Benghazi: Is the Alleged CIA Scandal Real?

Over the last week, there has been a lot of buzz about a supposed CIA angle to the Benghazi story. Specifically, it has been alleged that a substantial number of CIA employees were on the ground in Benghazi, carrying out a mission that involved rounding up Libyan weapons and transferring them to rebels in Syria. Further, it has been reported that the CIA has leaned on its employees not to cooperate with Congressional investigations or the media, and it has been suggested that the CIA’s role in Benghazi may be related to the al Qaeda attack there that killed four Americans. All of these reports are unsourced, but they have been treated as credible by many. Steve reported on the story here, and I expressed skepticism as to how the recent claims fit with what we thought we knew about Benghazi here. Michael Ledeen questioned the claim that the CIA was arming Syrian rebels here.

We have a congressional source who has knowledge of the Benghazi investigation. Our source wrote to say that these reports of a CIA scandal are bogus:

The bottom line is that the CIA has been exceedingly responsive to us, we have no evidence to substantiate the claims of intimidation, and we interact with CIA personnel of all levels all the time both at official functions and informally. And we have not heard anything that would make me think any of the conspiracy rumors or intimidation rumors are true.

We know what they were doing there (yes, there were such folks on the ground). We knew before the attack. And we have seen nothing to suggest that they were shipping arms to Syria or holding detainees at the annex, both of which would have been outside their authorization. We have been given a very large volume of reports, emails, and intelligence — thousands of pages — and we have met with folks who were on the ground. I see no evidence suggesting the attack was at all related to their specific activities. It was apparently a target of opportunity, and a relatively insecure one at that. We are pretty confident we know the whole story, and I constantly ask reporters to share their unnamed sources with a promise to keep it anonymous and confidential, and they never follow through.

I wondered whether, if there was a substantial group of CIA people on the ground in Benghazi, they could have been brought into play to help save Ambassador Stevens. Our source responds:

The folks who moved to the TMF were able to get everyone out, save Stevens who could not be found. They were able to evacuate everyone else, including retrieving Sean Smith’s body.

The two security professionals from the Annex who died were killed later — during the mortar attack on the annex — not during the initial attack on the TMF. We don’t see anything suggesting that more people going to the TMF from the annex would have helped. They mobilized pretty quickly. Some guys weren’t immediately close, and you don’t want to clear out an entire facility to help another. So the tactical decisions on the ground can be debated with hindsight, but we see nothing suggesting that there was a failure on the ground by the U.S personnel at the moment of the attacks. Everyone behaved rationally and heroically.

Does that include Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton back in Washington? No:

There is a scandal here. It is the light footprint mindset of this admin and the inability of the white house to make the tough decisions to get the attackers. As we learned from the 911 commission report, when terrorists succeed in attacking the United States, and we don’t respond quickly and successfully to find them, terrorist groups are only emboldened and empowered. It seems it is a truth that we are seeing play out again around the world right now.

So, unless someone steps forward in his own name and offers solid evidence to the contrary, my conclusion is that the CIA angle is a needless distraction from the real Benghazi scandal, which involves not the Agency, but Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Barack Obama.

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