TEL AVIV – Did former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commit perjury when she claimed in a Senate hearing that she did not know whether the U.S. mission in Libya was procuring or transferring weapons to Turkey and other Arab countries?
The goal of the alleged weapons shipments was to arm the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Any training or arming of the Syrian rebels would be considered highly controversial. A major issue is the inclusion of jihadists, including al-Qaida, among the ranks of the Free Syrian Army and other Syrian opposition groups
During the recent hearings over the Obama administration’s handling of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Clinton was directly asked about alleged U.S. weapons shipments out of Libya.
The exchange took place with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Paul asked Clinton: “Is the U. S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?”
“To Turkey?” Clinton asked. “I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody has ever raised that with me.”
Continued Paul: “It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that may have weapons, and what I’d like to know is the annex that was close by, were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons, and were any of these weapons being transferred to other countries, any countries, Turkey included?”
Clinton replied, “Well, Senator, you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the annex. I will see what information is available.”
“You’re saying you don’t know?” asked Paul.
“I do not know,” Clinton said. “I don’t have any information on that.”
Clinton’s claims seem to now be unraveling.
Confirming WND’s exclusive reporting for over a year, the New York Times earlier this week reported that since early 2012, the CIA has been aiding Arab governments and Turkey in obtaining and shipping weapons to the Syrian rebels.
Middle Eastern security officials speaking to WND have said U.S.-aided weapons shipments go back more than a year, escalating before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi.
In fact, the Middle Eastern security officials speaking to WND since last year describe the U.S. mission in Benghazi and nearby CIA annex attacked last September as an intelligence and planning center for U.S. aid to the rebels in the Middle East, particularly those fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The aid, the sources stated, included weapons shipments and was being coordinated with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The specifics of the New York Times reporting, meanwhile, open major holes in Clinton’s sworn claims to be in the dark about the alleged weapons shipments.
U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity told the Times that American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons and then helped to vet rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive.
The plan mirrors one the Times reported last month in a separate article that was proposed by Clinton herself. The Times described Clinton as one of the driving forces advocating for arming the Syrian rebels.
Last month, the New York Times reported Clinton and then-CIA Director David Petraeus had concocted a plan calling for vetting rebels and arming Syrian fighters with the assistance of Arab countries.
The Times report from earlier this week of U.S. arms shipments and vetting seems to be the Clinton-Petraeus plan put in action.
It may be difficult for most to believe the secretary of state was not aware that her alleged plan was being implemented, especially when arming the Syrian rebels is a serious policy with obvious major repercussions internationally.
Clinton is not the only one in hot water.
As WND reported yesterday, the New York Times report threatens the longstanding White House narrative that claims the Obama administration has only supplied nonlethal aid to the rebels.
The White House has repeatedly denied directly arming the rebels.
Days after the Benghazi attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, WND broke the story that Stevens himself played a central role in recruiting jihadists to fight Assad’s regime in Syria, according to Egyptian and other Middle Eastern 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.
The latest New York Times report has bolstered WND’s reporting, citing air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders describing how the CIA has been working with Arab governments and Turkey to sharply increase arms shipments to Syrian rebels in recent months.
The Times reported that the weapons airlifts began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanding into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows.
The Times further revealed that from offices at “secret locations,” American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia. They have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive.
The CIA declined to comment to the Times on the shipments or its role in them.
The Times quoted a former American official as saying that David H. Petraeus, the CIA director until November, had been instrumental in helping set up an aviation network to fly in the weapons. The paper said Petraeus had prodded various countries to work together on the plan.
Petraeus did not return multiple emails from the Times asking for comment.
Both WND’s reporting, which first revealed the U.S.-coordinated arms shipments, and the Times reporting starkly contrast with statements from top U.S. officials who have denied aiding the supply of weapons to the rebels.
It’s not the first time WND’s original investigative reporting on U.S. support for the Syrian rebels was later confirmed by reporting in major media outlets. Other WND reporting indicates support for the Syrian rebels that goes beyond supplying arms, painting a larger picture of U.S. involvement in the Middle East revolutions.
A story by the German weekly Der Spiegel earlier this month reporting the U.S. is training Syrian rebels in Jordan was exclusively exposed by WND 13 months ago.
Quoting what it said were training participants and organizers, Der Spiegel reported it was not clear whether the Americans worked for private firms or were with the U.S. Army, but the magazine said some organizers wore uniforms.
The training in Jordan reportedly focused on use of anti-tank weaponry.
The German magazine reported some 200 men received the training over the previous three months amid U.S. plans to train a total of 1,200 members of the Free Syrian Army in two camps in the south and the east of Jordan.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper also reported U.S. trainers were aiding Syrian rebels in Jordan along with British and French instructors.
Reuters reported a spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department declined immediate comment on the Der Spiegel report. The French foreign ministry and Britain’s foreign and defense ministries also would not comment to Reuters.
While Der Spiegel quoted sources discussing training of the rebels in Jordan over the last three months, WND was first to report the training as far back as February 2012.
At the time, WND quoted knowledgeable Egyptian and Arab security officials claimed the U.S., Turkey and Jordan were running a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region.
Editor’s note: Additional research by Joshua Klein