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Why were we in Benghazi? Docs confirm MANPADS and gunrunning into Syria

6 January 2015 19 Comments

“[T]he CIA was collecting intelligence about foreign entities that were themselves collecting weapons in Libya and facilitating their passage to Syria. The Benghazi Annex was not itself collecting weapons.” –HPSCI Benghazi Report p. 16

Last month during the Benghazi Select Committee’s second hearing Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked Gregory Starr, the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, “What was so important about Benghazi that we didn’t follow our own standards? We did not follow the wavier process. We created a term [special mission compound or special mission facility] that is not used in any of our [285] facilities … What was so important that we do all that to be in Benghazi?”

“Why were we there in the first place?”

“We” were in Benghazi because of MANPADs— Man Portable Air Defense Systems–are also known as shoulder-fired-anti-aircraft missiles.

“We” were in Benghazi because weapons “collected” in Libya were being moved into Syria—arms trafficking.

That’s why.

The evidence is all there. You just have to look.

WATCH: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) questions Greg Starr about U.S. diplomatic facility safety

First, as I originally reported in Benghazi Exclusive: State Department Denies Libya Weapon Buy back Program Exists, according to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew J. Shapiro’s speech, given at the Stimson Center, seven months before the Benghazi attacks, on February 2, 2012.

The MANPADs program started in Benghazi.

I had gotten Shapiro’s remarks from the State Department after an inquiry.

The MANPADs program was such an important priority it began outside of Libya, before Libya’s leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi was ousted from Tripoli and killed.

It started when then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State Department deployed a MANPADs Task Force team to visit Libya’s neighboring countries in the region to “brief” them on the potential proliferation dangers, “offer assistance with border security” and provide “advice on potential steps to improve aviation security.”

Recall how President Barack Obama, despite not receiving Congressional authorization, as the New York Times reported, ordered “military forces to join attacks of Libyan air defenses and government forces” in March 2011.

According to Shapiro, that April non-government organizations (NGOs) specializing in conventional weapons destruction and stockpile security had already received “$3 million in funding” from Clinton’s State Department to “get them on the ground.”

State Department inquires for the names of the NGO’s remain unanswered. Shortly thereafter MANPADs teams went into Libya.

From Shapiro’s remarks:

“Once the stalemate broke and the fighting rapidly shifted in [Libya’s Transitional National Council] the TNC’s favor in August, we immediately deployed a State Department expert from the MANPADs Task Force to Benghazi. Mark Adams … is the head of our MANPADS Task Force and spent considerable time on the ground in Libya … 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.”

MANPADs can take down an aircraft. They can be as small as “four feet long,” weighing “less than 30 pounds.” Although MANPADs were designed to target aircraft, they were among the weapons that were “taken by militias and anti-Gaddafi forces” and used “in direct combat against Gaddafi loyalists” during the uprising.

Under the Gaddafi regime, “Libya had accumulated the largest stockpile of MANPADs of any non-MANPADs producing country in the world, “with estimates of stockpiles of “approximately 20,000 MANPADs.”

Shapiro also acknowledged how some weapons may have “leaked” out of Libya.

Benghazi was the Libyan rebels’ headquarters. Thousands of non-Libyan “foreign fighters” had flocked there to join in Gaddafi’s overthrow— just like they flocked to Syria in the ongoing battle to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

As Shapiro’s remarks specify, the MANPADs Task Force, led by Clinton’s State Department, was an “interagency effort.” The other agencies included the Defense Chief Leon Panetta’s Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s DHS. Technical specialists were embedded in the TNC—Libya’s intern government-led teams in what became the Libyan Mine Action Centre (LMAC).

Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus’ CIA was also in Libya. Shapiro most likely intentionally omitted the CIA’s role in this interagency MANPADs effort as it is classified.

As the New York Times reported back in 2011, “[An American] official… spoke on the condition of anonymity because the [MANPADs] program, if approved, would be classified.”

The classified MANPADs program was approved.

Meanwhile the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) grew and gained strength and territory. The migration, persecution and slaughter of Christians and other minorities increased at a horrific rate. The death toll continues to mount today.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew J. Shapiro’s speech on MANPADs in L…

CIA Global Response Staff

While few media outlets and the Benghazi Select Committee (so far), have failed to acknowledge that Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were CIA Global Response Staff (GRS), and former Navy SEALs. They need to if they want the public to know the truth about the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks where Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Doherty, Woods, and information specialist Sean Smith were killed.

GRS is a secretive government program that was created after the September 11, 2001 attacks, as the Washington Post reported here, and I reported here. In addition, as the firsthand account in the book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi made clear:

“The GRS consisted of full-time CIA security staffers … GRS officers served as bodyguards for spies, diplomats, and other American personnel in the field. The more dangerous a posting, the more likely GRS operators were nearby in the shadows, protecting America’s envoys and covert intelligence gathers. Few if any postings were more dangerous than Benghazi, Libya… [Jack] reached out his right hand and returned a powerful handshake offered by one of his fellow former SEAL and GRS colleague Tyrone Woods whose call sign was “Rone.”

Because aspects of the MANPADs program are considered classified but can be re-classified, this may explain why the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) report on Benghazi released on November 21, said:

“Committee Members and staff asked all witnesses what they observed at the Benghazi Annex and whether they had any information to support allegations about weapons being collected and transported to Syria. Each witness reported seeing only standard CIA security weapons at the base… No witness testified that non-CIA weapons were brought to the Annex. Security personnel and officers testified that they had complete access to the Annex and would have observed any weapons, such as MANPADs, stored at the facility.”

The HPSCI Committee isolated the weapons and MANPADs questions to the CIA Annex in Benghazi. Why weren’t the witnesses asked about other locations, buildings, warehouses in Benghazi or in other parts of Libya?

The HPSCI’s limited purview did not include the State Department. Thus far, there is no evidence that MANPADs and weapons that were collected under the interagency MANPADs program were stored at the State Department’s Temporary Mission Facility or at the Embassy in Tripoli either. This scenario would not be likely for security reasons.

CIA operators, like Clinton’s MANPADs teams, were spread throughout Libya, just like other agency personnel and MANPADs teams from other nations including in Mistra and Tripoli.

Considering the MANPADs program was taxpayer funded, don’t Americans have a right to know more? It was back in November of 2011, as Shapiro stated, when Secretary Clinton provided $40 million to secure the weapons including MANPADs in Libya. As Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) documented, that number soared to over $400 million.

So where did the weapons go? How many have been collected? How many were deemed inoperable and destroyed?

According to Shapiro, they were working with the “Libyans in their efforts to conduct a thorough inventory of all weapons storage areas in Libya to create a full picture of both old, unstable, obsolete, or at-risk, as well as up-to-date weapons and munitions.” Shapiro said, “This is not just about MANPADs, but about all weapons.” That’s right. That’s why we should be able to find out much more.

HPSCI admits gunrunning from Libya to Syria occurred

While some media outlets contend that Benghazi is a witch hunt and a conspiracy theory, as Sharyl Attiksson reported in 26 Ways the Media Botched Their Reporting on the Latest Benghazi Report in The Daily Signal, they ignored or missed the confirmation of the arms trafficking from Libya to Syria.

As the HPSCI Benghazi report states:

“According to testimony from CIA Deputy Director Morell and confirmed by other witnesses, the CIA’s mission in Benghazi was to collect foreign intelligence. From the Annex in Benghazi, the CIA was collecting intelligence about foreign entities that were themselves collecting weapons in Libya and facilitating their passage to Syria. The Benghazi Annex was not itself collecting weapons. The Committee has not seen any credible information to dispute these facts (emphasis mine, p.16).”

The Committee is not going to find any “credible information to dispute these facts,” because they are looking in one direction—at the CIA Annex. What’s more, they are not asking all the right questions.

Which foreign entities were “facilitating” weapons “passage” from Libya into Syria? Let’s not get stuck on semantics here. Which foreign entities were involved in arms trafficking from Libya to Syria?

Arms trafficking, also known as gunrunning is illegal under international law. It is an actionable criminal offense.

Was the HPSCI Benghazi report referring to allies like the Saudis and Qatar, who, like the Obama-Clinton regime, were determined to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and were supporting the opposition or referring to foreign entities, like Iran and Russia, who backed al-Assad? How about NATO? United Kingdom? France? The United Nations Disarmament, Demobilisation and Re-integration (DDR) program in Libya? Let’s be clear.

While “collecting foreign intelligence,” did the CIA stop, or just watch, look the other way, and do nothing regarding these foreign entities’ arms trafficking?

Did the CIA pass along any actionable intelligence to anyone who did something?

Was Attorney General Eric Holder informed of this illegal activity? What about the International Court of Justice in The Hague? So far, to my knowledge, there have been no gunrunning indictments anywhere. Either way there appears to be actionable complicity and culpability within at minimum the CIA… and State Department.

As Shapiro’s remarks confirmed, Clinton’s State Department knew about weapons “leaking” out of Libya.

Who gave the orders to the CIA and the State Department to do something or to do nothing except to “gather intelligence” about the arms smuggling? If these agencies were not involved in transferring weapons into Syria, why were they complicit by watching other foreign entities do it, thereby allowing the gunrunning to happen?

That being said, be careful not to paint a broad stroke against the entire CIA or State Department. There are good and bad people everywhere. Policy is also a leading factor. Sensitive missions involving MANPADs and weapons trafficking would be highly compartmentalized. Operators and agents’ knowledge-base would be restricted to their “lane.” Agents and operators do not always know (or never know) what other personnel are doing out in the field in their respective lanes. Also, there are different levels of security classifications to consider: Confidential, Secret, Top Secret—”sensitive compartmentalized information” (SCI) and “single scope background investigation” (SSBI).

Each level comes with different access and knowledge.

Therefore, only a few people at the top know the MANPADs and arms trafficking big picture. What is actionable, if the Benghazi Select Committee does their job and justice is served, are the people who gave the CIA and other agencies orders to support the weapons transfer from Libya to Syria—or to look the other way and allow it to continue.

Did jihadists groups like ISIS, obtain weapons during this gunrunning activity because of complicity or were ISIS and other “rebels” deliberately given weapons to overthrow President al-Assad? Syria was the next stop in President Obama’s Middle East adventures until it was derailed by the American people.

MANPAD programs have been used in other conflicts including in Iraq and Afghanistan during the George W. Bush administration.

CIA FOIA Request Denied

This arms trafficking activity explains why my CIA FOIA request regarding Ambassador Stevens and Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin and “any and all members of the Turkish government …” was denied as reported in CIA FOIA Request Denied before Hillary’s Benghazi Testimony.

“With respect to Item 1, in accordance with section 3.6(a) of Executive Order 13526, the CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request…”

This type of denial is called the Glomar Response.

Akin was the last known person to have met with Ambassador Stevens before he was killed.

Weapons were smuggled from Libya through Turkey into Syria.

As this Exclusive reported, HPSCI Chairman Mike Rogers confirmed that Ambassador Stevens had met with his Intelligence committee days prior to his death. Rogers omitted that critical piece of evidence from the HPSCI report. This revelation appears to add credence to what I had reported here. Was Ambassador Stevens wearing his State Department hat or his CIA hat at the time when he was killed?

Watch: Fox News Megyn Kelly interview with Mike Rogers confirming that Ambassador Stevens met with the House Intel committee before his death.

This would also explain why, as I FOIA reported here and here, while Marines were deployable, they were not deployed to Benghazi to help Americans in peril or protect the integrity of the crime scene.

United Kingdom’s Libya MANPADs Role: 16,000 pages and counting

To add some context to the vastness of the interagency MANPADs program that involved other countries, Libya’s TNC and the United Nations, below is a letter I received from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence regarding my MANPADs FOIA request.

In the UK, there are over 16,000 documents spanning three major government departments on the MANPADs program. The redactions are mine.

“However, I have to advise you that we will not be able to answer your request without exceeding the appropriate limit as set out in Section 12 of the FOI act. This is because to retrieve and extract information in scope of your request would involve searching, reading and extracting a minimum of 16,000 documents across at least three major departmental organisations resulting in at least 403 working days of effort.”

United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence MANPADs FOIA request

The UK pulled out of Libya before the September 11, 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack, in part, because of safety concerns. As the BBC reported, in June 2012, two British bodyguards have been injured in an attack on a convoy carrying the British ambassador to Libya, days after the U.S. mission was targeted. The Red Cross and United Nations had also been attacked. Only America remained.

It is little surprise that instead of answering Rep. Jordan’s questions regarding why “we” were in Benghazi, the Benghazi’s Select Committee’s star witness, Starr, who also testified in the first hearing, and was not serving in Clinton’s State Department during the Benghazi terrorist attacks, referred Rep. Jordan to the ARB—Clinton’s State Department Advisory Review Board report.

As I previously reported, Clinton’s ARB blamed Ambassador Stevens for his death—reminiscent to how Clinton blamed Vince Foster after his death for Whitewater in the 1990’s.

The State Department’s gravely flawed ARB did not bother to interview Secretary Clinton or Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin, the last person Ambassador Christopher Stevens met with before he was killed—a person who would be concerned with, and affected by, the arms trafficking occurring in his country into Syria.

As I reported in Travesty: David Petraeus apologizes for Sex, should apologize for COIN and Benghazi, Petraeus’ sex scandal got him out of the spotlight with a slap on the wrist.

Indeed. Benghazi was about arms trafficking and MANPADs.

Who knew what, when?

June 2016 Update:
Ambassador Stevens’s Family: Hillary Clinton Is Not to Blame for Benghazi, New Yorker Magazine.

Final Benghazi report details administration failures: The Clinton campaign dismissed the report as a partisan conspiracy theory. Politico

See also from the New York Times a map of “An Arms Pipeline to the Syrian Rebels.”

Update: From BBC, September 14, 2016: Why is Libya so lawless?

See also: Newsweek, April 11, 2017: African Migrants Smuggled Into Libya Sold at ‘Modern-Day Slave Markets’

Update MANPAD FOIA release from the State Department dated April 29, 2011. Thanks to the FOIA officers.

MANPADS State Department FOIA by Marinka Peschmann on Scribd