Republicans Tip world off to covert CIA Role in Libya

The politicization by the Republican Party of the tragic attack on the US consulate in Benghazi has been a security disaster for the United States. A document dump by Congressman Darrell Issa outed the identities of Libyans working with the US.

Now, it has come out that the annex of the Benghazi consulate was a Central Intelligence Agency HQ. Likely the consulate itself was thought safe because of the large numbers of CIA operatives at the annex, some of them with a background in military special forces. They were seen by the consulate staff as “the cavalry.”

Likewise, the reluctance to fortify the consulate may have come from fears that too much security would interfere with intelligence-gathering. State Department officials at the Beirut embassy in Lebanon have complained to me that they are virtually trapped inside the fortified complex, and can’t easily get out and mix with people, which interferes with their ability to build Lebanese contacts or do good political reporting. The CIA staff in Benghazi likely was trying to avoid a similar isolation.

So the Republicans playing politics with the complex situation on the ground in Libya, a country that overthrew its government a little over a year ago, has revealed the names of friendly Libyans working with the US embassy, and has outed the covert CIA operations in Benghazi.

It is now clear why the Obama administration has been hampered in replying to the charges of Republican gadflies. They risked outing the CIA operations there. Obama quite admirably decided not to release information on an ongoing covert operation, even though he might, by doing so, have gained some political advantage. Certainly Karl Rove and George W. Bush would not have hesitated to out their own covert operation for political gain.

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18 Responses

  1. Perhaps this answers the big unanswered question of why Ambassador Stevens was at that undefended consulate practically alone on 9/11. He had all the intelligence and knew the risks more than anyone else. Perhaps he thought the CIA base provided enough protection.

  2. Dear Professor Cole,

    it is very interesting that the continuing pressure on the Benghazi story has now led to the revelation that there is a concerted effort by the US government to funnel arms from Libya to Syria to support the rebels there. The large CIA presence in Benghazi and Ambassador Stevens’ meetings with Turkish representatives that night are both linked to the secret arms smuggling operations. I think US citizens are better off knowing what is being done in their name. You have eloquently written yourself about the dangers from flooding Syria with weapons. Do you apprecaite that this story is coming out now?

    Best regards,


    • But DJ, if Democrats were in the opposition and leaked about a criminal operation by a GOP president, the Democrats would go to prison. It never happens when the GOP sabotages Democratic presidents:

      1968: LBJ is working out terms for an end to the Vietnam War, but candidate and private citizen Nixon apparently has far-right groupie Anna Chennault (wife of CIA asset Gen. Chennault) promise South Vietnamese president Thieu that if he stonewalls the negotiations, Nixon will give him what he wants after thus winning the election. Far-right fascist J. Edgar Hoover is supposed to investigate, but of course he wants Nixon to win and delays his findings. As a result, tens of thousands more Americans and hundreds of thousands more Vietnamese die only for Nixon to betray Thieu in ’73 and agree to the same terms LBJ would have accepted. (You’ve probably heard rumors of Reagan making similar promises to Khomeini during the hostage negotiations in ’80.)

      This is not a bug in Republican operations, it’s a feature. It means: we Republicans are the only real Americans and our monopoly on power is thus the only patriotism. Doesn’t this worry you?

  3. NYT: 09/24/2012: Deadly Attack in Libya Was Major Blow to C.I.A. Efforts

    “” American intelligence operatives also assisted State Department contractors and Libyan officials in tracking shoulder-fired missiles taken from the former arsenals of the former Libyan Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces; they aided in efforts to secure Libya’s chemical weapons stockpiles; and they helped train Libya’s new intelligence service, officials said.

    Senior American officials acknowledged the intelligence setback, but insisted that information was still being collected using a variety of informants on the ground, systems that intercept electronic communications like cellphone conversations and satellite imagery. “The U.S. isn’t close to being blind in Benghazi and eastern Libya,” said an American official. “”

    I have read in multiple sites that the CIA group was involved in securing heavy weapons from militias — yet, not from whom exactly (usual suspects or others) or by what methods. (Apparently, FOXNEWS and perhaps others has been reporting that Stevens and the CIA were transporting seized heavy weapons — MANPADS specifically — from Libya to Lebanon to be covertly then “donated” to the Syria Rebel Cause, a claim I heard very shortly after the attack but only yesterday found reference to it being circulated by FOXNEWS).

    Finally wrt “names” of individuals — The United States is not an occupying force in Libya (like we were/are/could be considered in Afghanistan or Iraq), so it is uncertain just how much danger those “collaborating” with the US would be in. We are told that the USA’s popularity in Libya is high, especially in Benghazi. Doubtless these is jockeying for favor, false tips and accusations in an attempt to use American influences against one’s enemies and rivals (as we saw endlessly in Afghanistan). That certain militias were providing security to the diplomatic compounds was probably readily apparent. The identification of the second compound as CIA was like suspected and/or assumed.

    In the original reports on the ground, lists of duty/pay rosters to locals providing security were found unsecured, in the rubble.

    Like the Taliban’s apparently enpty threat of revenge against “collaborators” named in the WikiLeaks Afghan files, it is likely that those who might conceivably harm those named in Issa’s documents, have more pressing matters to deal with. Apparently the female human rights worker was featured in stories on the internet about her sponsored visits to the United States. I suspect the CIA has had a covert presence in Libya for a long time, quite possibly aiding and abetting “dissidents.”

    • I found the documents Issa “leaked” online here … there are a few blacked out lines, I don’t know when those redactions were made. I haven’t been able to review all 120 pages …

      issa’s leaked documents.

      No, I don’t think Issa “should” have leaked these documents, but I’m not sure if their designation prohibited him from doing so.

      The father of one of the men killed at the CIA compound attack seems to be part of the “engine” for the cover-up conspiracy theory that the Obama Administration has been trying to “cover-up” their failure to provide sufficeint security. It appears to me that he has sympathizers who have had ready access to relevant documentation, in some cases, apparently before the State Department was aware of those same documents (communications/email wrt security).

      I don’t see any deliberate coverup but the Administrations inability to get ahead of the story sufficiently to respond quickly to the reveals made by their detractors is puzzling and disappointing. I am disappointed to see Democrats using this story to “play politics” after weeks of decrying same by Republicans.

      I’m with the people who believe that even with “more security” the compound(s) would have been vulnerable to the ferocious attack that occured. Hindsight 20/20 is worthless.

  4. “the Benghazi consulate “

    There is no US consulate in Benghazi, which is why State didn’t care about security and why State tried to avoid responsibility. It was a CIA operation with about two dozen agents. (Ineffective in intelligence, of course.) Why should State provide security for CIA? Besides, the Agency likes to keep a low profile.

    The US does not have an embassy, a consulate or a diplomatic mission in Benghazi. There are none listed on this State Department list of all the US embassies and consulates in the world.
    link to

    On September 12, 2012, SecState Clinton made two statements. She never used the word “consulate.”To describe the place that was attacked in Benghazi she used instead the words ‘U.S. diplomatic post, compound, our buildings and our office.’
    link to
    link to

    There is (and was) no US consulate in Benghazi. No consul. No consular officials. No commercial officers. No diplomats of any kind. No consulate. It was a CIA operation with two dozen agents which the US has euphemistically called a “mission.” Gives it a religious flavor. Chris Stevens was in this dangerous, volatile city in eastern Libya to coordinate CIA arms shipments to Turkey. His last official act in Benghazi was a dinner meeting with the Turkish ambassador.

    Stevens was also probably using his past knowledge of Libyan militias — he managed them for the US from Benghazi in 2011 — to coordinate drone strikes in eastern Libya. There were several reported (by CNN) against an al Qaeda training camp in the Derna area in June.

    The real story here is the Benghazi-Turkey arms & people connection and drone strikes that motivated Ambassador Stevens to be in Benghazi rather than in Tripoli where he was needed for necessary diplomatic functions.

    • >>There is no US consulate in Benghazi … [Clinton] never used the word “consulate.” … she used instead the words ‘U.S. diplomatic post … There is (and was) no US consulate in Benghazi. No consul. No consular officials.<<

      False. A "diplomatic post" means 'consulate'. Or posting. Or Embassy. Or letter.

  5. What? Intelligence personnel working inside an embassy ? Are you kidding? This actually goes on ?,,,,, Who in the world would not already guess that the Benghazi embassy was an intelligence center? Fellows,,, have we totally forgotten how to be clever? I think our CIA needs to read a few more “Travis McGee” novels. Yes, a horrible tragedy about our ambassador and staff, that could have easily been avoided by sufficient security. Perhaps our own arrogance allowed this catastrophe. When we invade a country, kill innocent civilians with bombs, there will be repercussions. This was one of them. Not so very long ago we had their leader camping out in Central Park. Two or three bad hot dogs from an undercover street vendor could have killed Ghadaffi there if that was our intention, or a missile or two from an F15 on his way home, or a timed bomb on his plane. We need to start thinking with our brains and not our pocketbooks. How soon before Americans will not feel comfortable traveling around this world? Every time we kill an innocent civilian we jeopardize the security of every American citizen. If we want to be the world’s policeman, we need to do it without killing innocent people.Actually, it would be quite wonderful if we could figure out a way to do it without killing anyone. It appears that the county police in my own area have more sense and self control. Billions in a person’s budget have horrible effects on their logic it appears. We are in big trouble if we keep expecting governments to create peace. Peace will come when people all over the world stand up to their governments and demand it. Not before.

    • “Peace” is kind of like “Victory” — an undefined and apparently undefinable aspirational term. One of those flashy distractions that are used so successfully to lead the most of us around like a bunch of, you know, “sheep,” critters that actually have a lot more sense than we seem to, at least in their wild, native, un-domesticated condition. It’s not surprising that the closest to a definition of “peace” in the DoD Dictionary is

      2. peace enforcement
      peace enforcement (DOD) Application of military force, or the threat of its use, normally pursuant to international authorization, to compel compliance with resolutions or sanctions designed to maintain or restore peace and order. See also peace building; peacekeeping; peacemaking; peace operations.
      Source: JP 3-07.3

      The world is blessed with people like Bill, who can conjure up whole realms of freaky thought and dogma to justify just about any old kind of violence. Like his new category of

      Unlawful Enemy Compatants [sic] dedicated to harming the United States.

      link to (There’s no definition of that term anywhere in the DoD dictionary. Wonder why?)

      And that “justification” for killing a 16-year-old kid, a US citizen, that’s all just A-ok because he was apparently sitting in the same car as someone who was determined somehow to be an “Unlawful Enemy Compatants [sic] dedicated to harming the United States.” “HARM us how, exactly? by not getting down on hands and knees and crying “Uncle!”? By being so foolish as to shoot at Americans who were sent to his location to do what, again, exactly?

      The degree of idiocy in the asymmetry of the whole imperial (c’mon, guys, deny that what “we” are up to is anything other than imperialism on a global scale, and say why “this time is different,” exactly — something other than a rehash of “American exceptionalism,” if you can manage it) ought to cause spiritual and intellectual vertigo in most of us. Our apologists for the ‘archyocracy’ gloss right over the idiocy of paying some apparently Unlawful Enemy Compatants [sic] dedicated to harming the United States not to attack convoys of tanker trucks delivering $500-a-gallon fuel to “the front,” and of course when it comes to drones, there’s been some explication here of how inefficient they are and then there’s this little reminder, for those who are unclear on tactical secrecy and stuff: “Most U.S. Drones Openly Broadcast Secret Video Feeds” link to

      But drones have a huge constituency, even though the program seems to have some huge internal mal- and cys-incentives: “How Drones Can Reinforce Failure” link to And this, which has appeared here before: “The ‘Crash and Burn’ Future of Drone Warfare” link to

      You would think that jingoists whose wild imaginations and “threat perceptions” let them attribute to tribalists and warlords such enormous powers to “harm us” from the mountains of Notagainistan or FATA (other than GIs who are sent there to pick fights with them) would be a little concerned about simulcasting unencrypted tactical imagery that kind of breaches even Bill’s cramped definition of “covert.” But then that’s not really an issue for those folks, is it?

      Other than continuing to burn carbon for profit, and turn real wealth into war toys and leveraged Funny Munny dollars and mystically generated debt, all of which are a hell of a lot more threatening to “us” than the current boogeymen, what exactly is “the issue?”

      (By the way, there are exactly ZERO entries in the DoD dictionary for “victory” or “winning” or “success,” or even “accomplish,” which maybe hints at something wrong, very wrong? Since there’s metrics for every part of the planning-through-deployment-through-withdrawal process, but none at all for the supposed fundamental purpose and meaning of the whole effing exercise…)

  6. It’s a great shame that, once again, no foresight whatsoever is given to the welfare of people who try to work with our government officials in countries overseas. It underscores a question just how important is security if you can throw on the swords those that risk their lives to help.

    The ‘fortress mentality’, ‘us against them’ is locked into the mindset of a number of people working in the bureacracy. This has been an issue for a long while now. Some foreign service complain about not getting outside the wire, but they dont complain too loudly for various reasons, including security and job-protection

    I was one of two staff at State instrumental in re-openning the Fulbright scholars program in the West Bank for American professors and researchers. We went through big hoops to re-open the program after its being closed for years. There were some in the Fulbright/ECA bureaucracy who, ironically from our viewpoint, opposed its reopenning even though the Consulate had held meetings and *wanted* it re-openned. The ‘us against them’ mentality was a factor and challenge.

    Payback was karma later when the two of us who advocated this and a Gaza-related program be kept open were thrown under the bus by the same folks who opposed bolstering programs in the West Bank and Gaza. I remember my colleagues words on the importance of ‘competing for hearts and minds,’ reiterating that great oft-quoted phrase we had heard our higher level officials bandy about, hoping that would appeal to a few minions of a political appointee, connected to those same higher level officials, yet who opposed bolstering these programs. We learned the hard way that Hamas was not the only danger.

    If a bureaucracy can’t deal with the everyday events that arise, how will it cope when more serious events erupt?

    Government workers also cant advocate doing their job or they get an overly-broad interpretation reminder of the FLRA rule that a supervisor has a right to assign — or withhold — work from staff. At State, that means a person can become overnight a persona non grata, a hall-walker.

    This has been a long-standing issue that predates this administration. But an issue of concern is that there are current officials who sweat profusely under the collar, if something arises that might become twistable-fodder for the neo-cons. Then the current officials not-so-admirably wear their fear on their sleeves and forget to do the right thing. Woe to lower-level professional staff, and i do emphasize the professionals here, because higher ups are never held accountable. One State employee had to request whistleblower protection when called to testify on his asking for more security during the Benghazi hearings. Isnt it a shame that an employee who did the right thing has to ask for such protections?

    The ‘intel services’ of the ‘other’ groups would likely have been aware if just a couple of Americans with northern-virginia-style haircuts were posted where they themselves were operating and would shadow them, especially given the history of Libya’s intelligence and how that worked. It’s not clear how it could not be known something was going on at that post. On another blogsite, someone had posted chats of one of the men killed from his World of Warcraft account that someone shared with the US media, stating the Benghazi post was being watched, and Americans working there had seen people take photographs of the post. If that’s true, it’s disengenous for an official to claim a low-key presence was sought if it was known that wasnt going to happen. There are alot of issues predating this administration that were never appropriately addressed and problems have a tendency to manifest sooner or later

  7. Too much to hope for, but isn’t it about time that the US govt took steps to deal with rightist elements embedded in its political structure that are seeking to undermine it?

    That’s how we’d put it if we were looking at another country.

    Whatever the laws are in the letter, it must be the case that the executive branch has the resources to harass these enemies of the state into ineffectiveness. Come on, Dems, let’s see some spine — or at least hints of a nervous system.

  8. Now that this info has endangered the lives of many Libyan ‘friends of the USA’, unlike the facts made public by Wikileaks which did NOT endanger lives, will a big arrest be made and imprisonment of Darrell Issa????

  9. Can you imagine how Congressional Republicans and Fox News would be screaming had a Democrat, as opposed to that all-but-certifiable whack job Darrell Issa, had released information about the work of a CIA station in, say, Tikrit during the Iraq war as opposed to Benghazi?

    Whether or not the State Dept. had an official consulate in Benghazi is almost irrevelant. What is relevant is that Mitt Romney and the GOP have tried desperately to politicize this event when [a] they don’t know what they are talking about, [b] they’re disrupting an ongoing US intelligence operation and [c] there are more appropriate forums for Congress to review and discuss what America is doing around the world – covertly or openly.

    The most damaging thing about Rep. Issa’s revelation is that it distorts what the US may – or may not – have been doing in Bengghazi at the time of the attack.

  10. Juan refers to “friendly” Libyans. But this is the point.
    “Friends” and “enemies” are the result of American (and subsidized Israel) imperialism.
    And there will always be way more enemies than friends.

    What part of GET OUT OF THE MIDEAST and dismantle the Empire does Prof Cole not wish to understand?

  11. It seems that “Washington officials” were already briefing journalists on the CIA connection in Benghazi back in September.

    link to
    US consulate attack in Benghazi ‘disrupted major intelligence operation’
    By Richard Spencer, Benghazi
    24 Sep 2012

    Don Bacon: Chris Stevens was in this dangerous, volatile city in eastern Libya to coordinate CIA arms shipments to Turkey. His last official act in Benghazi was a dinner meeting with the Turkish ambassador.

    Any evidence to back that interesting assertion ?

  12. In late October a former CIA field agent was sentenced to 30 months in jail. This agent led the effort to capture high-ranking Al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Zubaydah. His crime is the leaking of a former colleague’s name. In spite of my admiration for Mr. Kiriakou and the sacrifices he made for our Country, there can not be tolerance of such exposures.

    Republicans are infamous for their misuse of the Agency. I became more interested in the workings of the Agency when Valerie Plame was outed by the Bush Administration. I have found that the Agency is much more than a character in a spy novel. They and those who serve us in the military too often dedicate their lives so that the rest of us can enjoy the the many blessings of life in America.

    In the past I would vote for Republicans. Since the Regan Administration, I swore I would never vote for a Republican again and I never have. I consider them to be worse than un-American, I consider them to be against America.

    Not all is fair in love and war. Risking the lives of our operatives and the operatives of allies is unacceptable. If Kiriakou goes to jail, so should Issa.

    • Whether the Republicans are “against” America depends on how you define America. Which is something we all need to be debating each other about right now. Are we sincere when we say America is ALL of its people, or does our religion and economic theology rest on elitist foundations that applaud the sacrifice of servants for the benefit of masters?

      I’ve watched, over the last 30 years, the reprehensible elitism of libertarianism grow to respectibility, indoctrinating hatred and contempt for the “non-entrepreneurial”, and slowly shedding its cover story of merely wanting equality of opportunity via the infallible and unbiased free market. In the last 4 years, this reveal has accelerated. For Romney to be able to get away with saying that 47% of the population are parasites because they vote Democratic means that an awful lot of the rest of the population felt that way all along.

      I think that the evil secret of America is that its white culture was always that of a conquering tribe, viewing blacks and immigrants and even employees no differently than the slaves of the Hebrews were regarded in the Old Testament. We thought this culture was being reformed the last 100 years or so, but we merely saw the dilution of that culture. Its revival means all the old abuses are coming back. The well-being of America is now openly proclaimed to be only trickle-down of the victory of the patriarchs of Wall Street, and none of us must dare dissent.

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