According to yesterday’s New York Times, the CIA station in Benghazi numbered a dozen Agency officers and contractors at the time of the attack that left the U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans dead. That is an unusually large CIA provincial post for a country where the US is not presently involved in hostilities.
The forced evacuation of the Benghazi post was called “a catastrophic intelligence loss,” by one American official interviewed who has served in Libya.
Why did the CIA have such a large presence in that Eastern Libyan city which has long been the center of radical Salafi and Jihadi terrorist groups in Libya?
The answer lies only partly in surveillance. There is also the role of the United States in providing equipment, training and coordination to Libyans for Jihad operations against the Shi’ia-dominated regime in Syria, regime change activities publicly admitted to by the Obama Administration in early April after a leak revealed that Blackwater mercenaries have been carrying out that role.
Unexpectedly Large CIA Presence in Benghazi
The New York Times provides some additional insight into the CIA contingent that operated secretly out of a compound near the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi:
Within months of the start of Libyan revolution in February 2011, the C.I.A. began building a meaningful but covert presence in Benghazi, a locus of the rebel efforts to oust the government of Colonel Qaddafi.As was previously reported, the late Ambassador Stevens arrived covertly in Benghazi in April of last year and immediately set to work coordinating rebel groups in the area in efforts that ultimately led to the overthrow of the Gadhafi regime in August. Until the night of the September 11th attack this year, Stevens worked closely with various militant groups, and apparently felt comfortable operating openly in the area without a substantial security detail.
Given the size and established presence of the US diplomatic and intelligence presence in Eastern Libya, and the apparently close relationship with militant groups there, it is particularly shocking that a Libyan Islamicist group with links to al-Qaeda was able to mount with complete surprise what most now see as a well-planned and coordinated military attack. Officials have accused al Qaeda in the Magreb of carrying out the surprise assault on the Consulate and the nearby CIA compound to which consular staff evacuated, which itself came under lethal and well-aimed attack. The effect of this has reportedly derailed some US policy planning, and “has dealt the Central Intelligence Agency a major setback in its intelligence-gathering efforts at a time of increasing instability in the North African nation.”
Leak Revealed Former Blackwater Director, US Congresswoman, and Romney Advisor Involved with Libyan Jihadists and Syrian Regime Change Operation
In March, a leak of emails from Stratfor, a private international security firm revealed that “Mr. Smith,” a former director of Blackwater, had a role in organizing the Libyan opposition in early 2011, and was subsequently sent later last year to contact Syrian rebels in Turkey. See, http://articles.businessinsider.com/...
As we will see, below, practically all those publicly identified in this curious episode have suddenly exited from sight, including an 8-term US Congresswoman.
The last emails about Smith were sent on December 13, shortly before the Stratfor mail servers were hacked. In one email, Mr. Burton (head of counterrorism at the company) summarizes the activities of Mr. Smith and some of his associates in Syria late last year: http://english.al-akhbar.com/...
"*Source and Dr. Walid Phares are getting air cover from Congresswoman Myrick to engage Syrian opposition in Turkey (non-MB and non-Qatari) on a fact finding mission for Congress.As was subsequently determined, Jamie F. Smith, the chief executive of the security firm SCG International, is a former director of Blackwater. http://en.wikipedia.org/...
* The true mission is how they can help in regime change.
** Source intends to offer his services to help protect the opposition members, like he had underway in Libya."
SCG emails reveal that in 2011 its operatives were involved in training the Libyan resistance and were allegedly on the scene in August to confirm the killing of Gadaffi .(doc-id 3980511) http://english.al-akhbar.com/...
In an early email sent to Stratfor on February 11, 2011, Smith talked-up the company's intelligence gathering and said his own "background is CIA and our company is comprised of former DOD , CIA and former law enforcement personnel.” (doc-id 257534) http://english.al-akhbar.com/...
“We provide services for those same groups in the form of training, security and information collection," Smith stated to Stratfor (doc-id 5441475) If these emails are accurate, that places privatized CIA operatives in the thick of regime change operations in Syria, as well as Libya, long before these activities were acknowledged by the Obama Administration. Public exposure of covert operations is never good for business, and one must also bear in mind that for every intelligence failure there is usually an expendable scapegoat or someone claiming to be one.
Easily dissolved shell companies are like bathroom tissue in this game. Erik Prince, himself, made just that claim before he changed Blackwater’s business name to Xe (later spun off as "Academi"), packed his bags, and moved his headquarters to Dubai following the conviction of Blackwater personnel for a variety of crimes in Iraq. It is not surprising, therefore, that Mr. Smith’s company is also exiting stage right. The future of SCG International has been called into question by the fraud conviction of Mr Smith and the $9.5 million judgement against Mr. Smith and SCG as detailed here: http://hamptonroads.com/...
Smith wrote in a December 13, 2011 email to Stratfor’s VP for counter-terrorism, Fred Burton. Smith claimed that he "and Walid Phares were getting air cover from Congresswoman Myrick to engage Syrian opposition in Turkey (non-MB and non-Qatari) on a fact finding mission for Congress.” In early February this year, Myrich an 8-term Republican incumbent suddenly and without real explanation announced she would not run again. Interesting coincidence, certainly. http://www.dailykos.com/...
Burton is a former Deputy Chief of the Department of State's counterterrorism division for the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). Blackwater/Xe, which now operates under the name Academi, recently received part of a multi-billion dollar State Department contract to provide the same types of services as SCG. Similarly, Mr. Smith's company was awarded a $7.5 million Air Force contract after he was found liable for fraud. Foggy Bottom and Langley can be peculiarly forgiving.
Walid Phares, named by the source as part of the “fact finding team,” is a Lebanese-American citizen and has served as a co-chair to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Middle East advisory group.
A profile of Walid Phares published in Salon details Phares’ history with right-wing militias during the Lebanese civil war and subsequent activist role in conservative U.S. foreign policy circles. http://www.salon.com/...
Benghazi Attack Latest in a Long History of Blowback to CIA from Operations in Libya
The Agency has had a long and checquered history in its dealings with Libyan terrorists and strongmen, and its own US citizen go-betweens. On Saturday, Sept. 22, Edwin P. Wilson, a retired CIA officer, died. He was 84. Wilson was branded a traitor and convicted of shipping arms to Libya, had his conviction overturned after he served 22 years in prison
In 2004, a federal Judge overturned the conviction finding that the prosecution had knowingly submitted a false affidavit that omitted nearly 90 meetings Wilson had with CIA superiors during the period he allegedly had gone rogue, selling 40,000 pounds of plastic explosives to Libyans, according to the Washington Post obituary: http://www.washingtonpost.com/...
Wilson who set up front companies abroad for the CIA and posed as a rich American businessman was convicted in 1983 for shipping 20 tons of C-4 plastic explosives to Libya. At trial, he said he did it to ingratiate himself with the Libyan government at the CIA’s request.It was never fully revealed what happened to the 20 tons of C4, but at the time Libya was providing safe refuge to a number of terrorist groups, such as Abu Nidal, who like Gadhafi, performed services for both sides during the long twilight of the Cold War and always welcomed cash payment.
A federal judge threw out that conviction in 2003, saying the government failed to correct information about Wilson’s service to the CIA that it admitted internally was false.
So, in other words, the court found, the US Government really was feeding tons of plastic explosives to terrorists in Libya through CIA cutouts in the 1980s. Gadhaffi himself emerged from semi-pariah status after he cooperated with the Bush Administration in execution of its torture and rendition program.
That seems to have established a tradition of such things with regard to Libya, given that Libya also provides many of the Jihadi fighters from its eastern region around Benghazi that have been showing up in Syria, blowing up things there, as they also did in Iraq while we occupied that country.
Libya Long a Center of Terrorists for Hire
This brings us forward to the sudden death of Ambassador Stevens two short weeks ago. It is obvious that Chris Stevens was an extraordinarily brave and devoted Foreign Service Officer who died in service to his country. But, he also was the victim of another tradition, the less noble practice of the United States of employing terrorists against what is declared within in Washington to be our enemies. We saw that in the Balkins and breakaway Muslim TransCausasus regions of the former Southern Soviet Union during the 1990s, when US Special Forces and covert operators worked side-by-side with Osama bin Laden and other Saudi paramilitary to drive out the Russian and Serbian remnants, and took control over the enormous energy riches of that region. Among the US Special Forces operators in Kosovo in 1998 was a Navy Seal named Erik Prince, who soon thereafter resigned from the military and founded Blackwater, the history of which is intrinsically tied to al-Qaeda. http://www.dailykos.com/...
Chris Stevens was of course aware of our alliance with bin Laden and al-Qaeda in the Balkins, as he was of the history of Libyan Jihadis when he arrived on a Greek freighter in Benghazi in April, 2011 to organize these groups into an effective fighting force to depose Muammar Ghadafi. If Mr. Smith is to be believed, he was there at the same time, running a Blackwater spin-off operation as part of the same regime change operation. Neither went in without knowing they were dealing with terrorists. As Vice Consul in 2008, Stevens had catalogued the Jihadi militants in Eastern Libya, including the groups then sending large numbers of Libyan suicide bombers working with al-Qaeda to wage war on the Shi’ia and U.S. forces in Iraq.
Just as history brought Erik Prince and Osama bin Laden together in Kosovo, so too did events conspire to produce blowback in Benghazi. We can only hope that the bloodbath being brewed up in Syria by these same terrorists and mercenaries does not again explode in our well-scrubbed hands.
(Please see, Part 1, Blowback in Benghazi, Attack Linked to Regime Change Operations in Libya and Syria, http://www.dailykos.com/... )