Thursday, August 1, 2013

CIA cover-up in Benghazi?

Benghazi. The story that keeps on running.

CNN's Jake Tapper is reporting that around 35 CIA officers were present in Benghazi during the consulate attack last September. Tapper also claims that the CIA is exerting significant pressure on those officers to remain quiet about their presence in Libya. Interestingly, Tapper's piece specifically reports that the officers in question have been subjected to unusually frequent polygraph tests in order to determine whether they've been talking to the press. 

Safe to say, this is interesting news. 

So... what were the CIA doing and why are they apparently so desperate to prevent their activities from becoming public?

Off the top of my head, I can think of four reasons.

1) As CNN notes, suspicion is growing on Capitol Hill that the CIA were using Benghazi as an operations facility for the provision of weaponry to Syrian rebels. Here, it seems understandable that the US Government would want to prevent this information from becoming common knowledge. Because of the sensitivity of covert operations towards Syria and the potential stakes for US interests in Libya were that information to become known, the need for secrecy would be obvious. Ironically, if this is the case, Benghazi was probably picked as a location for its prospective ability to offer both secrecy and some form of operational security against Assad affiliated retaliation.

2) Another possibility is that the CIA was using Benghazi as a jump-off point for Special Activities Division (SAD) operations inside Syria. Flying from Benghazi into a forward staging position in Turkey would require a relatively short hop across the Mediterranean. Therefore, from a geo-strategic point of view (and in the context of the operational security concern), it would make a near-ideal staging post for covert deployments. Reliable reporting (see Ambinder and Grady's The Deep State) indicates that the US Government has deployed covert military/intelligence teams inside Iran on a number of occasions over the past few years. In addition, prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, we know that the US deployed small groups of personnel deep inside Iraq in order to gather targeting intelligence. So, if this possibility is the case, it wouldn't be something new. In addition, it would make at least some sense. The Obama Administration only announced that they would provide weapons to select Syrian rebels in mid-June. It's therefore very possible (and quite likely) that CIA officers were on the ground in Syria before that date - gathering intelligence on the best rebel forces to support and developing foundations for the future establishment of a weapons logistical train.

3) Though less likely than the other possibilities, I also wouldn't rule out the notion that the CIA was using Benghazi as a jump off point for operations inside Iran. As pressure escalates with regards to Iran's nuclear program, the possibility of an Israeli or US strike against that country is also growing. CIA disruption operations against Iran are already well known (see Olympic Games). But the conduct of major covert actions requires a base. Perhaps that base was in Benghazi.

4) Alternatively, it's very possible that the CIA was using Benghazi as a base of operations for action against AQIM/AQIM aligned actors. Because of the politically volatile nature of a US security presence in Africa, it would make sense for the CIA to want to keep their activities quiet. This being said, in all intelligence operations rule #1 is secrecy.

CONCLUSION - Ultimately, we don't yet know what the CIA was doing. As I've stated, all of the above is, at best, an educated guess. However, assuming the CIA was engaged in action that reached beyond Libyan borders, that activity would have required a Presidential finding. Therefore, it would also have required a briefing for the gang of 8. So... whatever the CIA was up to (if anything at all significant), a small number of significant people on the Hill are likely to know something about it.

If interested, some of my related thoughts on Benghazi.

1 comment:

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