A New Twist in the Benghazi Saga
A Twist in the Benghazi Saga
Did some Libyan government officials assist the Benghazi attackers? That is a question raised—but not answered—in a new Senate report.
The biggest recent development—which was overshadowed by the fiscal cliff negotiations—came on New Year’s Eve, when the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released a report that raised the question of whether Libyan officials assisted the Benghazi terrorists. The report found that a team of CIA contractors dispatched from Tripoli to Benghazi on the night of the attacks waited at least three hours after arriving at the Benghazi airport before departing to the scene because of negotiations with Libyan government officials. According to the report, members of Congress still don’t know the exact reason for the delay. “Was it simply the result of a difficult Libyan bureaucracy and a chaotic environment or was it part of a plot to keep American help from reaching the Americans under siege in Benghazi?” the report asks.
To be sure, the night of the attack was indeed chaotic. “It’s important to remember that the team from Tripoli faced a chaotic and difficult situation on the ground when it arrived in middle of the night,” one U.S. official tells The Daily Beast. (Both the Libyan ambassador to the U.S. and the State Department declined to comment.) Moreover, Libya’s government was a mess at the time: while it had conducted successful elections earlier that summer, the national assembly in Tripoli had yet to appoint a prime minister or the chiefs of government ministries. Nevertheless, a Senate committee asking this troubling question about the Libyan government is, at the very least, noteworthy.
Meanwhile, the Libyan government was not the only Libyan entity to come under scrutiny in the report. Also singled out was the Feb. 17 Martyrs Brigade, the militia deputized by the Libyan government to provide security at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi—which largely failed to do its job on the night of the attacks. The Senate report relays doubts U.S. security personnel had regarding the militia before the attack. For example, diplomatic security personnel believed the brigade was responsible for the extrajudicial detention of people in the area, including one incident involving a U.S. diplomatic employee. And on Aug. 29, the chief diplomatic security officer for Benghazi acknowledged concerns that the contract between the Feb. 17 Brigade and the U.S. embassy had expired. The officer wrote, “We also have the usual concerns re their ultimate loyalties. But they are competent, and give us an added measure of security. For the time being, I don’t think we have a viable alternative.”
Beyond questions about the conduct of the Feb. 17 Brigade and the Libyan government, there is still the major question of who, exactly, carried out the attacks.