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Benghazi Exclusive: State Department Denies Libya Weapon Buy back Program Exists

21 May 2013 15 Comments

In Obama’s America, don’t call Libya’s weapon recovery program “the weapon buy back program” that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton funded using $40 million of your tax dollars after Col. Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed because if you do, the State Department will deny it exists. You can, however, refer to it as the MANPAD program—Man-Portable-Air-Defense Systems or shoulder-fired-anti-aircraft missiles that the U.S. is “helping” Libya to recover and secure among its weapon stockpiles.

Yes, we have entered the smoke and mirror stage of the absurd by playing word games with the State Department now.

Why is getting the status and inventory of Libya’s weapons recovery program so critical? Because arms from Libya have shown up in Syria. As the Wall Street Journal reported: “The U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation,” and the State Department presence in Benghazi “provided diplomatic cover” to conceal weapon transfers from Libya to Syria.

Is that why all my Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests regarding Ambassador Christopher Stevens meeting with Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin before he was murdered have been denied?

“What difference does it make?” shrieked Hillary Clinton, regarding the Benghazi terrorist attack, during her testimony before the Foreign Relations committee. A big one.

Gunrunning from Libya into Syria is a violation of international law. Furthermore, one has to ask how arming rebels in Syria would serve America’s interests.

In a media query to the State Department sent on April 30, I asked for an update, inventory and location of all the weapons that have been recovered in Libya’s “Buyback” program. I also inquired whether or not additional funding had been provided under Clinton or the current Secretary of State John Kerry.

Nicole Thompson, from the Office of Press Relations at the U.S. Department State, responded on May 1 with:

Ms. Peschmann

The Department of State does not operate any weapons “buy-back” or acquisition programs in Libya. We are deeply concerned by the conventional weapons situation in Libya and its effects on neighboring countries and regions. The United States continues to work in coordination with the UN and international partners to support the democratically-elected Libyan government as it strives to secure these weapons, improve border security, and extend its authority throughout the country.

We are supporting the Libyans in this effort with technical assistance in the areas of border security and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration. We have committed approximately $40 million to assist the Government of Libya in securing and disabling stockpiles of at-risk conventional weapons and ammunition. Our long-term strategy is to support the new Libyan government as it undertakes the difficult but necessary task of securing its inherited inventory of conventional arms.

For any additional information, I refer you U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew J. Shapiro’s recent remarks, which are hyperlinked below.

http://www.stimson.org/images/uploads/Shapiro_Libya_Remarks.pdf “

Ms. Thompson’s response on behalf of the State Department is an absurd word game to corrupt the truth considering that even the New York Times in How to Control Libya Missiles? Buy them up called the weapons recovery program in Libya ‘buyback.’

“The United States is discussing with the Libyan interim government the creation of a program to purchase shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missiles from militia members and others who gathered them up during the war, American government officials said. … Although such efforts are often called “buyback” programs, in this case even the label raises sensitivities, officials said (emphasis mine).”

Calling Libya’s weapons recovery program “buyback” raises sensitivities for whom?

The State Department’s word games becomes even more ridiculous considering Andrew Shapiro is the same Shapiro who was also quoted in the aforementioned New York Times article.

“Assistant Secretary of State Andrew J. Shapiro raised the American desire to arrange a purchase program in a meeting this month with Libya’s new defense minister, according to American officials familiar with the proposal.

The United States has committed $40 million to secure Libya’s arms stockpiles, much of it to prevent the spread of Manpads. No budget has been designed for a purchase program, and the price to be paid for each missile and its components has not been determined, the official said (emphasis mine).”

Moreover, Shapiro’s remarks that were hyperlinked by Thompson to me is the same Shapiro in the New York Times article. Shapiro was, and is, the point guy. He is also, according to the Council of Foreign Relations, the longest serving political appointed State Department official, where there has been an unprecedented collaboration between the Department of Defense, State Department and in Benghazi—the CIA.

Why then is the State Department playing word games with the truth? Does this explain why State did not provide an inventory or location of the weapons that were supposedly identified, recovered and secured using American tax dollars in Libya? The plot gets thicker here.

According to Shapiro’s own remarks delivered on February 2, 2012 at the Stimson Center:

“Once the stalemate broke [in Libya] and the fighting rapidly shifted in the [Libya’s Transitional National Council] TNC’s favor in August, we immediately deployed a State Department expert from the MANPADS Task Force to Benghazi. Mark Adams, who you will hear from shortly on the panel, is the head of our MANPADS Task Force and spent considerable time on the ground in Libya … The initial primary objective was to reach an agreement with the TNC to set up a MANPADS control and destruction program that would enable us to set up what we call our Phase I efforts. Phase I entailed an effort to rapidly survey, secure, and disable loose MANPADS across the country. To accomplish this, we immediately deployed our Quick Reaction Force, which are teams made up of civilian technical specialists (emphasis mine).”

Yes, that’s right. The unaccounted for weapons recovery program in Libya started in Benghazi.

I responded back to the State Department with follow-up questions on May 6 and received an autoreply from Ms. Thompson that she would be out of the office through May 22 so I resent the query to the main press query box at State. Surely more than one person handles press affairs there. Apparently not, over two weeks later and no one has responded.

My follow-up email query to the State Department press office is below.

Dear Ms. Thompson,

Thank you so much for getting back to me. I really appreciate it. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew J. Shapiro’s remarks were most helpful as well. Thank you for providing them.

I realize now that the State Department doesn’t like to refer to the weapons recovery program in Libya as a “buy-back” program but it has been reported as such in numerous places. I think this is an issue of semantics here. Yes, I am referring to the MANPAD program that Mr. Shapiro is also referring too. Therefore I think it would be incorrect or disingenuous to say that State doesn’t “operate” a weapons recovery program in Libya when clearly they do and they provided the funds for it. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton provided $40 million to run it after Col. Gaddafi was toppled and Mr. Shapiro was very clear when he said State also operates 2 Mobile MANPAD teams. Can you clarify please?

Since the weapons recovery/MANPAD program is an interagency program but State, via then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton provided funding for it, who is in charge of its oversight? State, CIA, DHS, DoD or somebody else? A point man would be greatly appreciated because there were some critical reports about how the money was spent, and I’d really like to clear that up. Some people are suggesting that Congress was misled on how the money was spent. I think these stories appear because we cannot get a clear accounting on who spent what on what and the location of the weapons today. By providing a clear accounting and inventory of weapons thus far recovered would clear that up. Thank you.

Also who and what agency was supervising the funds given to Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) for the MANPAD weapons recovery program? Thank you.

Best estimates suggest the Col. Gaddafi had 30,000 weapons (including surface to air missiles of different types Manpads … while State Department spokesman Mark Toner’s estimate is roughly 20,000). While I know it is impossible to determine the exact amount, according to Mr. Shapiro’s remarks currently about 5,000 have been recovered. That leaves us with a discrepancy of thousands of weapons out there–$40 million dollars later. Any update on these figures and where are these weapons today? Can I get an inventory and location of the 5,000 weapons that were apparently recovered? Thanks. I know based on my readership that taxpayers would like to see how their money was spent.

Can you provide me with the names of the NGO’s who received $3 million as part of this weapons recovery program in Libya that Mr. Shapiro referred to in his remarks?

Also which country were they primarily associated with, Brit, Saudi, Qatar, U.S., etc? Thanks.

Since these NGO’s helped to recover MANPADS and other weapons, where did the weapons go? Who has them now? Can I get an inventory and location of them?

Who determines when a weapon is un-operable or operable?

The ones that were determined to be un-operable, how and when were they destroyed?

What purposes did the five Saudi/Qatari-owned warehouses situated in and around Benghazi serve? What was the involvement of any U.S. citizen, personnel, contractors, subcontractors with them?

What is the relationship between the U.S. government and the shipping company that brought Ambassador Stevens to Libya, along with other CIA assets? Can you draw a clear line between the various agencies involved and who is responsible for oversight?

At any time, were there weapons transferred between boats located about 12 miles offshore of Libya? If so, under what circumstances and conditions?

Were there any violation of international arms agreements committed? I must ask this because weapons from Libya have been found elsewhere.

What was Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin meeting in Benghazi about before his death? Just so you know the CIA and FBI are denying FOIA requests about this. For an administration who promised transparency, obviously this is very troubling. Americans would like to know what the Ambassador was doing before he was murdered. Thank you for any help you can provide on clearing this up and for being transparent.

Why were no options provided when Tyrone Woods (a GRS) called for help in Benghazi? At that time nobody knew what the outcome would be and by not providing any options guaranteed a bad outcome. This is obviously very disturbing and I hope you will clear this up once and for all. It is unimaginable for people serving in harm’s way to think that if they call for help, none will come. This is a very dangerous precedence. Can you please explain, clarify and correct any misperceptions if there are any? As I am sure it is safe to say that nobody likes to feel like they are disposable, including yourself.

Last question. What does the administration think will happen after they toppled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if that is what they intend to do as they have said they would do when the “red line” was crossed. Why would the outcome in Syria be any different than what happened in Libya and Egypt? Moreover, can you also comment on this report from Reuters:U.N. Has Gathered Testimony Indicating That Syrian Rebels Have Used Sarin Gas,” and not Assad?

Obviously this is very disturbing. Does the U.S. know where the Syrian rebels got the Sarin gas from, if so where and what does the U.S. plan to do about it? How does this latest development change the policy the administration has been pursuing for two years in Syria to overthrow Assad? Thanks.

I know I have asked a lot but we are in very dangerous times right now and it is critical that people have confidence and an understanding of what exactly their government is doing on their behalf. I would like to help provide that by you/State answering these questions.

Many, many thanks for all your help.


Marinka Peschmann

Time will tell if Nicole Thompson responds to those critical questions properly with real information instead of word games when she gets back to the State Department on Wednesday.

But, wait, there is more. To be fair, according to Shapiro’s remarks, “In Iraq, the United States has invested more than $200 million in conventional weapons destruction projects since 2003 … Since the 1990’s the State Department has provided more than $200 million in humanitarian mine action and conventional weapons destruction assistance to Afghanistan.”

Do you know where the weapons are that you paid for?

Stay tuned. The hunt for the truth in Benghazi continues.

Update: May 22, 2013. Aaron Klein uses the report I exclusively obtained from the State Department without credit in: What was really transpiring inside doomed compound

“In a largely unnoticed speech [that freelance investigative journalist Marinka obtained] to a think tank seven months before the Benghazi attack, a top State Department official described an unprecedented multi-million-dollar U.S. effort to secure anti-aircraft weapons in Libya after the fall of Muammar Gadhafi’s regime. The official, Andrew J. Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, explained how U.S. experts were fully coordinating the collection efforts with the Libyan opposition.”

Funny how Klein’s researcher Joshua reached out to me days before to discuss some of my reporting and sourcing … we’ve talked since Klein’s story ran and I trust this will not happen again. Keep it classy. I give credit. Everyone should too. People are free to cite my work with attribution. It is not easy getting any information out this administration.

Another update: August 2, 2013: CNN’s “Exclusive” confirms my reporting of the State Department refusal to provide a weapons inventory in CNN Exclusive: Dozens of CIA operatives on the ground during Benghazi attack Welcome, glad to see a media organization with deep pockets and a big staff is catching up!

Screenshot of initial email exchange