Anas al-Libi in Tripoli and brought him to New York for trial on charges stemming from the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. This was a laudable operation, but counterterrorism is not America’s only interest in Libya.

The raid produced an embarrassing backlash: Zeidan, the pro-American prime minister, was kidnapped by angry militiamen from his hotel in Tripoli and held for hours. The gunmen released him partly because they didn’t want to fight other armed gangs for control of the hostage. Zeidan said he hadn’t approved the U.S. mission, but his cover of deniability was frayed when Secretary of State John Kerry insisted the operation was “legal and appropriate,” implying it had Libyan approval.

My perceptions of Libya are shaped by Duncan Pickard, a student of mine at the Harvard Kennedy School in 2012 who has spent the last year in Tripoli studying constitutional reform for a German nongovernmental organization. He warned in December that the imperative was U.S. training of Libyan security forces to protect government institutions. Nearly a year later, we’re still waiting.

“We are seeing a defenseless government,” says Karim Mezran, a Libyan political scientist and senior fellow of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. Mezran says the situation in his country is so fragile now that NATO may have to send in its own security forces to keep order until the long-delayed training program is ready.

U.S. influence in the Middle East has been declining for many reasons. Some of them, like America’s weariness after a decade of war, or the difficulty in stopping sectarian killing in Syria, don’t have a quick fix. But with Libya, it’s inexcusable to keep sitting on our hands, bickering about Benghazi, while the country goes down the drain.

David Ignatius: U.S. inattention to Libya breeds chaos – The Washington Post.