By Walid Shoebat and Ben Barrack
The 36-page House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) report on Benghazi has finally been released and it smacks of cover-up. There are several highly questionable assertions in the report but also one very critical omission. In November of 2013, Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) was interviewed by Megyn Kelly of Fox News. At the end of the interview, Rogers confirmed that Ambassador Christopher Stevens met with his committee in the days prior to his death in Benghazi:
Here is the audio of the exchange in case it is taken down from YouTube:
That meeting is not referenced one time in the report. Why not? Why was it called? What was discussed? Was Stevens concerned about his safety? After reading those 36 pages, we still don’t know.
However, its omission is telling.
Stevens arrived in Benghazi on September 10th. According to the date at the top of his itinerary, the details of his trip were known by September 8th. Just two days earlier on September 6th, the Libyan ship Al Entisar docked in the Turkish port of Iskenderun, which is just 35 miles from the Syrian border.
A Libyan ship carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria since the uprising began has docked in Turkey and most of its cargo is making its way to rebels on the front lines, The Times has learnt.
Among more than 400 tonnes of cargo the vessel was carrying were SAM-7 surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), which Syrian sources said could be a game-changer for the rebels.
“This is the largest single delivery of assistance to the rebel fighting units we have received,” said Abu Muhammed, a member of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), who helped to move the shipment from warehouses to the border. “These are things that could change the tide — if they are used correctly.”
The Times report went on to say it was the Muslim Brotherhood that took control of the shipment after it arrived in Turkey.
In a recent article for the Daily Caller, Kenneth Timmerman writes:
One such shipment that went awry in late August 2012 involved 400 tons of weapons sent by a Libyan jihadi group to the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated charity IHH in Turkey on board the Al Entisar. The shipment caused a stir in Washington because it attracted the attention of Western reporters, and ultimately caused CIA Director David Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to send Ambassador Chris Stevens to Benghazi to put a lid on the whole operation.
Did this have anything to do with Stevens’ meeting with the HPSCI? It’s important to remember that at that point in time, Congress had not authorized weapons shipments to Syrian rebels. Doing so covertly would have constituted breaking the law. Throw on top of that the notion that Stevens and three other Americans were murdered in the process and Rogers, Petraeus and Clinton would have a serious problem on their hands.
Check out this excerpt from a Foreign Policy article dated March 30, 2011:
Rogers wouldn’t confirm or deny the report that Obama issued what’s known as a “presidential finding” authorizing the intelligence community to begin broadly supporting the Libyan rebels, because such findings are sensitive and classified. But he said that if Obama wanted to arm the rebels, the president would need Rogers’ support, which he doesn’t yet have.
“Any covert action that happens would have to get the sign off of the intelligence chairmen, by statute. You won’t get a sign off from me,” Rogers said referring to National Security Act 47. “I still think arming the rebels is a horrible idea. We don’t know who they are, we only know who they are against but we don’t really who they are for. We don’t have a good picture of who’s really in charge.”
Contrast that with what’s on page 16 of the newly released HPSCI report. Finding #4 states: The CIA was not collecting and shipping arms from Libya to Syria.
The report then attempts to debunk all the “media outlets” that reported on weapons shipments from Libya to Turkey and then onto Syria, to include a report by the very reputable Catherine Herridge:
The eyewitness testimony and thousands of pages of CIA cables and emails that the Committee reviewed provide no support for this allegation.
This again leads back to two important omissions from the Committee report. What was the purpose of Stevens’ visit with the Intelligence Committee and if his visit was not to “put a lid” on the weapons trafficking operation, what was he doing at a woefully unprotected installation on the anniversary of 9/11, in Benghazi?
The Committee appears to be attempting to thread a needle by saying that the CIA wasn’t involved in weapons trafficking to Syria but only gathering intelligence from “foreign entities” that were:
…From the Annex in Benghazi, the CIA was collecting intelligence about foreign entities that were themselves collecting weapons in Libya and facilitating their passage to Syria. The Benghazi Annex was not itself collecting weapons.
That’s close to sounding a bit like a distinction without much of a difference.
Shoebat.com has reported heavily on a report by veteran journalist Seymour Hersh earlier this year in which he reveals the term “rat line”, a reference to the covert weapons trafficking operation out of Benghazi. When viewed in the context of the HPSCI report, either Hersh or Rogers is wrong or lying. Which one has motive?
Last January, the U.S. Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released a report on Benghazi. According to Hersh’s source, there was a highly classified annex with that report.
A highly classified annex to the (SSCI) report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)
That reference to MI6 and “Australian entities” is particularly interesting in light of the claim in the HPSCI that “the CIA was collecting intelligence about foreign entities that were themselves collecting weapons in Libya and then facilitating their passage to Syria.”
Did those “foreign entities” include the UK’s MI6 and Australian front companies?
As to who allegedly received this classified annex…
Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees.
The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House intelligence committee at the time were the same two men responsible for issuing the recent HPSCI report – Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) and Mike Rogers (R-MI) respectively. In addition to that being an obvious conflict of interest, the existence of that annex could give both men a motive to cover up the truth in the report.
Others who would have received the annex based on Hersh’s criteria are:
Rep. John Boehner [Speaker of the House] Rep. Nancy Pelosi [Minority Leader of the House] Sen. Dianne Feinstein [Chairman, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] Sen. Saxby Chambliss [Vice Chairman, Senate Select Committee in Intelligence] Sen. Harry Reid [Senate Majority Leader] Sen. Mitch McConnell [Senate Minority Leader]
The man at the top of that list – Boehner – is the man who appointed Rep. Trey Gowdy to head the House Select Committee on Benghazi. The existence of any such classified annex and Boehner’s receipt of it could serve as a motive for the Speaker to see that committee be compromised.
Both Rogers and Chambliss decided to resign after their current terms in office. Chambliss did so despite the strong likelihood that his party would win the majority (which ultimately happened) and he would become the chairman of his Committee. It’s far more common for elected officials to step down when their party becomes the minority.
Stand Down Orders
As was the case between Hersh’s assertions and those in the HPSCI report relative to weapons shipments, there are two diametrically opposed claims when it comes to the question of a stand down order given to the men who left the Annex to help State Department employees at the compound (TMF).
According to the HPSCI report:
Prior to the CIA security team departing for the TMF, the Annex leadership deliberated thoughtfully, reasonably, and quickly about whether further security could be provided to the team. Although some security officers voiced a greater urgency to depart for the TMF, no officer at CIA was ever told to stand down.
One of the men who was on the ground that night told a completely different story during an interview on C-SPAN. In response to a caller who challenged him, Kris Paronto referred to a conversation he had with Rogers specifically:
“…during the House intel subcommittee I looked at Mike Rogers in the eyes and I said, ‘If we would have not been delayed — which, we were delayed three times — that we would have saved the ambassador’s life and Sean Smith’s life.’” He added, “Why he came out with the report, I don’t know what to tell you on that. You’re going to have to ask him. What we said in the book is what happened on the ground and that is the truth.”
Paronto also made his feelings known about the report via twitter:
As was the case over the issue of weapons trafficking, the HPSCI report appeared to rely on nuance to make a different case.
Egyptian involvement Suppressed
When referring to the makeup of the attackers in Benghazi, the HPSCI report made a subtle yet extremely important omission. On page seven, it reads:
The attackers included members of several Islamic extremist groups, including al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Libya-based Ansar al-Sharia (AAS) and the Muhammad Jamal Network (MJN).
Notice that the origin of each group is identified except MJN, which is from Egypt. As Shoebat.com has reported on extensively in our “Ironclad” report, Egyptian involvement in the Benghazi attacks is a key puzzle piece and there has been a concerted effort on the part of the administration and Congress to play this connection down when not avoiding it altogether.
Perhaps most amazing is that Muhammad Jamal was himself arrested by Egyptian authorities after the Benghazi attacks. Al-Arabiya posted a video of him in jail last year. Yet, the HPSCI did not acknowledge this or even MJN being an Egypt-based group involved in the attacks.No Protest But Video Involved
Speaking of Muhammad Jamal al-Kashif, the leader of MJN, he is a protege of none other than Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number one leader. As you keep that in mind, take a look at this potentially shocking excerpt (much of it redacted) from the HPSCI report:
According to a February 7, 2014, FBI briefing to Committee staff, [REDACTED] indicates that [REDACTED] and ordered them to attack the TMF on September 11 – in response to both the anti-Islamic video and Ayman al-Zawahiri’s fatwa to avenge the death of al-Qa’ida deputy Abu Yaha al-Libi. According to these reports, [REDACTED] If true, this evidence would corroborate an earlier [REDACTED] report [REDACTED] that indicated [REDACTED] ordered the attacks in revenge for the death of al-Libi and other intelligence [REDACTED] that other extremists were involved.
A source of debate over the Benghazi attacks has to do with whether or not there was a protest over the video that precipitated the attack. What’s often left out is whether the video played a role in the attack regardless of whether there was a protest. While the aforementioned excerpt is heavily redacted, it seems to indicate that rage over the anti-Muhammad video may have been exploited to the point of being a motivating factor in the attack and that the issue of a protest was irrelevant.
As Shoebat.com has reported, protests in response to the video are acknowledged to have happened in Cairo, hours prior to the Benghazi attacks and in dozens of cities around the world. Sandwiched in the middle is what happened in Benghazi. Could not the video have been exploited and used as a motivating factor but without a protest?
In the HPSCI report timeline of events, it identifies the widely regarded time of 9:42pm local time as the beginning of the attacks in Benghazi. However, according to evidence published in an article by al-Monitor, 30 minutes earlier, a facebook page (since taken down) of a group connected to Ansar al-Sharia (Ansar Minbar) reported the attack was underway and that the protests in Cairo were used to help inspire the attackers:
As numerous features of the site make clear, the supporters mentioned in the page’s name are none other than the “supporters of the Sharia” — that is, Ansar al-Sharia. The Ansar Minbar page is thus conceived as a kind of platform or forum for Ansar al-Sharia…
…Timeline entries on the page show that in the early evening of Sep. 11, 2012, Ansar Minbar was closely following developments in Cairo, where a crowd of thousands had converged upon the US Embassy, ostensibly to protest a US-made film that insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
At 6:04 p.m., the page administrator posted a photo of an al-Qaeda flag being attached to a flagpole at the embassy in Cairo. The accompanying text read: “Egypt urgent. Demonstrators take down the American flag and raise in its place the ‘There is no God but God’ flag. And us, what are we doing in Libya???”
…Just three hours later, at 9:11 p.m., a newsflash on libya-s.net, an Ansar Minbar online forum, announced that the US mission was being attacked. Note that this puts the start of the attack around a half hour earlier than the official US account. The post identifies members of Ansar al-Sharia as the assailants.
This clearly shows that Ansar Minbar at a minimum had knowledge of the impending attacks that commenced at 9:42pm and that the group used the anti-Muhammad video-inspired protests in Cairo as a call to action.
The issue of a protest in Benghazi is a red herring used as a distraction. Conceding there was no protest does not mean the anti-Muhammad video did not play a role.
Back in August, Shoebat.com reported on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) report on Benghazi. At the time, based on claims from Democrats on the Committee – and silence from Committee Chairman Rogers – the conclusions seemed to undermine the efforts of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
Now that we have the report, our suspicions have been confirmed.