The Purge, the Benghazi Report, and Trump’s Claim Obama Created ISIS

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When I learned yesterday that, in addition to “purging” Mike Rogers, Trump had added Devin Nunes and Crazy Pete Hoekstra to his transition team (thus replacing Rogers with both his predecessor and successor as House Intelligence Chair), I wondered whether the Benghazi report had something to do with the exchange. As I noted when the House Intelligence Committee’s report came out, Nunes repeatedly asked questions that Rogers cut short.

The NYT confirms that that is, indeed, one of the reasons Rogers got purged.

One member of the transition team said that at least one reason Mr. Rogers had fallen out of favor among Mr. Trump’s advisers was that, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he had overseen a report about the 2012 attacks on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, which concluded that the Obama administration had not intentionally misled the public about the events there. That report echoed the findings of numerous other government investigations into the episode.

The report’s conclusions were at odds with the campaign position of Mr. Trump, who repeatedly blamed Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent and the secretary of state during the attacks, for the resulting deaths of four Americans.

In point of fact, the Additional Views that Rogers released with three other Republicans on the committee (but not Nunes) did find,

Senior U.S. officials perpetuated an inaccurate story that matched the Administration’s misguided view that the United States was nearing victory over al-Qa’ida.

The Additional Views also blamed State for ignoring safety concerns in Benghazi.

So that may not be the key difference between Rogers and Trump with regards to the Benghazi report.

Instead, consider what the report did not say about CIA’s facilitation of Saudi, Qatari, and Turkish arms transfers to Syria during this period — and Nunes’ attempts to push this issue further.

The report concludes that, “The CIA was not collecting and shipping arms from Libya to Syria.” It then explains how it proved this, noting that all witnesses (it sourced its reports only to security personnel and the Benghazi base chief, not the officers at the Annex) said they had not seen any non-CIA weapons at the Annex. But then it said:

From the Annex in Benghazi, the CIA was collecting intelligence about foreign entities that were themselves collecting weapons in Libya and facilitating their passage to Syria.

Here’s what the transcript of the committee’s interview with Mike Morell and the other intel bosses actually shows (page 15):

Mr. [Devin] Nunes: Are we aware of any arms that are leaving that area and going into Syria?

Mr. Morell: Yes, sir.

Mr. Nunes: And who is coordinating that?

Mr. Morell: I believe largely the [redacted–right length for Saudis] are coordinating that.

Mr. Nunes: They are leaving Benghazi ports and going to Syria?

Mr. Morell: I don’t know how they are getting the weapons from Libya to Syria. But there are weapons going from Libya to Syria. And there are probably a number of actors involved in that. One of the biggest are the [redacted–could be Qataris]

Mr. Nunes: And were the CIA folks that were there, were they helping to coordinate that, or were they watching it, were they gathering information about it?

Mr. Morell: Sir, the focus of my officers in Benghazi was [redacted], to try to penetrate the terrorist groups that were there so we could learn their plans, intentions and capabilities

Mike Rogers then interrupts because not everyone in the room is cleared to hear about what the CIA was doing in Benghazi. (Note, Fox’s Catherine Herridge also covered this here.)

Four months later, in a follow-up interview of Morell (file one, file two, at the break), Nunes picked up that line of questioning again. Having gotten Morell to state that there were weapons for security folks at the annex, he tries to clarify that none of these were being sent on. Mike Rogers again interrupts to offer “clarification,” though it becomes clear that on at least one occasion the CIA facility was used to transfer weapons.

The Chairman: There may be an exception, but that was not the rule.

So at the very least CIA was watching its allies send weapons from Libya to Syria, which given the clusterfuck in Syria — most notably the possibility that these weapons are now in the hands of ISIL — may be one reason to moderate the report.

That is, the interviews behind the report include clear evidence that the CIA was watching our allies run arms to Syria (and note, even there, Morell stopped short of saying the CIA wasn’t directly involved). Evidence that Nunes had a particular interest in pursuing.

Now consider a pair of rather famous DIA reports — reports done at a time that Trump advisor Mike Flynn was running the agency — on how the US ended up on the same side as al Qaeda in Syria.

What did the CIA know and when did they know it?

That’s the real question that ought to be raised by a recently declassified Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report, obtained by Judicial Watch in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The August 2012 document describes how the U.S. ended up on the same general side in the Syrian Civil War as Al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor to ISIS. “AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning,” the report explained. Meanwhile, “[w]estern countries, the Gulf states, and Turkey are supporting” rebel efforts against the Assad regime in a proxy war, putting them on the same side as, if not working together with, the terrorists now overrunning Iraq.

Some outlets have concluded that this means “the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad.”

But as Juan Cole counters, the report that western powers supported rebels “doesn’t say that the US created sectarian groups and it does not say that the US favors al-Qaeda in Syria or the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq.’” Cole continues, “It says that those powers (e.g. Turkey and the Gulf monarchies) supporting the opposition wanted to see the declaration of a Salafi (hard line Sunni) breakaway statelet, in order to put pressure on the al-Assad regime.”

In a nutshell, Cole argues that the U.S. didn’t support Al-Qaeda in Syria directly. But its allies certainly did.

Two months after the report laying out AQI support for the rebels — another of the documents obtained by Judicial Watch shows — the DIA provided a detailed description of how weapons got shipped from Benghazi to Syria, presumably for rebel groups. “During the immediate aftermath of, and following the uncertainty caused by, the downfall of the [Qaddafi] regime in October 2011 and up until early September of 2012,” the report explained, “weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles located in Benghazi, Libya were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya, to the ports of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria.”

The report obtained by Judicial Watch says that the weapons shipments ended in “early September of 2012.” But note what event this second report conspicuously does not mention: The Sept. 11 attack on the State Department and CIA facilities in Benghazi at the same time that the flow of weapons stopped.

By all appearances, the Benghazi attack interrupted a CIA effort to arm the rebels in Syria that the US government acknowledged were allied with al Qaeda.

That’s what the Rogers-directed HPSCI report did not include.

Just as importantly, this fits in with what Flynn has said during the campaign [RT link intentional]. which is where Trump got the claim that Obama (and Hillary) “created” ISIS.

In addition, recall that in Flynn’s wake, DIA whistleblowers revealed that their more pessimistic take on ISIS was getting softened before it got to CentCom bosses.

Two senior analysts at CENTCOM signed a written complaint sent to the Defense Department inspector general in July alleging that the reports, some of which were briefed to President Obama, portrayed the terror groups as weaker than the analysts believe they are. The reports were changed by CENTCOM higher-ups to adhere to the administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the analysts claim.

That complaint was supported by 50 other analysts, some of whom have complained about politicizing of intelligence reports for months. That’s according to 11 individuals who are knowledgeable about the details of the report and who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity.

You can see where this is going. One of the first things Trump has done has been to ensure agreement in its national security team on this point: that by letting our Middle Eastern allies arm al Qaeda-allied fighters, the Obama Administration created the mess that is in Syria.

And unanimity on that point — accompanied by what is sure to be a very ugly campaign of recriminations against the Obama Administration for cooking intelligence (even aside from the merit of this claim, Flynn has been bitter about his firing for what he sees as objecting to this cooked intelligence) — will provide the basis for Trump to work with Putin on ending the civil war in Syria to Bashar al-Assad’s advantage.

18 replies
  1. Potential Donor says:

    Not strictly related to this post, but your “Donate via Bitcoin” option no longer works. Coinbase says “this item is no longer available”.

  2. John Casper says:


    Yesterday I put my annual check made out to emptywheel LLC in the mail.

    Was able to do $320 this year, wish it could have been more.

  3. rugger9 says:

    Interesting how the spooks are involved in this like they are, and how once again it blows up. CIA has a long record of failure dating back to the Bay of Pigs on managing regime changes. Whether it’s backing the wrong team or bungling the operation the tradecraft has taken a nosedive over the years even before we discuss moles. Now, do NOT construe this as saying the entire CIA is incompetent, for example Valerie Plame did her job well until outed by Cheney’s boy Scooter Libby on Darth’s orders and most of tem know their jobs. However, the incompetent Gosslings in particular are a never-ending source of embarrassment.

    As far as the Benghazi report goes, one topic the GOP doesn’t want to discuss is that the GOP Congress cut State’s funding and forced State to use contractors for security instead of using the Marines (it’s a job the USMC has had for a very long time) and that meant not everywhere could be covered all of the time. The question about whether State was completely briefed on the CIA op in Benghazi was also dodged. The adversaries would have figured it out, but whether HRC knew of Benghazi’s full importance is dubious. I think the GOP would want to tread carefully here because it really points back to them for being relentlessly cheap due to Clinton / Obama Derangement Syndrome setting up failures. After all McConnell said he was going to fight to destroy the administration on the very day of the inauguration in 2009.

    While we’re on the CIA track, I’m sure they also have a pretty good idea of what Donaldus has working with the Russians, but the question is whether CIA will spike this or leverage this (i.e. to kill Medicare and Social Security among other unpopular social engineering brought to us by Paulie Munster) for the ones pulling their strings. Briefings ought to be fun since they know what they tell Donaldus will go straight to Vlad. And, yet, Comey would only talk about HRC’s non-scandal emails.

  4. rugger9 says:

    The problem with loyalists was clearly laid out during Shrub’s administration: echo chambers miss key details that lead to the wrong decisions being made.  Donaldus is a less liked version of Shrub in that neither is interested in the details to the point of outright neglect.  That also means no oversight, and items not of interest to the WH (like Katrina, where Condi went shoe shopping instead of getting help in that was offered) will be ignored to the point of disaster.

    This also is the kind of White House where dissent is not to be tolerated, which when the PRC or Vlad or Tayyip or Rodrigo Duterte throw down the gauntlet to test Donaldus (I think in this order for likelihood, and it will be within the first six months) the bad news will be covered over until the situation is beyond repair.

  5. GKJames says:

    Won’t it just be another chapter in the Republican it’s-Obama’s-fault mythology? He’s already blamed for the insanity that Iraq has become because he withdrew US troops. As for Syria, doesn’t this put Republicans in a quandary? They’ve seen Syria as an issue of superpower rivalry; what’s good for Russia must be bad for the US and vice versa. As for Obama’s allegedly cooking the intell — clearly a first in the annals of US history — can’t say I blame him. Parents lie to their kids all the time to keep them from doing something really insane.

    • bevin says:

      On the face of it it would seem that it was Obama’s fault. And Hillary’s. It is ironic that they involved themselves and the US government, in this sordid sponsorship of terrorist attacks on a sovereign power, in large part  in order to win the approval of Republicans.

      There are plenty of reasons to lament the coming Trump presidency. Ending co-operation with al qaeda’s dreadful campaign of terror in Syria- a campaign which has reached almost genocidal proportions against Christians and non-Sunni muslims- is not one of them.

      Nor, despite the nonsense to the effect that Trump is a creature of the Kremlin, is the possibility that the administration will return to the respectability of international legality and stop making aggressive moves against Russia and China.  Many of the grave problems the word faces could be solved by the United Nations if the US would only allow it to function again.

      Can we not rejoice that the prospects of nuclear confrontation seem somewhat diminished now?

  6. bloopie2 says:

    As I worked read through this post about ISIS, I thought it would conclude thus:  “So Don is coming up with more ways to fault the other guy, effectively making himself look better—which is fine for Don, but which has no relevance to the issue of defeating ISIS.”  But the post didn’t go there—it ended with Don allying with Putin to save the Syrian dictator—which is not at all the same as “who is to blame for ISIS”.  Maybe I’m ignorant, but how is a few guns going to one group of Syrian rebels, the genesis of ISIS?  Is the mess in Syria, universally acknowledged to be the one and only cause of ISIS?  Thanks.

  7. greengiant says:

    For public consumption cover by these Intelligence committee members one should add the stories from Kenneth, ( Blame it on the Democrats? )  Timmerman,,    Combine that with Saudi and Qatar  ( 2011 especially  ) donations to the Clinton foundation revealed by wikileaks.   Not personally taking any of this at face value.   Need to recognize what is rumbling around in the minds of the leadership.   US media generally seems to have laid the birth of ISIS,  Al qaeda,  Taliban,  9-11 to the Wahhabi.    What was the US doing selling arms to radical Sunni states who promptly forwarded them  to radical Sunnis in Pakistan, Afghanistan,  Syria and Iraq?   At least Trump could campaign against it.


  8. lefty665 says:

    Thank you for digging into this. For the last four years it has amazed me that no one seemed to be asking, “Why was our Ambassador in Benghazi in the first place?” Nor was anyone commenting on the sizeable warehouse the CIA was operating there that was between their annex and the consular building. Aerial photos released show the physical relationship of the compounds.

    The answers that CIA was buying weapons and the ambassador was there arranging for ships to take them to al Qaeda in Syria are topics neither Dems or Repubs have wanted to address. It seems they were both better served by repeatedly shouting talking points at each other.

    Good outcomes from Trump’s embrace of Flynn (pretty sketchy, but infinitely better than Bolton) are that we may get some answers beyond Benghazi!, Benghazi!, Benghazi! and that could help us get rational closure in Syria. Both have escaped Obama, the Dems and Repubs.

    Whod’a thunk it? D. Trump, truth teller and peacemaker.

    • wayoutwest says:

      The factual parts of what you mention about Benghazi have been known since soon after the incident. The propaganda part you are parroting about al-Nusra receiving these arms is fictional, the Qataris have been funding Nusra and their weapons came to them through Iraq at that time. The weapons from Libya went to Turkey and were distributed by them and were distributed to groups Turkey and the US vetted, the so called moderates. Some of these weapons may have been seized or given to Nusra but there is no evidence that they were meant for them.

      I suppose this kind of conflation propaganda branding all opposition to the sectarian dictator Assad as al-Qaeda terrorists is useful for those who seem to relish the murder of Syrians fighting to free themselves from decades of Assad family oppression.

      • Evangelista says:

        You appear to have a chronological conflation problem, wayoutwest, as well as an obvious propaganda bias.  Check for when the US began [asserting it was] vetting “so called moderates”.  Then compare to when Libya fell into CIA hands and became a trans-shipping station.  For a hint, need for a “moderates” differentiation did not arise until after Syria’s Russian allies began bombing “Terrorists” indiscriminately, in October, 2015, threatening the US Coalition’s overthrow of Syria effort.

        As far as I know, Turkey never discriminated “moderates”.  Turkey, when a full Coalition partner (when oil was flowing north and “used arms” south) was supplying “off-cast” weaponry to Coalition Invasionary Forces, in Turkey, letting those forces take the weapons, or ship them, with replacement troops, into Syria, through Coalition forces controlled border-crossings.  European Coalition Partners were supplying weapons to Turkey (also Invasion Force fighters), ut not to Syria, for ‘deniability’;  Turkey was supplying “cast-off” weapons for the same reason, receiving newly sent weapons as replacements for its own forces, giving its ones made “surplus” to the Invader Forces, sometimes not having even time to off-board its last ‘replacement’ weapons before replacing them.  By this ruse Britain, France, et al could “not supply terrorists”, but only “legitimately sell to” ally Turkey.  The CIA in Libya was trans-shipping “free weapons” “liberated from”, or stolen from, Libya, who no longer needed them, no longer being a country.

        Assad, before the Coalition organized invasion was an elected president of a recognized legitimate nation, United Nations member state, whatever you might think, or believe, like or dislike about the way any ones in the nation that elected him, and the other representatives in the Syrian government, might have been being treated, or believed to be being treated, by yourself, Coalition members, those controlling them, or maybe even persons in Syria.

        • lefty665 says:

          Thank you, WOW needed some pushback. Funny to see him parroting USG propaganda.

          The schizophrenic US policy in Syria that we are supporting “moderate” terrorists while somehow opposing ISIL has been laughable since at least 2013.  Kerry’s ongoing inability to separate “moderate terrorists” from al Qaeda affiliates and ISIL makes the issue clear beyond debate. We can thank the Russians for putting a fine point on it by continuing to attack terrorists of all stripes. Curious that the US is supplying and working with the terrorists, and their associates, that attacked us on 9/11. That kind of behavior used to be called treason.

          For more on the history and background of our Syrian morass, here’s a link to Seymour Hersh’s article on Syria:

          I’d also recommend Hersh’s book, “The killing of Osama Bin Laden”. The second half of the book details what we’ve been doing in Syria and provides more context for the Guardian article.

          For anyone interested in non USG/MSM propaganda views of the world, B at and Col. Pat Lang at  provide news and informed analysis. While not always right (who is?) there is never any ambiguity about their perspective, they call ’em as they see ’em.  Lang has decades of middle east experience and intelligence community background.  The commenters at Moon tend to the wild eyed. Lang runs a tighter operation and many of the commenters there are remarkably experienced and well informed.

  9. Evangelista says:


    I suggest caution in viewing and reviewing who the ‘Trump Team’ is reported talking to, or ‘taking on their team’, to avoid being caught up in the pointless second-guessing and presumptive-assumptive prejudice-based bashing games that are flurrying around like snow-squalls (‘snowflake’ squalls?  Or are those a different thing?) just now.

    First, the ‘Trump Team’ is a bench team, still in the locker-room, in fact, not permitted to join play until January 21, 2017.  Nothing a Trump Administration may do or might do or seems to be doing, or has to be maneuvering to do means anything until they hit the field to play.

    Second, in investigating, and exploring the terrain and learning the lay of the land and sizing up the situation and getting a handle on things, etc., etc. the sane and sensible way to go about the business is to talk to everybody with a point of view.  Especially where someone is beginning from a beginning, needing to learn the ropes, and start from a zero perspective.

    Thus, it can be seen as a potentially good sign, rather than a certain portent of expected disaster, when someone in Trump’s position has in everyone he can get a perspective from who may have been involved in creating a current situation.

    And then there is, too, that some learn from errors, and some, if freed from coercive influences that before were in control of them, might be willing, gratified, even sometimes, to fly straight for a change.

    There is a lot of opportunity to analyze potentials and define possibilities at present, and all the concluding and jumping to conclusions and deciding what they “must be up to” seems to be pretty much fully, if not over, covered already.

  10. John Casper says:


    Other than being “chatty,” I “suggest” extreme “caution” in giving advice.

    It’s a way “to avoid being caught up in” being wrong.

    Personnel is policy. ew’s right. You’re wrong. Leave your apology and make it brief.

    The decisions made today determine who shows up for work on January 17.

    Trump’s team won’t ever get off the “bench.” They’re supposed to be on the practice field, not in the “locker room.”

  11. greengiant says:

    Flynn’s consulting firm has a contract with a Turkish controlled entity.  and on Nov 7th  Flynn wrote an op-ed supporting extradition of Fethullah Gülen back to Turkey per Karl Rove’s fav website.    Guess those with any hope of influencing or denying Trump have more energy than mere bystanders.    A view from 2015,    Is the deep state that backed  Gülen since the Clinton administration throwing him under the bus to support the Erdogan dictatorship or is Flynn just another cowboy looking for a quick buck?


  12. bevin says:

    ” Maybe I’m ignorant, but how is a few guns going to one group of Syrian rebels, the genesis of ISIS? Is the mess in Syria, universally acknowledged to be the one and only cause of ISIS?..”
    The Libyan guns were only a small part of the materiel supplied to ISIS and al qaeda. The consignments, by ship, through Turkey for the most part, included ex Soviet weaponry purchased in Bulgaria and other bastions of democracy and amounted to thousands of tons.
    I’m surprised that anyone still disputes the fact that that ISIS et al have been armed and financed either directly or with the complicity of the US government. The government barely denies the facts itself, though it does wrap them up in masses of propagandistic fluff, much of it related to Democratic Rebel forces etc.

    Of course Obama was not wholly responsible for creating ISIS, except in the sense that he proudly ensured continuity with the Bush regime (which in turn, and despite protestations to the contrary, maintained a great deal of continuity to the Clinton administration’s foreign policies).
    It is to Trump’s credit that, during the campaign, he ‘called’ Bush on the catastrophic consequences of the Iraq invasion and made the point that ISIS had its origins in the fateful decisions of Bremer and the court of neo-con clowns advising him.

    As to whether or not Assad is a dictator: is it any of our business? Aren’t most of the US’s allies dictators or the weak democratic successors to dictatorial regimes, supported by the US, which, often by employing death squads, cleared the political decks of socialist and radical nationalist leaders and skewed the economy Chicago fashion?
    One thing is well known about the Baathists in Syria: they never have persecuted religious minorities and have enjoyed the support of most of the sunni majority.
    One day there has to be a reckoning with the Saudis Royal Family which has been sponsoring terrorism in Arabia since the 1780s, protecting pirate havens and raiding mercantile cities on the spurious grounds that they are run by unbelievers. Or will K Street, well oiled with the wealth of the disenfranchised Arab people, always be able to shield them from the consequences of their actions? Which clearly include much of the blame for 9/11.
    There isn’t much about a Trump Presidency to look forward to but a cold hard look at the way in which wahhabism has used the US as a battering ram against secular, moderate and shia muslim regimes will make up for a lot of dirty talk in the locker room.

    • wayoutwest says:

      I wish you or anyone else could supply actual evidence not beliefs and rumors to support your blanket claim that the US ever intentionally, directly or indirectly supplied anything to the IS, AQ or al Nusra. All three of these now separate groups were one in Iraq where they excelled at killing and maiming US troops, an excellent reason to believe we support and arm them. The fact that the US and the governments of the countries from where AQ received support were unable to stop its flow is not complicity. The US, the most powerful nation in history, can’t stop the flow of immigrants across its border nor can it stop the flow of weapons to the cartels to the south yet others are supposed to be able to do what we can’t. The world is awash with Russian and Chinese weapons and anyone with money can get them delivered.

      Every major world power has used terror to further its goals so it’s meaningless to single out the KSA as somehow different or unique.  They are now taking the responsibility from the US to defend their interests from the encroachment of that secular, moderate and Shia Muslim regime across the Arabian/Persian Gulf, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

      The Assad family dynasty is part of the sectarian religious minority and represents them while persecuting the majority Sunni population, the other minorities were bought off or subjugated in other ways. If you think this is none of our business then the successful overthrow, by the majority population of  Syria,  of this dictator should also be none of our business.

      I have to ask how you can claim to know the majority Sunni population supports their dictator, oppressor and his police state? Is this some kind of Stockholm Syndrome on a mass scale or just your opinion based on the free and fair Syrian election results. Dictator elections used to produce about 90% favorable results but they have more clever PR advisors now and usually only produce the slightly more believable 75% positive results. This is useful for the useful idiots who support these regimes so they can show that opposition is allowed under this benevolent dictator although it is never allowed to win.

      • lefty665 says:

        “Every major world power has used terror to further its goals so it’s meaningless to single out the KSA as somehow different or unique.” 

        (1) Enlighten us please, where has the US government used terror to further its goals?

        (2) You acknowledge that KSA uses terrorism. That the Saudis are our allies and we supply the arms they use to murder civilians in Yemen (direct terror outside Syria and cooperation with AQ) and to fund and arm IS, AQ and al Nusra (and others) in Syria means you have answered your own question about intentional indirect US support for IS, AQ and al Nusra. Res ipsa loquitur. Thanks for saving the rest of us the effort.


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