By Aaron Klein
KleinOnline has reconfirmed with multiple knowledgeable Middle Eastern security sources that the U.S. special mission in Benghazi was utilized to coordinate Arab arms shipments and other aid to the so-called rebels fighting in Libya and later in Syria.
KleinOnline first broke the story on the Benghazi gun running issue just 13 days after the Sept. 11 2012 attacks.
The scandal has been garnering more news media attention after Sen. Rand Paul asked outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the claims during hearings over the Benghazi affair two weeks ago.
Clinton claimed she did not know whether the U.S. special mission was involved in gun-running.
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.”
That section of the exchange with Paul was almost entirely ignored by media, which instead focused on the Republican senator’s earlier statement that if he were president he would have relieved Clinton of her post.
Now knowledgeable security sources have reconfirmed KleinOnline’s original reporting on the use of the Benghazi mission in aiding the rebels who are known to be saturated by al-Qaida and other Islamic terrorist groups.
In September, KleinOnline broke the story that the slain U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens, played a central role in recruiting jihadists to fight Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, according to Egyptian security officials.
In November, 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.
Among the tasks performed inside the building was collaborating with countries, most notably Turkey, on the recruitment of fighters – including jihadists – to target Assad’s regime, the security officials said.
While the White House has been largely mum on the alleged use of the Benghazi mission to aid the rebels, Obama administration officials did claim the White House rejected a plan to supply arms to the Syrian rebels.
If, indeed, President Obama rejected the arms plan, as reported last weekend by the New York Times, it would mean the White House went against the recommendations of outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-CIA Director David Petraeus.
The plan was said to have been generated by Petraeus and Clinton.
During Senate hearings on Benghazi last week, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked Panetta and Dempsey whether they had supported a plan “that we provide weapons to the resistance in Syria.”
“We do,” Panetta replied.
“You did support that?” McCain asked again.
“We did,” added Dempsey, who was sitting next to Panetta.
Neither Dempsey nor Panetta elaborated on their positions.
The New York Times reported the White House rebuffed the Clinton-Petraeus plan developed last summer to arm and train Syrian rebels.
The Times, citing unnamed Obama administration officials, reported the White House rejected the Clinton-Petraeus proposal over concerns it could draw the U.S. into the Syrian conflict and the arms could fall into the wrong hands.
The plan reportedly called for vetting rebels and arming a group of fighters with the assistance of Arab countries.
KleinOnline reported Stevens himself was leading the vetting efforts, working 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.
This scheme seems to mirror the Petraeus-Clinton plan as described by the New York Times.
According to the 39-page report released last month by independent investigators probing the attacks at the diplomatic facility, the U.S. mission in Benghazi was set up without the knowledge of the new Libyan government, as KleinOnline reported.
“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,” the report states. “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, based on a probe led by former U.S. diplomat Thomas Pickering, calls the facility a “Special U.S. Mission.”
During the Libyan revolution against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, the U.S. admitted to directly arming the rebel groups.
Stevens himself first arrived in Libya on a cargo ship to serve as the official U.S. liaison to Libyan opposition, reportedly working directly with Abdelhakim Belhadj of the al-Qaida-tied Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
At the time of the U.S. aid to the Libyan fighters, rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi acknowledged 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.”
From the beginning, U.S. media reports on the events in Benghazi have been misleading.
The vast majority of media coverage worldwide refers to the U.S. facility that was attacked as a “consulate,” even though the government itself has been careful to call it a “mission.”
A consulate typically refers to the building that houses a consul, who is the official representative of the government of one state in the territory of another. The U.S. consul in Libya, Jenny Cordell, works out of the embassy in Tripoli.
Consulates at times function as junior embassies, providing services related to visas, passports and citizen information.
On Aug. 26, about two weeks before his was killed, Ambassador Stevens attended a ceremony marking the opening of consular services at the Tripoli embassy.
The main role of a consulate is to foster trade with the host and care for its own citizens who are traveling or living in the host nation.
Diplomatic missions, on the other hand, maintain a more generalized role. A diplomatic mission is simply a group of people from one state or an international inter-governmental organization present in another state to represent matters of the sending state or organization in the receiving state.
However, according to the State Department investigation, the building was a “U.S. Special Mission” set up without the knowledge of the Libyan government.