Benghazi: A Poster Child for Covert Ops Blowback

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 onepart 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.

The FBI analyzed the intelligence better than CIA did

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. Read more

“Morgan Jones'” Blue Mountain Whitewash

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. Read more

Is This a Benghazi Question?

Particularly given some of the rumors about what the CIA was doing in Benghazi when Ambassador Chris Stevens got killed, I wonder whether this question — from the follow-up to John Brennan’s confirmation hearings — pertains to Benghazi.

In your responses to the Committee’s pre-hearing questions, you wrote that Chiefs of Mission must be kept fully and currently informed of the activities of U.S. government agencies in their countries, consistent with the provisions of 22 USC 3927. That statute also requires that U.S. Ambassadors “shall have full responsibility for the direction, coordination, and supervision of all United States Government officers and employees in that country,” and that “any department or agency having officers or employees in a country shall… comply fully with all applicable directives of the Ambassador.

Is it your understanding that intelligence activities are subject to the approval of the Chief of Mission?

Yes. Pursuant to the President’s instruction, codified in a 1977 agreement between the Department of State and the CIA, the Chief of Mission has a responsibility to express a judgment on all CIA activities in his or her country of accreditation in light of U.S. objectives in the host country and in the surrounding areas and to provide assessments on those activities to Washington. Further, if the Chief of Mission believes a CIA activity might impair U.S. relations with the host country, the Chief of Mission may suspect a CIA or other intelligence activity. If disputes arise between the Chief of Mission and the Chief of Station that cannot be resolved locally, they are referred to Washington for adjudication by Principals. In order to enable the Chief of Mission to meet these responsibilities, the Chief of Station must keep the Chief of Mission fully and currently informed of CIA activities in the host country (unless the President or Secretary of State has directed otherwise).

“Unless the President or Secretary of State has directed otherwise.” A rather big caveat.

MInd you, this question could be as much about Pakistan as it is about Libya. After all, the Pakistan exception to the drone rulebook arose, in part, because of Cameron Munter’s past objections to the drone strikes in Pakistan. Nevertheless, as written, the drone rulebook appears to let the CIA — that is, John Brennan, once he is confirmed — to do whatever he wants with drones in Pakistan.

None of those rules applies to the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan, which began under President George W. Bush. The agency is expected to give the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan advance notice on strikes. But in practice, officials said, the agency exercises near complete control over the names on its target list and decisions on strikes.

Imposing the playbook standards on the CIA campaign in Pakistan would probably lead to a sharp reduction in the number of strikes at a time when Obama is preparing to announce a drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan that could leave as few as 2,500 troops in place after 2014.

Officials said concerns about the CIA exemption were allayed to some extent by Obama’s decision to nominate Brennan, the principal author of the playbook, to run the CIA.

None of those rules applies to the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan, which began under President George W. Bush. The agency is expected to give the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan advance notice on strikes. But in practice, officials said, the agency exercises near complete control over the names on its target list and decisions on strikes.

Imposing the playbook standards on the CIA campaign in Pakistan would probably lead to a sharp reduction in the number of strikes at a time when Obama is preparing to announce a drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan that could leave as few as 2,500 troops in place after 2014.

Officials said concerns about the CIA exemption were allayed to some extent by Obama’s decision to nominate Brennan, the principal author of the playbook, to run the CIA.

So it’s not clear what weight Brennan’s answer has given that it appears the President has already written an exception for Pakistan and drones.

All that said, given the many reports that Chris Stevens didn’t know what the CIA (or, allegedly, Brennan, running ops out of the White House) was doing in Benghazi, I find DiFi’s effort to get Brennan on the record on this question rather interesting.

Funny. General Petraeus Didn’t USE to Avoid Testifying to Congress…

ABC follows up on the point I made yesterday–that Congress is now getting interested in David Petraeus’ October 31 trip to Egypt and, we now find out, Libya–and reveals that he now doesn’t want to testify about his trip.

In late October, Petraeus traveled to Libya to conduct his own review of the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

While in Tripoli, he personally questioned the CIA station chief and other CIA personnel who were in Benghazi on Sept. 11 when the attack occurred.

The Libya stop was part of a six nation trip to the region. Petraeus intended the review as a way to prepare for his upcoming testimony before Congress on Benghazi.


But now Petraeus is telling friends he does not think he should testify.

Petraeus has offered two reasons for wanting to avoid testifying: Acting CIA Director Morell is in possession of all the information Petraeus gathered in conducting his review and he has more current information gathered since Petraeus’ departure; and it would be a media circus.

So David Petraeus, after charging taxpayers for the cost to take his own plane to the Middle East to prepare for this testimony, doesn’t want to deliver it himself, preferring instead to let Acting Director Mike Morell tell secondhand about what Petraeus learned on that very expensive fact-finding trip?

Note, ABC doesn’t question CIA’s claim that they can’t hand over the trip report to the intelligence committees because it’s not done yet, in spite of Dianne Feinstein’s complaints yesterday about someone else having already read a copy of it.

Which leads me to believe Petraeus wants to prevent or delay Congress from getting this information in the first place.

To get an idea of what Petraeus might want to withhold from Congress, let’s take a look at the CIA timeline (using David Ignatius’ apparent transcription of it), which was based on a briefing while Petraeus was still overseas. The timing means it’s unclear whether this incorporated some of what Petraeus learned while there, or whether the CIA released this timeline before Petraeus got back, effectively deliberately giving the press outdated information. Moreover, it’s possible Petraeus had others deliver the timeline so his own credibility wouldn’t be impacted if it turned out to be false.

Of all the timeline bullet points, Petraeus’ personal interviews with the station chief and other CIA personnel would have resolved one of the key details that remains contested: why CIA waited 24 minuets before heading to the Mission to rescue Chris Stevens.

10:04 p.m.: A six-person rescue squad from the agency’s Global Response Staff (GRS) leaves in two vehicles. Read more

Another Sequel in the Libyan Left Behind Series

A month ago, I marveled at the remarkable frequency with which interesting documents have a way of appearing in Libya; I dubbed it the “Libyan Left Behind” syndrome.

It has happened again. Yet more journalists–Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa, writing for Foreign Policy–has found newsworthy documents at the abandoned (and unsecured) mission in Benghazi. These suggest that elements from Benghazi’s police force may have helped plan the attack. One letter informed the Libyan Foreign Affairs office that a member of the police force had been surveilling the compound the morning of the attack, and that the police had not provided increased security requested for Ambassador Stevens’ visit.

One letter, written on Sept. 11 and addressed to Mohamed Obeidi, the head of the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ office in Benghazi, reads:

“Finally, early this morning at 0643, September 11, 2012, one of our diligent guards made a troubling report. Near our main gate, a member of the police force was seen in the upper level of a building across from our compound. It is reported that this person was photographing the inside of the U.S. special mission and furthermore that this person was part of the police unit sent to protect the mission. The police car stationed where this event occurred was number 322.”


The document also suggests that the U.S. consulate had asked Libyan authorities on Sept. 9 for extra security measures in preparation for Stevens’ visit, but that the Libyans had failed to provide promised support.

“On Sunday, September 9, 2012, the U.S. mission requested additional police support at our compound for the duration of U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens’ visit. We requested daily, twenty-four hour police protection at the front and rear of the U.S. mission as well as a roving patrol. In addition we requested the services of a police explosive detection dog,” the letter reads.

“We were given assurances from the highest authorities in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that all due support would be provided for Ambassador Stevens’ visit to Benghazi. However, we are saddened to report that we have only received an occasional police presence at our main gate. Many hours pass when we have no police support at all.”

Another letter–addressed to Benghazi’s police chief, Brigadier Hussain Abu Hmeidah–asked the police directly to look into the surveillance. The government in Tripoli purportedly fired Abu Hmeidah after the attack, but he has refused to leave and no one has forced him to.

Note, FP’s journalists found the documents in the mission’s Tactical Operations Center, which (according to State’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Charlene Lamb, though she’s definitely one of the people whose job is at risk here), was not breached during the attack.

They attempted to break into the Tactical Operations Center again and again but were not able to
breach the facility.

Presumably–particularly given assurances no classified information was compromised–the security officers destroyed anything particularly sensitive in the TOC before leaving the mission (though these were only draft documents).

Read more

The Opportunistic Attack in Benghazi

In addition to the IssaLeaks dump, there were several reports on the Benghazi attack Friday suggesting it was an “opportunistic” attack: not planned in advance, but not an outgrowth of non-existent protests; not planned by al Qaeda, but carried out by those with ties to it.

That assessment corresponds with what my best wildarsed guess about what happened, based on the IssaLeaks documents (perhaps not surprisingly, since those documents presumably come from State’s investigations).

An anonymous official describes the current understanding of the attack this way to Greg Miller.

“There isn’t any intelligence that the attackers pre-planned their assault days or weeks in advance,” a U.S. intelligence official said. “The bulk of available information supports the early assessment that the attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.”


U.S. officials have backed away from claims that protesters had gathered around the Benghazi mission before it was overrun. Instead, analysts now think that the siege involved militants who “may have aspired to attack the U.S. in Benghazi,” and mobilized after seeing protesters scale the walls of the embassy in Cairo to protest the controversial video.

The violence in Benghazi appears to have involved militants with ties to al-Qaeda in North Africa, but no evidence indicates that it was organized by al-Qaeda, or timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, officials said.

The LAT includes similar quotes–as well as eyewitness accounts describing the attackers to be a mix of experienced fighters and apparent civilians.

Libyan guards who served as the security force at the U.S. compound said the mob was made up of disparate types, some who appeared to be experienced fighters and others who were not. There were long-bearded men whose faces were obscured by scarves in the style of practiced militants and called each other “sheik.” But there also were younger men, some who looked like teenagers with wispy beards on their uncovered faces.

“There were civilians there, and many were carrying weapons,” said Sheik Mohamed Oraibi, a hard-line Islamic preacher who arrived soon after the attack began. He said the attackers arrived in about 20 pickup trucks, many of which had machine guns mounted on them in the style favored by rebels during the Libyan revolution last year.

These details, along with the materials in the IssaLeaks, appear to support an early report from CNN, stating that the suspected culprit was the Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades.

 A pro-al Qaeda group responsible for a previous armed assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is the chief suspect in Tuesday’s attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, sources tracking militant Islamist groups in eastern Libya say.

They also note that the attack immediately followed a call from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for revenge for the death in June of Abu Yahya al-Libi, a senior Libyan member of the terror group.

The group suspected to be behind the assault — the Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades — first surfaced in May when it claimed responsibility for an attack on the International Red Cross office in Benghazi. The following month the group claimed responsibility for detonating an explosive device outside the U.S. Consulate and later released a video of that attack.

A June 25 cable from the IssaLeaks dump–labeled routine–noted the Imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman Brigade (ISOARB) had taken credit for three attacks against western targets: two attacks on the ICRC (which it accused of proselytizing Christianity) and the June 6 attack on the US mission in Benghazi (see PDF 45). Read more

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.

Read more

Nation-Building, 12 Years Later


Remember how central to the 2000 Presidential campaign nation-building was?

It was all in the context of the Kosovo effort, of course, an intervention that elicited horrified cries about Executive overreach from the likes of John Yoo. But at that time, the Republican opposed using our troops for nation-building and the Democrat reservedly spoke in favor of it.

BUSH: Somalia. It started off as a humanitarian mission then changed into a nation-building mission and that’s where the mission went wrong. The mission was changed. And as a result, our nation paid a price, and so I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation building. I think our troops ought to be used to fight and win war. I think our troops ought to be used to help overthrow a dictator when it’s in our best interests. But in this case, it was a nation-building exercise. And same with Haiti. I wouldn’t have supported either.

Read more

The Evolution of the “Obama Doctrine” after Benghazi

The other day, I wondered whether using three C-130s to bring a team of FBI Agents to Benghazi was overkill. And while I was able to get some kind of explanation (1 transport, 1 decoy, 1 to bring the toys), given this report on all the Special Forces C-130s swarming out of Crete…

In the last weeks, an unsual, covert, constant activity of U.S. Special Operations planes has been recorded in the Mediterranean Sea. Quite regularly, taking off from Souda Bay, in Crete, various types of “Special Hercules”, including  MC-130Ps, MC-130Hs, HC-130P, and AC-130U gunships, performed day and night missions in the Libyan airspace whose purpose has yet to be fully unveiled.

As well as very vague reports that the Special Forces were not just protection–but were “helping gather intel”–in Benghazi, I’m not so sure.

Special Forces were always likely to help investigate this killing, but it appears there’s some kind of funky hybrid going on, the latest iteration of partnership between our National Security agencies in the war on terror.

And today, John Brennan headed to Libya to meet with Mohammed Magarief, who has been trying to consolidate national power even while the Prime Minister elect was ousted in a failure to form an acceptable government.

It’s against that background that this WaPo piece offers some key insight.

Before I get into it, I’m using “Obama Doctrine” as David Sanger did in his book. I think it’s a bogus term, but it’s the evolution in policy Sanger described as Obama moved away from CounterIntelligence in Afghanistan, to Counterterrorism, to a belief that partners and locals could carry out the fighting in Libya and elsewhere. The problem with that plan, I’ve always believed, is it offers no better solutions and some worse problems in how you establish the security and institution-building that countries need to have viable economies and legal systems. You’re still faced with the whole failed state problem.

In addition to general Islamist sentiment, Ambassador Steves’ assassination happened in an environment where the government was trying to nurture regime change and nation reformation without the military footprint we had in Afghanistan and Iraq. While Stevens appears to have had real security concerns, he also apparently pushed to have an open presence and to encourage capacity building in Libyans. Arguably, that’s part of what got him killed.

The WaPo catches us up to what kind of dilemmas that presents now as we try to find the best way to respond.

Should it rely on the FBI, treating the assaults on the two U.S. compounds like a regular crime for prosecution in U.S. courts? Can it depend on the dysfunctional Libyan government to take action? Or should it embrace a military option by ordering a drone strike — or sending more prisoners to Guantanamo Bay?

Read more

Yet More Reason to Question Rafallah al-Sehati’s Role in Benghazi Attack

You can’t necessarily fault Eli Lake for the title the Daily Beast gave his latest entry in his efforts to help Romney surrogate Jason Chaffetz turn the Benghazi attack into Obama’s Jimmy Carter: “Exclusive: Libya Cable Detailed Threats.” Who knows whether he or his editor came up with it.

But you can fault those who keep pointing to the title as if the title reflects what the article itself says.

What Lake does is take a very routine diplomatic report–titled “Benghazi Weekly Report”–and spin it as proof of instability in Benghazi. It’s not until the 6th paragraph when Lake reports that,

The cable, titled “Benghazi Weekly Report – September 11, 2012,” notes the dangerous environment in eastern Libya. It does not, however, make a specific plea to Washington for more personnel or more security upgrades, and concludes that much of the violence in the country consists of Libyans attacking other Libyans, as opposed to specific plots directed at the West. Indeed, it says that in a meeting with Stevens, members of the Benghazi Local Council said security in their city was improving. [my emphasis]

Perhaps the title should have been, “Consulate reported that security in Benghazi was improving”?

What Lake uses to suggest that the Consulate should have had more security is a passage that pertains to two militia heads leveraging their claimed power.

Here’s what Lake says the cable said,

The cable, reviewed by The Daily Beast, recounts how the two militia leaders, Wissam bin Ahmed and Muhammad al-Gharabi, accused the United States of supporting Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the Libyan transitional government, to be the country’s first elected prime minister. Jibril’s centrist National Forces Alliance won the popular vote in Libyan elections in July, but he lost the prime minister vote in the country’s Parliament on Sept. 12 by 94 to 92. Had he won, bin Ahmed and al-Gharabi warned they “would not continue to guarantee security in Benghazi, a critical function they asserted they were currently providing,” the cable reads. [my emphasis]

Note that the cable itself–which was approved by Ambassador Chris Stevens–expresses some skepticism that bin Ahmed and al-Gharabi really were providing the critical security in Benghazi.

Lake, however, asserts not just that they did provide security, but that they were “responsible” for doing so, in his lead.

Just two days before the 9/11 anniversary attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, two leaders of the Libyan militias responsible for keeping order in the city threatened to withdraw their men.

As seems to be the case with Lake’s exclusives, this detail is actually incredibly important, but not for the reasons he states. He doesn’t identify the militas here, but al-Gharabi headed Rafallah al-Sehati until he was made to step down in the weeks after the attack. As the WaPo reported last week, Rafallah al-Sehati got pulled into rapid response the night of the attack, and the Americans were hesitant to trust them.

But a second militia, Rafallah al-Sehati, that had not previously been involved in guarding the Americans, was also asked to provide assistance that night, a spokesman for the militia said. The group has been backed by the Libyan government and provides security in Benghazi, which has aminimally developed police force. But one of its leaders has described himself as a “jihadist,” and Rafallah al-Sehati officials said that weapons capable of taking down airplanes were stolen when their compound was overrun by protesters last month.

Jamal Aboshala, a spokesman for Rafallah al-Sehati, said the request came at 3 a.m. local time from Fawzi Bukhatif, the commander of the 17th February militia. He said that American officials had initially declined an offer of help, and were later reluctant to share with militia members the precise location of an annex to which they had retreated.

And as I noted in response, Rafallah al-Sehati seemed to be trying to stall the American investigation of the attack by claiming Benghazi was too insecure for the FBI.

Now, the fact that the Consulate had to rely on Rafallah al-Sehati the night of the attack, just two days after they threatened to destabilize Benghazi for political retaliation, seems terribly important to the investigation. But it raises as many questions about what role Rafallah al-Sehati itself had in the attack, in addition to security preparations that had us relying on them when it mattered most.

Ah well. It’s still a neat article. Readers of it will learn such interesting details as that the Benghazi attack, with its 4 dead, was “the worst assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission since the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran,” making the attack worse, according to Lake, than the 1983 Lebanon attack that killed 63 or the 1998 attacks in Tanzania and Kenya that, between them, killed 223.

Or maybe Lake is just hewing so closely to the script he’s been given he doesn’t see how absurd his assertions are?