CIA Joins Obama’s Dissembling on Date Death Squads Sent Into Syria

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I still don’t quite know what the angle is for this particular obfuscation, but given the efforts first from Obama himself and now from the CIA, both with planted leaks, the Obama administration is continuing its efforts to hide the date on which CIA-trained death squads first began entering Syria. From my first post on this topic, beginning with a quote from the New York Times:

Officials said that in the same conversation, which included Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, Mr. Obama indicated that a covert effort by the United States to arm and train Syrian rebels was beginning to yield results: the first 50-man cell of fighters, who have been trained by the C.I.A., was beginning to sneak into Syria.

Taken at face value, this version of the story would have us believe that the first group of 50 trained by the CIA was presumably still in the process of “sneaking” into Syria on Monday.

The “Monday” in that context would be September 2. The post goes on to note that rather than September 2, after the disputed August 21 chemical weapon attack, French sources had actually documented that the first group of CIA-trained and armed fighters was as large as 300 (not 50) and entered Syria on August 17, well ahead of the release of chemical agents.

And yes, go back and parse that bit from the New York Times carefully, especially this: “covert effort by the United States to arm and train Syrian rebels”. We aren’t just training these death squads, we are arming them, too. That is what makes last night’s “revelation” in the Washington Post even more important to look at:

The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.

Any doubts that this was a planned and sanctioned leak were wiped away within an hour of the Post putting up this story when Barbara Starr “confirmed” the report on Twitter. But we know from my first post on the topic that the death squads really started rolling into Syria on August 17. If we back up “two weeks” from last night’s report on September 11, we get only to August 28. This is a full week after the disputed chemical weapon attack and much closer to the September 2 date on which Obama leaked that the death squads were then in the process of beginning their entry into Syria.

The timing for the flow of arms to these groups is another way we can pinpoint when they became enmeshed in activities inside Syria. With yesterday’s leak on when the flow of arms began, we have once again seen the US try to shift the date for involvement of the death squads inside Syria from before the chemical weapons attack to after it.

Two completely unnecessary but very public leaks, one from Obama himself and the other from “U.S. officials and Syrian figures” have done their utmost to change the public record on when the CIA-trained groups first entered Syria. Why is it so important to the Obama administration to obscure the entry date?

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
15 replies
  1. Les says:

    Of course, the death squads aren’t going to go into the war zone if they fear chemical attacks like the one that hit the earlier group. That would explain the pause in the flow and its restart now that Syria is on the defensive polticially.

  2. klynn says:

    Are there any other angels? Just crazy wondering out loud here…For example, Putin had ships with troops in the area. Any possibility Putin tried to make France mistake Russian troops for 300 rebels trained by the US?

  3. s says:

    I believe I heard on PBS news this morning or last evening a spokesman for the US backed rebels complain that they hadn’t received any weapons from the US yet.

  4. Clark Hilldale says:

    Jim, you are off by about a year and a half.

    Obama signed a covert action finding authorizing support for the “death squads” in early 2012.

    They have been active in country with US support since then.

  5. OmAli says:

    [email protected]

    Link, please?

  6. Jim White says:

    @Clark Hilldale: That’s addressed in the first post of this series. There is ample documentation of that finding signed by Obama and for the beginning of training, but it does look like the flow of lethal weapons was delayed by a lot. Whether that flow started in mid-August or the very end of August is the key question now.

  7. Jim White says:

    @s: Yeah, Idris has been making noise this morning. It’s not likely that his FSA is the group that the CIA has been training, so he may not have gotten the weapons we are discussing here.

  8. b4real says:

    It was one of these groups that set off the sarin gas in Ghouta. They did leave Jordan on the 17th. The local rebel fighters attacked the larger group, but could not win and notified Assad’s soldiers of the CIA trained rebels location. Assad decimated them. According to one report, they did not get 10km inside of Syria before being destroyed.

    Feel free to speculate from there.

    It would be too difficult (i.e. me too lazy) to go back and collect the links that point me in this direction, so do your own research.

    Personally, I think Obama did not know the group had been destroyed in a timely manner. I believe when he found out their plan had failed is the moment he decided to punt this decision to congress. There was an unexplained dramatic shift in attitude.

    Obama at one moment was ready to release the kraken, then finds out he has no troops to provide cover for.

  9. CTuttle says:

    The Grey Lady, from April 23rd… Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.

    … As it evolved, the airlift correlated with shifts in the war within Syria, as rebels drove Syria’s army from territory by the middle of last year. And even as the Obama administration has publicly refused to give more than “nonlethal” aid to the rebels, the involvement of the C.I.A. in the arms shipments — albeit mostly in a consultative role, American officials say — has shown that the United States is more willing to help its Arab allies support the lethal side of the civil war.

    From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. The C.I.A. declined to comment on the shipments or its role in them.

  10. The Polemicist says:

    These two posts catch an important point. These “leaks” are part of an attempt to shore up the narrative that the US has somehow been relatively “hands off” on Syria until now. For the liberals, it reinforces Obama as the reluctant warrior. For the conservative, his soft-headedness and indecision. It’s all a crock, which keeps the pundits running on their “partisanship” treadmills, while the real action unfolds elsewhere. And plenty of action it is.

    As you point out, the Americans have been up to their ears in this since at least last November. In March, the NYT reported on it, demonstrating that there had already been . “a cataract of weaponry” pouring into Syria, in shipments whose “size … and … degree of distributions are voluminous.” The report also specified that “C.I.A. Director David Petraeus who was “instrumental in helping to get this aviation network moving and [who] prodded various countries to work together on it.” In fact, it went on to say, the shipments have been coordinated from even higher up the food chain, with “senior White House officials … regularly briefed on the shipments.” Regarding the distribution of these weaons, a rebel leader was quoted as saying: “It all depends on what America says.”

    So, at least five months ago, a major US newspaper reported on all this, and yet, today, every Democratic, Republican, liberal, and conservative politician and media commentator pretends to, — or, worse, actually does – believe that Obama has been struggling with his conscience over this and has yet to decide (or maybe just did yesterday), to support the “rebels.” Just one element of the pack of lies which is the whole fairytale.

    I wrote a post about this, and other reports, including of the Israelis (who are also supposed to be “hands-off”) operating field hospitals to patch up wounded “rebels” and send them back into combat, at:
    The Road to Syria: "It all depends on what America says"

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