Darrell Issa Exposes the CIA as a Foreign Policy Debate Stunt

Darrell Issa just released a bunch of documents so as to seed the Sunday shows in time for Monday’s foreign policy debate. [Update: See Josh Rogin’s reported description of some of the sensitivities Issa exposed.]

Here’s a running explication of what he released, all in the name of “national security.”

PDF 1: In December, Jeffrey Feltman asked Patrick Kennedy to approve “a combined footprint of 35 U.S. government personnel in Benghazi.” That would include 10 people identified as State: 8 State Department and USAID, and 2 temporary duty personnel.

Which leaves 25 people unaccounted for.

As it happens, the Libyans say there were 29 people they hadn’t expected when they came to evacuate the Americans. They complained afterwards that the Americans hadn’t told them about all the spooks they’d have onsite.

Well, now, Issa just confirmed they were not State or even USAID personnel. He has confirmed the Libyans’ claims–that they were spooks.

And then there’s this:

Because of budget considerations and the reduced footprint, Diplomatic Security’s current presence consists of two Special Agents…

As far back as December 2011, budget considerations were driving the small security footprint in Benghazi.

The budget considerations put into place by the GOP cuts to State’s budget.

PDF 14: As of February 1, 2012, the sole terrorist group Eric Nordstrom expressed concern about was LIFG, whom we partnered with to overthrow Qaddafi.

PDF 17: Blue Mountain Group, the British security firm that had provided the unarmed Libyans at the mission, was one of just 7 firms approved by the Libyan government.

PDF 23: This is an annual crime survey, filled out in February. Though it describes a lot of crime–committed by criminals who are indistinguishable from the militia–it does say diplomats and expats can avoid crime–including murder–by avoiding being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Though note PDF 117, which says by July the likelihood of an “isolating incident” is high.

PDF 27: On December 29, 2011: Someone burgled a 100-KG safe from the International Democratic Institute. This was before–but by just a matter of weeks–the detention of employees (including Ray LaHood’s son) of similar NGOs in Egypt.

PDF 45: The “Imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman Brigade” took credit for the May attack on the ICRC and the June attack on the US mission, suggesting ties to Egypt. Cf PDFs 107, 110.

PDF 47: One of the reasons Tripoli (not Benghazi) needed more security is because there were so many VIP visits. Of course, as part of this witch hunt, Jason Chaffetz did a short-notice trip to Tripoli (he did not travel to Benghazi, which raises questions about the value of his trip). So this witch hunt, in addition to being led by people who cut Diplomatic Security, creating the budgetary stresses underlying this, also added to the stresses of VIP visits.

PDF 55: The discussion of a women’s rights activists’ conversations with diplomatic personnel is one of the conversations Issa should have redacted.

PDF 56: Compare the redaction on the “from” line here with that on the same document released as Issa released it during the hearing. So these are either a different document set or Issa has been redacting things that hurt his argument. My posts on this cable are here and here.

PDF 89: Two female mission personnel from Benghazi were stopped at a roadblock. Given what we know about the staff at the mission, it appears likely these weren’t State employees.

PDF 96: One thing that thle lists of previous security incidents make clear is that the February 17 Brigade–on whom the US mission relied for security–were doing their job. They appear to have responded in timely fashion to all the earlier incidents (though were not able to bring culprits to justice). That raises questions why another militia, the Rafallah al-Sehati Brigade, was brought in the night of the attack on the mission.

PDF 97: Note the protest against the Arabian Gulf Oil Company. Ambassador Chris Stevens had multiple meetings with the company the week of the attack, and there were reports that records involving oil contracts were taken from the mission.

PDF 99-100: I had wondered why the detention of two South African contractors were included in Darrell Issa’s list of attacks on “western” targets. It turns out they were involved in the US-funded weapons abatement program.

PDF 102: Issa presumably counted each of these security incidents when giving the big numbers showing poor security in Libya. As was noted in the hearing, the majority of these incidents actually happened in Tripoli, not in Benghazi. But there’s another problem: they were also counting things like strikes by workers or clashes with drug gangs. Using Issa’s standards, then, we need military security in the US.

PDF 102: Note that a bank robbery in Benghazi was carried out by the unnamed brigade paid to guard the bank.

PDF 117: In the July summary of security incidents, the report says the likelihood of an American encountering an “isolating incident” is high.

PDF 119: In a discussion of a Sharia law conference, someone–it’s in English but it’s not clear whether it’s meant to be a translation–says:

Things are becoming clearer day by day in eastern Libya. groups and brigades are polarizing along Islamists-jihadists-secularist lines.

US drones are not only hovering all the time over eastern Libya, they also bombed a training camp run by Abdulbasit Azuz, a commander from Dernah.

Yes, you heard that right, US drones are bombing Libya already.

The following pages include video from the meeting and an Arabic text describing which brigades were involved. I’m guessing the Arabic will include some of the brigades involved in the attack.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

17 replies
  1. lizard says:

    Issa is trying to provoke a constitutional crisis by getting arrested for treason. Imagine the optics of THAT a few weeks before an election

  2. OrionATL says:

    yesterday i wrote this (in part) as a comment #3:

    ” OrionATL on October 19, 2012 at 5:06 pm said:

    i have a hard time understanding how the event at the consulate was an attack designed to kill or destroy. specifically, i don’t understand how numbers(?) of armed soldiers could have done so little killing and wounding had they intended to do so.

    the ambassador and his lieutenant died of smoke inhalation, not bullets or shrapnel. though we don’t know their allegiances, lookers-on pulled the ambassador unconscious from his building and took him to a hospital.

    i wonder if the intent of the “attack” might not have been an effort to send a message to americans, not to kill americans or destroy their consulate building.

    how many battle commanders show up in a real firefight and stand around directing traffic. how many onlookers show up to gawk at a serious firefight?

    the whole thing sounds more like a staged event or a spontaneous circus…”

    *********************

    today david ignatius has a column that quotes a cia source thusly:

    “…The senior intelligence official said the analysts’ judgment was based in part on monitoring of some of the Benghazi attackers, which showed they had been watching the Cairo protests live on television and talking about them before they assaulted the consulate.

    “We believe the timing of the attack was influenced by events in Cairo,” the senior official said, reaffirming the Cairo-Benghazi link. He said that judgment is repeated in a new report prepared this week for the House intelligence committee.

    Here’s how the senior official described the jumble of events in Benghazi that day: “The attackers were disorganized; some seemed more interested in looting. Some who claimed to have participated joined the attack as it began or after it was under way. There is no evidence of rehearsals, they never got into the safe room . . . never took any hostages, didn’t bring explosives to blow the safe room door, and didn’t use a car bomb to blow the gates…”

    at

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/benghazi-attack-becomes-political-ammunition/2012/10/19/e1ad82ae-1a2d-11e2-bd10-5ff056538b7c_story.html?hpid=z2

  3. OrionATL says:

    #1.

    republicans, in the rove era, always strike at their opponents’ strengths – thus the swiftboat attacks on kerry, a war hero, to protect bush, a malingering, drug-addled soldier protected by having a famous daddy. and thus the attack on the obama admin’s foreign policy.

    #2.

    republicans, in the rove era, routinely resort to the big lie –

    thus the claim by candidate romney that a spontaneous attack by a flash mob in a country recovering from civil war is an indication that the entirety of the obama admin’s four-year foreign policy efforts have “left america weaker”, or some variant of that claim.

    this is the big lie, a claim so preposterous that neither its lack of factual basis nor its intentional use to manipulate voters dare be called into question for fear that doing so would cause the questioner to be considered uncivil or unfairly dismissive.

  4. greengiant says:

    Sad to say, I have a problem with liars, whether they be Clinton or Romney. The thing with Romney is that he is always lying, so I can’t stand to listen to more than 4 words from the man. Issa falls in the same bag.
    Those who vote for these SPOS deserve exactly what they are going to get.

  5. greengiant says:

    Deptartment of state handed out a time line on October 15.

    There was an interview with one of the 3 Libyan guards, two of which hid out on the roof of their barracks after exchanging fire inside their barracks. Sorry can’t google the link right now.

    And another conflicting injured guard interview..
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/09/13/3001371/no-protest-before-benghazi-attack.html
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/9549126/Benghazi-consulate-attack-was-targeted-assault-says-security-guard.html

    By the latest accounts there were 5 US security, Stevens, Smith, 3 Libyan guards, a gardener and ?? in the compound. The another 32 Americans were at the “second” compound 1/2 mile away.

  6. Phoenix Woman says:

    @Bardi: Let’s see, here:

    Manning is in jail because he allegedly leaked information, including the “Collateral Murder” video, that showed what US troops some years earlier had been doing in Iraq. These troops had long since gone home and effective retaliation against them by Iraqis was highly unlikely.

    Issa outed a number of currently working CIA operatives, many of whom are in-country Libyans and who were doing some important projects in addition to their CIA work:

    One of the cables released by Issa names a woman
    human rights activist who was leading a campaign against violence and was
    detained in Benghazi. She expressed fear for her safety to U.S. officials and
    criticized the Libyan government.

    “This woman is trying to raise an anti-violence
    campaign on her own and came to the United States for help. She isn’t publicly
    associated with the U.S. in any other way but she’s now named in this cable.
    It’s a danger to her life,” the administration official said.

    Another cable names a Benghazi port manager who is
    working with the United States on an infrastructure project.

    “When you’re in a situation where Ansar al-Sharia is
    a risk to Americans, an individual like this guy, who is an innocent civilian
    who’s trying to reopen the port and is doing so in conjunction with Americans,
    could be at risk now because he’s publicly affiliated with America,” the
    official said, referring to the group thought to have led the Benghazi attack.

    One cable names a local militia commander dishing
    dirt on the inner workings of the Libyan Interior Ministry. Another cable names
    a militia commander who claims to control a senior official of the Libyan armed
    forces. Other cables contain details of conversations between third-party
    governments, such as the British and the Danes, and their private interactions
    with the U.S., the U.N., and the Libyan governments over security issues.

    “It betrays the trust of people we are trying to
    maintain contact with on a regular basis, including security officials inside
    militias and civil society people as well,” another administration official
    told The Cable. “It’s a serious
    betrayal of trust for us and it hurts our ability to maintain these contacts
    going forward. It has the potential to physically endanger these people. They
    didn’t sign up for that. Neither did we.”

    Does this remind you of how Cheney and Scooter Libby outed Valerie Plame — and her entire in-country network of Iraqi contacts — just to get back at her hubby Joe Wilson for saying that he didn’t find any WMDs or WMD precursors in Niger?

  7. angry bitter drunk says:

    Anyone remember the ridiculous comments Romney made right after the attack? At that point it appeared the election was in the bag for Obama. I seriously can’t even recall what Rmoney said anymore, only that he was widely criticized, even in the mainstream press.

    But it just hit me that perhaps that’s what has spurred the Republicans’ shit-stirring on this issue.

  8. OrionATL says:

    @greengiant:

    thanks.

    i have been looking for that dept of state chronology but can’t lay my hands on it, or the blow-by-blow i’m told clinton delivered earlier this month.

  9. OrionATL says:

    @Phoenix Woman:

    i’m glad to see commenters here linking the gov’t’s persecution of pvt. manning to those of our congressghouls responsible for the three-ring leak-fest that the benghazi tragedy has generated.

    that was a fine column you wrote this am on the republican voter-fraud fraud. it makes my blood boil to read that stuff. as a commenter wrote, just look at that young thug’s face in the photo:

    http://firedoglake.com/2012/10/20/come-saturday-morning-republican-voter-id-laws-dont-stop-republican-voting-crimes-just-ask-nathan-sproul/

  10. greengiant says:

    @OrionATL: Oregon just had a Republican state rep and associated PR firm send out thousands of phones messages telling people it was a crime to vote illegally. No laws broken …
    The PR telemarketing firm had a number of different stories about who paid for the scam.

  11. Carolo says:

    Issa is a duplicate of Allen West! Snotty, bossy, arrogant. Issa has placed himself on a pedestal and no longer takes others into consideration and can not work fair with both sides. His treatment of Sandra Fluke is typical of how he treats others. Whether you agree with Fluke or not, she had the right to speak as any citizen does.

    Issa blames the postal service when the reason they are in debt is due to crappy Legislation. The postal service has a retirement plan of $11 billion but they are not able to use it to pay their bills or pay their debt to the Treasury. No other business has to hold onto $11 billion in pensions as they work in the red and borrow from the Treasury. Issa would rather shorten hours and close offices.

    Issa’s treatment of Eric Holder has been deplorable. Holder was cleared of wrong doing during Fast and Furious and Issa as much as called Holder a liar when the investigatiion proved differently.

    And NOW, Issa has released “sensitive” documents in regard to the Benghazi attack that gives the names of Libyans working with us on this investigation putting them now in harms way. It took one year to complete the investigation of “weapons of mass destruction” but yet Issa seems to think the attack of the embassy should be concluded in 6 weeks when the FBI only got there 2 weeks ago?

    Bad Judgement over and over again.

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