Back in an October post laying out Abu Anas al-Libi’s challenge of the interrogation he underwent on a Navy ship, I wrote,
Meanwhile, the government is not providing al-Libi cancer treatment doctors at Duke said during the summer he needs to address liver cancer. Maybe the government is just hoping al-Libi will succumb to cancer before he can press these issues?
The WaPo just reported,
A suspected al-Qaeda terrorist died Friday night just days before he was slated to go on trial in New York on charges of helping plan the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, his lawyer said.
Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer after U.S. commandos and FBI agents captured him in a 2013 raid outside his house in a suburb of Tripoli.
His lawyer, Bernard Kleinman, said his client’s condition had deteriorated significantly in the last month. Kleinman said Ruqai, 50, died at a hospital in the New York area.
Welp, if having al-Libi die before trial was the idea, Mission Accomplished.
Update: Here’s al-Libi’s lawyer’s letter from October raising concerns about delays in his cancer treatment.
At the same time MIr. al Liby had been scheduled to have a surgical procedure done (a bland arterial embolization) designed to hopefully retard the spread of his liver cancel’. This procedure was scheduled for Duke Cancel’ Center the beginning of August. To date it has not been done. It is now two and one-half months later and he is still waiting – with no explanation whatsoever. This, with all due respect, is inexcusable. This surgical procedure, recommended by Dr. White, an oncological surgeon at Duke Cancel’ Center (and endorsed by all of the other physicians), needs to be done with all deliberate speed.
You’ve no doubt heard that, last Friday (a pre-holiday Friday, as some people are already on their way to Thanksgiving), the Benghazi scandal ended with a fizzle.
The House Intelligence Committee released its report on the Benghazi attack, which basically says all the scandal mongering has been wrong, that Susan Rice’s talking points came from the CIA, that no one held up any rescue attempts, and so on and so on. This post will attempt to lay out why that might have happened. The short version, however, is that the report reveals (but does not dwell on) a number of failures on the part of the CIA that should raise real concerns about Syria.
Note that not all Republicans were as polite as the ultimate report. Mike Rogers, Jeff Miller, Jack Conaway, and Peter King released an additional views report, making precisely the points you’d expect them to — though it takes them until the 4th summary bullet to claim that Administration officials “perpetuated an inaccurate story that matched the Administration’s misguided view that the United States was nearing victory over al-Qa’ida.” Democrats released their own report noting that “there was no AQ mastermind” and that “extremists who were already well-armed and well-trained took advantage of regional violence” to launch the attack. Among the Republicans who presumably supported the middle ground were firebrands like Michele Bachmann and Mike Pompeo, as well as rising Chair Devin Nunes (as you’ll see, Nunes was a lot more interested in what the hell CIA was doing in Benghazi than Rogers). The day after the initial release Rogers released a second statement defending — and pointing to the limits of and Additional Views on — his report.
Now consider what this report is and is not.
The report boasts about the 1000s of hours of work and 1000s of pages of intelligence review, as well as 20 committee events, interviews with “senior intelligence officials” and 8 security personnel (whom elsewhere the report calls “the eight surviving U.S. personnel”) who were among the eyewitnesses in Benghazi. But the bulk of the report is sourced to 10 interviews (the 8 security guys, plus the Benghazi and Tripoli CIA Chiefs), and a November 15, 2012 presentation by James Clapper, Mike Morell, Matt Olsen, and Patrick Kennedy. (Here are the slides from that briefing: part one, part two.) As I’ll show, this means some of the claims in this report are not sourced to the people who directly witnessed the events. And the reports sources almost nothing to David Petraeus, who was CIA Director at the time.
One of the best explanations for why this is such a tempered report may be that FBI performed better analysis of the cause of the attack than CIA did. This is somewhat clear from the summary (though buried as the 4th bullet):
There was no protest. The CIA only changed its initial assessment about a protest on September 24, 2012, when closed caption television footage became available on September 18, 2012 (two days after Ambassador Susan Rice spoke), and after the FBI began publishing its interviews with U.S. officials on the ground on September 22, 2012.
That is, one reason Susan Rice’s talking points said what they did is because CIA’s analytical reports still backed the claim there had been a protest outside State’s Temporary Mission Facility.
Moreover, in sustaining its judgment there had been a protest as long as it did, CIA was actually ignoring both a report from Tripoli dated September 14, and the assessment of the Chief of Station in Tripoli, who wrote the following to Mike Morell on September 15.
We lack any ground-truth information that protest actually occurred, specifically in the vicinity of the consulate and leading up to the attack. We therefore judge events unfolded in a much different manner than in Tunis, Cairo, Khartoum, and Sanaa, which appear to the the result of escalating mob violence.
In a statement for the record issued in April 2014, Mike Morell explained that Chiefs of Station “do not/not make analytic calls for the Agency.” But it’s not clear whether Morell explained why CIA appears to have ignored their own officer.
While the report doesn’t dwell on this fact, the implication is that the FBI was more successful at interviewing people on the ground — including CIA officers!! — to rebut a common assumption arising from public reporting. That’s a condemnation of CIA’s analytical process, not to mention a suggestion FBI is better at collecting information from humans than CIA is. But HPSCI doesn’t seem all that worried about these CIA failures in its core missions.
Or maybe CIA failed for some other reason. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
60 Minutes has released the results of its review of Lara Logan’s ridiculous story on Benghazi. In response, they’re putting Logan and the producer of the story on administrative leave for an undisclosed period of time.
I guess if Dan Rather were prettier he’d still be working at 60 Minutes.
And even with Logan’s leave, their response is still inadequate. Check out the first two bullets in their internal report.
–From the start, Lara Logan and her producing team were looking for a different angle to the story of the Benghazi attack. They believed they found it in the story of Dylan Davies, written under the pseudonym, “Morgan Jones”. It purported to be the first western eyewitness account of the attack. But Logan’s report went to air without 60 Minutes knowing what Davies had told the FBI and the State Department about his own activities and location on the night of the attack.
–The fact that the FBI and the State Department had information that differed from the account Davies gave to 60 Minutes was knowable before the piece aired. But the wider reporting resources of CBS News were not employed in an effort to confirm his account. It’s possible that reporters and producers with better access to inside FBI sources could have found out that Davies had given varying and conflicting accounts of his story. [my emphasis]
All the focus on this story has been on what Jones AKA Davies told the FBI. But as 60 Minutes notes (and I reported weeks ago), Jones AKA Davies’ story also conflicted in significant ways with the publicly released Accountability Review Board. And while the report didn’t attribute the many failures of Jones AKA Davies’ employees to an interview with him directly, the scathing review of Blue Mountain Group’s (and therefore Jones AKA Davies’) performance provided obvious motive for Jones AKA Davies to lie (in part, because his failures contributed to getting Chris Stevens killed).
So while it’s nice that 60 Minutes expresses some embarrassment they didn’t get people with better sources at CBS (including the CBS people who used to work at FBI) to double check Jones AKA Davies’ story with the FBI, I’m really wondering if they have an explanation for why, over a year of work, neither Logan nor her producer did something as simple as a Google search?
McClatchy has done the long overdue work of debunking the entirety of the 60 Minutes piece on Benghazi.
Much of their line-by-line debunking serves to point out that 60 Minutes’ repeated claims that “al Qaeda” was responsible for the attack is not based in any known evidence (and in at least one case conflicts with what a Benghazi investigator had to say).
But I’m particularly interested in McClatchy’s debunking of CBS’ claim to have found a page from Chris Stevens’ itinerary on an October visit to the compound.
But the compound owner, Jamal el Bishari, told McClatchy on Wednesday that he began clearing debris in April from the compound’s four buildings and is still renovating the site. McClatchy visited the site in June and saw a pile of debris sitting outside the compound walls, but no documents were discernible among the broken concrete, clothing, furniture and soot.
Bishari said it is unlikely such a document could have been discovered recently.
“It is impossible to find a document now,” he told McClatchy.
In “60 Minutes Overtime”, an addendum to the piece that was available online and outlined how CBS spent a year reporting the story, the piece’s producer, Max McClellan, explained how the program obtained the schedule.
“The person who shot this footage has a lot of experience in Libya and through his network of contacts on the ground in Benghazi, he was able to access the compound. It was closed, guarded, but through relatives of people he had gotten to know over the years, he was able to get in and take these pictures for us,” McClellan said. “We did not expect that we would find the U.S. compound in the state that we found it. There was still debris and ammunition boxes and a whiteboard that had the day’s assignment for the security personnel at the compound as of September 11, 2012.”
El Bishari said that he could not remember when he removed the remnants of the attack as part of the renovation, but what McClatchy’s June visit showed was that little debris remained inside the compound then. A local journalist who visited the site in September on assignment for Fox News told McClatchy Tuesday that any documents that remained at the site then would have been inconsequential. He returned to the site Tuesday at McClatchy’s request and took photos, which showed that the debris piles evident in June had been removed.
CBS spokesman Tedesco declined to respond to a specific question of “whether it was a CBS News employee or someone else who went to the site” or “when and how exactly he/she found the document?” [my emphasis]
This evidence suggests the video 60 Minutes claimed had been taken in October were taken at some other time. From the description of McClatchy’s visit in June, it sounds like the images were taken even before June.
And all that addresses just the debris shown, not the paper that purportedly survived a fire and lay untouched for over a year.
But the underlying question is why? Why present a piece of paper as some kind of talisman? And where did they really come from, and why?
One thing that surprises me about this whole 60 Minutes “Morgan Jones” fiasco is that no one mentions that, regardless of whether “Jones” lied to his supervisor about running to the compound or not, it’s clear he lied to his supervisor about Chris Stevens’ death. As I noted earlier, the incident report (which the FBI has leaked matches his interview with them) says,
I kept quiet about the Ambassadors [sic] death as I knew there would be huge repercussions.
Assuming “Jones’” company was what it claims to be — a security firm — he had been involved in the worst possible disaster, the death of the principal, and he didn’t warn his boss. Even within the scope of the incident report, it’s clear he lied.
The ARB version
With all that in mind, I want to compare what the State Department Accountability Review Board said about BMG’s performance (they refer to it as Blue Mountain Libya, BML) with the two versions “Jones” has offered.
The ARB admitted that BMG guards were unarmed.
The Special Mission also had an unarmed, contract local guard force (LGF), Blue Mountain Libya (BML), which provided five guards per eight-hour shift, 24/7, to open and close the gates, patrol the compound, and give warning in case of an attack.
But it also found they had failed to fulfill one of their primary duties, perimeter patrols.
The Board found the responses by both BML and February 17 to be inadequate. No BML guards were present outside the compound immediately before the attack ensued, although perimeter security was one of their responsibilities,
Although the unarmed BML guards could not be expected to repel an attack, they had core responsibility for providing early warning and controlling access to the compound, which they had not always performed well in the past.
In addition, ARB raised questions about whether the BMG guards had run away and left the gate open, facilitating the quick assault on the compound.
In the final analysis, the Board could not determine exactly how the C1 gate at the Special Mission compound was breached, but the speed with which attackers entered raised the possibility that BML guards left the C1 pedestrian gate open after initially seeing the attackers and fleeing the vicinity. They had left the gate unlatched before.
Finally, there are conflicting stories about whether the BMG guards even sounded the first alarm — or any alarm — before attackers had already started streaming into the compound.
and there is conflicting information as to whether they sounded any alarms prior to fleeing the C1 gate area to other areas of the SMC.
Around the same time, the TDY RSO working in the TOC heard shots and an explosion. He then saw via security camera dozens of individuals, many armed, begin to enter the compound through the main entrance at the C1 gate. He hit the duck and cover alarm and yelled a warning over the radio, and recalled no such warning from the February 17 or BML guards, who had already begun to flee to points south and east in the compound, towards the Villa B area. ARSOs 1 and 2 heard an attack warning from the BML guards passed on over the radio.
About the only contribution BMG made to security for the compound, the ARB reports, was in noticing a man uniformed as a police officer scoping out the compound earlier that morning.
At approximately 0645 local that morning, a BML contract guard saw an unknown individual in a Libyan Supreme Security Council (SSC) police uniform apparently taking photos of the compound villas with a cell phone from the second floor of a building under construction across the street to the north of the SMC. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
As Michael Calderone reports, 60 Minutes has finally conceded they got hoodwinked by “Morgan Jones” AKA “Dylan Davies.”
I’ve heard no related concession from Dick Cheney propagandist Mary Matalin that her Simon & Schuster imprint, Threshold, published a fabrication, “Jones’” book. Until we learn how that happened — which surely drove some of the credibility 60 Minutes accorded a guy working under a pseudonym for obviously nonsensical reasons (his other name, Dylan Davies, had already been published, at a time much closer to the attack) — I think it worth examining what story he chose to tell.
The 60 Minutes platform gave “Jones” the opportunity to make 3 claims that, as delivered, were unverifiable (because there were no witnesses).
2 of them conflict with the incident report that has been his undoing. In the first — and the one that has attracted all the attention — “Jones” claimed he had heroically entered the compound and bashed some guy’s face in (but not shot him).
Not long afterwards, Morgan Jones scaled the 12-foot high wall of the compound that was still overrun with al Qaeda fighters.
Morgan Jones: One guy saw me. He just shouted. I couldn’t believe that he’d seen me ’cause it was so dark. He started walking towards me.
Lara Logan: And as he was coming closer?
Morgan Jones: As I got closer, I just hit him with the butt of the rifle in the face.
Lara Logan: And?
Morgan Jones: Oh, he went down, yeah.
Lara Logan: He dropped?
Morgan Jones: Yeah, like– like a stone.
Lara Logan: With his face smashed in?
Morgan Jones: Yeah.
Lara Logan: And no one saw you do it?
Morgan Jones: No.
Lara Logan: Or heard it?
Morgan Jones: No, there was too much noise.
The incident report says that “Jones” tried to drive to the compound but upon hitting Ansar al-Sharia roadblocks, his driver judged they’d be killed if they tried to get closer, so they turned back. They were gone from “Jones’” villa for no more than an hour total.
But what’s remarkable about this heroic scene is the designed unverifiability of it. Had “Jones” claimed to have shot a man, there’d be bullets missing from his gun, a dead body. Instead, he bashed the guy’s face in, which is not only more exciting, but also has the advantage of being quieter. No witness to see or hear the event.
I’m far more interested in “Jones’” claim to have gone to the hospital (guarded by the same militia whose roadblocks convinced “Jones” to turn back from the compound) to see Chris Stevens’ dead body. The incident report says, instead, that one of his guards had gone to the hospital to check after one of the guards who had been shot and while there had seen and photographed the Ambassador, and learned he had still been alive when brought to the hospital by Libyan men but then died. Crucially, “Jones’” incident report claims he didn’t tell his own Managing Director that night about Stevens (at least about Stevens’ passing, but possibly even about his being brought to the hospital).
I kept quiet about the Ambassadors [sic] death as I knew there would be huge repercussions.
Compare that with what he told 60 Minutes.
Morgan Jones: I was dreading seeing who it was, you know? It didn’t take long to get to the room. And I could see in through the glass. And I didn’t even have to go into the room to see who it was. I knew who it was immediately.
Lara Logan: Who was it?
Morgan Jones: It was the ambassador, dead. Yeah, shocking.
Morgan Jones said he’d never felt so angry in his life. Only hours earlier, Amb. Chris Stevens had sought him out, concerned about the security at the U.S. Special Mission Compound where Morgan was in charge of the Libyan guard force.
The story was nonsensical in any case, because if an American employed contractor had seen the Ambassador’s body in a hospital controlled by a hostile militia, you might thing he’d claim custody of the body.
But the story does serve to let “Jones” claim that he had just spoken about security with Stevens.
The very last scene of 60 Minutes’ now-discredited “scoop” on Benghazi — in which the Project Manager (alternately described as the Security Manager) for the project, whom 60 Minutes names Morgan Jones and WaPo names Dylan Davies describes his own heroism that didn’t appear in the official report — features a 60 Minutes cameraman “discovering” Ambassador Chris Stevens’ itinerary for September 12.
The discovery is just the latest in a series of what I call “Left Behind” novels associated with the Benghazi story — the remarkable discovery by media outlets of paper documents left behind the scene of the crime. Other instances are:
And now we’re supposed to believe that over
two years a year after the attack on Benghazi, journalists are still finding paper documents that magically survived a fire that killed State IT guy Sean Smith and would lead to the death of Chris Stevens.
What’s interesting is this latest Left Behind novel purports to be one of the very same documents the WaPo found on October 3 — Chris Stevens’ itinerary. Except it differs in content, showing Stevens meeting with the Arabian Gulf Oil Company rather than the Italian Consul.
There’s nothing inherently suspicious about there being two different versions of Stevens’ itinerary. The WaPo version includes hand-written additions, as if it were a draft. But I do find it remarkable that these documents keep appearing in a compound that got devastated by fire and then lay unguarded for years.
Oh. One more thing. Almost every single document that was “found” by these journalists could have been a Blue Mountain Group document. Except, of course, Chris Stevens’ diary.
But I’ll come back to that in a later post.
Meanwhile, something major seems to be missing from the narrative of Dylan Davies AKA Morgan Jones.
In the latest narrative, he’s the one who “trained” security guards at the compound. Elsewhere, his role might better be described as the one who hired locals with zero fighting experience and paid them so little they would be easy to buy off and over five months on the ground never fixed this obvious problem. He’s also the one who hired two guys who earlier in the summer just happened to attack the compound.
Blue Mountain hired about 20 Libyan men – including some who say they had minimal training – to screen visitors and help patrol the mission at Benghazi, according to Reuters interviews.
Some of the guards sustained injuries and said they were ill-prepared to protect themselves or others when heavily armed militants last month stormed the rented villa that was serving as the mission.
They also described being hired by Blue Mountain after a casual recruiting and screening process.
State Department security officials had their own concerns about some of the guards at the mission months before the recent attack, according to emails obtained by Reuters this week. One guard who had been recently fired and another on the company’s payroll were suspected of throwing a homemade bomb into the U.S. compound in April. They were questioned but not charged.
Several of Blue Mountain’s Libyan employees told Reuters that they had no prior security training or experience.
“I was never a revolutionary or a fighter, I have never picked up a weapon during the war or after it,” said Abdelaziz al-Majbiri, 28, who was shot in the legs during the September 11 assault.
The Libyan commander in charge of the local guards at the mission was a former English teacher who said he heard about Blue Mountain from a neighbor. “I don’t have a background in security, I’ve never held a gun in my life,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.
When hired, the commander said he was told “you have great English and get along with everyone and are punctual; we want you to be a guard commander.”
Whatever else Blue Mountain Group was — and I think that remains an active question — it was a contractor that provided guard service that might be tailor made to make this kind of attack on the compound easy as pie. I’m flabbergasted that this hasn’t been a more central part of efforts to figure out who Dylan Davies AKA Morgan Jones is and why he might be coming forward with a dramatically different story now.
One final point, for now.
Even more than Dianne Feinstein’s so-called reversal on the NSA, I’m intrigued by John McCain’s.
“We have always eavesdropped on people around the world. But the advance of technology has given us enormous capabilities, and I think you might make an argument that some of this capability has been very offensive both to us and to our allies,” McCain said. “Eavesdropping on someone’s private cellphone obviously is something that is offensive to the chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.”
“I think it may even call for a select committee, perhaps even bicameral, when you look at the damage that this has done to our relationship with some of our closest friends and allies,” said McCain, who was the unsuccessful GOP presidential nominee pitted against Obama in 2008. Still, McCain noted that foreign governments are not “innocent” because they also have spied on the U.S. government.
In the past, McCain hasn’t been uncritical in his comments on NSA, but he has used it to fearmonger about terrorists. More tellingly, he favors NSA taking the lead in Internet monitoring for domestic cybersecurity, effectively advocating for domestic spying. And yet now he’s squeamish because we’re wiretapping leaders of other countries?
Sure, it may be he’s just latching onto an issue to attack Obama on. Though who needs a new one given that 60 Minutes has resuscitated the old one?
Of course, McCain is the kind of guy who likes to freelance on foreign policy issues, frequently to pressure Obama from the right. And I can’t help but note that Bibi Netanyahu and Obama spoke today for no apparent reason aside from “regular consultations.”
President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke by phone today as part of their regular consultations. The two leaders discussed recent developments related to Iran, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and other regional issues. The two leaders agreed to continue their close coordination on a range of security issues.
While there has been no public report that we tapped Bibi, and while I’m sure the Israelis take his security very seriously, he’s precisely the kind of frenemy I could see the government prioritizing. And while I’m sure Germany spies on us (ineffectively), McCain knows that Israel spies on (and hacks) us extensively, making it a more apt reference as a country that is itself not “innocent.”
Just a gut feel: when the Section 215 database got revealed, a wide range of Senators were up in arms until, in secret briefings, they all of a sudden learned something that calmed their nerves (I strongly believe NSA strips congressional numbers from the Section 215 database on intake). And I think it not outside the realm of possibility that McCain has shown newfound concern about NSA upon learning one of his interlocutors might be targeted as well.
A big part of Stephen Preston’s response to Mark Udall’s questions about whether he supports adequate disclosure to Congress consists of insisting the CIA Directors he worked with — Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, presumably Mike Morell as Acting Director, and John Brennan — have supported full disclosure to Congress.
Doing a better job of congressional notification and ensuring the proper provision of information concerning covert action and other intelligence activities to the Intelligence Committees has been a top priority of the Directors under which I have served, starting with Director Panetta, and one that I have fully supported.
What we regard as proper practice today is driven by faithful application of the National Security Act of 1947. It is also informed by the very high priority the Directors under which I have served have placed on doing a better job of congressional notification and ensuring the proper provision of information concerning covert action and other intelligence activities to the Intelligence Committees. To repeat, I have fully supported these efforts and, if confirmed, will be fully committed to such efforts with respect to the Armed Services Committees.
While it may or may not be true that the Directors under whom Preston has served have not engaged in the kind of manipulative briefings that characterized the torture program, every time I read these assurances from Preston I remembered what Barb Mikulski said at John Brennan’s confirmation hearing.
Now, I want to get to the job of the CIA director. I’m going to be blunt — and this would be no surprise to you, sir.
But I’ve been on this committee for more than 10 years. And with the exception of Mr. Panetta, I feel I’ve been jerked around by every CIA director.
I’ve either been misled, misrepresented, had to pull information out, often at the most minimal kind of way, from Tenet, with his little aluminum rods to tell us that we had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to Porter Goss, not worth coming.
You know the problems we’ve had with torture. The chair has spoken eloquently about it all the way.
And, quite frankly, during those questions, they were evaded, they were distorted, et cetera.
While she didn’t name him as she did Tenet and Goss, neither did she except David Petraeus, like she did Leon Panetta.
This would seem to suggest that Mikulski has a very different understanding of Petraeus’ commitment to briefing Congress than Preston claims to have.
There has been all manner of commentary about the rendition and detention on a poorly functioning ship of Abu Anas al Libi. There are credulous claims about the humanity of the High Value Interrogation Group’s tactics that nevertheless remain officially classified. There’s the growing awareness that al-Libi’s case differs from Ahmed Warsame’s in several key ways. And then there’s John Bellinger, trolling the Obama Administration for violating rules the Bush Administration did not in superb fashion.
These are important questions. But they distract from another important question.
What kind of intelligence do they really expect to get from al-Libi?
The explanation for his capture has focused on his alleged role in the 1998 Embassy Bombings. While there are no statutes of limitation for murder, that’s nevertheless an event that took place over 15 years ago. Even some of the analysts we often rely on — not to mention his family — suggest he hasn’t had an active role in al Qaeda for over a decade, or at least since he returned home to Libya 2 years ago. Lisa Monaco offered weak claims about the importance of al-Libi.
During an appearance on PBS Newshour, Deputy National Security Adviser Lisa Monaco repeatedly referred to Abu Anas Al-Libi as a “member” of Al Qaeda. However, she stopped short of calling the Libyan-born Al-Libi a “senior operational leader”—a phrase which seemed to have special significance when the Justice Department evaluated the legality of lethal force against U.S. citizens and is also believed to apply to targeting of foreign nationals outside combat zones.
Newshour reporter Jeffrey Brown asked Monaco about whether Al-Libi posed an “imminent” threat to Americans, but Monaco wouldn’t say that and also seemed to avoid declaring that he was an Al-Qaeda operative or even a leader of the group.
“Al-Libi did pose a threat to the United States as a senior al-Qaida member and somebody who is also charged in an indictment for his role as part of the Al Qaeda worldwide conspiracy,” Monaco declared.
This is, at the least, a significant difference from Ahmed Ghailani (who was seized with an active cell in Pakistan and interrogated for years about that active cell before being tried for his role in the Embassy Bombings) and Ahmed Warsame (who was seized for his active role in working with AQAP and al-Shabaab), though it perhaps resembles Suleiman Abu Ghaith.
I’m not saying al-Libi had no active role in terrorism. The timing — the raid took place at the same time as the strike on Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, who allegedly helped plan attacks in Kenya — might suggest al-Libi played some role in the Westgate Mall attack and other operations in Africa.
Perhaps the most complete explanation for why al-Libi is a current threat is this description.
An unclassified report published in August 2012 highlighted al Qaeda’s strategy for building a fully operational network in Libya. The report (“Al Qaeda in Libya: A Profile”) was prepared by the federal research division of the Library of Congress (LOC) under an agreement with the Defense Department’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO). [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda’s plan for Libya highlighted in congressional report.]
Abu Anas al Libi has played a key role in al Qaeda’s plan for Libya, according to the report’s authors. He was described as the “builder of al Qaeda’s network in Libya.”
Al Qaeda’s senior leadership (AQSL) has “issued strategic guidance to followers in Libya and elsewhere to take advantage of the Libyan rebellion,” the report reads. AQSL ordered its followers to “gather weapons,” “establish training camps,” “build a network in secret,” “establish an Islamic state,” and “institute sharia” law in Libya.
Abu Anas al Libi was identified as the key liaison between AQSL and others inside Libya who were working for al Qaeda. “Reporting indicates that intense communications from AQSL are conducted through Abu Anas al Libi, who is believed to be an intermediary between [Ayman al] Zawahiri and jihadists in Libya,” the report notes.
Al Libi is “most likely involved in al Qaeda strategic planning and coordination between AQSL and Libyan Islamist militias who adhere to al Qaeda’s ideology,” the report continues.
Al Libi and his fellow al Qaeda operatives “have been conducting consultations with AQSL in Afghanistan and Pakistan about announcing the presence of a branch of the organization that will be led by returnees from Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan, and by leading figures from the former LIFG.” The LIFG refers to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group formed in Libya in the 1990s.
The suggestion that al-Libi might be the liaison between Ayman al-Zawahiri and extremists in Libya (extremists we helped to overthrow Qaddafi) is more interesting, particularly given Libya’s public objections to al-Libi’s rendition. Perhaps the ultimate plan is to hold al-Libi responsible for Benghazi (though interrogating him in a floating prison might endanger any charges if he was involved, which would be a big problem given the need for some finality on Benghazi). But it might raise interesting questions about whether the extremists we helped in Libya really constitute al Qaeda, or instead constitute a legitimate force within that country.
As of now, however, the US public story is that we captured this guy who has been living in the open for two years for a crime he committed 15 years ago. And that instead of whisking him immediately to NY to stand trial for that crime, we are instead pissing off the Libyan government and nudging up against a slew of domestic and international laws by conducting a floating interrogation from which we might learn only decades old facts. If that’s the story (and again, I suspect the government at least claims there is more), it makes all the legal and ethical issues surrounding his detention all the more problematic.