Facebook

Twitter

Tumblr

iTunes

RSS

HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE
News Pages

Entries in Libya (366)

Tuesday
Nov132012

David Petraeus Personally Investigated Benghazi Attack

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In late October, former CIA Director David Petraeus traveled to Libya to conduct his own review of the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

While in Tripoli, he personally questioned the CIA station chief and other CIA personnel who were in Benghazi on Sept. 11 when the attack occurred.

The Libya stop was part of a six nation trip to the region.  Petraeus intended the review as a way to prepare for his upcoming testimony before Congress on Benghazi.

"He was looking forward to testifying," a Petraeus friend told ABC News.  "He wanted to be fully prepared."

Petraeus' friend described his investigation as Petraeus' "personal review" of both the Sept. 11 attack and the events leading up to it.  

The trip was so recent that the CIA has told the Congressional Intelligence committees that the trip report has not yet been completed.

Petraeus' personal involvement in this investigation is one reason some in Congress are likely to insist he testify on Benghazi.  But now Petraeus is telling friends he does not think he should testify.

Petraeus has offered two reasons for wanting to avoid testifying: Acting CIA Director Morell is in possession of all the information Petraeus gathered in conducting his review and he has more current information gathered since Petraeus' departure; and it would be a media circus.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov022012

Pentagon on Benghazi Troop Movements: ‘Swift Action’ on Night of Attack

GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- A day after the release of a new timeline of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the Pentagon has released new details about  the military forces moved that night in case they were needed in the region.

The timeline released Thursday by a senior U.S. intelligence official revealed the major role that CIA security forces in Benghazi and Tripoli, Libya, played in responding to the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.

On Friday, Pentagon spokesman George Little provided new details of U.S. military movements made the night of the attack in case they were needed.

Little said that within a few hours of the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered U.S. military forces to move to Sicily in preparation for an uncertain situation in Libya.

“This department took swift action,” said Little. “It did respond, the secretary ordered forces to move."

“We were prepared for a range of contingencies in the course of this very tragic incident,” said Little. “We were ready for the need to augment security measures at our facilities in Libya, if called upon.  We were prepared for the possibility, for instance, of a hostage situation, as well.  These were all the things that we were looking at for an event we did not know was going to happen in Benghazi that night. ”

According to Little, Panetta ordered forces to move towards the naval air station in Sigonella, Italy, after conferring with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. Africa Command who was in Washington for regularly scheduled meetings.

Among the units ordered by Panetta on the night of the attack to Sicily, which is less than 500 miles from Libya, were two special operations teams that were moved to  Sigonella.

As previously reported, one of the units came from a U.S. military base in “Central Europe.” And Little disclosed that Panetta also ordered another team from the United States to head to Sigonella.  Little refused to describe what kind of unit was sent from the U.S., though it was presumably a special operations team trained for hostage rescues.

Little said both the units “did not arrive until after the entire sequence of events was complete. … They were in Sigonella many hours after the attacks.”

The Pentagon spokesman said that it can take hours for troops to be organized and transported to where they might be used.  He added that at the time they were ordered to move, policy makers "did not know when the attacks would end.”  Little said that, in theory, a hostage situation in Benghazi could have lasted for days.

“We didn’t have forewarning of this tragic event in Benghazi,” Little said. “The entire U.S. government was starting from a cold start.”

Another new detail disclosed Friday was that Panetta ordered the deployment of not one, but two platoons of specially trained Marines to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya.

Based in Rota, Spain, the platoons headed to Sigonella for possible deployment to Libya.  One platoon was dispatched on Sept. 12 to protect the U.S. embassy in Tripoli.  The other platoon was to have gone to Benghazi to secure the consulate compound, but was never sent after it was determined that all U.S. personnel had been evacuated from Benghazi.

Little reaffirmed that no other American aircraft were involved over Libya the night of the attack beyond the unarmed surveillance drone that arrived 90 minutes into the attack.  As for reports that an AC-130 gunship could have been dispatched over Libya at the time of the attack,  Little was clear that “there was no AC-130 within a continent’s range of Benghazi” that night.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov022012

Libyan Police Reportedly Scouted US Consulate Before Attack

STR/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- There is mounting evidence that the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was an inside job, based on a draft letter reported by ForeignPolicy.com, a Washington Post company.

According to the website, a letter was written to the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Benghazi by a member of the American staff at the consulate about someone from the local police force taking photographs of the building on Sept. 11.

Later that day, the consulate came under a well-coordinated assault that led to the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Based on the observations of a guard, the letter said in part "a member of the police force was seen in the upper level of a building across from our compound.  It is reported that this person was photographing the inside of the U.S. special mission and furthermore that this person was part of the police unit sent to protect the mission."

Meanwhile, another draft letter from two days earlier bitterly complained that extra security requested of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that included round-the-clock police protection and a police explosive detection dog was not provided.

It was unclear whether the letters were actually sent, according to the reporters from ForeignPolicy.com who found them.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct262012

Father of Consulate Victim Feels 'Abandoned' by Obama Administration

STR/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The father of former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, who was killed during the attack last month on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, feels "abandoned" by the White House because he has received no answers as to why there wasn't an attempt made to save his son and three other Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

In an article published by the Weekly Standard, Charles Woods says "it’s coming out that apparently the White House situation room was watching our people die in real time, as this was happening."

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the military did not receive information in time to retaliate and criticized those who second-guessed the Pentagon's response to the attack with the perpetrators still at large.

Woods also describes meeting President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Andrews Air Force Base where the remains of his son and the three other Americans were brought three days after the Sept. 11 assault.

According to Woods, the president "kind of just mumbled, you know, ‘I’m sorry.’  His face was looking at me, but his eyes were looking over my shoulder like he could not look me in the eye.  And it was not a sincere, ‘I’m really sorry, you know, that your son died.’"

He called shaking Obama's hand "like shaking hands with a dead fish.”

As for Clinton, Woods said, "I gave her a hug, shook her hand.  And she did not appear to be one bit sincere -- at all."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct262012

Panetta Explains Military Response on Day of Benghazi Attack

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke Thursday about the “Monday morning quarterbacking” going on about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and why the U.S. military didn’t act sooner.
 
He said military assets had been moved, but that the attack on the consulate in Benghazi was over before there was enough good information about what had actually happened.  Not knowing exactly what was going on, he and other military leaders feel that “we could not put forces at risk in that situation”
 
For his part Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said there are reviews under way and it wasn’t helpful to provide “partial answers.”  However, he did say he was confident that “our forces were alert and responsive to what was a very fluid situation.”
 
Panetta said the U.S. military had responded quickly by deploying forces to the region.  “We had FAST platoons in the region. We had ships that we had deployed off of Libya. And we were prepared to respond to any contingency. And certainly had forces in place to do that.”
 
But Panetta said the “basic principle is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on; without having some real-time information about what's taking place."
 
Panetta said he, Dempsey and AFRICOM’s Gen. Carter Ham did not have the information of “who was on the ground in that area” and so they “felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”
 
Did the drone flying over the Benghazi compound provide an idea of what was going on?  “This happened within a few hours and it was really over before, you know, we had the opportunity to really know what was happening," said Panetta.
 
Panetta and Dempsey both said later that U.S. forces in the area were on a heightened alert because of the 9/11 anniversary, but Dempsey pointed out, “it was 9/11 everywhere in the world.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct232012

Email Alerts Describe Benghazi Consulate Assault Unfolding

John Foxx/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A series of email alerts sent as Obama administration officials monitored the attack on the U.S consulate in Benghazi last month are the latest to shine light on the chaotic events that culminated in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

The names of the individual recipients of the emails, first reported by CBS News but independently obtained by ABC News Tuesday evening, are redacted. A source who requested anonymity said it appears they are sent by the State Department Operations Center to distribution lists and email accounts for the top national security officials at the State Department, Pentagon, the FBI, the White House Situation Room and the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The first email, with a subject line of “U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack,” sent at 4:05 p.m., about 25 minutes after the attack began, describes an assault on the compound by 20 armed people.

“The Regional Security Officer reports the diplomatic mission is under attack,” the email states. “Embassy Tripoli reports approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well.”

“Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM (Chief of Mission) personnel are in the compound safe haven,” the email continues. “The 17th of February militia is providing security support.”

The next email sent at 4:54 p.m. states that the shooting has stopped and the compound was cleared, adding that a response team was “onsite attempting to locate COM personnel.”

The third email updates officials that Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility for the Benghazi attack on Facebook and Twitter, and has threatened to attack the Tripoli embassy.

The timing of the emails is consistent with what a senior State Department official told reporters at a briefing on Oct. 9.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct192012

Documents Back Up Claims of Requests for Greater Security in Benghazi

STR/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform have released new documents backing up claims by security personnel previously stationed in Libya that there was a shortage of security personnel in Benghazi.

The documents contain previously unreleased cables from Ambassador Stevens and his staff reflecting concerns about safety in the country.

The U.S. State Department did not have an immediate comment.

One signed by Stevens and titled “LIBYA’S FRAGILE SECURITY DETERIORIATES AS TRIBAL RIVALRIES, POWER PLAYS AND EXTREMISM INTENSIFY,” dated June 25, 2012, assess the increase in violence. "From April to June, Libya also witnesses an increase in attacks targeting international organizations and foreign interests,” Stevens wrote, describing attacks on a United Nations official in Benghazi, International Committee for the Red Cross buildings in Benghazi and Misrata, and IED at the mission in Benghazi, and RPGs fired at the British Ambassador’s convoy, and an attack on the consulate of Tunisia.

A Libyan government national security official told Stevens “that the attacks were the work of extremists who are opposed to western influence in Libya. A number of local contacts agreed, noting that Islamic extremism appears to be on the rise in eastern Libya and that the Al-Qaeda flag has been spotted several times flying over government buildings and training facilities in Derna,” a village to the east in Benghazi. Other contacts disagreed with that assessment, however.

Another cable from Stevens, titled “The Guns of August; security in eastern Libya” and dated Aug. 8, 2012, states, “Since the eve of the (July) elections, Benghazi has moved from trepidation to euphoria and back as a series of violent incidents has dominated the political landscape during the Ramadan holiday.” Stevens describes the incidents as “organized, but this is not an organized campaign.” The Supreme Security Council, the interim security force, he says, “has not coalesced into a stabilizing force and provides little deterrence.”

Stevens wrote that the people of Benghazi want a security apparatus but “inherently fear abuse by the same authorities. This debate, playing out daily in Benghazi, has created the security vacuum that a diverse group of independent actors are exploiting for their own purposes.”

A cable signed by Stevens on the day of his murder, Sept. 11, described a meeting with the Acting Principal Officer of the Supreme Security Council in Benghazi, commander Fawzi Younis, who “expressed growing frustration with police and security forces (who were too weak to keep the country secure)…”

The documents also included an “ACTION MEMO” for Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy dated Dec. 27, 2011, and written by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman. With the subject line: “Future of Operations in Benghazi, Libya,” the memo states: “With the full complement of five Special Agents, our permanent presence would include eight U.S. direct hire employees.”

This would seem to suggest that Undersecretary Kennedy had approved a plan for five permanent security agents in Benghazi, but that never happened. It should be noted that there were ultimately a total of five Diplomatic Security Agents in Benghazi that night since there were two stationed at the Benghazi compound, and three escorted Ambassador Chris Stevens to the compound.

In a letter to President Obama, House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chair of the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations, note the Obama administration response that “two extra DS agents would have made no difference. This misses the point. These agents would have provided the added cover to fully evacuate all personnel from the compound -- not just those who survived.”

One of the key conversations in the documents begins on Feb. 11, at 5:29 pm, when Shawn Crowley, a foreign service officer at the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, writes: “Apologies for being a broken record, but beginning tomorrow Benghazi will be down to two agents…We have no drivers and new local guard contract employees have no experience driving armored vehicles…”

On Feb. 11, 1:13 pm, Regional Security Officer of the Libyan Embassy Eric Nordstrom emails State Department officials, cc-ing then-Ambassador Gene Cretz, saying he’ll try to send personnel from the Security Support Team to Benghazi. “I’ll speak with our SST personnel to see if they can free up 1 or 2 bodies for Benghazi….While the status of Benghazi remains undefined, DS” -- Diplomatic Security -- “is hesitant to devout [sic] resources and as I indicated previously, this has severely hampered operations in Benghazi. That often means that DS agents are there guarding a compound with 2 other DOS personnel present. That often means that outreach and reporting is non-existent.” Meanwhile, security on the ground became increasingly precarious.

The committee also released some photographs of the Benghazi compound, before and after the attack.

Issa and Chaffetz say they’ve “been told repeatedly” that the Obama administration not only “repeatedly reject(ed) requests for increased security despite escalating violence, but it also systematically decreased existing security to dangerous and ineffective levels,” and did so “to effectuate a policy of ‘normalization’ in Libya after the conclusion of its civil war.”

This “normalization,” the GOP congressmen write, “appeared to have been aimed at conveying the impression that the situation in Libya was getting better, not worse. The administration’s decision to normalize was the basis for systematically withdrawing security personnel and equipment -- including a much-needed DC-3 aircraft -- without taking into account the reality on the ground. In an interview with Mr. Nordstrom, he maintained that the State Department routinely made decisions about security in early 2012 without first consulting him.” The congressmen submit ten questions for the president to answer.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct182012

Libyan Investigators Identify Commander of US Consulate Attack

STR/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Although Libyan-based Ansar al-Sharia contends it was not behind the siege at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last month that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead, Libyan authorities are pointing the finger at one of the Islamist group's leaders as being the commander of the attack.

According to published reports, investigators say that eyewitnesses of the assault allege they saw Ahmed Abu Khattala acting as commander during the well-coordinated attack the Obama administration initially believed was an outgrowth of protests against an anti-Islam film made in America.

Abu Khattala has not been seen since the Sept. 11 incident in Benghazi nor have any other possible participants of the siege belonging to Ansar al-Sharia, which is committed to establishing strict Islamic law in Libya a year after former President Moammar Gadhafi was killed and his secular government overthrown.

In Washington, State Department Victoria Nuland was asked by reporters at her Wednesday briefing about the alleged involvement of Abu Khattala.

"We're gonna leave all of that to the FBI as they work with the Libyans to both investigate but, obviously, we are committed to ensuring that those who did this are gonna come to justice," Nuland said.

Republicans have charged the Obama administration of trying to downplay the consulate attacks because it would weaken their argument that al Qaeda has been decimated since the death of Osama bin Laden.  Ansar al-Sharia, which has some ties to the terrorist group, still considers itself more of a separate entity.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct162012

Hillary Clinton Takes Responsibility for Consulate Security Lapses

Alex Wong/Getty Images(LIMA, Peru) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted blame for the security lapses before the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

"I take responsibility," Clinton told ABC News Monday in Lima, Peru.  "I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world at 275 posts."

She added, "The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals."

Clinton also said that the U.S. has been aware that militants were regrouping in Libya and that there would be an effort to reestablish bases.

"We also knew aside from individuals and groups there were so many militias that have formed and so many weapons," Clinton said.  "It was something we were focused on."

There are reports that the U.S. now has special operations forces on standby in the region ready to strike suspected terrorists.  So would this administration be willing to strike them before the U.S. election?

"We will track them down whoever did this and hold them accountable and bring them to justice," Clinton vowed.  "Our track record is pretty good.  Eventually we will find you."

Congressional hearings last week revealed that the State Department was aware of, and rejected, several requests for increased security in Benghazi.

Republicans have seized on the attack and the subsequent administration response as a failure.

On Friday, Clinton said the State Department is in the beginning stages of an internal investigation on the attack.  She also said the FBI investigation is continuing as well, and that she is cooperating with both.  As militants gain strength in countries like Mali, Syria and Iraq, ABC News asked for a status update on al Qaeda.

"It's absolutely fair to say the major leadership of al Qaeda including [Osama] bin Laden has been decimated," said Clinton.  "The core of al Qaeda has been severely damaged.  There will be terrorists who continue to terrorize people and threaten the U.S. and our allies.  We've never taken at all, our eye off the ball to keep going after extremists who pose a threat."

Meanwhile, as the situation in Syria deteriorates, will the U.S. consider pushing for a no-fly zone similar to the one established in Libya?

"This has been under discussion among allies," Clinton said.  "There has been no decision made but everyone knows what the Assad regime is doing is a brutal assault on the people.  We need a clear commitment of support to the opposition inside Syria and outside."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Oct142012

Sen. Rob Portman Defends Romney’s Use of Libya on Campaign Trail

ABC(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio defended GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney Sunday morning on “This Week” for his use of the deadly incident in Libya to criticize President Obama on the campaign trail.

The father of killed U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens told Bloomberg it would be “abhorrent” to make his son’s death a campaign issue.

“He didn’t say it was a campaign issue.  He said it was an issue. I mean, it’s something the American people are really concerned about," Portman said. “Folks want to know two things.  Why wasn’t the security there?  And why did the administration try so hard to create, you know, the wrong image as to what happened?”

“They went out of their way to try to leave the impression this was because of some video.  It wasn’t,” he said. “It was a premeditated terrorist attack that terrible night in Benghazi. That tragic occurrence where we lost the ambassador and three other brave Americans needs to be explained to the American people.  And I think folks deserve an explanation.”

Both Romney and Paul Ryan have questioned the administration’s handling of the attack in Libya since it occurred.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio