Update: Sadly, it appears that the University of Denver has become cowardly and withdrawn the video, but I’m leaving the embed language in the post just to show the folly of their action.
Update 2: And now it’s back, but at a new URL. Embed should be restored (for the video, not Broadwell…)
There was a lot of discussion last night of the YouTube you see here, which shows Paula Broadwell in an October 26 appearance at the University of Denver. One of the better analyses of the appearance, along with a transcription of Broadwell’s comments on the Behghazi incident, was written by Blake Hounshell of Foreign Policy.
I will leave it to others to discuss whether Broadwell disclosed classified information with her reference to the CIA holding two militia members or if she might have been confused on that point as Marcy suggests. I want to concentrate on two other points that jumped out to me regarding the appearance and what Broadwell said.
First, the appearance is at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. As the school points out, it is named after Madeleine Albright’s father and has a history of producing prominent graduates in international relations. However, this school also came to my attention early last year when I was researching Raymond Davis. I found that Davis had a history of previous addresses where he had lived in close proximity to university programs such as the Josef Korbel school. In fact, I found that one of Davis’ “business” operations even had a corporate officer who appeared to be a student at Josef Korbel. The information I found led me to believe that whatever his duties overseas, it seemed likely that Davis’ duties while in the US may have been to recruit for the CIA and that graduate programs like this one were seen as prime recruiting grounds.
The second point I want to hit is how Broadwell described Petraeus’ response after the Behnghazi attack. From Hounshell’s transcript (around 35 minutes into the video, as Hounshell points out): →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Eli Lake continues to serve as the mouthpiece for a political attack explicitly crafted by close Rove associates. In today’s installment, he repeats Mitt Romney campaign surrogate, UT Congressman Jason Chaffetz’ latest attack: that the State Department cut security after the hot war in Libya ended.
In the six months leading up to the assault on the United States consulate in Benghazi, the State Department reduced the number of trained Americans guarding U.S. facilities in Libya, according to a leading House Republican investigating the Sept. 11 anniversary attacks. The reduction in U.S. security personnel increased America’s reliance on local Libyan guards for the protection of its diplomats.
Chaffetz went further Wednesday, saying in an interview that the number of American diplomatic security officers serving in Libya had been reduced in the six months prior to the attacks. “The fully trained Americans who can deal with a volatile situation were reduced in the six months leading up to the attacks,” he said. “When you combine that with the lack of commitment to fortifying the physical facilities, you see a pattern.”
I suppose it would be too much for Lake to acknowledge that Chaffetz is a Romney surrogate and note the repeated admissions that Romney’s team intends to turn the Benghazi attack into Obama’s Jimmy Carter. Doing so might reveal that this outrage is, to some extent, manufactured.
With the help of Eli Lake.
Perhaps he could at least read this article.
Not only does it support the argument that Mike Rogers, the House Intelligence Chair, should be the one to conduct Congress’ investigation, not a Romney surrogate on a committee without the clearances to do so.
Rep. Michael Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, made clear Wednesday that congressional staff will be looking into the attack, in addition to a probe by the State Department’s inspector general and another State Department investigation required by federal law.
But it explains why the surrogate for a candidate running with the House Budget Chair really shouldn’t be squawking about the State Department cutting security after a hot war ends.
Since 2010, Congress cut $296 million from the State Department’s spending request for embassy security and construction, with additional cuts in other State Department security accounts, according to an analysis by a former appropriations committee staffer.
I confess I’m skeptical every time a set of documents gets “left behind” in Libya. First there were the intelligence documents showing how the US and UK collaborated in the rendition and torture of Libyan opposition figures. Then there was Ambassador Chris Stevens’ journal, in apparently undamaged condition. And now there are the documents a WaPo reporter found at the still unsecured compound.
Documents detailing weapons collection efforts, emergency evacuation protocols, the full internal itinerary of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’s trip and the personnel records of Libyans who were contracted to secure the mission were among the items scattered across the floors of the looted compound when a Washington Post reporter and a translator visited Wednesday.
At least one document found amid the clutter indicates that Americans at the mission were discussing the possibility of an attack in early September, just two days before the assault took place. The document is a memorandum dated Sept. 9 from the U.S. mission’s security office to the 17th February Martyrs Brigade, the Libyan-government-sanctioned militia that was guarding the compound, making plans for a “quick reaction force,” or QRF, that would provide security.
“In the event of an attack on the U.S. Mission,” the document states, “QRF will request additional support from the 17th February Martyrs Brigade.”
Other the documents detail — with names, photographs, phone numbers and other personal information — the Libyans contracted to provide security for the mission from a British-based private firm, Blue Mountain. Some of those Libyans say they now fear for their lives, and the State Department has said it shares concerns about their safety.
Not only do I find it a remarkable coinkydink that only in Libya do documents have a way of conveniently appearing. But all the documents in question are documents that address a specifically relevant subject matter at a convenient time. Moreover, given earlier reports that documents showing contacts were looted, I’m doubly skeptical an itinerary of Chris Stevens’ meetings would be left lying around, particularly given all the questions about what he was doing in Benghazi. And I’ll come back to my thoughts about the Libyan security contractors in a later post.
Ah well. None of that takes away from the laudable work of the reporters that continue to unearth this stuff.
Which brings me to the real question raised by the discovery of these documents. Thus far, at least 3 media teams have spent significant time at the compound.
And yet the FBI haven’t shown up for a visit once.
Perhaps that’s a factor of the FBI having chased their Arabic Agents out of the Bureau (I haven’t heard of similar problems with Agents of North African descent); it’d be a lot easier to at least do a few evidence collection visits if the FBI officers didn’t look and sound like Ken and Barbie. But in the WaPo’s case, at least, a reporter and a translator made it safely in and out of the compound.
Maybe the FBI can deputize the press to conduct this investigation?
In addition to the rather amusing fact that Darrell Issa is conducting an investigation that Mike Rogers should be conducting, there’s another oddity about his “investigation.” The answers to the questions he asks Hillary Clinton have been available for over 10 days in this WSJ front page article.
In his letter, Issa asks,
In the September 21 article, the WSJ listed several of the attacks in Issa’s letter (as well as an April 10 attack on the UN’s envoy). More importantly, it provided anonymous explanations from senior State Department officials describing their thinking about security in Benghazi.
The State Department chose to maintain only limited security in Benghazi, Libya, despite months of sporadic attacks there on U.S. and other Western missions. And while the U.S. said it would ask Libya to boost security there, it did so just once, for a one-week period in June, according to Libyan officials.
State Department officials said security for the consulate was frequently reviewed and was deemed sufficient to counter what U.S. officials considered to be the most likely threat at the time: a limited hit-and-run attack with rocket-propelled grenades or improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
There was a string of attacks in Benghazi in the months before Sept. 11, including a June 6 IED explosion outside the consulate compound. “These types of incidents were the ones that were our principal concerns,” a senior State Department official said. Based on the outcome of the June 6 attack, in which a perimeter wall was damaged but no Americans hurt, a second State Department official added: “Our security plan worked.”
[After the Brits pulled out of their consulate in Benghazi] The U.S. deemed the security level sufficient and decided to stay, “given the very important mission that we have in eastern Libya to support U.S. national security interests,” said a senior State Department official. He said “robust” security improvements had been made to the compound since the Americans moved into it in May 2011, including cement barriers and barbed wire.
More importantly, the article describes who made the decision to opt for a light security approach over something more aggressive: Ambassador Stevens.
Current and former officials said the security choices in Benghazi reflected efforts by Mr. Stevens to maintain a low-profile security posture and show faith in Libya’s new leaders, despite questions about their ability to rein in heavily armed bands of militants. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
The NYT reports that–as already happened in Lebanon and Iran in the last year or so–the attack on the Consulate in Benghazi seriously set back CIA’s intelligence gathering efforts in Libya.
“It’s a catastrophic intelligence loss,” said one American official who has served in Libya and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the F.B.I. is still investigating the attack. “We got our eyes poked out.”
Curiously, the article doesn’t mention anything about my current obsession about the attack, the reports that attackers took away documents from the embassy listing those cooperating with our intelligence (as well as describing oil negotiations). If the attackers walked away with a CIA location’s files, of course the CIA’s HUMINT network and SIGINT efforts would be compromised; the attackers would have a road map of what the CIA was doing!
Instead, the article uses the number of spooks evacuated from Benghazi as an indication of how much intelligence work was going on.
Among the more than two dozen American personnel evacuated from the city after the assault on the American mission and a nearby annex were about a dozen C.I.A. operatives and contractors, who played a crucial role in conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city.
Remember, when rescuers showed up at a safe house after the attack, they expected 10 people; they weren’t prepared for the 37 they found, which made the ambush on the safe house more difficult to fight.
But he had a transport problem. Having been told to expect 10 Americans and having found 37, Obeidi did not have enough vehicles to break out, despite having one heavy anti-aircraft gun mounted on a pickup truck.
“I was being bombarded by calls from all over the country by Libyan government officials who wanted me to hurry and get them out,” he said. “But I told them that we were in such difficult circumstances and that I needed more men and more cars.”
Eventually dozens more vehicles were dispatched from pro-government militia brigades and, with the sun rising, the convoy headed back to the airport where an aircraft flew a first group of U.S. personnel out to the Libyan capital.
Though I’m wondering whether at least some of the 37 were DIA, since right after this happened, DOD announced it would hire contractors–including Blackwater–to train DIA personnel deploying overseas.
In any case, the number of people evacuated must have led to the discovery that many the people working at the Consulate were working off the books, because in addition to the Libyan Special Forces partnering with us to protect the Consulate, the number was also a surprise to Libya’s Deputy Prime Minister.
Though the agency has been cooperating with the new post-Qaddafi Libyan intelligence service, the size of the C.I.A.’s presence in Benghazi apparently surprised some Libyan leaders. The deputy prime minister, Mustafa Abushagour, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal last week saying that he learned about some of the delicate American operations in Benghazi only after the attack on the mission, in large part because a surprisingly large number of Americans showed up at the Benghazi airport to be evacuated.
“We have no problem with intelligence sharing or gathering, but our sovereignty is also key,” said Mr. Abushagour.
Ah sovereignty. That pesky issue keeps biting us in the ass with our so-called allies.
All of this is not to ignore the really big news from Libya over the weekend: the large protests against militias in the city, which the Administration is hailing as proof of the democratic instincts of the Libans. Though I suspect we’ll learn this was more about Libyan counter-offensive (possibly with US assistance) than just spontaneous protests (that is, as the original attack used cover of a protest, I suspect this counter-offensive did too).
But the subtext of this NYT story seems to be that we had a bunch of CIA guys working in two undefended locations-purportedly “safe houses” that the attackers knew enough about to deploy mortars to attack them. And that leaving the spooks like sitting ducks rather unsurprisingly led to the attackers compromising all their intelligence-gathering going on in Benghazi.
Michael Calderone catches CNN not disclosing that their reporting purportedly based on “a source familiar with Ambassador Stevens’ thinking” was actually working off his personal journal which they had obtained and not disclosed to the FBI team investigating his killing.
On Wednesday on his show, “Anderson Cooper 360,” Cooper told Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that “a source familiar with Ambassador Stevens’ thinking told us that in the months before his death he talked about being worried about the never-ending security threats that he was facing in Benghazi and specifically about the rise in Islamic extremism and growing al Qaeda presence.” The source, Cooper continued, “also mentioned [Stevens] being on an al Qaeda hit list.”
But what Cooper didn’t reveal at the time was that CNN’s sourcing was tied, at least partially, to Stevens’ thinking as written in his personal journal.
In one version of their explanation CNN said they “came upon” the journal (Calderone has the transcription).
We came upon the journal through our reporting and notified the family.
In another, they describe it consisting of seven pages in a hard-bound book.
The journal consists of just seven pages of handwriting in a hard-bound book.
Several things stink about this story. First of all, consider that the attack was in Benghazi, not Tripoli, where Stevens was stationed and where he presumably kept his personal affects. So for CNN to have “come upon” it in Benghazi, it presumably would have been on Stevens’ person when he was attacked. If that’s the case, how did it survive the fire [correction, smoke] that killed Stevens?
And consider the role of this picture. CNN included in its spread of pictures of the trashed Consulate. While it clearly shows that some papers did survive, the picture immediately following shows just ashes survived the flames. Also, this image shows the papers having been ransacked; we know that the attackers got sensitive papers. How likely is it that the attackers wouldn’t have taken the Ambassador’s personal journal, even while taking everything else of interest?
That suggests two possibilities. That the journal was on Stevens’ person when he was brought to the hospital, and the person who brought him (or someone in the hospital) gave it to CNN. Or, that the attackers got the journal and one of them got it to CNN (which might explain why CNN’s language here is so sketchy).
There is, of course, one other possibility: that the journal always remained in Tripoli, at the Embassy or the Ambassador’s residence, and one of the staffers shared it with CNN.
In any case, I suspect the reason CNN didn’t reveal they had the journal at first has to do with how they found it. But that may mean they have other relevant information about the attack.
Fox News quotes sources claiming that former Gitmo detainee Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamouda Bin Qumu was involved in–and may have planned–the attack on American’s Consulate in Benghazi.
Intelligence sources tell Fox News they are convinced the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was directly tied to Al Qaeda — with a former Guantanamo detainee involved.
That revelation comes on the same day a top Obama administration official called last week’s deadly assault a “terrorist attack” — the first time the attack has been described that way by the administration after claims it had been a “spontaneous” act.
Sufyan Ben Qumu is thought to have been involved and even may have led the attack, Fox News’ intelligence sources said. Qumu, a Libyan, was released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007 and transferred into Libyan custody on the condition he be kept in jail. He was released by the Qaddafi regime as part of its reconciliation effort with Islamists in 2008.
His Guantanamo files also show he has ties to the financiers behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The declassified files also point to ties with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a known Al Qaeda affiliate.
Like Fox, I strongly suspect the Benghazi attack was planned in advance.
But Fox has grasped on one of the most damning pieces of evidence in Hamouda’s Gitmo file to insinuate close ties to al Qaeda–that his alias was found on Mustafa Al Hawsawi’s laptop–without considering that his role as a truck driver for an Osama bin Laden company might explain it. Nor does it look at Hamouda’s participation in an LIFG splinter group, which may have caused him financial troubles and might make his role in factional politics today rather interesting.
Plus, there’s more interesting details about Hamouda in the public record. For example, in a July 2, 2007 Administrative Review Board, Hamouda reportedly said he didn’t want to go back to Libya for fear he’d be held responsible for earlier drug charges. But a September 25, 2007 WikiLeaks cable records his lawyer saying he had no such fears–both in June 2007 (so before the ARB) and again in September. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Here’s a few data points to suggest that the protests in Muslim countries may have been, in part, an effort to grab sensitive diplomatic correspondence.
I noted–but did not quote–this report on the documents taken from the US Consulate in Benghazi.
Sensitive documents have gone missing from the consulate in Benghazi and the supposedly secret location of the “safe house” in the city, where the staff had retreated, came under sustained mortar attack. Other such refuges across the country are no longer deemed “safe”.
Some of the missing papers from the consulate are said to list names of Libyans who are working with Americans, putting them potentially at risk from extremist groups, while some of the other documents are said to relate to oil contracts.
Then on Saturday, Yemeni lawyer Haykal Bafana suggested we might soon see secret files taken from the Yemeni Embassy last week.
Forecasted in the local press :
#Wikileaks #Yemen soon from secret info in computers & documents looted from the US Embassy, Sanaa.
Here’s a picture of “protestors” in Sanaa carrying out computer equipment.
Today, Tim Shorrock described a military person on Fox admitting that Marines at Embassies prioritize protecting classified information over lives.
Military guy on Fox: Marines’ priorities at the embassies are 1) protect classified communications & 2) protect human lives. In that order.
Now, possibly it’s only the Libyan attack that got or even deliberately sought documents. Libyans have proven to be master information operatives in the past. After all, somebody conveniently left documents implicating the US and UK in rendition to Libya and torture. Human Rights Watch used those files to compile its recent report on torture.
But the US Embassy in Tunis was also breached (though not, I think, sufficiently to get files). And the German Embassy in Khartoum was overrun, so the “protestors” there probably got close enough to get files as well (I’m less sure about the breaches at the British and US Embassies in Khartoum).
In all of these successful breaches, there seems to have been some cooperation from local guards who allowed the protestors to get close or into the diplomatic properties, so they may also have had information on where to look for the most sensitive files.
It’s possible that none of these breaches was designed specifically to get diplomatic correspondence (and remember, these would presumably be far more sensitive than what we’ve seen from WikiLeaks, none of which were Top Secret) and only in Libya is it clear attackers did get documents.
But it’s worth considering that all the places we’ve sent Marine response teams, there may be very compromising documents floating around.
As anti-American (and anti-Western) protest continue to spread across the Muslim world, the White House continues to claim the protests are all a response to the film, The Innocence of Muslims. Yesterday, Jay Carney said,
I think it’s important to note with regards to that protest
that there are protests taking place in different countries across the world that are responding to the movie that has circulated on the Internet. As Secretary Clinton said today, the United States government had nothing to do with this movie. We reject its message and its contents. We find it disgusting and reprehensible. America has a history of religious tolerance and respect for religious beliefs that goes back to our nation’s founding. We are stronger because we are the home to people of all religions, including millions of Muslims, and we reject the denigration of religion.
We also believe that there is no justification at all for responding to this movie with violence.
I would note that, again, the protests we’re seeing around the region are in reaction to this movie. They are not directly in reaction to any policy of the United States or the government of the United States or the people of the United States.
And he said something substantially similar in a gaggle a short time ago.
There are two problems with that.
First, the evidence in Libya that the attack, at least, was planned in advance with insider help. The Telegraph provides more details on the compromised safe houses and some of the sensitive documents taken from the Consulate.
Then there are more specific contexts, such as President Hadi’s continued efforts to consolidate power in Yemen, as Iona Craig lays out. Plus, there is more opposition to US policy in Yemen than in some other countries in the region.
I’ve even seen credible questions about the role of increasing food costs–the same kind of pressure that contributed to the Arab Spring last year.
But ultimately, too, there’s the question of why in several countries local guards have apparently allowed protestors to access the targeted compounds. While that could be a response to the movie, there also seems to be a factionalism involved.
All that’s not to say this always reflects a widespread opposition to US policies in all the countries involved, especially Libya.
But it’s to say that the White House wants this to be about a response to a movie, rather than a more nuanced response to some of the challenges that remain in our relations to the Middle East, including some justifiable opposition to our policies, either present or past.
I can understand doing that to get through the immediate moment of protests. But if the White House continues to ignore these underlying issues after the riots die down, it will be a big problem.
There’s a weird bifurcation in the coverage of yesterday’s Libya tragedy.
The Islamist plot in Benghazi
One strand of coverage revised the initial claims that the mob that burned the consulate in Libya were responding solely to an anti-Mohammed film, The Innocence of Muslims. Jihadist chat rooms and–presumably–SIGINT made it clear that the attack on the consulate was planned in advance, probably as retaliation for the death of Abu Yahya al-Libi, whom we killed in a drone strike in June.
The officials said there were indications that members of a militant faction calling itself Ansar al Sharia – which translates as Supporters of Islamic Law – may have been involved in organizing the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya’s second-largest city.
They also said some reporting from the region suggested that members of Al-Qaeda’s north Africa-based affiliate, known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, may have been involved.
“It bears the hallmarks of an organized attack” and appeared to be preplanned, one U.S. official said.
Not only does it suggest that Moon of Alabama was (once again) right. But it also made me remember this post from All Things Counterterrorism, which warned that killing Abu Yahya al-Libi might make Al Qaeda even more extreme.
One seriously underplayed piece of evidence that this was planned is that after Consulate employees evacuated to a safe house and a helicopter of commandoes came to recuse them, they were ambushed at the purportedly secret location.
Capt. Fathi al-Obeidi, whose special operations unit was ordered by Libya’s authorities to meet an eight-man U.S. Marine force at Benghazi airport, said that after his men and the Marines had found the American survivors who had evacuated the blazing consulate, the ostensibly secret location in an isolated villa came under an intense and highly accurate mortar barrage.
“I really believe that this attack was planned,” he said, adding to suggestions by other Libyan officials that at least some of the hostility towards the Americans was the work of experienced combatants. “The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries.”
Speaking of the rescue mission, he said: “A team of commandos arrived by air and went to a farm which we thought was a secret location. Once they got there, they came under heavy fire from heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, which resulted in the death of two others.”
(Note, I’m not sure, but this may suggest two safe locations were compromised, an urban villa and a farm, each attacked with different weapons; I’m trying to clarify this. Update: Yes, two sites were compromised–apparently because the US shared the information with the Libyan militia.)
This suggests not only that professionals launched this attack with advance warning and serious weaponry (this is part of the reasons Libyans initially blamed it on Qaddafi dead-enders), but that they did it with either inside knowledge or incredibly good intelligence.
The Islamophobic plot in California
The second strand of coverage has puzzled through who was responsible for the film itself.
The film was made by a “Sam Bacile,” who claimed to the WSJ and AP to be Israeli. Then a “consultant” on the film, the militant Christian Steve Klein, refuted that claim, while claiming to know little of the film-maker’s real story.
Klein told me that Bacile, the producer of the film, is not Israeli, and most likely not Jewish, as has been reported, and that the name is, in fact, a pseudonym. He said he did not know “Bacile”‘s real name. He said Bacile contacted him because he leads anti-Islam protests outside of mosques and schools, and because, he said, he is a Vietnam veteran and an expert on uncovering al Qaeda cells in California.
When I asked him to describe Bacile, he said: “I don’t know that much about him. I met him, I spoke to him for an hour. He’s not Israeli, no. I can tell you this for sure, the State of Israel is not involved, Terry Jones (the radical Christian Quran-burning pastor) is not involved. His name is a pseudonym. All these Middle Eastern folks I work with have pseudonyms. I doubt he’s Jewish. I would suspect this is a disinformation campaign.”
Then the AP figured out “Sam Bacile” is actually a Coptic Christian with 2010 check kiting conviction named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula who lied to them about his identity.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, told The Associated Press in an interview outside Los Angeles that he was manager for the company that produced “Innocence of Muslims,” which mocked Muslims and the prophet Muhammad and may have caused inflamed mobs that attacked U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading