The original, official account of last year’s attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, can be summed up as follows: A mob of Libyan demonstrators, enraged by a short You Tube video clip which insulted the Prophet Muhammed, stormed the Consulate and set it ablaze. No US military assets were available to effect a rescue mission and four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, tragically died. The President was barely aware of the situation and two of the most powerful agencies of the most powerful government on Earth – the US Department of State and Department of Defense – were unable to obtain real-time information of events on the ground and were also unable to do anything about it. Not one single individual has accepted any responsibility. As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “what difference, at this point, does it make?”
The story of the Benghazi attack, however, has now become a double blow to White House credibility as details emerge of a CIA operation in Libya that had around 35 of the intelligence agency’s operatives on the ground in Benghazi at the time of the attack.
The only two mainstream media organizations in the United States that have covered the Benghazi affair are Fox News and CNN. The latter would also likely have ignored the story were it not for Jake Tapper – the only actual journalist working for the channel. To give CNN the credit it deserves, however, they stood by Tapper on this one and actually followed up with some surprisingly in-depth investigative journalism.
The latest CNN report has revealed that, according to their source, as many as 35 CIA operatives were on the ground at the time of the terror attack on the Consulate, which took place on September 11, 2012. According to this source, as many as seven were wounded – some seriously.
It is not yet clear what they doing in Libya and the CIA has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that they do not reveal any details: Some of these operatives has, since January, been subjected to frequent polygraph tests, to determine whether or not they have leaked any information. Robert Baer, a CNN analyst and former CIA operative, said “Agency employees typically are polygraphed every three to four years. Never more than that.”
Other CIA insiders have spoken anonymously about the amount of pressure that is being applied to those agency personnel who were in Benghazi. One said “You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation.” Another spoke about the risks of speaking about the affair; “You don’t jeopardize yourself, you jeopardize your family as well.”
Congressional hearings into the Benghazi debacle have been to little avail: Neither the State Department nor the Defense Department have been forthcoming and a number of Americans who, it is now known, were present in Benghazi at the time of the attack, are deliberately being kept out of sight. It has been speculated that the CIA personnel were involved in a covert operation to provide surface-to-air missiles to the rebels in Syria; moving the weapons through Turkey. The State Department has denied this and told CNN that it was aiding the Libyan government in disposing of missiles that were old and/or damaged.
The saga of the Benghazi attack continues. Whilst many factors continue to cloud the real events and the reasons behind the, there can be little doubt that, for a White House already reeling from a number of other scandals, the revelation of a CIA operation in Libya is something of a double blow.
An Editorial by Graham J Noble