More than a dozen people have sent me the same email over the past couple of weeks, purporting to tell the “REAL story on Benghazi.”
Like a lot of information circulating on the Internet, it contains an important kernel of truth, namely a reference to the July 25, 2012 Taliban attack on a U.S. Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan, using a U.S.-supplied Stinger missile.
That attack really did take place, as I reported in my 2014 book Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Benghazi.
I learned about the helicopter downing from early Wikileaks disclosures known as the Afghan war logs, and corroborated the information with a senior U.S. military officer working an intelligence billet in support of U.S. special forces operations overseas.
The officer explained that the Stinger never exploded – not because “the stupid Taliban didn’t arm the missile,” as the email claims (if you can fire it, the missile is armed) – but because of a malfunction, most likely in the impact fuze and the guidance system.
Instead of exploding against the body of the helicopter, as designed, the missile lodged and broke apart in the engine nacelle. The alert pilot managed a hard-landing, and everyone on board the Chinook walked away. Crash investigators subsequently discovered pieces of the Stinger lodged in the engine nacelle, including a portion of the missile casing that included a serial number.
That serial number tracked back to a lot of Stingers that had been “signed out” to the CIA in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, in early 2011, and transferred to the government of Qatar, my U.S. Special Forces informant told me.
The email, which is now the subject of a Reddit thread, begins with a breathtaking claim:
“Ambassador Stevens was sent to Benghazi, post haste, in order to retrieve US-made Stinger missiles supplied to Ansar al Sharia without Congressional oversight or permission. Hillary brokered the deal through Stevens and a private arms dealer named Marc Turi. Then some of the shoulder-fired missiles ended up in Afghanistan used against our own military.”
The only true statement in that opener is the final sentence. (The Justice Department recently dropped all charges against Marc Turi because they knew full well he never consummated any arms sales to the Libyan rebels and bowed out once his arms export license request for Qatar was denied).
Ambassador Stevens was sent to Benghazi for two reasons. The first, as noted by his number two in Libya, State Department career diplomat Greg Hicks, was to certify that the State Department could officially open Benghazi as a “permanent constituent post.” Hillary Clinton wanted to travel to Benghazi for a photo op, to take a victory lap for her “success” in ousting Colonel Qaddafi.
But Mrs. Clinton did not want to ask Congress for a special appropriation for Benghazi, since that would have led to an investigation into security procedures at the facility. So she instructed Stevens to travel to Benghazi as soon as he returned from his European vacation in early September. The plan was to use leftover funds from Iraq to operate Benghazi as a full-fledged consulate. But those funds “had to be obligated by September thirtieth” to avoid Congressional scrutiny, Hicks testified.
No arms deal. No Stingers. No “do-or-die” mission, as the lurid email claims. Just a Hillary Clinton vanity project that cost the lives of four Americans.
“It was the State Department, not the CIA that supplied [the Stingers] to our sworn enemies, because Petraeus wouldn’t supply these deadly weapons due to their potential use on commercial aircraft,” the email goes on.
I am still unclear as to who authorized the transfer of the Stingers to the CIA, and from the CIA, to the Qataris. That would be an excellent subject for a Freedom of Information Act request.
However, I am pretty certain of what happened next. The Qataris brought a small number of them – my sources said, fifty or sixty – into Libya through Chad in late March or early April 2011. This was before the U.S. and NATO had fully committed to helping the anti-Qaddafi rebels.
While they were en route, they encountered a French military patrol in northern Chad. The French asked the Qatari Special Forces commander in charge of the convoy, who had been trained in France, what he thought he was doing. He replied that he was taking Stinger missiles to the Libyan rebels.
After a lengthy palaver and communications with Paris, and via Paris with Washington, the French officer was instructed that the U.S. government wanted the Stingers to reach Libya.
As I reported in Dark Forces (p92), Qaddafi’s intelligence service picked up the communication between the French officer in northern Chad and his commanders. How do we know this? Because a copy of the intercept, dated April 4, 2011, turned up several months later in the just-vacated headquarters of Libyan intelligence chief Abdallah Senoussi, where it was discovered by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal.
All this said, there were no reports that any Stingers were fired in Libya, or ever reached the hands of Libyan rebel groups, let alone Ansar al-Sharia.
The second reason Ambassador Stevens traveled to Benghazi remains a matter of speculation – and would also make an excellent subject for a Freedom of Information Act request (although my own inquiries in this area have been rejected until now).
Just two weeks before Stevens went to Benghazi, a shipment of weapons intended for Syrian rebels reached Iskanderun, Turkey. The weapons had been purchased by jihadi sympathizers in Benghazi, possibly with U.S. assistance or at least the knowledge of the CIA station in Benghazi.
The arms shipment intended for the Syrian rebels was a “liaison” operation, since it was carried out by a friendly intelligence service, most likely the Turkish MIT. These type of intelligence operations fall within a grey area of what must be reported to Congress.
Almost as soon as the Libyan fishing boat, Al Entisar (Victory) docked in Iskenderun on August 25, 2012, all hell broke loose. Rival Syrian rebel groups began squabbling over who would take custody of the 400 tons of weapons and “humanitarian supplies” it had brought.
Even worse: Western reporters started nosing around.
On September 2, 2012, CIA Director David Petraeus made an unannounced trip to Ankara to straighten out the mess. Petraeus was worried that reporters would blow the wraps off what was supposed to be a covert operation.
Petraeus was unsuccessful. And so he recommended that Secretary Clinton dispatch “their man in Libya” to speak with the jihadi leaders in Benghazi, whom Stevens knew intimately.
In fact, Chris Stevens had closer ties to the Benghazi jihadis than anyone in the U.S. government, because he had been sent there as Special Envoy during the revolution to cultivate them. He knew them by name; he knew their families; and he probably knew where they kept their bank accounts.
He was the “cleaner,” as I called him in my book. His job was to clean up the arms smuggling operation, perhaps shut it down; or at least, make sure mistakes like Iskanderun didn’t happen again.
We know from his schedule, recovered by journalists after his murder by Iranian agents in Benghazi, that he had been planning to meet with a Libyan shipping agent known for his close ties to jihadi leaders.
Do you think the State Department dispatched the Ambassador from Tripoli to meet with a shipping agent to set up USAID shipments? I think he was looking for a more trusted shipping agent for future arms shipments to the Syrian rebels. (The shipping agent freaked out when I called to ask him about this).
Stevens also met with the Turkish Consul General in Benghazi, accompanying him out to the front gate of the diplomatic compound shortly before the attacks began. Again, why him? I believe it was because the gentleman was the resident agent of the Turkish MIT in Benghazi, in charge of the arms smuggling operation.
So yes, there are still a lot of secrets surround what actually happened in Benghazi. I exposed many of them in Dark Forces, most notably the involvement of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp in recruiting, training, and equipping the jihadis who actually carried out the murderous September 11, 2012 attacks.
Those secrets involve covert U.S. arms shipments, directly or through proxies, to both Libyan and Syrian jihadi groups. They involve Iran’s ongoing covert war against America. And they involve U.S. Stinger missiles that went missing.
All of these help to understand why Mrs. Clinton and her inner circle were so eager to deflect attention from Benghazi to a pathetic YouTube video they knew had nothing to do with the attacks. I call it the Benghazi Deception.
But please, let’s skip the conspiracy theories, and the lurid admixture of fantasy with fact. The facts by themselves are enough to hang a fish. Or a presidential wannabe like Mrs. Clinton, who belongs in jail.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in FrontPage Magazine.