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A former CIA officer with 20 years experience in the agency says it’s well known that drones circled overhead while suspected al-Qaida radicals were attacking the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, and officials in Washington could see the assault – but decided to do nothing.
In a guest appearance on Glenn Beck’s Blaze TV, Center for Security Policy Middle East analyst Clare Lopez confirmed the drones were sending back live video to Washington while Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were being attacked and killed.
“There were military assets in the Mediterranean region, planes on carrier decks. There was a Special Operations force in Sigonella, Italy. They were staged there and ready to go,” Lopez said.
“There were frantic cell phone calls, emails, cables flying … They had a live video feed of this attack; they (in Washington) knew the Americans were inside of the diplomatic facility, at least at a minimum of being in danger of being killed,” Lopez said.
“They knew what was going on. They had the live feed, but somebody at some high level said no, we will not send help,” Lopez said.
Lopez said in an interview with WND that her own experience as a CIA officer proves that help could have been sent, and that it could have arrived in time.
“I’ve actually been in embassy siege situations. I was in El Salvador at the end of the 1980s, when the communist insurgency launched its final attack, and they overran a good part of San Salvador, the capital, before the army could drive them back,” Lopez said.
“There were weeks of fighting and the fighting was street to street, literally through our neighborhoods,” Lopez said. “We had a machine gun nest down our street. We had an RPG blow a hole in the roof of our house and helicopter gunships overhead, over our back garden. I have photographs of them. I don’t know what I was doing, I was stupid taking pictures of these guys hanging out the doors of the helicopters.”
Yet, she said, her experiences prove Washington can act.
“The State Department, and the agency, and everybody in Washington were scrambling to help us. Anything they could do. The first they did was send a big plane to get our families out – our dependents,” Lopez said.
“Our small daughter, at that time she was three years old. My former husband who was a Marine took her to our relatives in Texas where she stayed for about six weeks,” Lopez said.
“It was too dangerous for the families to be there. So what I’m saying is that I know that when an embassy is under attack, Washington scrambles to help, to send reinforcements, to do anything they can to back up the people in the field,” Lopez said.
“In this case, that would have been the first instinct of every level working person in the Department of State, the intelligence community. What assets do we have, how do we get them there. It doesn’t matter if we have a plan, just [get] them there. Go, go, go,” Lopez said.
However, Lopez adds that in the Benghazi case, she knows from her experience that someone high up in the Obama administration said, “No.”
“Someone, somewhere high up in the administration made the decision. ‘No, we’re not going to send help,'” Lopez said.
“That help could have gotten there. The air assets from the carriers could have gotten there in an hour. The special operations ground troops from Sigonella could have been there in a couple or three hours,” Lopez said.
“The two Navy SEALS weren’t killed until near the end from all I have seen and read. They did nothing. Somebody said no,” Lopez said. “Even if it had been futile, they still did nothing.”
A former CIA station chief who asked not to be identified can only come up with one explanation for why nothing was done.
“It was risk aversion … it was easier to do nothing,” the former CIA officer said.
“A diplomatic answer would be that Obama and the State Department feared an adverse Muslim reaction to introducing the U.S. military into the equation,” the former station chief said.
Lopez adds that there is even a darker side to the whole episode.
“While Obama is crowing about getting bin Laden and weakening al-Qaida, he knows that he is working with al-Qaida or with those who are like them ideologically in Libya and now in Syria,” Lopez said.
Questions have arisen over the reason that an al-Qaida-led assault team would desire to kill the ambassador.
“A few reasons come to mind. In June, a CIA drone killed al-Qaida’s No. 2 man. The attack could have been revenge for the death of their No. 2 man,” Lopez said. “Al-Qaida likes to use significant dates to launch attacks. … the attack on 9/11 is significant.”
She said another reason is “this is what al-Qaida does. You remember the Aesop’s fable about the frog and the scorpion. The frog gave the scorpion a ride across the pond, but halfway across the scorpion stings the frog and the frog drowns.
“As he died, the frog asks the scorpion why. The scorpion replied that it was his nature. That’s No. 2; that’s just their nature – to kill,” Lopez said.
“The third possibility is that something went wrong with the arms pipeline. Somebody may have thought they were supposed to get weapons, but they went to someone else. They could have thought Ambassador Stevens or someone in Benghazi double-crossed them,” Lopez said.
“They could have been mad that the weapons didn’t go where they thought they should go, or something like that,” Lopez said.
Writing in National Review Online, former Undersecretary of Defense Bing West said the biggest failure was to aid those still living.
“Our diplomats fought for seven hours without any aid from outside the country. Four Americans died while the Obama national-security team and our military passively watched and listened,” West wrote.
“The administration is being criticized for ignoring security needs before the attack and for falsely attributing the assault to a mob. But the most severe failure has gone unnoticed: namely, a failure to aid the living,” West wrote.
West adds in his article that the embassy in Tripoli had a 22-man special unit ready to be deployed to Benghazi.
“By 4:30 p.m. Washington time, the main consulate building was on fire and Ambassador Stevens was missing. In response, the embassy in Tripoli launched an aircraft carrying 22 men. Benghazi was 400 miles away,” West wrote.
Stevens’ involvement in Libya goes back over a year, when intelligence analysts reported that he was appointed initially as the official U. S. representative to the rebel army.
He was only elevated to the ambassadorship after the overthrow of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
In Libya, Stevens’ major mission was to funnel the Gadhafi regime’s weapons, including RPGs and other bigger weapons, to Syria.
Lopez says that Stevens and top administration officials knew that Libya’s opposition movement was populated by elements of several radical jihadi groups including al-Qaida, Ansar al-Shariah, and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
Guerrilla warrior Abdelhakim Belhadj organized the FILG in 1990 after returning home from Afghanistan where he had fought with the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviets.
Lopez says Belhadj organized the FILG for one reason—to overthrow Gadhafi.
Belhadi’s group was absorbed by al-Qaida in 2007, but Lopez adds that somewhere along the way, Belhadj was intercepted by the CIA and returned to Libya where Gadhafi threw him in jail.
Belhadj claims he was tortured in jail, but was released, after which he pieced together the coalition that eventually overthrew Gadhafi.
Lopez adds that it is likely that Belhadj would have been one of those who was in close contact with Stevens.
The connection seems circumstantial until intelligence sources confirmed that after Gadhafi’s ouster, Belhadj was tracked to Turkey. The next link in the story comes early in 2012 with Obama signing a Presidential Intelligence Finding.
“Early in 2012, President Obama signed a presidential intelligence finding that authorized the CIA and other assets to provide covert support to the Free Syrian Army, the opposition to Assad,” Lopez said.
“The report said that there were CIA and special forces on the ground along the border that were helping to channel weapons to good rebels,” Lopez said. “Since the intelligence finding was in support of the FSA, we can assume that the administration considers the FSA to be good rebels,” Lopez said.
Lopez adds that part of Stevens’ mission was to make a distinction between what she calls, “bad jihadists,” and “good jihadists.” However, she also says there’s a fine distinction put on this decision.
“They have made up their minds that al-Qaida are the only bad jihadis there are,” Lopez said. “Everybody else, and especially the Muslim Brotherhood, are good jihadis.
“I don’t really know how they logically come to this conclusion because they all have exactly the same objectives – restore the caliphate and the imposition of Shariah law,” Lopez said.
“Even if the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t violent in Europe and the United States, they certainly are in Syria and have been at war with that regime for a long time,” Lopez said.
“They’re the ones who dominate the Free Syrian Army,” Lopez said. “They’re facilitating the flow of jihadis across the Turkish border in Syria.”
“These are the connections. You have Belhadj on the Turkish-Syrian border with the Free Syrian Army. You have the presidential finding and then you have the working relationship between Stevens and Belhadj,” Lopez said.
“There’s one more detail. The facility in Benghazi was never officially a consulate. The consular functions were handled at the embassy in Tripoli. So, Benghazi was set up primarily to be the hub for U. S. support for the rebels,” Lopez said.
“Afterwards, it seemed to continue its function to be the point of support for the weapons that were looted from Gadhafi’s stockpile. The particular ones we’re worried about are the bigger ones, the RPGs and shoulder-fired missiles that can bring down aircraft,” Lopez said.
“They’re gathering those up, buying them back, and collecting them. Then, and this is what it seems like, those weapons were going through the pipeline, coordinated by Stevens, most likely through Turkey, to the Free Syrian Army,” Lopez said.
“After all, there’s a presidential finding for its support,” Lopez said.
“Connecting all the dots, it looks like there was an active pipeline of weapons from Libya, through Turkey, and then to the Free Syrian Army,” Lopez said.