TEL AVIV – The results of an independent investigation released this week probing the Benghazi attack contains information indicating the U.S. mission in Libya was involved in activities outside the diplomatic realm.
The 39-page document uses phraseology and descriptions not previously utilized to describe the facility and the role it may have played in Benghazi.
The report, based on a probe led by former U.S. diplomat Thomas Pickering, calls the facility a “Special U.S. Mission.”
Until now, government descriptions routinely referred to the facility as a “mission,” while the news media largely wrongly labeled the building a “consulate.”
The report divulges how the mission’s special “non-status” made providing security to the facility difficult.
“Special Mission Benghazi’s uncertain future after 2012 and its ‘non-status’ as a temporary, residential facility made allocation of resources for security and personnel more difficult,” it said.
The report contains information that clearly contradicts any claim that the special mission was to serve as a liaison office to the local government, It documents how the local government was not even informed of the existence of the mission.
Noted the report: “Another key driver behind the weak security platform in Benghazi was the decision to treat Benghazi as a temporary, residential facility, not officially notified to the host government, even though it was also a full-time office facility.”
“This resulted in the Special Mission compound being excepted from office facility standards and accountability under the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999 (SECCA) and the Overseas Security Policy Board (OSPB).”
The report related how U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens first arrived in Libya secretly in a cargo ship to serve as a liaison to the rebels fighting the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.
It also confirmed that Stevens’ last official meeting was with “a Turkish diplomat.”
Turkey is the main force behind Arab support for the opposition currently targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
WND has published a series of investigations showing the Benghazi mission was highly involved in the rebel-led Mideast revolutions to which Pickering is tied.
WND was first to report the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi served as a meeting place to coordinate aid for rebel-led insurgencies in the Middle East, according to Middle Eastern security officials.
In September, WND also broke the story that the slain ambassador, Christopher Stevens, played a central role in recruiting jihadists to fight Assad’s regime, according to Egyptian security officials.
Last month, Middle Eastern security sources further described both the U.S. mission and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi as the main intelligence and planning center for U.S. aid to the rebels that was being coordinated with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Many rebel fighters are openly members of terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida.
Most news media outlets covering the results of Pickering’s investigation did not note the possible non-diplomatic nature and status of the Benghazi mission.
The group reportedly concluded that systematic management and leadership failures at the State Department led to “grossly” inadequate security at the mission in Benghazi.
“Systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place,” the panel said.
The report pointed a finger at State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near East Affairs, charging a lack of coordination and confusion over protecting the Benghazi mission.
WND’s reporting showed how the distinction of the special status of the mission may help explain why there was no major public security presence at what has been described as a “consulate.” Such a presence would draw attention to the shabby, nondescript building that was allegedly used for sensitive purposes such as coordinating aid to the opposition.
The security officials divulged the building was routinely used by Stevens and others to coordinate with the Turkish, Saudi and Qatari governments on supporting the insurgencies in the Middle East, most prominently the rebels opposing Assad’s regime in Syria.
Stevens played a central role in recruiting jihadists to fight Assad’s regime in Syria, according to Egyptian security officials.
Stevens served as a key contact with the Saudis to coordinate the recruitment by Saudi Arabia of Islamic fighters from North Africa and Libya. The jihadists were sent to Syria via Turkey to attack Assad’s forces, said the security officials.
The officials said Stevens also worked with the Saudis to send names of potential jihadi recruits to U.S. security organizations for review. Names found to be directly involved in previous attacks against the U.S., including in Iraq and Afghanistan, were ultimately not recruited by the Saudis to fight in Syria, said the officials.
Questions remain about the nature of U.S. support for the revolutions in Egypt and Libya, including reports the U.S.-aided rebels that toppled Gadhafi’s regime in Libya consisted of al-Qaida and jihad groups. The U.S. provided direct assistance, including weapons and finances, to the Libyan rebels.
Similarly, the Obama administration has aided the rebels fighting Assad’s regime in Syria amid widespread reports that al-Qaida jihadists are included in the ranks of the Free Syrian Army.
During the revolution against Gadhafi’s regime, the U.S. admitted to directly arming the rebel groups.
At the time, rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi admitted in an interview that a significant number of the Libyan rebels were al-Qaida fighters, many of whom had fought U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but he added that the “members of al-Qaida are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader.”
Adm. James Stavridis, NATO supreme commander for Europe, admitted Libya’s rebel force may include al-Qaida: “We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al-Qaida, Hezbollah.”
Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel went even further, telling the Hindustan Times: “There is no question that al-Qaida’s Libyan franchise, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, is a part of the opposition. It has always been Gadhafi’s biggest enemy and its stronghold is Benghazi. What is unclear is how much of the opposition is al-Qaida/Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – 2 percent or 80 percent.”