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Millions of ordinary Americans support Donald Trump. Here’s why
When he isn’t spewing insults, the Republican frontrunner is hammering home a powerful message about free trade and its victims
Linda Gore stands in the crowd as she waits for the arrival of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks ahead of a campaign stop at the Signature Flight Hangar at Port-Columbus International Airport, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
‘Working-class white people who make up the bulk of Trump’s fan base show up in amazing numbers … but their views, by and large, do not appear in our prestige newspapers’ Photograph: John Minchillo/AP
Let us now address the greatest American mystery at the moment: what motivates the supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump?
I call it a “mystery” because the working-class white people who make up the bulk of Trump’s fan base show up in amazing numbers for the candidate, filling stadiums and airport hangars, but their views, by and large, do not appear in our prestige newspapers. On their opinion pages, these publications take care to represent demographic categories of nearly every kind, but “blue-collar” is one they persistently overlook. The views of working-class people are so foreign to that universe that when New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wanted to “engage” a Trump supporter last week, he made one up, along with this imaginary person’s responses to his questions.
When members of the professional class wish to understand the working-class Other, they traditionally consult experts on the subject. And when these authorities are asked to explain the Trump movement, they always seem to zero in on one main accusation: bigotry. Only racism, they tell us, is capable of powering a movement like Trump’s, which is blowing through the inherited structure of the Republican party like a tornado through a cluster of McMansions.
Trump himself provides rather excellent evidence for this finding. The man is an insult clown who has systematically gone down the list of American ethnic groups and offended them each in turn. He wants to deport millions upon millions of undocumented immigrants. He wants to bar Muslims from visiting the United States. He admires various foreign strongmen and dictators, and has even retweeted a quote from Mussolini. This gold-plated buffoon has in turn drawn the enthusiastic endorsement of leading racists from across the spectrum of intolerance, a gorgeous mosaic of haters, each of them quivering excitedly at the prospect of getting a real, honest-to-god bigot in the White House.
Trump on Michigan and Mississippi wins: ‘Only I did well tonight’
All this stuff is so insane, so wildly outrageous, that the commentariat has deemed it to be the entirety of the Trump campaign. Trump appears to be a racist, so racism must be what motivates his armies of followers. And so, on Saturday, New York Times columnist Timothy Egan blamed none other than “the people” for Trump’s racism: “Donald Trump’s supporters know exactly what he stands for: hatred of immigrants, racial superiority, a sneering disregard of the basic civility that binds a society.”
Stories marveling at the stupidity of Trump voters are published nearly every day. Articles that accuse Trump’s followers of being bigots have appeared by the hundreds, if not the thousands. Conservatives have written them; liberals have written them; impartial professionals have written them. The headline of a recent Huffington Post column announced, bluntly, that “Trump Won Super Tuesday Because America is Racist.” A New York Times reporter proved that Trump’s followers were bigots by coordinating a map of Trump support with a map of racist Google searches. Everyone knows it: Trump’s followers’ passions are nothing more than the ignorant blurtings of the white American id, driven to madness by the presence of a black man in the White House. The Trump movement is a one-note phenomenon, a vast surge of race-hate. Its partisans are not only incomprehensible, they are not really worth comprehending.
* * *
Or so we’re told. Last week, I decided to watch several hours of Trump speeches for myself. I saw the man ramble and boast and threaten and even seem to gloat when protesters were ejected from the arenas in which he spoke. I was disgusted by these things, as I have been disgusted by Trump for 20 years. But I also noticed something surprising. In each of the speeches I watched, Trump spent a good part of his time talking about an entirely legitimate issue, one that could even be called leftwing.
Yes, Donald Trump talked about trade. In fact, to judge by how much time he spent talking about it, trade may be his single biggest concern – not white supremacy. Not even his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, the issue that first won him political fame. He did it again during the debate on 3 March: asked about his political excommunication by Mitt Romney, he chose to pivot and talk about … trade.
It seems to obsess him: the destructive free-trade deals our leaders have made, the many companies that have moved their production facilities to other lands, the phone calls he will make to those companies’ CEOs in order to threaten them with steep tariffs unless they move back to the US.
Trump embellished this vision with another favorite leftwing idea: under his leadership, the government would “start competitive bidding in the drug industry”. (“We don’t competitively bid!” he marveled – another true fact, a legendary boondoggle brought to you by the George W Bush administration.) Trump extended the critique to the military-industrial complex, describing how the government is forced to buy lousy but expensive airplanes thanks to the power of industry lobbyists.
Thus did he hint at his curious selling proposition: because he is personally so wealthy, a fact about which he loves to boast, Trump himself is unaffected by business lobbyists and donations. And because he is free from the corrupting power of modern campaign finance, famous deal-maker Trump can make deals on our behalf that are “good” instead of “bad”. The chance that he will actually do so, of course, is small. He appears to be a hypocrite on this issue as well as so many other things. But at least Trump is saying this stuff.
All this surprised me because, for all the articles about Trump I had read in recent months, I didn’t recall trade coming up very often. Trump is supposed to be on a one-note crusade for whiteness. Could it be that all this trade stuff is a key to understanding the Trump phenomenon?
Trade is an issue that polarizes Americans by socio-economic status. To the professional class, which encompasses the vast majority of our media figures, economists, Washington officials and Democratic powerbrokers, what they call “free trade” is something so obviously good and noble it doesn’t require explanation or inquiry or even thought. Republican and Democratic leaders alike agree on this, and no amount of facts can move them from their Econ 101 dream.
To the remaining 80 or 90% of America, trade means something very different. There’s a video going around on the internet these days that shows a room full of workers at a Carrier air conditioning plant in Indiana being told by an officer of the company that the factory is being moved to Monterrey, Mexico, and that they’re all going to lose their jobs.
As I watched it, I thought of all the arguments over trade that we’ve had in this country since the early 1990s, all the sweet words from our economists about the scientifically proven benevolence of free trade, all the ways in which our newspapers mock people who say that treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement allow companies to move jobs to Mexico.
Well, here is a video of a company moving its jobs to Mexico, courtesy of Nafta. This is what it looks like. The Carrier executive talks in that familiar and highly professional HR language about the need to “stay competitive” and “the extremely price-sensitive marketplace”. A worker shouts “Fuck you!” at the executive. The executive asks people to please be quiet so he can “share” his “information”. His information about all of them losing their jobs.
* * *
Now, I have no special reason to doubt the suspicion that Donald Trump is a racist. Either he is one, or (as the comedian John Oliver puts it) he is pretending to be one, which amounts to the same thing.
But there is another way to interpret the Trump phenomenon. A map of his support may coordinate with racist Google searches, but it coordinates even better with deindustrialization and despair, with the zones of economic misery that 30 years of Washington’s free-market consensus have brought the rest of America.
It is worth noting that Trump is making a point of assailing that Indiana air conditioning company from the video in his speeches. What this suggests is that he’s telling a tale as much about economic outrage as it is tale of racism on the march. Many of Trump’s followers are bigots, no doubt, but many more are probably excited by the prospect of a president who seems to mean it when he denounces our trade agreements and promises to bring the hammer down on the CEO that fired you and wrecked your town, unlike Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Here is the most salient supporting fact: when people talk to white, working-class Trump supporters, instead of simply imagining what they might say, they find that what most concerns these people is the economy and their place in it. I am referring to a study just published by Working America, a political-action auxiliary of the AFL-CIO, which interviewed some 1,600 white working-class voters in the suburbs of Cleveland and Pittsburgh in December and January.
Support for Donald Trump, the group found, ran strong among these people, even among self-identified Democrats, but not because they are all pining for a racist in the White House. Their favorite aspect of Trump was his “attitude”, the blunt and forthright way he talks. As far as issues are concerned, “immigration” placed third among the matters such voters care about, far behind their number one concern: “good jobs / the economy”.
“People are much more frightened than they are bigoted,” is how the findings were described to me by Karen Nussbaum, the executive director of Working America. The survey “confirmed what we heard all the time: people are fed up, people are hurting, they are very distressed about the fact that their kids don’t have a future” and that “there still hasn’t been a recovery from the recession, that every family still suffers from it in one way or another.”
Tom Lewandowski, the president of the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council in Fort Wayne, puts it even more bluntly when I asked him about working-class Trump fans. “These people aren’t racist, not any more than anybody else is,” he says of Trump supporters he knows. “When Trump talks about trade, we think about the Clinton administration, first with Nafta and then with [Permanent Normal Trade Relations] China, and here in Northeast Indiana, we hemorrhaged jobs.”
“They look at that, and here’s Trump talking about trade, in a ham-handed way, but at least he’s representing emotionally. We’ve had all the political establishment standing behind every trade deal, and we endorsed some of these people, and then we’ve had to fight them to get them to represent us.”
Now, let us stop and smell the perversity. Left parties the world over were founded to advance the fortunes of working people. But our left party in America – one of our two monopoly parties – chose long ago to turn its back on these people’s concerns, making itself instead into the tribune of the enlightened professional class, a “creative class” that makes innovative things like derivative securities and smartphone apps. The working people that the party used to care about, Democrats figured, had nowhere else to go, in the famous Clinton-era expression. The party just didn’t need to listen to them any longer.
What Lewandowski and Nussbaum are saying, then, should be obvious to anyone who’s dipped a toe outside the prosperous enclaves on the two coasts. Ill-considered trade deals and generous bank bailouts and guaranteed profits for insurance companies but no recovery for average people, ever – these policies have taken their toll. As Trump says, “we have rebuilt China and yet our country is falling apart. Our infrastructure is falling apart … Our airports are, like, Third World.”
Trump’s words articulate the populist backlash against liberalism that has been building slowly for decades and may very well occupy the White House itself, whereupon the entire world will be required to take seriously its demented ideas.
Yet still we cannot bring ourselves to look the thing in the eyes. We cannot admit that we liberals bear some of the blame for its emergence, for the frustration of the working-class millions, for their blighted cities and their downward spiraling lives. So much easier to scold them for their twisted racist souls, to close our eyes to the obvious reality of which Trumpism is just a crude and ugly expression: that neoliberalism has well and truly failed.
Thomas Frank is the author of Listen, Liberal or Whatever Happened to the Party of the People, published 15 March by Metropolitan Books
This article was amended on 9 March 2016 to reflect the fact that Nafta stands for the North American Free Trade Agreement. An earlier version of this article referred to it as North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement.
Dr. Donald Miller (email@example.com) and I (firstname.lastname@example.org) are starting up a new group to be called Libertarians for Trump.
LFT has its work cut out for it in mobilizing massive support for Donald Trump within the libertarian community. For there are some libertarians who oppose supporting any politician for political office, even a 99% pure one such as Dr. Ron Paul. However, I dedicated this book to refuting arguments of that sort: Block, Walter E. 2012. Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty. New York: Ishi Press. (By the way, the foreward to that book – not written by me — contains, in my opinion, the single best short essay ever written about Dr. Paul).
Let me just say that there is nothing, nothing at all, incompatible between libertarianism and voting, or supporting political candidates. Both Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard can be considered political junkies, and you won’t find too many better libertarians than those two.
Suppose we were all slaves, and the master said we could have a democratic election; we could vote for overseer Baddie, who would whip us unmercifully once per day, or overseer Goodie, who would do exactly the same thing, but only once per month. We all voted for the latter. Is this incompatible with libertarianism? Would this make us worse libertarians? Anyone who thinks so does not really understand this philosophy. For a remedial course, read this book: Rothbard, Murray N. 1998 . The Ethics of Liberty, New York: New York University Press.
There are several issues upon which libertarians do not and cannot support Donald Trump. For example, protectionism. But, typically, regarding the issues where Mr. Trump deviates from libertarianism, so do the other candidates.
And, also, we readily admit that the presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party (unless they nominate someone like, ugh, Bob Barr) will very likely have views much closer to ours than those of Mr. Trump.
But, the perfect is the enemy of the good. It is our goal to throw our weight behind the candidate who has a reasonable chance of actually becoming President of the United States whose views are CLOSEST to libertarianism.
When put in this way, it is clear that The Donald is the most congruent with our perspective. This is true, mainly because of foreign policy. And, of the three, foreign policy, economic policy and person liberties, the former is the most important. As Murray Rothbard and Bob Higgs have demonstrated over and over again, US foreign policy determines what occurs in economics and in the field of personal liberties. Foreign policy is the dog that wags the other two tails.
We readily concede Mr. Donald Trump is no Ron Paul on foreign policy or anything else for that matter. However, compared to his Republican alternatives, the Donald stands head and shoulders above them. He has said, time and time again, things like “Look at what we did in Iraq. It’s a mess. Look at what we did in Libya. It’s a mess there too. And we’re going to repeat our mistakes in Syria? Not on my watch.” Would Cruz or Rubio ever say anything like that? To ask this question is to answer it. And, very importantly, who is the one candidate who went out of his way so as to not antagonize Russia and Premier Putin? It is the Donald, that is who. Do we really want to fight World War III with Russia? With Mr. Trump at the helm, we minimize the chances of this catastrophe occurring. (See Donald Miller’s brilliant article on this issue, mentioned below). Yes, future President Trump wants a strong military, but with only a few exceptions, fewer than the other Republican candidates, only to defend our country
Here are some positive things written about Mr. Donald Trump:
Please consider joining our new group, LFT. There are no dues or fees. All you need to do is give me your name, email address (which we will not use) and affiliation (professional and/or just mention the city and state you live in). We will release the list of names of LFT members once we reach 100 participants. I ask that you do this not because in this way we may have some effect on a Trump Administration although there is an outside chance we might (he is now beset upon from so many sides, and so unfairly, that he might well appreciate the relatively small support we can give him). I ask you to do this, rather, because it is the right thing to do; he is, of all the major candidates for the office of President of the United States, the one most closely, albeit very far from perfectly, aligned with our beloved libertarian philosophy. If you know of other essays written in support of Mr. Trump, either by a libertarian, or, emphasizing the fact that his views are more aligned with our own than those of other major candidates, send them to us so that we can add them to our bibliography of such literature.
Story 1: Mainstream Media Mob Electronic Lynching of Dr. Ben Carson — Attempted Assassination Fails — Limbaugh Unmasked The Perpetrators — The Conservative Right Strikes Back — Videos
Ben Carson Thanks ‘Biased’ Media After Raising $3.5 Million In One Week
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Scrutinizing Ben Carson – Donald Trump – O’Reilly Talking points
Ben Carson Holds Press Conference On West Point Scholarship False Claims (11-6-15)
November 6, 2015: GOP Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson addressed the media this evening on the alleged false claims he made in his book, “Gifted Hands”, including that he received a full scholarship offer to West Point and that he allegedly tried to stab a friend and hit his mother with a hammer.
Ben Carson strikes back at the press
Glenn Beck Exposes Obama’s Fraudulent History and Radicalized Beliefs
Report Questions Ben Carson’s West Point Story, Campaign Pushes Back – Cavuto
Ben Carson: “I was offered a full scholarship to West Point” (Oct 9, 2015) | Charlie Rose
Ben Carson thinks Egypt’s pyramids were built by Joseph
Carson: Egypt’s Pyramids Built To Store Grain
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson stood by his belief that Egypt’s great pyramids were built by the Biblical figure Joseph to store grain, an assertion dismissed by experts. (Nov. 5)
Ben Carson: How I Got into Politics (Oct. 9, 2015) | Charlie Rose
Dr. Benjamin Carson’s Amazing Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast with Obama Present
Fox News: Ben Carson Admits Story About Getting Into West Point Was NOT TRUE
Carson Campaign: Politico Story About West Point Acceptance Not True
The Politico, Lies about Ben Carson
Politico: Carson admits fabricating scholarship story
audio 11/6/15 RUSH LIMBAUGH: POLITICO & MEDIA TRYING TO TAKEDOWN BEN CARSON
Hillary’s Vicious Media Tools Now Getting Brutal On Ben Carson (Limbaugh)
Rush Limbaugh – November 6, 2015 Full Podcast
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Dr. Carson’s amazing speech at CPAC 2014
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RUSH: Dr. Ben Carson Has Everyone In Democrat Party Scared To Death
RUSH LIMBAUGH NAILS IT ABOUT BEN CARSON
“There is not a single person in the media today that could wear Dr. Benjamin Carson’s uniform, whatever uniform he puts on in a day, a business suit, if it’s surgical scrubs, there’s not a single member of the media that could do anything close to what Ben Carson has done with his life. ”
Ben Carson: Debate audience picked up on media bias
Ben Carson on CNN: Full interview, part 1
Ben Carson on CNN: Full interview, part 2
Ben Carson on CNN: Full interview, part 3
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(CNN) Andy Martin’s discovery that Obama’s father is communist Frank Marshall Davis
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Van Jones: ‘Ben Carson Bewilders, I Think, Most Black Democrats’
Hillary’s Vicious Media Tools Now Getting Brutal On Ben Carson (Limbaugh)
audio 11/6/15 BEN CARSON TO CNN, “ASK HILLARY THE SAME QUESTIONS”
Poll: Ben Carson is 9 points ahead of Hillary! (Limbaugh)
LIMBAUGH: CARSON IS VICTIM OF ‘ELECTRONIC LYNCHING’
Media ‘telling an outright lie’ in ‘an assassination attempt’
Talk-radio kingpin Rush Limbaugh shredded Politico and accused the news site and mainstream media of coordinating an “assassination attempt” against Dr. Ben Carson on Friday.
In fact, Limbaugh went even further, calling the onslaught of attacks an “electronic lynching being conducted against the Republican African-American candidate by a majority-white mainstream American liberal media.”
In a damning accusation Friday, Politico claimed Carson’s campaign “admitted he did not tell the truth” about having been accepted into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
A Carson spokesperson made a response to an inquiry by Politico into the veracity of a story in the surgeon’s autobiography, “Gifted Hands,” that the then-17-year-old was offered a full scholarship after a meeting in 1969 with Gen. William Westmoreland in 1969.
Politico reported West Point had no record of either Carson’s application or admission.
However, a Carson spokesman told the Daily Caller on Friday, “The Politico story is an outright lie.”
Doug Watts said, “The campaign never admitted to anything,” and Carson “[N]ever said he was admitted or even applied” to West Point.
“I want to show you how this works. I want to share with you some headlines that have run during the course of this program,” Limbaugh said, blasting Politico as a “liar,” and listing the following media reports Friday:
In a press conference late Friday, Carson ripped into combative reporters:
If you look at one of the websites that West Point has today, it says government offer for full scholarship to West Point. So they use that very language themselves. So almost 50 years ago, they may have been using that language as well.
They were very impressed with what I had done. I had become the city executive officer in less time than anybody else had ever done that. They were saying, “You would be a tremendous addition to the military, and we can get you into West Point with a full scholarship. I simply said, “I want to be a doctor. I really appreciate it. I’m very flattered.” And I moved on. So it didn’t go on any further than that. …
I think what it shows, and what these kinds of things show, is that there is a desperation on behalf of some to try to find a way to tarnish me because they have been looking through everything. They have been talking to everybody I’ve ever known, everybody I’ve ever seen, [saying], “There’s got to be a scandal. There’s got to be something. He’s having an affair, there’s gotta be something.” They are getting desperate. So next week it’ll be my kindergarten teacher who says that I peed in my pants. I mean, this is just ridiculous. But it’s OK because I totally expect it.
Dr. Carson explained that, as the top ROTC student in Detroit 50 years ago, he was invited to “a number of events because of my position.” In that role, he was invited to meet Gen. Westmoreland.
“That was also a time, as I recall, that several of the high brass told me that I would be somebody that they would be interested in in the military. It was an offer to me. I interpreted it as an offer. … They told me this was available to me because of my accomplishments and that they would be delighted for me to do it. And I told them immediately that my intention was to become a physician. It always has been, and I was very honored but I would not be pursuing that.”
Carson said he “made it clear” in his book that he, in fact, only applied to one college because he had just enough money for one application fee.
When relentlessly pressed about his childhood years, Carson told reporters, “My prediction is that all of you guys trying to pile on is actually going to help me, because, when I go out to these book signings and I see these thousands of people, they say, ‘Don’t let the media get you down. Don’t let them disturb you. Please continue to fight for us.’ They understand that this is a witch hunt. …
“Let me just say one thing. I do not remember this level of scrutiny for one President Barack Obama when he was running. In fact, I remember just the opposite. I remember people just [saying], ‘Oh well, we won’t really talk about that. We won’t talk about that relationship. Well, Frank Marshall Davis, we don’t want to talk about that. Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, we don’t really know him. You know, all the things that Jeremiah Wright was saying, oh, not a big problem.’
“[Obama] goes to Occidental College, doesn’t do all that well, and somehow ends up at Columbia University. His records are sealed. Why are his records sealed? Why are you guys not interested in why his records are sealed? Why are you not interested in that? Let me ask you that. Can somebody tell me why? … Now you’re saying that something that happened with the words ‘a scholarship was offered’ was the big deal, but the president of the United States, his academic records being sealed is not? Tell me how there’s equivalence there.”
Carson told reporters he wouldn’t “sit back and let you be completely unfair without letting the American people know what’s going on.”
New front-runner Ben Carson faces closer scrutiny of his life story
By David Weigel and David A. Fahrenthold
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson — now making the transition from living legend to scrutinized candidate — faced new questions Friday about the way he tells his powerful life story.
For years, Carson has said he was offered a “full scholarship” to the U.S. Military Academy when he was a high-achieving high school Army ROTC cadet in the late 1960s. But Carson never applied to West Point, was never accepted and never received a formal scholarship offer. In fact, West Point does not offer scholarships; all cadets attend free.
The story was first reported Friday by Politico. Carson responded to the resulting controversy by saying that when he spoke of an “offer,” he referred to informal, verbal statements of encouragement from military leaders he met through the ROTC, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps .
“I was told that because of my accomplishments, they would be able to manage to get me into West Point and that I wouldn’t have to pay anything,” Carson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network. He said he decided not to apply and went to Yale University instead to pursue medicine. “There was no application process [at West Point]. I never even started down that path,” Carson said.
Carson’s campaign cast the episode as new evidence of persecution of the candidate by the news media. Tension between Carson and the media came to a boil Friday night in Florida, where at a combative news conference the candidate asked why President Obama had not been subjected to such scrutiny.
“The words ‘a scholarship was offered’ were a big deal, but the president of the United States’ academic records being sealed is not?” he said.
The original Politico report declared that Carson had “fabricated” a story about “his application and acceptance” at West Point. It also claimed that the candidate had “admitted” the fabrication.
Carson’s campaign vehemently denied those statements.
The Politico story seemed to mischaracterize a small but key detail in the way Carson has told the story. In many cases, Carson implied only that he received a formal offer from West Point. He never said explicitly that he had been accepted or even that he had applied.
“It gives journalism a bad name,” said Armstrong Williams, Carson’s close friend and business manager. “It only fits into Dr. Carson’s narrative of a witch hunt” by the media.
By mid-afternoon, Politico posted a new version of its story that no longer included the wording that Carson had “fabricated” a part of his biography. Later in the day, the news site posted an editor’s note stating that the story should have made clear that Carson never claimed to have applied for admission to West Point.
“We continue to stand by the story,” Politico spokeswoman Lauren Edmonds said in a statement. “We updated it to reflect Ben Carson’s on the record response to the New York Times and other new details, which underscore the validity of our original reporting.”
As the day went on, conservative media voices chimed in to agree with Carson. “It’s almost like the Politico is the official leak machine for the Republican establishment,” Rush Limbaugh said on his syndicated radio show. Radio host and blogger Erick Erickson replaced an entire post about “the beginning of Ben Carson’s end” with one about a “demonstrably false” Politico report.
Carson, 64, achieved worldwide fame for his daring surgeries at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and for his story of rising out of poverty in southwest Detroit. This week, as Carson has challenged Donald Trump for the lead in the Republican presidential primary contest, there has been a new focus on Carson’s personal beliefs and on the way he tells his life story.
First, the Web site BuzzFeed posted a 17-year-old video of a commencement speech in which Carson offers an alternative theory about why the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids. In Carson’s telling, they were not built to be tombs, as historians and archeologists say. Instead, they were built for grain storage, in keeping with the biblical story of Joseph, in which the patriarch counseled the pharaoh to store up grain for years of famine.
Carson told CBS News this week that he still believes that the pyramids were granaries, saying the proof was in sealed chambers inside the structures. “You would need that if you were trying to preserve grain for a long period of time,” he said.
Then, CNN sought to verify a key part of Carson’s life story: that, as a young man in Detroit, he had committed acts of violence, including smashing a boy’s nose with a thrown rock, attempting to stab a friend in the abdomen and threatening his own mother with a hammer during an argument.
CNN interviewed nine people who knew Carson during his childhood and who said that the violent incidents did not fit their recollections of him.
Carson said CNN did not speak with the right people. “I was generally a nice person,” he told the network. “It’s just that I had a very bad temper. So unless you were the victim of that temper, why would you know?”
It was an unusually odd situation: a presidential candidate insisting, in the face of skepticism, that he really did have a history of violence.
The part of Carson’s life at issue Friday — the “offer” he got, or did not get, from West Point — is a story that Carson has told repeatedly in books, interviews and speeches.
He tells it in the context of his rapid rise through high school Army ROTC, which ended with him as the top-ranking cadet in Detroit.
“I was offered a full scholarship to West Point,” Carson wrote in his 1990 memoir, “Gifted Hands.” “I didn’t refuse the scholarship outright, but I let them know that a military career wasn’t where I saw myself going. As overjoyed as I felt to be offered such a scholarship, I wasn’t really tempted. The scholarship would have obligated me to spend four years in military service after I finished college, precluding my chances to go on to medical school.”
In that account and others, Carson seems to rely on loose, broad definitions for the words “offer” and “scholarship.”
In fact, applicants to West Point must be sponsored by a member of Congress or the secretary of the Army. If accepted, they attend tuition-free: There are no “scholarships” at West Point beyond the benefits that all cadets get.
Doug Watts, a spokesman for Carson’s campaign, said Carson never completed the process for acceptance by West Point and never had an official sponsor. Indeed, in “Gifted Hands,” Carson makes clear that he actually applied only to one school: Yale.
“Each college required a ten-dollar non-returnable entrance fee sent with the application,” Carson wrote. “I had exactly ten dollars, so I could apply only to one.”
Still, his campaign spokesman said, it was proper to say Carson had an “offer” of a scholarship because military leaders had told him that his acceptance would be a sure thing.
“He was told by the ROTC commander that he could have an appointment,” Watts said. “Dr. Carson rejected the offer, did not apply or pursue admission. Had he done so, and been accepted, that would have been tantamount to a scholarship, the same that all cadets receive.”
In one of his books, Carson also made a similar claim about a scholarship offer from another school.
“The University of Michigan had offered me a scholarship, but I wanted to go farther from home,” he wrote in his 1999 book, “The Big Picture.”
A spokesman for the University of Michigan, Rick Fitzgerald, said he could not confirm that account. The university no longer has records from that time. Carson’s camp said the scenario was similar to that involving West Point: He had decided to apply elsewhere and never submitted an application.
Exclusive: Carson claimed West Point ‘scholarship’ but never applied
Republican hits POLITICO story, later admits to The New York Times he wasn’t offered aid.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Friday conceded that he never applied nor was granted admission to West Point and attempted to recast his previous claims of a full scholarship to the military academy — despite numerous public and written statements to the contrary over the last few decades.
West Point has occupied a central place in Carson’s personal story for years. According to a tale told in his book, “Gifted Hands,” the then-17 year old was introduced in 1969 to Gen. William Westmoreland, who had just ended his command of U.S. forces in Vietnam, and the two dined together. That meeting, according to Carson’s telling, was followed by the offer of a “full scholarship” to the military academy.
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West Point, however, has no record of Carson applying, much less being extended admission.
“In 1969, those who would have completed the entire process would have received their acceptance letters from the Army Adjutant General,” said Theresa Brinkerhoff, a spokeswoman for the academy. She said West Point has no records that indicate Carson even began the application process. “If he chose to pursue (the application process), then we would have records indicating such,” she said.
When presented by POLITICO with these facts, Carson’s campaign conceded he never applied.
“Dr. Carson was the top ROTC student in the City of Detroit,” campaign manager Barry Bennett wrote in an email to POLITICO. “In that role he was invited to meet General Westmoreland. He believes it was at a banquet. He can’t remember with specificity their brief conversation but it centered around Dr. Carson’s performance as ROTC City Executive Officer.”
“He was introduced to folks from West Point by his ROTC Supervisors,” Bennett added. “They told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in ROTC. He considered it but in the end did not seek admission.”
In an interview with The New York Times following the POLITICO story, Mr. Carson said: “I don’t remember all the specific details. Because I had done so extraordinarily well you know I was told that someone like me – they could get a scholarship to West Point. But I made it clear I was going to pursue a career in medicine.”
“It was, you know, an informal ‘with a record like yours we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point.’”
Carson would have needed to seek admission in order to receive an offer of free education from West Point. Also, according to West Point, there is no such thing as a “full scholarship” to the military academy, as Carson represented in his book.
An application to West Point begins with a nomination by a member of Congress or another prominent government or military official. After that, a rigorous vetting process begins. If offered admission, all costs are covered for all students; indeed there are no “full scholarships,” per se.
The statement from Carson’s campaign manager on Friday went on to say: “There are ‘Service Connected’ nominations for stellar High School ROTC appointments. Again he was the top ROTC student in Detroit. I would argue strongly that an Appointment is indeed an amazing full scholarship. Having ran several Congressional Offices I am very familiar with the Nomination process.
“Again though his Senior Commander was in touch with West Point and told Dr. Carson he could get in, Dr. Carson did not seek admission.”
Ben Carson has repeatedly claimed he was offered a full scholarship from West Point. He conveys the story in at least two other books, “You Have a Brain” and “Take the Risk.” Carson repeated his West Point claim as recently as Aug. 13, when he fielded questions from supporters on Facebook.
And in October, Carson shared the story with Charlie Rose: “I had a goal of achieving the office of city executive officer [in JROTC]. Well, no one had ever done that in that amount of time … Long story short, it worked, I did it. I was offered full scholarship to West Point, got to meet General Westmoreland, go to Congressional Medal dinners, but decided really my pathway would be medicine.”
The Carson campaign pushed back against POLTICO’s story after its publication, with Carson himself telling Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The Brody File” that the media “will go through all lengths trying to discredit me.” According to a tweet from the show, Carson said, of the mainstream media, “they’ll ask my kindergarten teacher, ‘did I ever wet my pants.’”
The concession from Carson’s campaign comes as serious questions about other points of fact in Carson’s personal narrative are questioned, including the seminal episode in which he claimed to have attempted to stab a close friend. Similarly, details have emerged that cast doubt on the nature of Carson’s encounter with one of the most prominent military men of that era.
The West Point spokeswoman said it certainly is possible Carson talked with Westmoreland, and perhaps the general even encouraged him to apply to West Point. However, she said, the general would have explained the benefits of a West Point education without guaranteeing him entry.
In “Gifted Hands,” Carson says he excelled in his ROTC program at Detroit’s Southwestern High School, earning the respect of his superiors — just a couple years after anger problems led him to try to murder a friend. He attained the rank of second lieutenant by his senior year of high school and became the student leader of the city’s ROTC programs.
In May of his senior year, he was chosen to march in the city’s Memorial Day parade.
“I felt so proud, my chest bursting with ribbons and braids of every kind. To make it more wonderful, we had important visitors that day. Two soldiers who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor in Viet Nam were present,” he wrote. “More exciting to me, General William Westmoreland (very prominent in the Viet Nam war) attended with an impressive entourage. Afterward, Sgt. Hunt” — his high school ROTC director — “introduced me to General Westmoreland, and I had dinner with him and the Congressional Medal winners. Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point.”
But, according to records of Westmoreland’s schedule that were provided by the U.S. Army, the general did not visit Detroit around Memorial Day in 1969 or have dinner with Carson. In fact, the general’s records suggest he was in Washington that day and played tennis at 6:45 p.m.
There are, however, several reports of an event in February of that year, similar to the one Carson described. Then, Westmoreland was the featured guest at a 1,500-person banquet to celebrate Medal of Honor recipient Dwight Johnson. The event drew prominent guests, including the governor at the time, the mayor of Detroit, the president of Ford Motor Company and nine previous Medal of Honor awardees, according to an Associated Press account of the event.
Carson, a leader of the city’s ROTC program at the time, may have been among the invited guests at the $10-a-plate event.
Carson’s later retelling of the events in this period of his life downplays his meeting with Westmoreland and that event’s link to a West Point acceptance. In his January 2015 book, “You Have a Brain,” — a book geared toward teenagers — Carson again recalls his rapid rise through his high school ROTC program to become the top student officer in the city.
“That position allowed me the chance to meet four-star general William Westmoreland, who had commanded all American forces in Vietnam before being promoted to Army Chief of Staff at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.,” he wrote. “I also represented the Junior ROTC at a dinner for Congressional Medal of Honor winners, marched at the front of Detroit’s Memorial Day parade as head of an ROTC contingent, and was offered a full scholarship to West Point.”
Carson has said he turned down the supposed offer of admission because he knew he wanted to be a doctor and attending West Point would have required four years of military service after graduation.
Cecil Murphey, who ghostwrote “Gifted Hands,” told POLITICO that his memory of Carson’s exchange with Westmoreland was hazy.
“My gut response is that it was not a private meeting, but there were others there,” he said in an email. “The general took a liking to Ben and opened doors.”
Ben Carson admits he lied about West Point scholarship, insists stories about troubled childhood are true
BY MEG WAGNER
Ben Carson admitted Friday that he lied about earning a prestigious scholarship to West Point while controversy over the validity of his troubled kid-to-renowned doctor narrative reached a crescendo.
The 2016 GOP candidate said he fabricated a part of his 1996 autobiography, “Gifted Hands,” in which he claimed he was given a “full scholarship” to the U.S. Military Academy just hours after he rebuked accusations that he lied about his violent outbursts as a child and teenager.
In the nearly 20-year-old book, Carson boasted about his transformation from rage-filled boy to refined neurosurgeon, describing how he once tried to hit his mother with a hammer and attempted to stab one of his friends to death.
His former classmates, however, said they don’t remember the Republican as a rough kid.
“I don’t know nothing about that,” Gerald Ware, Carson’s classmate at Detroit’s Southwestern High School, told CNN. “It would have been all over the whole school.”
Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson claimed in his 1996 book that he had a violent childhood full of moments of ‘pathological anger.’
CNN spoke with nine people Carson grew up with. Not one remembered the Republican’s self-proclaimed violent outbursts.
While Carson slammed the CNN report, calling it a “bunch of lies” and “pathetic,” he did admit that there is at least one falsehood in the book: A story about how Gen. William Westmoreland offered the then-17-year-old a full-ride to West Point.
Carson said that as the leader of his high school’s Junior ROTC program, he attended a 1969 Memorial Day dinner for Congressional Medal of Honor winners. There, he met with General Westmoreland.
“Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point,” he wrote.
Carson may have met Westmoreland at the 1969 banquet — which was held in February, not May — but the general would not have promised the student a scholarship, West Point told POLITICO. All costs are covered for admitted West Point students, so “full ride” scholarships don’t exist.
Carson was “introduced to folks from West Point by his ROTC Supervisors” at a banquet, Carson’s campaign manager Barry Bennett said. While they may have discussed application process, Carson never applied or received a scholarship.
Instead, he attended Yale University before going on to the University of Michigan’s medical school.
West Point said it has no records of Carson applying to or enrolling in the academy.
Carson admitted he “doesn’t remember all the specific details” of meeting Westmoreland.
Ben Carson’s Violent Childhood Called Into Question as Classmates Don’t Remember
NY Daily News
“Because I had done so extraordinarily well you know I was told someone like me – they could get a scholarship to West Point,” Carson told the New York Times.
Despite the scholarship lie, Carson defended the rest of the book Friday, saying all the stories about his violent childhood are true.
In the 19-year-old book, Carson claimed he once tried to strike his mother with a hammer as they argued over clothing. His brother Curtis stepped in and disarmed the boy before he could physically harm their mother.
Carson also said he physically attacked at least two of his school friends.
In the seventh grade he hit a boy named Jerry with a lock after he teased Carson for saying something “stupid” in English class.
Carson wrote that he was given a “full scholarship” to West Point.
“I swung at him, lock in hand. The blow slammed into his forehead, and he groaned, staggering backward, blood seeping from a three-inch gash,” Carson wrote.
Two years later, in the ninth grade, he tried to stab a friend who he identified in the book only as “Bob.” The blade stuck Bob’s belt buckle, breaking the blade and leaving the teen unharmed.
“I was trying to kill somebody,” Carson wrote of the knife attack, calling it a moment of “pathological anger.”
The teenage Carson ran to the bathroom after the failed stabbing and prayed. Since then, he has never had a problem with his temper, he claimed in the book.
Carson’s classmates remembered him as introverted and studious — someone who was more likely to be found in the library than in the middle of a schoolyard fight.
Carson’s classmates have described him as a quiet, shy student, not an angry young man.
“He was a quiet, shy kid, not too outgoing,” said his junior high and high school classmate Jerry Dixon. “Bennie stayed home a lot or went to the library to work.”
Dixon said he is not the Jerry the doctor-turned-politician beat with a lock — and said he had never even heard of such an incident.
Carson refused to reveal the names of his victims in a Friday interview on CNN, saying to name them would be “victimizing.”
He admitted that he changed the names in his autobiography, but maintained both “Bob” and “Jerry” are real people who will only be identified if they chose to come forward on their own.
“Tell me what makes you think you’re going to find those specific people?” Carson asked CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. “What is your methodology? Because I don’t understand it.”
Carson’s campaign adviser Armstrong Williams also refused to identify the candidate’s alleged victims or provide any kind of documentation showing disciplinary actions for his claimed school fights.
“Why would anyone cooperate with your obvious witch hunt?” Armstrong Williams wrote to CNN in an email last week, the day before Halloween. “No comment and moving on…… Happy Halloween!!!!!”
Donald Trump quickly weighed in on his rival’s controversy.
“The Carson story is either a total fabrication or, if true, even worse-trying to hit mother over the head with a hammer or stabbing friend!” he tweeted Thursday.
Ben Carson prepared to board his campaign bus after appearing at a book signing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Thursday.Credit Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A report on Friday said Ben Carson had acknowledged never having applied to West Point, raising questions about his repeated assertions that he had turned down a scholarship to attend the military academy.
According to the report, in Politico, West Point had no record that Mr. Carson, who has been leading in some national polls in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, had applied. When Politico approached Mr. Carson’s campaign with the information, his campaign manager, Barry Bennett, in a statement, explained that Mr. Carson had considered an offer to receive help getting an appointment to the academy, but he did not apply.
In repeated references to West Point over the years, Mr. Carson has strongly implied that he had a standing offer to attend.
In his statement, Mr. Bennett said, “Dr. Carson was the top R.O.T.C. student in the City of Detroit.”
Referring to Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the Army chief of staff at the time, Mr. Bennett added: “In that role he was invited to meet General Westmoreland. He believes it was at a banquet. He can’t remember with specificity their brief conversation but it centered around Dr. Carson’s performance as R.O.T.C. city executive officer.”
“He was introduced to folks from West Point by his R.O.T.C. supervisors,” Mr. Bennett said. “They told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in R.O.T.C. He considered it but in the end did not seek admission.”
In an interview with The New York Times on Friday, Mr. Carson said: “I don’t remember all the specific details. Because I had done so extraordinarily well you know I was told that someone like me – they could get a scholarship to West Point. But I made it clear I was going to pursue a career in medicine.”
“It was, you know, an informal ‘with a record like yours we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point.’”
Mr. Carson has recounted the episode of being offered a scholarship at various points in telling his triumphant personal story. (Technically, West Point does not offer scholarships; it is free to attend.)
In his recent book, “You Have a Brain,” Mr. Carson described how he decided which college to attend: “I still had the scholarship offer from West Point as a result of my R.O.T.C. achievements.”
“But I knew medicine is what I wanted to do. So I applied to only one school. (it was all the money I had). I applied to Yale and thank God they accepted me. I often wonder what might have happened had they said no.”
The revelation came just a couple of days after a CNN report questioned the accuracy of Mr. Carson’s accounts of violent episodes in his youth, which are central to his often-told story of personal redemption through faith and hard work, one that has made him a favorite of evangelical Christian voters. On Friday, shortly before the Politico report was published, Mr. Carson attacked the CNN report as a “bunch of lies.”
Ben Carson defends his telling of an informal offer from West Point
By David Weigel
Ben Carson defended his long-told story of a “scholarship” to West Point today, responding to scrutiny by saying that he merely had received an “informal” offer of a free ride to the military academy.
“Because I had done so extraordinarily well you know I was told that someone like me [could] get a scholarship to West Point,” Carson told the New York Times. “It was, you know, an informal ‘with a record like yours we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point.'”
Allies of the former neurosurgeon, who has slowly risen to the top of 2016 Republican primary polls, had been making a similar case all day. The argument — which depends on a careful parsing of verbs — is that he never applied, even after being told he’d be a sure-thing candidate. The point, which found many takers in conservative media, was that the controversy could be dismissed as a witch hunt.
That reasoning came together Friday morning, after Politico published a story titled “Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point scholarship.” After confirming that Carson had never applied to West Point, and that a meeting Carson described with Gen. William Westmoreland apparently did not happen when the candidate had claimed, the story quoted Carson campaign manager Barry Bennett’s new explanation.
“He was introduced to folks from West Point by his ROTC Supervisors,” Bennett said. “They told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in ROTC. He considered it but in the end did not seek admission.”
West Point cadets must be sponsored by a member of Congress or the Secretary of the Army. But Doug Watts, a spokesman for the campaign, said that Carson never completed — nor claimed to have completed — the process for acceptance into West Point, and those never had an official sponsor.
“He was told by the ROTC Commander that he could have an appointment,” explained Watts. “Dr. Carson rejected the offer, did not apply or pursue admission. Had he done so, and been accepted, that would have been tantamount to a scholarship, the same that all cadets receive.”
In an interview, Carson’s close friend Armstrong Williams argued that Politico had written a false headline off of Bennett’s accurate quote.
“In the story itself, the campaign does not say Dr. Carson applied to West Point,” Williams said of Politico. “Dr. Carson boasts about his scores in ROTC. Westmoreland encourages him to apply. As Dr. Carson says, they were impressed by his scores, but he never applied. They said to him, we could get you in. This guy got into Yale — obviously he could have got in. The headline was a fabrication.”
Carson, whose steady rise to the top of presidential primary polls has started to draw media scrutiny his way, is depending on a loose interpretation of the word “scholarship.” There is no tuition at West Point; there is no equivalent of a “scholarship” as generally understood at most universities. In his memoir “Gifted Hands” and in anecdotes about the offer, Carson never says that he “applied,” only that some “scholarship” came his way after a meeting with Westmoreland and “congressional medal winners.”
“I was offered a full scholarship to West Point,” Carson wrote. “I didn’t refuse the scholarship outright, but I let them know that a military career wasn’t where I saw myself going. As overjoyed as I felt to be offered such a scholarship, I wasn’t really tempted. The scholarship would have obligated me to spend four years in military service after I finished college, precluding my chances to go on to medical school.”
That description of the offer came with its own problems — it is not, for example, impossible for a West Point graduate to complete his service, then become a doctor. But Carson’s allies insist that the gap between “applying” and being offered a “scholarship” debunks the Politico story. Indeed, in “Gifted Hands,” Carson repeatedly described how he had only $10 to submit with a college application, limiting his choices.
“Each college required a ten-dollar non-returnable entrance fee sent with the application,” Carson wrote. “I had exactly ten dollars, so I could apply only to one.”
In an August 2015 Facebook post, Carson described that situation again, to tell a questioner that he applied only to Yale.
“I was the highest student ROTC member in Detroit and was thrilled to get an offer from West Point,” wrote Carson. “But I knew medicine is what I wanted to do. So I applied to only one school. (It was all the money I had). I applied to Yale and thank God they accepted me.”
Williams, who had not spoken to Carson since Politico’s story went online, insisted that it was “shoddy journalism” and oversold what Carson himself had claimed.
“It gives journalism a bad name,” said Williams. “It only fits into Dr. Carson’s narrative of a witch hunt.”
On Friday afternoon, conservative talkers like Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, and Sean Hannity criticized the coverage that had made Carson out as a dissembler. But at least one of his rivals sense a political opportunity in the scrum.
“Well, I think it’s really the beginning of the end,” said Donald Trump in an interview.
In two of his books — the popular “Gifted Hands” as well as a newer book entitled “You Have a Brain” — Carson tells the West Point story as part of his aspirational life that began in poverty in Detroit and continued through a decorated career as a world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon.
Now we know that story is, at best, somewhat misleading. It is of course possible that Carson was either led to believe he might have been given a scholarship to the military academy if he had applied or simply misunderstood a conversation he participated in. That is the direction the Carson team appears to be headed, saying in a statement of his meeting with then-Gen. William Westmoreland: “He can’t remember with specificity their brief conversation but it centered around Dr. Carson’s performance as ROTC City Executive Officer.”
Regardless of whether the West Point story is a simple misunderstanding or something more nefarious, what it will do is raise this simple question: What else in Ben Carson’s remarkable biography might not be totally, 100 percent accurate?
Even before the West Point story broke, Carson was dealing with suggestions that his recounting of his tough childhood highlighted by a terrible temper and a series of altercations with his mother — among other people — might not be true.
A CNN report, which was based on interviews with nine people who knew Carson as a young man, argues that the violent portrait he paints of himself doesn’t jibe with the person they knew. “All of the people interviewed expressed surprise about the incidents Carson has described,” reads the CNN story. “No one challenged the stories directly. Some of those interviewed expressed skepticism, but noted that they could not know what had happened behind closed doors.”
Carson spent Thursday insisting that the people who were directly involved in these purported attacks weren’t the people that CNN had spoken to and, therefore, the report had no merit.
Now, with the West Point story raging, Carson will come under even more pressure to explain some of the fuzzier parts of his personal biography. And if any other inconsistencies or outright falsehoods come out amid that heightened scrutiny, it could spell curtains for a Carson campaign that has just moved into the pole position in the Republican primary race.
With question over West Point offer, Ben Carson feels the glare of the front-runner’s spotlight
Timothy M. Phelps
retired Baltimore neurosurgeon Ben Carson has reached the top in several recent national polls, he is also experiencing new scrutiny as a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.
On Friday, his name dominated political news with a Politico report that his campaign “admits fabricating a West Point scholarship” in his autobiography, though that reference was later taken out of the story. The story also quoted a West Point spokeswoman as saying the famous military academy had no record of an application from Carson.
Barry Bennett, Carson’s campaign manager, said in an interview that Carson’s book,“Gifted Hands,” was accurate when Carson wrote, “I was offered a full scholarship to West Point.”
“I would not have used the word ‘full scholarship.’ I would have said ‘nomination,’ but it’s not a fabrication, it’s not a lie,” Bennett said in an interview. At West Point, tuition and other expenses are paid by the government.
Bennett said that Carson, who he said was the top high school Junior ROTC officer in Detroit, was offered a nomination to West Point by ROTC officials in the city. He said he did not have names, but that the campaign and others are trying to locate them to corroborate Carson’s story.
Later, Carson told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that his account of the West Point episode “could have been more clarified. I told it as I understood it.”
Also, Theresa Brinkerhoff, the chief of media relations at West Point, said that a comment she made to Politico was “misconstrued.”
Politico wrote that West Point had no record of Carson applying to the academy, but Brinkerhoff said in an interview that the academy does not keep records beyond three years if a candidate does not attend the school. The academy has no way of knowing whether Carson applied, Brinkerhoff said.
In the end, Bennett confirmed that Carson had not applied. In his book, Carson wrote that he never had any interest in any career other than medicine. “I remembered the scholarship offer from West Point. A teaching career? Business? None of these areas held any real interest,” he said.
Clearly, however, Carson has left an impression that the offer to go to the academy came from West Point itself. On Facebook in August, Carson took a question from someone named Bill, who “wanted to know if it was true that I was offered a slot at West Point after high school. Bill, that is true. I was the highest student ROTC member in Detroit and was thrilled to get an offer from West Point. But I knew medicine is what I wanted to do. So I applied to only one school.”
Carson went to Yale.
Carson was also involved in a contentious interview Friday morning on CNN. Anchor Alisyn Camerota badgered him about reports by the network that it had been unable to locate some childhood friends or family members Carson mentions having assaulted in his autobiography.
In his book, Carson says he once tried to stab a person he refers to as Bob. On Friday, Carson told CNN that person was really a family member by another name who did not want to be identified. Other childhood friends mentioned in the book could decide for themselves whether to come forward, he said.
Bennett said the political attacks were a function of national polls over the past week showing him ahead of Donald Trump and all other Republicans for the nomination.
“Somewhere, there is a panicked candidate running for the Republican presidential nomination who is spreading a lot of dirt,” Bennett said.
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It was not an answer guaranteed to instill the participants’—or, for that matter, the viewers’—confidence in the fairness and balance of the occasion.
Speaking of which, Fox News, unsurprisingly, had a field day with CNBC’s treatment of the candidates.
“This is the most appalling performance by the moderators,” Charles Krauthammer opined, “that I can ever remember seeing.”
Republican talking point virtuoso Sean Hannity declared: “The candidates combined beat the moderators, who were taking the Democratic Party line.”
“This a horrible night for the news media,” Hannity added—and, for once, I agreed with him.
The trouble started with the very first question, Quintanilla cutely asked each candidate, as though they were in a job interview, to admit to a weakness of character or somesuch.
It was a gimmicky and rather puerile inquiry, of course, and predictably few of the contenders even bothered to address it. Bush conceded he was probably a little too impatient. Trump claimed he was a little too trusting, and then bitterly unforgiving when betrayed. Carly Fiorina—grinning winsomely for laughs—revealed she was advised to smile more during debates.
Quick, meanwhile, got blindsided when she asked Trump about something he supposedly said about Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg’s immigration policies, and Trump told her he never said it.
“So where did that come from?” Quick pleaded lamely.
“I don’t know. You people write this stuff,” Trump retorted, to laughter.
Harwood, who also writes for The New York Times, came in for particular criticism from the candidates—and with justice. He came across as a sort of grand inquisitor and took on the severe and scolding tone of an irritated headmaster with candidates who spoke beyond their 60-second allotment.
“John, do you want me to answer or do you want to answer?” Christie chided after Harwood interrupted him. “Gotta tell ya, even in New Jersey what you’re doing is called ‘rude.’”
Toward the end, when each contender was invited to deliver a 30-second closing pitch, Trump used his time to congratulate himself and Ben Carson for negotiating with CNBC to pare down the debate from 3½ hours to 2 hours “so we can all get the hell out of here.”
Trump argued that it’s just those sorts of negotiating skills that he’ll employ as president to make America great again.
“Just for the record,” Harwood felt compelled to chime in, “it was always going to be two hours.”
“That is not right,” Trump shot back, basically calling Harwood a liar. “You know that is not right.”
All in all, the night offered a harsh lesson for future debate moderators: Go ahead and pose tough questions, but get your facts straight, don’t be snarky, and don’t, on any account, debate the pros
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August 1, 2013 – Breaking: CNN Reports CIA Engaged in Massive Intimidation Campaign to Keep Benghazi a Secret — This is HUGE. Basically the CIA is reportedly giving polygraph tests EVERY MONTH to more than a dozen CIA employees that were on the ground in Benghazi during the attack, to ensure that none of them talk about what happened that night. CNN — CNN has uncovered exclusive new information about what
Kevin Shipp at AIM’s Citizens Commission on Benghazi Conference
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Benghazi Bombshell – Whistleblower’s Lawyer: 400 Surface To Air Missiles Stolen – Wake Up America
Attorney for Benghazi Whistleblower says 400 missiles stolen during attack
Published on Aug 13, 2013
An attorney for the Benghazi whistleblowers says that some 400 surface to air missles (SAMs) were ‘taken from Libya’ during the terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
He added that the U.S. intelligence community is terrified they might be used to shoot down airliners.
Joe diGenova, whose wife Victoria Toensing — a former deputy assistant attorney general — also represents Benghazi witnesses and others with knowledge of the terror attack, told WMAL radio that the loss of those missiles is also one the reasons the U.S. State Department shut down 19 embassies across the Middle East last week.
‘A lot of people have come forward to share information with us,’ he said during the radio station’s ‘Mornings On The Mall’ program Monday morning.
‘We have learned that one of the reasons the administration is so deeply concerned’ is that ‘there were 400 surface-to-air missiles stolen, and that they are … in the hands of many people, and that the biggest fear in the U.S. intelligence community is that one of these missiles will be used to shoot down an airliner. 400 missiles, surface-to-air missiles, taken from Libya.’
Asked if the missiles are now ‘in the hands of al-Qaeda operatives,’ DiGenova replied, ‘That is what these people are telling us.’
DiGenova said his sources are ‘former intelligence officials who stay in constant contact with people in the Special Ops and intelligence community.’
‘And it’s pretty clear that the biggest concern right now are 400 missiles which have been diverted in Libya and have gotten in the hands of some very ugly people.’
diGenova said that while he was uncertain whether the stolen weapons were being kept at the U.S. Consulate’s CIA annex, ‘it is clear that the annex was somehow involved in the process of the distribution of those missiles.’
‘They were afraid that there was going to be a missile attack on one of the embassies. Remember, you can take a shoulder-held missile and shoot it into an embassy. Not just into the sky.’ ‘That’s what this was all about,’ he insisted. ‘That’s why they’re so worried. That’s why they have lied repeatedly about what happened in Benghazi, because they are now responsible for all of the stepchildren of violence that happens as a result of this. This is a very serious matter.’
FSA rocket shoots down Assad helicopter – Truthloader
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CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack, sources say
The Benghazi Select Committee: Many Questions Remain Unanswered
The House Select Committee on Benghazi is gearing up to investigate the many unanswered questions surrounding the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility on September 11, 2012. Contrary to the Obama Administration’s assertions, numerous questions remain unanswered about what happened that fateful day both in Benghazi and here in Washington. This, despite the determined efforts of members of Congress to extract answered from a reluctant White House and State Department. Yet, in order to prevent a recurrence of unnecessary loss of American lives, systemic failures must be addressed, as well as the lack of accountability among those responsible for diplomatic security. Equally importantly, the families of the victims and indeed Americans need to know why no retaliation or justice has been visited upon those who killed U.S. diplomats.
“Peace President” Obama Let Benghazi Happen
As the Mail Online out it, “The Citizens Commission on Benghazi, a self-selected group of former top military officers, CIA insiders and think-tankers, declared Tuesday in Washington that a seven-month review of the deadly 2012 terrorist attack has determined that it could have been prevented — if the U.S. hadn’t been helping to arm al-Qaeda militias throughout Libya a year earlier.”
Obama “Switched Sides” in War on Terror
Former CIA officer Clare Lopez argues: Libya in 2011 marks the place and the time that the United States (U.S.) and the Obama administration formally switched sides in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). A mere 10 years after al-Qa’eda (supported by Hizballah and Iran) attacked the American homeland in the worst act of terrorism ever suffered by this country, U.S. leadership decided to facilitate the provision of weapons to jihadist militias known to be affiliated with al-Qa’eda and the Muslim Brotherhood in order to bring down a brutal dictator who also just happened to be a U.S. ally in the GWOT at the time.
Obama Let Them Die at Benghazi
Wayne Simmons spent 27 years working with the CIA to combat terrorism, narco-terrorism and narcotics trafficking, arms smuggling, counterfeiting, cyber-terrorists, and industrial and economic espionage. He sits on the Advisory Council for the Intelligence Summit, and is a contributor to the conservative publication Human Events.
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Chaffetz to Families of Benghazi Victims: “We have a duty to find out the truth.”
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Congressman Mica questions Administration on Benghazi
In an exchange with witnesses during our Congressional Oversight Hearing, Congressman John Mica explains to Administration officials that most Americans believe the State Department report on responsibility for the Bengazhi attack was a “whitewash”. Those conducting the review were appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who they failed to interview along with other top State and Administration officials. Mica stated that this looks like an inside job where no one was held accountable, fired and none of the killers captured or brought to justice.
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David Petraeus Scandal: Benghazi Attack Testimony Behind Closed Doors
The former CIA head will go behind closed doors to give testimony on the terror attacks.
General Petraeus leaked secret info on Benghazi attack to his mistress?
Glenn Beck: Military Action In Syria Is Designed To Cover Up Benghazi
REVEALED: If This Is True, Benghazi Is Even Worse Than We Ever Thought
The feature story that Michael Lewis just published about President Obama’s decisionmaking prior to the war in Libya includes a lot of details that inspire confidence in his leadership. By all accounts he’s intelligent, sober-minded, and inclined to seek out an array of perspectives. And he’s frequently forced to make extraordinarily difficult tradeoffs with imperfect information. I don’t envy his job.
But the article also raises serious questions about his honesty and regard for the constitution. Let’s take them in turn.
On March 28, 2011, Obama gave a televised address about Libya. It included this passage about his actions:
Confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis, I ordered warships into the Mediterranean. European allies declared their willingness to commit resources to stop the killing. The Libyan opposition, and the Arab League, appealed to the world to save lives in Libya. At my direction, America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass an historic Resolution that authorized a No0Fly Zone to stop the regime’s attacks from the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people.
In his telling, (a) America led the effort to establish the No-Fly Zone; and (b) the No-Fly Zone would stop the Libyan regime’s attacks from the air.
If you were president just then and you turned your television to some cable news channel you would have seen many Republican senators screaming at you to invade Libya and many Democratic congressmen hollering at you that you had no business putting American lives at risk in Libya. If you flipped over to the networks on March 7 you might have caught ABC White House correspondent Jake Tapper saying to your press secretary, Jay Carney, “More than a thousand people have died, according to the United Nations. How many more people have to die before the United States decides, O.K., we’re going to take this one step of a no-fly zone?”
By March 13, Qaddafi appeared to be roughly two weeks from getting to Benghazi. On that day the French announced they were planning to introduce a resolution in the United Nations to use U.N. forces to secure the skies over Libya in order to prevent Libyan planes from flying. A “no-fly zone” this was called, and it forced Obama’s hand. The president had to decide whether to support the no-fly-zone resolution or not. At 4:10 p.m. on March 15 the White House held a meeting to discuss the issue. “Here is what we knew,” recalls Obama, by which he means here is what I knew. “We knew that Qaddafi was moving on Benghazi, and that his history was such that he could carry out a threat to kill tens of thousands of people. We knew we didn’t have a lot of time–somewhere between two days and two weeks. We knew they were moving faster than we originally anticipated. We knew that Europe was proposing a no-fly zone.”
That much had been in the news. One crucial piece of information had not. “We knew that a no-fly zone would not save the people of Benghazi,” says Obama. “The no-fly zone was an expression of concern that didn’t really do anything.” European leaders wanted to create a no-fly zone to stop Qaddafi, but Qaddafi wasn’t flying. His army was racing across the North African desert in jeeps and tanks. Obama had to have wondered just how aware of this were these foreign leaders supposedly interested in the fate of these Libyan civilians. He didn’t know if they knew that a no-fly zone was pointless, but if they’d talked to any military leader for five minutes they would have. And that was not all. “The last thing we knew,” he adds, “is that if you announced a no-fly zone and if it appeared feckless, there would be additional pressure for us to go further. As enthusiastic as France and Britain were about the no-fly zone, there was a danger that if we participated the U.S. would own the operation. Because we had the capacity.”
To summarize, (a) America did not lead the effort to establish a no-fly zone — it reluctantly signed on to the idea after its hand was forced by the French; (b) the no-fly zone wouldn’t stop the regime’s attacks because they weren’t coming from the air. It was, rather, a preamble to escalation.
Due to the nature of the Libya conflict, these misrepresentations weren’t nearly as consequential as, say, the way George W. Bush spoke out about weapons of mass destruction before the Iraq war. It is nevertheless an example of the president deliberately misleading the American people in order to facilitate false impressions about foreign military actions that he finds convenient.
Obama insists that he still had not made up his mind what to do when he returned to the Situation Room — that he was still considering doing nothing at all. A million people in Benghazi were waiting to find out whether they would live or die, and he honestly did not know. There were things the Pentagon might have said to deter him, for instance. “If somebody had said to me that we could not take out their air defense without putting our fliers at risk in a significant way; if the level of risk for our military personnel had been ratcheted up–that might have changed my decision,” says Obama. “Or if I did not feel Sarkozy or Cameron were far enough out there to follow through. Or if I did not think we could get a U.N resolution passed.” Once again he polled the people in the room for their views. Of the principals only Susan Rice (enthusiastically) and Hillary Clinton (who would have settled for a no-fly zone) had the view that any sort of intervention made sense. “How are we going to explain to the American people why we’re in Libya,” asked William Daley, according to one of those present. “And Daley had a point: who gives a shit about Libya?”
From the president’s point of view there was a certain benefit in the indifference of the American public to whatever was happening in Libya. It enabled him to do, at least for a moment, pretty much whatever he wanted to do. Libya was the hole in the White House lawn.
Obama made his decision: push for the U.N resolution and effectively invade another Arab country. Of the choice not to intervene he says, “That’s not who we are,” by which he means that’s not who I am. The decision was extraordinarily personal. “No one in the Cabinet was for it,” says one witness. “There was no constituency for doing what he did.” Then Obama went upstairs to the Oval Office to call European heads of state and, as he puts it, “call their bluff.” Cameron first, then Sarkozy. It was three a.m. in Paris when he reached the French president, but Sarkozy insisted he was still awake. (“I’m a young man!”) In formal and stilted tones the European leaders committed to taking over after the initial bombing. The next morning Obama called Medvedev to make sure that the Russians would not block his U.N. resolution. There was no obvious reason why Russia should want to see Qaddafi murder a city of Libyans, but in the president’s foreign dealings the Russians play the role that Republicans currently more or less play in his domestic affairs. The Russians’ view of the world tends to be zero-sum: if an American president is for it, they are, by definition, against it. Obama thought that he had made more progress with the Russians than he had with the Republicans; Medvedev had come to trust him, he felt, and believed him when he said the United States had no intention of moving into Libya for the long term. A senior American official at the United Nations thought that perhaps the Russians let Obama have his resolution only because they thought it would end in disaster for the United States.
And it could have. All that exists for any president are the odds. On March 17 the U.N. gave Obama his resolution. The next day he flew to Brazil and was there on the 19th, when the bombing began. A group of Democrats in Congress issued a statement demanding Obama withdraw from Libya; Ohio Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich asked if Obama had just committed an impeachable offense. All sorts of people who had been hounding the president for his inaction now flipped and questioned the wisdom of action. A few days earlier Newt Gingrich, busy running for president, had said, “We don’t need the United Nations. All we have to say is that we think slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening.” Four days after the bombing began, Gingrich went on the Today show to say he wouldn’t have intervened and was quoted on Politico as saying, “It is impossible to make sense of the standard of intervention in Libya except opportunism and news media publicity.” The tone of the news coverage shifted dramatically, too. One day it was “Why aren’t you doing anything?” The next it was “What have you gotten us into?” As one White House staffer puts it, “All the people who had been demanding intervention went nuts after we intervened and said it was outrageous. That’s because the controversy machine is bigger than the reality machine.”
Put more succinctly, going to war in Libya was a close call; there are things various folks could have said to deter him; he ran the decision through executive branch and international channels; most people told him not to do it; but if Congress came into the picture at all, it wasn’t enough to merit mention in the retelling, and certainly not enough to follow the constitution and put the prospective war to a vote. The people’s representatives were excluded.
The imperial presidency is so well entrenched that a journalist like Michael Lewis needn’t really question circumventing Congress to feel as though he’s including all the crucial parts of the story about going to war.
That remains a scandal.
And it is telling that Michael Lewis, one of America’s finest journalists, didn’t even ask Obama about failing to put the decision about Libya before Congress. He didn’t ask despite the plain language of the Constitution, Obama’s prior statements indicating he fully understood his legal obligations, and the fact that various members of Congress complained about his unilateral action. The imperial presidency is so well entrenched that a journalist like Lewis needn’t really question those things to feel as though he’s including all the crucial parts of the story about going to war.
That is quite a precedent Obama has set. And Mitt Romney is ready to exploit it if he wins. As he put it: “I can assure you if I’m president, the Iranians will have no question but that I will be willing to take military action if necessary to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now.”
War is commonly defined as “a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations.” By that definition, the United States and its allies have been at war with Libya since late last week. “At my direction,” President Obama told Congress, “U.S. military forces commenced operations” in Libya.
Article I, section 8 of the United States Constitution states that “Congress shall have the power … to declare war…” Since Congress has not declared war on Libya, is American involvement in the Libyan war unconstitutional?
Some members of Congress think so. Rep. Scott Ringell, a freshman from Virginia, said that the Libya hostilities “should trigger a debate within Congress and [among] the American people about proper interpretation and application of [the] Constitution. I’m surprised more conservatives aren’t speaking out about this issue.” Some Democrats have spoken out questioning the validity of the action. In the past, Senators Obama and Biden both said the president lacks the authority to do what President Obama has done.
The question of the constitutionality of the Libyan effort depends on the original public meaning of Article I, section 8 of the Constitution. Vice President (then Senator) Joseph Biden recalled that meaning in a speech on the Senate floor on July 30, 1998. He noted that the original draft of the Constitution would have empowered Congress to “make war.” James Madison and Elbridge Gerry moved that the language be changed to “declare war” so that the president would have the power “to repel sudden attacks.” Biden pointed out that only one framer, Pierce Butler of South Carolina, thought the president should have the power to initiate war.
Biden concluded that under the Constitution, the president could not use force without prior authorization unless it was necessary to “repel a sudden attack.” Presidential candidate Barack Obama agreed in 2007: “the President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
Senator Biden also expounded on the framers’ reasons for limiting presidential discretion:
The rationale for vesting the power to launch war in Congress was simple. The Framers’ views were dominated by their experience with the British King, who had unfettered power to start wars. Such powers the Framers were determined to deny the President.
Of course, in 1998 and today, some claim the president has broad powers to initiate and carry on war under the “executive power” and the commander-in-chief clauses of Article II. But the framers rejected this “monarchist view” of the presidency.
The framers of the Constitution knew that the English king possessed certain prerogatives or discretionary powers to act for the public interest. Among these prerogatives was the power to declare war. He could also carry on undeclared wars. Yet the framers explicitly gave Congress the power to declare war. Apart from repelling sudden attacks, the Constitution is silent on the president’s power to conduct undeclared wars. Read against the English background, the text of the Constitution creates a constrained executive for the new nation.
What does this history imply for the present? President Obama told Congress that the use of force in Libya was intended “to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and address the threat posed to international peace and security by the crisis in Libya.” But the framers did not empower the president to initiate war to prevent humanitarian catastrophes, deal with threats to international peace and security, or protect the lives of foreign nationals. The framers stated that the Constitution was instituted to provide for the common defense of We, the People, not the defense of people everywhere.
They did recognize a limited power to repel sudden attacks. The Libyan regime did not suddenly attack the United States or its citizens. There is nothing to repel. America’s war in Libya thus cannot be constitutional.
What now? The Supreme Court is unlikely to invalidate presidential actions in Libya. The task of vindicating the Constitution falls to Congress. It needs to hear from its conservatives, those who believe in the original meaning of the Constitution. Congress also needs to hear from its liberals, those who believe what Senators Biden and Obama once said about presidential power. Together members of Congress could finally live up to their constitutional obligations and impose restraints on a president who has become too much of a king.
John Samples directs the Cato Institute’s Center for Representative Government and is the author of The Struggle to Limit Government: A Modern Political History.
March 2011: U.S. secretly approves arms shipments from Qatar to Libyan rebels.
May 2011: Al-Qaeda flags raised over Benghazi. November 2011: Rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi admits a significant number of Libyan rebels were al-Qaeda fighters who fought American troops in Iraq.
April 19, 2012: State Department rejects ambassador to Libya’s request for more security personnel.
June 20, 2012: Assassination attempt on the British Ambassador to Libya.
July 9, 2012: Ambassador Stevens asks the State Department for more security personnel.
August 8, 2012: The number of security personnel at Benghazi reduced by State Department.
August 16, 2012: U.S. Site Security in Benghazi alerts the State Department that conditions are perilous. September 4, 2012: Gallup presidential tracking poll: Obama 47 percent; Romney 46 percent. September 4–6, 2012: Democratic National Convention (“al-Qaeda decimated; bin Laden is dead and GM is alive; al-Qaeda is on the run”).
September 11, 2012: Ambassador Stevens alerts the State Department that conditions in Benghazi are deteriorating.
3:40 p.m. (D.C. time): Stevens calls deputy chief of mission Greg Hicks in Tripoli and alerts him that the consulate in Benghazi is under attack.
4:00 p.m.: The White House is advised that the consulate is under attack. 10th Special Forces Group in Croatia is three hours away; Brigadier General (Ret.) Robert Lovell, Deputy Director of Intelligence for AFRICOM, later testifies that intelligence knew immediately that it was not a protest but a terrorist attack; no request for aid comes from the State Department.
5:00 p.m.: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discusses attack with President Obama.
6:00 p.m.: U.S. Embassy in Tripoli advises the White House and the State Department that al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Sharia has claimed responsibility for the attack. CIA deputy director Mike Morrell later testifies that “analysts knew from the get-go that al Qaeda was involved with this attack.”
8:00 p.m.: Greg Hicks calls Clinton and tells her that consulate is under terrorist attack.
10:00 p.m.: Clinton and Obama talk.
10:30 p.m.: Clinton issues a statement linking the attack to an inflammatory internet video.
11:00–11:30 p.m.: Former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Ty Woods killed.
September 12, 2012: Redacted e-mail from a State Department official says the official advised the Libyan government that the attack was carried out by Ansar al-Sharia. No mention of video.
September 12–15, 2012: CIA drafts several iterations of talking points; contains no known references to video as cause of the attack.
September 13, 2012: State Department memo blames the attack on terrorists.
September 13, 2012: Defense Intelligence Agency assigns blame for the attack on Ansar al-Sharia in Libya. No mention of a video.
September 13, 2012: Clinton condemns violence against U.S. consulate in Libya due to a video. September 13, 2012: Jay Carney condemns attack due to a video.
September 14, 2012: State Department says the attack was a spontaneous demonstration due to a video.
September 14, 2012: Obama and Clinton receive the families of the fallen as their caskets arrive at Andrews Air Force Base; blame the attack on a video. Clinton tells Ty Woods’s father, Charles, that they will “get” the producer of the video.
September 14, 2012: Jay Carney blames the video.
September 14, 2012, 8:00 p.m.: Deputy national-security adviser Ben Rhodes sends an e-mail regarding the preparation of Susan Rice for the Sunday talk shows, advising Rice to underscore the video and that the attack is “not a broader failure of policy.” September 15, 2012: Obama blames the video.
September 16, 2012: Susan Rice appears on five Sunday talk shows and characterizes the attacks as a spontaneous reaction due to a video. September 16, 2012: Libyan president disputes Rice’s comments, asserting Benghazi was a planned attack.
September 18, 2012: Obama appears on the David Letterman show, blames the video.
September 19, 2012: The head of the National Counterterrorism Center testifies that the attack was not a protest but a terrorist attack.
September 20, 2012: Obama blames the video. September 20, 2012: Obama and Clinton run an ad on Pakistani TV apologizing for the video.
September 21, 2012: Clinton says it was a terrorist attack.
September 24, 2012: Obama appears on The View, blames the video.
October 4, 2012: Clinton establishes the Accountability Review Board (“ARB”) to examine the circumstances surrounding the loss of personnel in Benghazi. Clinton not interviewed by ARB.
October 11, 2012: At the vice-presidential debate, Joe Biden claims the administration was not informed about requests for more security at the consulate in Benghazi.
October 16, 2012: Obama, in a response to a question from a reporter about whether he denied requests for aid to Benghazi on September 11 responds, “The minute I found out this was going on, I gave three directives. Number one, make sure we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to. Number two, we are going to investigate exactly what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Number three, find out who did this so that we can bring them to justice.”
October 18, 2012: Judicial Watch makes a Freedom of Information Act request to the administration for talking points and communications regarding the events in Benghazi. The administration ignores the request.
October 20, 2012: Obama claims that he was not aware of any requests for additional security in Benghazi.
January 23, 2013: Clinton asks, “What difference, at this point, does it make whether it was a terrorist attack or a spontaneous demonstration?”
June 21, 2013: Judicial Watch sues the administration for unlawfully withholding documents pertaining to Benghazi.
July 25, 2013: Obama slams the “endless parade of distractions, political posturing, and phony scandals.”
August 2013: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform requests Benghazi e-mails. The Ben Rhodes e-mail is not among those produced.
April 18, 2014: Federal court orders the administration to turn over documents to Judicial Watch. 41 documents are released, including the Ben Rhodes e-mail.
May 1, 2014: Tommy Vietor tells Fox News the president was not in the Situation Room on September 11, 2012.
May 2, 2014: Speaker John Boehner announces a vote to form a select committee on Benghazi.
May 4, 2014: Representative Adam Schiff (D.., Calif.), member of the House Intelligence Committee, suggests Democrats boycott the House select committee as a “colossal waste of time.”
May 5, 2014: Carney will not say whether White House will cooperate with the select committee. (Clearly, much remains to be filled in by the select committee. Numerous questions and lines of inquiry are prompted by the above. The chronology is based on congressional testimony and reports from, among others, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the New York Times, the New York Post and Fox News, and the reporting of Steve Hayes and Jennifer Griffin.)
Posted on October 26, 2012 | Updated on May 2, 2014
The question won’t go away: Did President Obama and administration officials mislead the public when they initially claimed that the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi began “spontaneously” in response to an anti-Muslim video?
The question surfaced again on Oct. 25 — more than six weeks after the incident — when government emails showed the White House and the State Department were told even as the attack was going on that Ansar al-Sharia, a little-known militant group, had claimed credit for it.
We cannot say whether the administration was intentionally misleading the public. We cannot prove intent. There is also more information to come — both from the FBI, which is conducting an investigation, and Congress, which has been holding hearings.
But, at this point, we do know that Obama and others in the administration were quick to cite the anti-Muslim video as the underlying cause for the attack in Benghazi that killed four U.S. diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. And they were slow to acknowledge it was a premeditated terrorist attack, and they downplayed reports that it might have been.
What follows is a timeline of events that we hope will help put the incident into perspective. We call attention in particular to these key facts:
There were no protesters at the Benghazi consulate prior to the attack, even though Obama and others repeatedly said the attackers joined an angry mob that had formed in opposition to the anti-Muslim film that had triggered protests in Egypt and elsewhere. The State Department disclosed this fact Oct. 9 — nearly a month after the attack.
Libya President Mohamed Magariaf insisted on Sept. 16 — five days after the attack — that it was a planned terrorist attack, but administration officials continued for days later to say there was no evidence of a planned attack.
Magariaf also said the idea that the attack was a “spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous.” This, too, was on Sept. 16. Yet, Obama and others continued to describe the incident in exactly those terms — including during the president’s Sept. 18 appearance on the “Late Show With David Letterman.”
Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, was the first administration official to call it “a terrorist attack” during a Sept. 19 congressional hearing. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did the same on Sept. 20. Even so, Obama declined opportunities to call it a terrorist attack when asked at a town hall meeting on Sept. 20 and during a taping of “The View” on Sept. 24.
Here is our timeline:
Sept. 11: The Attack
2:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (8:30 p.m. Benghazi time): U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens steps outside the consulate to say goodbye to a Turkish diplomat. There are no protesters at this time. (“Everything is calm at 8:30,” a State Department official would later say at an Oct. 9 background briefing for reporters. “There’s nothing unusual. There has been nothing unusual during the day at all outside.”)
3 p.m.: Ambassador Stevens retires to his bedroom for the evening. (See Oct. 9 briefing.)
Approximately 3:40 p.m. A security agent at the Benghazi compound hears “loud noises” coming from the front gate and “gunfire and an explosion.” A senior State Department official at the Oct. 9 briefing says that “the camera on the main gate reveals a large number of people – a large number of men, armed men, flowing into the compound.”
About 4 p.m.: This is the approximate time of attack that was given to reporters at a Sept. 12 State Department background briefing. An administration official identified only as “senior administration official one” provides an official timeline of events at the consulate, but only from the time of the attack — not prior to the attack. The official says, “The compound where our office is in Benghazi began taking fire from unidentified Libyan extremists.” (Six of the next seven entries in this timeline — through 8:30 p.m. EDT — all come from the Sept. 12 briefing. The exception being the 6:07 p.m. entry, which comes from Reuters.)
About 4:15 p.m.: “The attackers gained access to the compound and began firing into the main building, setting it on fire. The Libyan guard force and our mission security personnel responded. At that time, there were three people inside the building: Ambassador Stevens, one of our regional security officers, and Information Management Officer Sean Smith.”
Between 4:15 p.m.-4:45 p.m.: Sean Smith is found dead.
About 4:45 p.m.: “U.S. security personnel assigned to the mission annex tried to regain the main building, but that group also took heavy fire and had to return to the mission annex.”
About 5:20 p.m.: “U.S. and Libyan security personnel … regain the main building and they were able to secure it.”
Around 6 p.m.: “The mission annex then came under fire itself at around 6 o’clock in the evening our time, and that continued for about two hours. It was during that time that two additional U.S. personnel were killed and two more were wounded during that ongoing attack.”
6:07 p.m.: The State Department’s Operations Center sends an email to the White House, Pentagon, FBI and other government agencies that said Ansar al-Sharia has claimed credit for the attack on its Facebook and Twitter accounts. (The existence of the email was not disclosed until Reuters reported it on Oct. 24.)
About 8:30 p.m.: “Libyan security forces were able to assist us in regaining control of the situation. At some point in all of this – and frankly, we do not know when – we believe that Ambassador Stevens got out of the building and was taken to a hospital in Benghazi. We do not have any information what his condition was at that time. His body was later returned to U.S. personnel at the Benghazi airport.”
About 10:00 p.m.: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issues a statement confirming that one State official was killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Her statement, which MSNBC posted at 10:32 p.m., made reference to the anti-Muslim video.
Clinton: Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.
Sept.12: Obama Labels Attack ‘Act of Terror,’ Not ‘Terrorism’
Sept. 12: Clinton issues a statement confirming that four U.S. officials, not one, had been killed. She called it a “violent attack.”
Clinton: All the Americans we lost in yesterday’s attacks made the ultimate sacrifice. We condemn this vicious and violent attack that took their lives, which they had committed to helping the Libyan people reach for a better future.
Sept. 12: Clinton delivers a speech at the State Department to condemn the attack in Benghazi and to praise the victims as “heroes.” She again makes reference to the anti-Muslim video in similar language.
Clinton: Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear — there is no justification for this, none.
Sept. 12: Obama delivers a morning speech in the Rose Garden to address the deaths of U.S. diplomats in Libya. He said, “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.” He also makes reference to the anti-Muslim video when he says: “Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None.” He uses the term “act of terror” later that night when talking about the attack at a campaign event in Las Vegas.
Sept. 12: After his Rose Garden speech, Obama tapes an interview for “60 Minutes.” Obama says he didn’t use the word “terrorism” in his Rose Garden speech because “it’s too early to know exactly how this came about.” Steve Kroft, the show’s host, wonders how the attack could be described as a “mob action” since the attackers were “very heavily armed.” Obama says “we’re still investigating,” but he suspects “folks involved in this . . . were looking to target Americans from the start.”
Kroft: Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorism in connection with the Libya attack.
Kroft: Do you believe that this was a terrorist attack?
Obama: Well, it’s too early to know exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans and we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure that we bring these folks to justice one way or the other.
Kroft: It’s been described as a mob action. But there are reports that they were very heavily armed with grenades. That doesn’t sound like your normal demonstration.
Obama: As I said, we’re still investigating exactly what happened. I don’t want to jump the gun on this. But you’re right that this is not a situation that was exactly the same as what happened in Egypt. And my suspicion is, is that there are folks involved in this, who were looking to target Americans from the start.
Sept. 12: Senior administration officials, who did not permit use of their names, hold a briefing with reporters to answer questions about the attack. Twice officials characterize those involved in the attack as “extremists.” In one case, an official identified only as “senior administration official one” is asked by Fox News reporter Justin Fishel if the administration had ruled out the possibly that the attack was in response to the anti-Muslim video. The official says, “We just don’t know.”
Senior administration official one: With regard to whether there is any connection between this Internet activity and this extremist attack in Benghazi, frankly, we just don’t know. We’re not going to know until we have a chance to investigate. And I’m sorry that it is frustrating for you that so many of our answers are “We don’t know,” but they are truthful in that.
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell asks officials to address news reports that the attack has been “linked to a terror attack, an organized terror attack,” possibly al Qaeda. The official refers to it as a “complex attack,” but says it is “too early to say who they were” and their affiliation.
Senior administration official one: Frankly, we are not in a position to speak any further to the perpetrators of this attack. It was clearly a complex attack. We’re going to have to do a full investigation. We are committed to working with the Libyans both on the investigation and to ensure that we bring the perpetrators to justice. The FBI is already committed to assisting in that, but I just – we’re – it’s just too early to speak to who they were and if they might have been otherwise affiliated beyond Libya.
Sept. 12, 4:09 p.m.: At a press briefing en route to Las Vegas, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is asked, “Does the White House believe that the attack in Benghazi was planned and premeditated?” He responds, “It’s too early for us to make that judgment. I think — I know that this is being investigated, and we’re working with the Libyan government to investigate the incident. So I would not want to speculate on that at this time.”
Sept. 12: Libya’s deputy ambassador to London, Ahmad Jibril, tells the BBC that Ansar al-Sharia was behind the attack. The little-known militant group issues a statement that says it “didn’t participate as a sole entity,” neither confirming nor denying the report.
Sept. 12, 6:06 p.m.: Beth Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for the Near East, sends an email to top State Department officials that reads in part: “[T]he group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic extremists.” (An excerpt of Jones’ email was read by Rep. Trey Gowdy at the May 8, 2013, House oversight hearing.)
Sept. 12: Citing unnamed “U.S. government officials,” Reuters reports that “the Benghazi attack may have been planned in advance” and that members of Ansar al-Sharia “may have been involved.” Reuters quotes one of the U.S. officials as saying: “It bears the hallmarks of an organized attack.”
Sept. 13: ‘Clearly Planned’ or ‘Spontaneous’ Attack?
Sept. 13: Clinton meets with Ali Suleiman Aujali — the Libyan ambassador to the U.S. — at a State Department event to mark the end of Ramadan. Ambassador Aujali apologizes to Clinton for what he called “this terrorist attack which took place against the American consulate in Libya.” Clinton, in her remarks, does not refer to it as a terrorist attack. She condemns the anti-Muslim video, but adds that there is “never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”
Clinton: Religious freedom and religious tolerance are essential to the stability of any nation, any people. Hatred and violence in the name of religion only poison the well. All people of faith and good will know that the actions of a small and savage group in Benghazi do not honor religion or God in any way. Nor do they speak for the more than 1 billion Muslims around the world, many of whom have shown an outpouring of support during this time.
Unfortunately, however, over the last 24 hours, we have also seen violence spread elsewhere. Some seek to justify this behavior as a response to inflammatory, despicable material posted on the Internet. As I said earlier today, the United States rejects both the content and the message of that video. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. At our meeting earlier today, my colleague, the foreign minister of Morocco, said that all prophets should be respected because they are all symbols of our humanity, for all humanity.
But both of us were crystal clear in this paramount message: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind. And we look to leaders around the world to stand up and speak out against violence, and to take steps to protect diplomatic missions from attack.
Sept. 13: At a daily press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was asked if the Benghazi attack was “purely spontaneous or was premeditated by militants.” She declined to say, reiterating that the administration did not want to “jump to conclusions.”
Nuland: Well, as we said yesterday when we were on background, we are very cautious about drawing any conclusions with regard to who the perpetrators were, what their motivations were, whether it was premeditated, whether they had any external contacts, whether there was any link, until we have a chance to investigate along with the Libyans. So I know that’s going to be frustrating for you, but we really want to make sure that we do this right and we don’t jump to conclusions.
That said, obviously, there are plenty of people around the region citing this disgusting video as something that has been motivating. As the Secretary said this morning, while we as Americans, of course, respect free speech, respect free expression, there’s never an excuse for it to become violent.
Sept. 13: Clinton met with Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani. She condemned what she called the “disgusting and reprehensible” anti-Muslim video and the violence that it triggered. She said, “Islam, like other religions, respects the fundamental dignity of human beings, and it is a violation of that fundamental dignity to wage attacks on innocents. As long as there are those who are willing to shed blood and take innocent life in the name of religion, the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace.”
Sept. 13: At a campaign event in Colorado, Obama again uses the phrase “act of terror.” He says: “I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished.”
Sept. 13: CNN reports that unnamed “State Department officials” say the incident in Benghazi was a “clearly planned military-type attack” unrelated to the anti-Muslim movie.
CNN: “It was not an innocent mob,” one senior official said. “The video or 9/11 made a handy excuse and could be fortuitous from their perspective but this was a clearly planned military-type attack.”
Sept. 14: White House Says No Evidence of Planned Attack
Sept. 14: Clinton spoke at Andrews Air Force Base at a ceremony to receive the remains of those killed in Benghazi. She remarked that she received a letter from the president of the Palestinian Authority praising Stevens and “deploring — and I quote — ‘an act of ugly terror.’ ” She, however, did not call it an act of terror or a terrorist attack and neither did the president.
Sept. 14: At a State Department press briefing, spokeswoman Nuland says the department will no longer answer any questions about the Benghazi attack. “It is now something that you need to talk to the FBI about, not to us about, because it’s their investigation.”
Sept. 14: At a White House press briefing, Press Secretary Carney denies reports that it was a preplanned attack. “I have seen that report, and the story is absolutely wrong. We were not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent. That report is false.” Later in that same briefing, Carney is told that Pentagon officials informed members of Congress at a closed-door meeting that the Benghazi attack was a planned terrorist attack. Carney said the matter is being investigated but White House officials “don’t have and did not have concrete evidence to suggest that this was not in reaction to the film.”
Question: Jay, one last question — while we were sitting here — [Defense] Secretary [Leon] Panetta and the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee. And the senators came out and said their indication was that this, or the attack on Benghazi was a terrorist attack organized and carried out by terrorists, that it was premeditated, a calculated act of terror. Levin said — Senator Levin — I think it was a planned, premeditated attack. The kind of equipment that they had used was evidence it was a planned, premeditated attack. Is there anything more you can — now that the administration is briefing senators on this, is there anything more you can tell us?
Carney: Well, I think we wait to hear from administration officials. Again, it’s actively under investigation, both the Benghazi attack and incidents elsewhere. And my point was that we don’t have and did not have concrete evidence to suggest that this was not in reaction to the film. But we’re obviously investigating the matter, and I’ll certainly — I’m sure both the Department of Defense and the White House and other places will have more to say about that as more information becomes available.
Sept. 14: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta meets with the Senate Armed Services Committee. Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, reports that Republicans and Democrats came away with the conclusion that the Benghazi attack was a planned terrorist attack.
The Hill: Senators spoke with Panetta about the response to the situation in Libya. Four Americans were killed in an attack Tuesday on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Senators said it has become clearer the attack was coordinated, although they would not say anything specific about any connection to the broader protests that came after an anti-Muslim video was released.
“I think it was a planned, premeditated attack,” Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said. He added he did not know the specific group responsible for the assault on the complex.
[Sen. John] McCain expressed a similar view.“People don’t go to demonstrate and carry RPGs and automatic weapons,” he said, adding that the facts suggest “this was not a ‘mob’ action [or] a group of protesters.”
Sept. 15-16: Susan Rice Contradicts Libyan President
Sept. 15: Obama discusses the Benghazi attack in his weekly address. He makes no mention of terror, terrorists or extremists. He does talk about the anti-Muslim film and “every angry mob” that it inspired in pockets of the Middle East.
Obama: This tragic attack [in Benghazi] takes place at a time of turmoil and protest in many different countries. I have made it clear that the United States has a profound respect for people of all faiths. We stand for religious freedom. And we reject the denigration of any religion — including Islam.
Yet there is never any justification for violence. There is no religion that condones the targeting of innocent men and women. There is no excuse for attacks on our Embassies and Consulates.
Sept. 16: Libya President Mohamed Magariaf says on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that the attack on the U.S. consulate was planned months in advance. But Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, tells CBS News’ Bob Schieffer: “We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.” She says it began “spontaneously … as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo,” and “extremist elements” joined in the protest. (It was later learned that Rice received her information from talking points developed by the CIA.)
Update, May 16, 2013: The talking points given to Rice were extensively revised, largely at the request of the State Department. The original CIA talking points said, “We do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.” And they said that “[i]nitial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar al-Sharia.” References to al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia were removed. However, all of the drafts say the attack began “spontaneously” in response to the Cairo protest. Read our article “Benghazi Attack, Revisited” for more information on what changes were made to the talking points.
Update, May 2, 2014: Two days before Rice’s appearance on the Sunday talk show circuit, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes sent an email to other administration officials, including White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, with the subject line “PREP CALL with Susan: Saturday at 4:00 pm ET.” Rhodes’ email outlined four “goals” for Rice’s TV appearances. One of the goals: “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” The email contained a mock Q&A session, and the third question asked whether the Benghazi attack was “an intelligence failure.” The answer in the email parroted — nearly word for word — Rice’s talking points when it said: “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US Consulate and subsequently its annex.” The Rhodes email was released April 29 by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group that obtained 41 State Department documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
Schieffer: Was this a long-planned attack, as far as you know? Or what– what do you know about that?
Magariaf: The way these perpetrators acted and moved … this leaves us with no doubt that this has preplanned, determined– predetermined.
Schieffer: And you believe that this was the work of al Qaeda and you believe that it was led by foreigners. Is that — is that what you are telling us?
Magariaf: It was planned — definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who — who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their — since their arrival. …
Schieffer: And joining us now, Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador, our U.N. ambassador. Madam Ambassador, [Magariaf] says this is something that has been in the planning stages for months. I understand you have been saying that you think it was spontaneous? Are we not on the same page here?
Rice: Bob, let me tell you what we understand to be the assessment at present. First of all, very importantly, as you discussed with the president, there is an investigation that the United States government will launch led by the FBI, that has begun and —
They are not on the ground yet, but they have already begun looking at all sorts of evidence of — of various sorts already available to them and to us. And they will get on the ground and continue the investigation. So we’ll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions.
But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy — sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that– in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.
Schieffer: But you do not agree with him that this was something that had been plotted out several months ago?
Rice: We do not– we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.
Schieffer: Do you agree or disagree with him that al Qaeda had some part in this?
Rice: Well, we’ll have to find out that out. I mean I think it’s clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we’ll have to determine.
Sept. 16: Magariaf says in an interview with NPR: “The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous. We firmly believe that this was a precalculated, preplanned attack that was carried out specifically to attack the U.S. consulate.”
Sept. 17: State Defends Rice and ‘Initial Assessment’
Sept. 17: Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, is asked about Rice’s comments on “Face the Nation” and four other Sunday talk shows. Nuland says, “The comments that Ambassador Rice made accurately reflect our government’s initial assessment.” Nuland uses the phrase “initial assessment” three times when discussing Rice’s comments.
Sept. 18: Obama Says ‘Extremists’ Used Video As ‘Excuse’
Sept. 18: Obama was asked about the Benghazi attack on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” The president said, “Here’s what happened,” and began discussing the impact of the anti-Muslim video. He then said, “Extremists and terrorists used this as an excuse to attack a variety of our embassies, including the consulate in Libya.” He also said, “As offensive as this video was and, obviously, we’ve denounced it and the United States government had nothing to do with it. That’s never an excuse for violence.”
Sept. 18: Asked about Magariaf’s assessment that the video had nothing to do with the terrorist attack in Benghazi, the White House spokesman says Obama “would rather wait” for the investigation to be completed. “But at this time, as Ambassador Rice said and as I said, our understanding and our belief based on the information we have is it was the video that caused the unrest in Cairo, and the video and the unrest in Cairo that helped — that precipitated some of the unrest in Benghazi and elsewhere,” Carney says. “What other factors were involved is a matter of investigation.”
Sept. 18: After meeting with Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Patricia Espinosa, Clinton speaks with reporters and is asked if the Libyan president is “wrong” that “this attack was planned for months.” Clinton says, “The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said we had no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent.” She does not say if Magariaf is right or wrong.
Sept. 19: Olsen Calls It a ‘Terrorist Attack’
Sept. 19: Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, tells a Senate subcommittee (at 1:06:49 in the video) that the four State Department officials in Benghazi “were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy.” It is the first time an administration official labeled it a “terrorist attack.” But he also tells the senators that he has no “specific evidence of significant advanced planning.”
Olsen: Yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy. … The best information we have now, the facts that we have now, indicate that this was an opportunist attack on our embassy. The attack began and evolved and escalated over several hours. … [I]t appears that individuals who were certainly well armed seized on the opportunity presented as the events unfolded. … What we don’t have, at this point, is specific intelligence that there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack.
Sept. 19: At a State Department briefing, the department spokeswoman is asked if she now believes that the attack was a “terrorist attack”? She says, “Well, I didn’t get a chance to see the whole testimony that was given by Matt Olsen of the NCTC, but obviously we stand by comments made by our intelligence community who has first responsibility for evaluating the intelligence and what they believe that we are seeing.”
Sept. 19: The White House spokesman does not call it a “terrorist attack” in his press briefing. Carney says, “Based on the information we had at the time — we have now, we do not yet have indication that it was preplanned or premeditated. There’s an active investigation. If that active investigation produces facts that lead to a different conclusion, we will make clear that that’s where the investigation has led.”
Sept. 20: W.H. Spokesman Calls It a ‘Terrorist Attack’ — Not Obama
Sept. 20: Carney calls it a “terrorist attack” after being asked how the White House now classifies the attack. But he says the White House has no evidence that it was “a significantly preplanned attack” and blames the video for igniting the incident in Benghazi.
Carney: It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Our embassy was attacked violently, and the result was four deaths of American officials. So, again, that’s self-evident. I would point you to a couple of things that Mr. Olsen said, which is that at this point it appears that a number of different elements were involved in the attack, including individuals connected to militant groups that are prevalent in Eastern Libya.
He also made clear that at this point, based on the information he has — and he is briefing the Hill on the most up-to-date intelligence — we have no information at this point that suggests that this was a significantly preplanned attack, but this was the result of opportunism, taking advantage of and exploiting what was happening as a result of reaction to the video that was found to be offensive.
Sept. 20: Obama, at a town hall meeting, says “extremists” took advantage of the “natural protests” to the anti-Muslim video to attack the consulate in Benghazi. He does not call it a “terrorist attack.”
Question: We have reports that the White House said today that the attacks in Libya were a terrorist attack. Do you have information indicating that it was Iran, or al Qaeda was behind organizing the protests?
Obama: Well, we’re still doing an investigation, and there are going to be different circumstances in different countries. And so I don’t want to speak to something until we have all the information. What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests.
Sept. 21: Clinton Calls It a ‘Terrorist Attack’
Sept. 21: Clinton, speaking to reporters before a meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, calls it a “terrorist attack” for the first time. She says, “Yesterday afternoon when I briefed the Congress, I made it clear that keeping our people everywhere in the world safe is our top priority. What happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and we will not rest until we have tracked down and brought to justice the terrorists who murdered four Americans.”
Sept. 24-25: Obama Refuses to Call It a Terrorist Attack
Sept. 24: Clinton meets with the Libyan president and calls the Benghazi attack a “terrorist assault.” She says, “As we all know, the United States lost a great ambassador and the Libyan people lost a true friend when Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the terrorist assault on our consulate in Benghazi.”
Sept. 24: Obama tapes an appearance on “The View,” and he’s asked by co-host Joy Behar whether the Libya attack was an act of terrorism or caused by the anti-Muslim video. He does not call it a terrorist attack and says, “We’re still doing an investigation.”
Joy Behar: It was reported that people just went crazy and wild because of this anti-Muslim movie, or anti-Muhammad, I guess, movie. But then I heard Hillary Clinton say that it was an act of terrorism. Is it? What do you say?
Obama: Well, we’re still doing an investigation. There’s no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action. Now, we don’t have all the information yet, so we’re still gathering it. But what’s clear is that around the world, there’s still a lot of threats out there. That’s why we have to maintain the strongest military in the world, that’s why we can’t let down our guard when it comes to the intelligence work that we do and staying on top of — not just al Qaeda, the traditional al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. …
Sept. 25: Obama speaks at the United Nations. He praises Chris Stevens as “the best of America” and condemns the anti-Muslim video as “crude and disgusting.” He does not describe the Benghazi attack as a terrorist attack.
Sept. 26: ‘Let’s Be Clear, It Was a Terrorist Attack’
Sept. 26: Carney is asked at a press briefing aboard Air Force One en route to Ohio why the president has not called the Benghazi incident a “terrorist attack.” He said, “The president — our position is, as reflected by the NCTC director, that it was a terrorist attack. It is, I think by definition, a terrorist attack when there is a prolonged assault on an embassy with weapons. … So, let’s be clear, it was a terrorist attack and it was an inexcusable attack.”
Sept. 26: Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, in an interview with Al Jazeera, is asked whether he agrees with the president of Libya that the Benghazi attack was premeditated and had nothing to do with the anti-Muslim video. He said: “It’s clear that the attack which took the lives of Chris Stevens and three other colleagues was clearly choreographed and directed and involved a fair amount of firepower, but exactly what kind of planning went into that and how it emerged on that awful night, we just don’t know right now. But I’m confident we’ll get to the bottom of it.”
Sept. 27: When Did Administration Know?
Sept. 27: At a press briefing, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says that “it was a terrorist attack,” but declines to say when he came to that conclusion. “It took a while to really get some of the feedback from what exactly happened at that location,” he said. “As we determined the details of what took place there, and how that attack took place, that it became clear that there were terrorists who had planned that attack.”
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the same briefing addresses what the U.S. knew in advance of the Benghazi attack. He says there was “a thread of intelligence reporting that groups in … eastern Libya were seeking to coalesce, but there wasn’t anything specific and certainly not a specific threat to the consulate that I’m aware of.”
Sept. 27: In a report on “Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees,” Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security adviser to President George W. Bush, says the administration knew early on that it was a terrorist attack. “The law enforcement source who said to me, from day one we had known clearly that this was a terrorist attack,” she says.
Sept. 27-28: Intelligence ‘Evolved’
Sept. 27: The White House spokesman is asked yet again why the president has refused to call the incident a terrorist attack. “The president’s position [is] that this was a terrorist attack,” Carney says.
Question: If the president does not call it, label it a terrorist attack as you and others have, is there some legal or diplomatic trigger that that brings? Why hasn’t he said that?
Carney: I think you’re misunderstanding something here. I’m the president’s spokesman. When the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, in open testimony in Congress answered a question by saying yes, by the definitions we go by — this is me paraphrasing — this was a terrorist attack — I echoed that, because this president, this administration, everybody looks to the intelligence community for the assessments on this. And it has been since I said so, the president’s position that this was a terrorist attack.
Sept. 28: Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the director of national intelligence, says in a statement that the office’s position on the attack evolved. It was first believed that “the attack began spontaneously,” but it was later determined that “it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack,” he says.
Turner: In the immediate aftermath, there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo. We provided that initial assessment to Executive Branch officials and members of Congress, who used that information to discuss the attack publicly and provide updates as they became available. Throughout our investigation we continued to emphasize that information gathered was preliminary and evolving.
As we learned more about the attack, we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists. It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attack, and if extremist group leaders directed their members to participate.
Oct. 2-3: Clinton Cites ‘Continuing Questions’
Oct. 2: White House spokesman Carney at a press briefing in Nevada: “At every step of the way, the administration has based its public statements on the best assessments that were provided by the intelligence community. As the intelligence community learned more information they updated Congress and the American people on it.”
Oct. 3: Clinton tells reporters after a meeting with Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov: “There are continuing questions about what exactly happened in Benghazi on that night three weeks ago. And we will not rest until we answer those questions and until we track down the terrorists who killed our people.”
Oct. 9: ‘Everything Calm’ Prior to Benghazi Attack, No Protests
Oct. 9: At a background briefing, senior state department officials reveal there were no protests prior to the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi — contrary to what administration officials have been saying for weeks. A senior department official says “everything is calm at 8:30 p.m.” (Libya time) when Stevens was outside the building to bid a visitor goodbye. The ambassador retired to his bedroom for the evening at 9 p.m. The calm was shattered by 9:40 p.m. when “loud noises” and “gunfire and an explosion” are heard. (The background briefing provided on Sept. 12 also said the attack began at about 10 p.m., or about 4 p.m. EDT, but it did not provide information about what happened prior to the attack.)
A senior official says it was “not our conclusion” that the Benghazi attack started as a spontaneous protest to the anti-Muslim video. He also said “there was no actionable intelligence of any planned or imminent attack.”
Question: What in all of these events that you’ve described led officials to believe for the first several days that this was prompted by protests against the video?
Senior state department official two: That is a question that you would have to ask others. That was not our conclusion. I’m not saying that we had a conclusion, but we outlined what happened. The Ambassador walked guests out around 8:30 or so, there was no one on the street at approximately 9:40, then there was the noise and then we saw on the cameras the – a large number of armed men assaulting the compound.
Oct. 10: Administration Says It Gave Public ‘Best Information’
Oct. 10: Carney, the White House spokesman, is asked at a press briefing why the president and administration officials described the anti-Muslim video as the underlying cause of the attack on Benghazi when the State Department “never concluded that the assault in Benghazi was part of a protest on the anti-Muslim film.” He replied, in part: “Again, from the beginning, we have provided information based on the facts that we knew as they became available, based on assessments by the intelligence community — not opinions — assessments by the IC, by the intelligence community. And we have been clear all along that this was an ongoing investigation, that as more facts became available we would make you aware of them as appropriate, and we’ve done that.”
Oct. 10: After testifying before a House committee, Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy is asked at a press briefing what the State Department should have done differently in releasing information about the Benghazi attack. He said, “We are giving out the best information we have at the time.”
Kennedy: [T]his is obviously an incredibly complicated situation. We’ve always made clear from the very beginning that we are giving out the best information we have at the time we are giving it out. That information has evolved over time. For example, if any Administration official, including any career official, had been on television on Sunday, September 16th, they would have said the same thing that Ambassador Rice would have said. She had information at that point from the intelligence community, and that is the same information I had and this – I would have made exactly the same points. Clearly, we know more today, but we knew what we knew when we knew it.
Oct. 10: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform releases State Department memos requesting additional security in Libya. Charlene Lamb, a State Department official who denied those requests, tells the committee that the State Department had been training local Libyans for nearly a year and additional U.S. security personnel were not needed. As reported by Foreign Policy: “We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi on the night of 9/11,” Lamb testified. Others testified differently. “All of us at post were in sync that we wanted these resources,” testified Eric Nordstrom, the top regional security officer in Libya over the summer, Foreign Policy reported.
Oct. 15: Clinton Blames ‘Fog of War’
Oct. 15: Clinton, in an interview on CNN, blamed the “fog of war” when asked why the administration initially claimed the attack began with the anti-Muslim video, even though the State Department never reached that conclusion. “In the wake of an attack like this in the fog of war, there’s always going to be confusion, and I think it is absolutely fair to say that everyone had the same intelligence,” Clinton said. “Everyone who spoke tried to give the information they had. As time has gone on, the information has changed, we’ve gotten more detail, but that’s not surprising. That always happens.”
Oct. 15: The New York Timesreports that the Benghazi attack came “without any warning or protest,” but “Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers” say it was “in retaliation for the video.”
Oct. 24: White House, State Department Emails on Ansar al-Sharia
Oct. 24: Reuters reports the White House, Pentagon and other government agencies learned just two hours into the Benghazi attack that Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamic militant group, had “claimed credit” for it. The wire service report was based on three emails from the State Department’s Operations Center. One of the emails said, “Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripol.” The article also noted, “Intelligence experts caution that initial reports from the scene of any attack or disaster are often inaccurate.” (It should be noted that Reuters first reported on Sept. 12 that unnamed U.S. officials believed that Ansar al-Sharia may have been involved.)
Oct. 24: Clinton warns at a press conference that you cannot draw conclusions from the leaked emails because “cherry-picking one story here or one document there” can be misleading. She said, “The independent Accountability Review Board is already hard at work looking at everything — not cherry-picking one story here or one document there — but looking at everything, which I highly recommend as the appropriate approach to something as complex as an attack like this. Posting something on Facebook is not in and of itself evidence, and I think it just underscores how fluid the reporting was at the time and continued for some time to be.”
Oct. 24: Carney, the White House spokesman, says that “within a few hours” of the attack Ansar al-Sharia “claimed that it had not been responsible.” He added, “Neither should be taken as fact — that’s why there’s an investigation underway.”
May 8, 2013: At a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, Rep. Trey Gowdy reads excerpts of a Sept. 12, 2011, email written by Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Beth Jones. According to Gowdy, Jones wrote, “I spoke to the Libyan ambassador and emphasized the importance of Libyan leaders to continue to make strong statements,” and “When he said his government suspected that former Qaddafi regime elements carried out the attack, I told him that the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic extremists.” Gowdy said the email was sent to several top State Department officials, including Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy. The committee did not release the full contents of the email. House Speaker John Boehner said the State Department did not allow the House to keep a copy of it.)
May 15, 2013: The White House releases 100 pages of emails regarding the CIA’s original talking points that were developed for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and used by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice during her Sept. 16 Sunday talk show appearances. The emails show there were extensive changes made at the request of the State Department. (See “Sept. 16″ in our timeline for more information.)
Update, Nov. 6, 2012: This article was updated to add the president’s Sept. 12 interview with “60 Minutes,” which did not release the video and transcript until Nov. 4.
Update, May 9, 2013: This article was updated to include testimony from the May 8, 2013, hearing of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.
The timeline below details the ongoing investigation into the September 11, 2012 attack upon the American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, in Libya. The attack and the investigation are the subject of much controversy in the American political sphere.
The New York Times reported: “American and European officials said that while many details about the attack remained unclear, the assailants seemed organized, well trained and heavily armed, and they appeared to have at least some level of advance planning.” The article also noted that a senior Obama administration official told reporters that “it was clearly a complex attack,” but provided no details.
CBS News reported that Wanis al-Sharef (also spelled al-Sharif), a Libyan Interior Ministry official in Benghazi, said that an angry mob had gathered outside the consulate to protest a U.S.-made film that ridicules Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. According to al-Sharef, the mob stormed the consulate after the U.S. troops who responded fired rounds into the air to try and disperse the crowd.
CBS News later reported that U.S. officials said the attack was not an out-of-control demonstration as first suspected, but a well-executed assault. From the wording of the report it is unclear whether the protesters were a group distinct from the attackers or were the attackers themselves.
The Guardian published a video interview of a local Libyan on the consulate compound right after the attack, who presumed and empathized that the attack was in response to the anti-Islamic film.
The Washington Post reported that U.S. officials and Middle East analysts said that the attack “may have been planned by extremists and inspired by al-Qaeda.”
In a press release, the Qulliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think tank based in London, stated that the “military assault” was not related to the film but was to “avenge the death of Abu Yahya al-Libi, al-Qaeda’s second in command killed a few months ago.”
Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif of the Libyan government told a news conference in Benghazi that it was likely that the perpetrators had been Gaddafi loyalists, suggesting the attack could have been intended as a revenge for the extradition of Abdullah al-Senoussi (Gaddafi’s former intelligence chief) from Mauritania the previous month.
The FBI opened an investigation into the deaths; a team was sent to investigate, with another team for security. The FBI officials were set to arrive by September 21 in Benghazi to work with Libyan officials.
In a briefing to congressional staffers, State Department Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy said that the attack appeared planned because it was so extensive and because of the “proliferation” of small and medium weapons.
CNN reported that the attackers were part of an Al Qaeda spinoff group. They spoke with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who said the killings were possibly linked to the terrorist group blamed for the 9/11 hijackings. According to Sen. Feinstein, “The weapons were somewhat sophisticated, and they blew a big hole in the building and started a big fire.”
The Senate Armed Services Committee was briefed by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta about the response to the situation in Libya. Afterwards, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) was quoted as saying, “I think it was a planned, premeditated attack.” He added that he did not know the group responsible for the attack.
Talking points prepared by the CIA, stated “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.” 
In an interview with NPR in Benghazi, President Mohammed el-Megarif said that foreigners infiltrated Libya over the past few months, planned the attack, and used Libyans to carry it out. According to el-Megarif: “The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous. We firmly believe that this was a precalculated, preplanned attack that was carried out specifically to attack the U.S. Consulate.” He said the attackers used the protesters outside the consulate as a cover, and there is evidence showing that elements of Ansar al-Sharia, an extremist group in eastern Benghazi, were used by foreign citizens with ties to al-Qaida to attack the consulate.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice appeared on several Sunday morning talk shows and stated, “Putting together the best information that we have available to us today our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of– of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video. What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding. They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post revolutionary Libya. And it escalated into a much more violent episode.”
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, voiced suspicion that the attack was planned in advance and not prompted by the furor over the film. He noted that “[m]ost people don’t bring rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons to demonstrations. That was an act of terror.”
Fox News reported that an “intelligence source on the ground in Libya” said “there was no demonstration outside the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi” before the attack. The source was quoted as saying, “There was no protest and the attacks were not spontaneous.” The source also said that the attack “was planned and had nothing to do with the movie.” The source said the assault came with no warning at about 9:35 p.m. local time and included fire from more than two locations. The information for the time and for multiple directions of the attack corroborates an eyewitness report.
Representative Mike Rogers (R) Michigan, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview with Real Clear Politics that there were reports that the Consulate sustained “indirect fire, artillery type fire from mortars. They had direct unit action. It was coordinated in a way that was very unusual. They repulsed a quick reaction force that came to the facility….”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) disagreed with Olsen’s statement that the attack did not appear pre-planned. She said, “Based on the briefings I have had, I’ve come to the opposite conclusion. I just don’t think that people come to protests equipped with RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] and other heavy weapons. And the reports of complicity—and they are many—with Libyan guards who were assigned to guard the consulate also suggest to me that this was premeditated.” Olsen told committee members that the U.S. is “looking at indications” that some attackers had connections to al-Qaeda or its North African affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Fox News reported intelligence sources that the attack was tied to Al Qaeda via the involvement of Abu Sufian bin Qumu, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee. However, a US national security official tells Mother Jones that “that report is wrong, there’s no intelligence suggesting that he was leading the attack on the consulate that evening.”
Reuters reported that U.S. authorities are investigating the prospect of collusion between the militants who launched the attack on the consulate and locally hired Libyan personnel guarding the facility. This corroborates earlier statements by U.S. government officials who stated there were multiple accounts of collusion between the attackers and the Libyan security guards.
Secretary Clinton announced the formation of a panel to investigate the attack, which is separate from the FBI investigation.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney for the first time called the event “a terrorist attack.” In the same report CNN noted conflicting reports that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens “believed he was on an al Qaeda hit list.”
U.S. officials said that the heavily armed extremists who laid siege to the consulate used “military-style tactics” in what appeared to be a “sophisticated operation”. Intelligence reports indicated that 50 or more people, many of them masked, took part in the attack and used gun trucks and precise mortar fire. Intelligence reports also indicated that the attackers set up a perimeter to control access in and out of the compound.
A report in The New York Times has stated that there were two facilities used by the Americans in Benghazi, one for the American mission and an annex a half-mile away  and that:
Neither was heavily guarded, and the annex was never intended to be a “safe house,” as initial accounts suggested. Two of the mission’s guards — Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty, former members of the Navy SEALs — were killed just outside the villa’s front gate.
U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) sent a letter to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice seeking clarification on statements she made on the five Sunday talk shows on September 16 that the September 11 attack in Benghazi was the result of a “spontaneous reaction.” The senators wrote that the evidence clearly showed the attack was planned and coordinated. Ms. Rice wrote in her reply letter, “I relied solely and squarely on the information the intelligence community provided to me … This information represented the intelligence community’s best, current assessment as of the date of my television appearances.” The four senators replied in a statement: “Elements of the intelligence community apparently told the administration within hours of the attack that militants connected with al Qaeda were involved, yet Ambassador Rice claims her comments five days later reflected the ‘best’ and ‘current’ assessment of the intelligence community. Either the Obama administration is misleading Congress and the American people, or it is blaming the entire failure on the intelligence community.”
The Daily Beast reported that three separate U.S. intelligence officials knew within 24 hours of the attack that it was “planned and the work of al Qaeda affiliates operating in Eastern Libya.”
Libyan president Mohamed Magariefd, in an interview with NBC News, said that there were no protestors at the site before the attack and that the anti-Islam film had “nothing to do with” the attack. “Reaction should have been, if it was genuine, should have been six months earlier. So it was postponed until the 11th of September,” he said. “They chose this date, 11th of September to carry a certain message.”
Eight Republican Representatives on the House Armed Services Committee sent a letter to President Obama asking him to provide answers to questions in a classified format. Their letter reads in part: “While we appreciate your willingness to provide the House of Representatives with an interagency briefing last week, many of the members’ questions were left unanswered. To that end, we are seeking additional information regarding the intelligence leading up to the attack, the security posture of our embassy, the role former Guantanamo Bay detainees may have played, as well as the way forward in Libya and, indeed, the region.”
A statement released by the Director of Public Affairs for the Director of National Intelligence, Shawn Turner, on the intelligence related to the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, read in part: “As we learned more about the attack, we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists. It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attack, and if extremist group leaders directed their members to participate. However, we do assess that some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al-Qa’ida. We continue to make progress, but there remain many unanswered questions. As more information becomes available our analysis will continue to evolve and we will obtain a more complete understanding of the circumstances surrounding the terrorist attack.”
In a letter to Secretary of State Clinton, Darrell Issa (R-CA, chairman of the Committee) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT, chairman of the subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations) write that “the attack that claimed the Ambassador’s life was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to September 11, 2012. It was clearly never, as Administration officials once insisted, the result of a popular protest.” The letter goes on to state that the mission in Benghazi was denied increased security they repeatedly requested. Subpoenaed witnesses set to testify before the committee on October 10 are Charlene Lamb, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State; Eric Nordstrom, Regional Security Officer, U.S. Department of State; and Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, Utah National Guard, U.S. Army. According to Lt. Col. Wood, his 16-member team and a six-member State Department elite force called a Mobile Security Deployment team left Libya in August, one month before the assault on the diplomatic mission. Wood says that’s despite the fact that U.S. officials in Libya wanted security increased, not decreased.
In an evening briefing to reporters, the State Department said it never concluded that the consulate attack in Libya stemmed from protests over the video.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Bob Corker (R-TN) met with Libyan officials in Tripoli, and said that investigators are examining video from security cameras at the primary Benghazi compound to help them reconstruct what happened in the attack and identify attack participants.
Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) sent letters to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director David Petraeus, and John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, asking them to respond to “specific questions regarding the shifting official explanations” about the attack.
The four witnesses called to testify at the October 10, 2012 hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (l to r) were Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, Utah National Guard, U.S. Army; Eric Nordstrom, Regional Security Officer, U.S. Department of State; Charlene Lamb, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State; and Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management, U.S. Department of State. An image of the U.S. compound can be seen behind Ms. Lamb.
In sworn testimony, Mr. Kennedy said, “…if any administration official, including any career official, were on television on Sunday, September 16th, they would have said what Ambassador Rice said. The information she had at that point from the intelligence community is the same that I had at that point.” However, in a briefing to congressional staffers on September 13, Mr. Kennedy said that the attack appeared planned. With regard to the so-called “talking points” memo UN Ambassador Susan Rice relied upon for information during television interviews following the Benghazi attack, The Guardian reports that on 16 November 2012, former CIA Director David Petraeus told congressional hearings, references to al-Queda had been removed from the memo. The references where remove so as not to give up information which could compromise classified sources. Rice was unaware of al-Qaida ties to the Benghazi attack.
During testimony State Department witnesses acknowledged that it rejected appeals for more security at its diplomatic posts in Libya in the months before the attack. The “annex” and “safe house” in the second diplomatic compound was inadvertently revealed to be a U.S. intelligence post.
Charlene Lamb, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Programs, said in her prepared testimony that she had a firm grasp on what happened in Benghazi, starting moments after the assault began. ”When the attack began, a Diplomatic Security agent working in the tactical operations center immediately … alerted the annex U.S. quick reaction security team stationed nearby … and the Diplomatic Security Command Center in Washington. From that point on, I could follow what was happening in almost real-time.”
During testimony Representative Issa described the existence of video tape of the attack taken from consulate security cameras; the tape was not available to committee members at the time of the hearing.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), speaking on CBS’ Face the Nation, said that “[t]he intelligence community on the ground in Libya has told Senator Corker and myself that within twenty-four hours, they communicated up to Washington that this was a terrorist attack.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton assumed responsibility for the Benghazi attack, saying that she is in charge of her 60,000-plus staff all over the world and “the president and the vice president wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They’re the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision.” Republican Senator John McCain praised her “laudable gesture, especially when the White House is trying to avoid any responsibility whatsoever” but insisted that either there were drastic failures in the national security operation in not keeping the president aware of ongoing threats, or Obama himself knew of the threats and needed to take responsibility for the shortcomings.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the two Libyan militiamen guarding the consulate denied aiding the attackers. The compound was “lazily quiet” in the hours before the assault, they said. Around 9:30 p.m., the guards heard cries of “Allahu akbar!”—”God is great”—three times from outside the walls, then a voice called out in Arabic “You infidels!” and the attackers raced inside.
The New York Times reported that witnesses of the attack knowledgeable of the circumstances were very convinced that it was carried out by a group of local Islamic militants in response to the video. According to local militia leaders familiar with the militant group, it was capable of carrying out the attack on short notice with only a few hour’s planning.
Libyan officials report that the founder of Libya’s Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia was at the compound during the attack, but that he remains free a week after those allegations were disclosed to Libyan political leaders and U.S. investigators. The militia commander, identified as Ahmed Abu Khattalah, is a former political prisoner whose fighters were also blamed for assassinating a senior military officer after he defected to the opposition during last year’s revolution against Moammar Kadafi.
The New York Times reported that Ahmed Abu Khattala, 41, claimed the Benghazi attack had grown out of a peaceful protest against a video made in the United States that mocked the Prophet Muhammad and Islam. On or about 15 June 2014 American military and law enforcement personnel operating in Libya captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, who had been secretly indicted in the U.S. for his alleged role as a mastermind and/or ring-leader in the Benghazi attack.
Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs made its first request for documents and briefings into the circumstances surrounding the attack. In separate letters to Secretary Hillary Clinton, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the committee requested a classified briefing for members of the committee. The briefing is to address threat assessments before the attack, security needs, requests for security, description and chronology of the attack, and what the Obama administration knew about the attack in the immediate aftermath and “whether any initial public statements issued by members of the Administration in the days following the attack were inaccurate and, if so, why.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, questioned the security at the compound and the initial intelligence surrounding the attack. Feinstein was quoted in an interview: “I think what happened was the director of national intelligence, which we call the DNI, who is a very good individual, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Gen. Jim Clapper, put out some speaking points on the initial intelligence assessment. I think that was possibly a mistake.”
Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and National Security Subcommittee Chairman Jason Chaffetz sent a 10-page letter to President Obama, accompanied by 166 pages of unclassified documents and photos. The committee stated that the “letter requests that the White House respond to questions about its role in the controversial decision to have the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya pursue a course of ‘normalization’ that was intended to help create the perception of success in Libya and contrast it to U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Representative Peter T. King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter to President Obama requesting him to release Intelligence Community (1) reporting that led Obama Administration officials to initially characterize the assault as a “spontaneous reaction” to a film and (2) data and intelligence that led the Administration to change its characterization from a “spontaneous reaction” to a “terrorist attack.”
Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) renewed their request from 10 days ago that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director David Petraeus and John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, answer questions regarding “the shifting official explanations surrounding” the attack. The senators wrote, “Our questions should not be hard to answer, and the American people have a right to learn what our intelligence communities knew about the events of September 11, 2012, and when they knew it.”
U.S. officials told The Associated Press that the CIA station chief in Libya compiled intelligence reports within 24 hours of the attack that indicated there was evidence it was carried out by militants, using the pretext of demonstrations against U.S. facilities in Egypt against the film to cover their intent. The report from the station chief was written late Wednesday, Sept. 12, and reached intelligence agencies in Washington the next day. It was not clear how widely the information was circulated.
The Washington Post reported that talking points prepared by the CIA on Sept. 15 stated: “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.” 
CBS News reported Congress members have asked why military assistance was not sent. General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta “looked at available options, and the ones we exercised had our military forces arrive in less than 24 hours, well ahead of timelines laid out in established policies.” An unmanned Predator drone was sent to Benghazi, and the drone observed the final hours of the attack. The Pentagon said it moved a team of special operators from central Europe to Naval Air Station Sigonella; other nearby military forces available were fighter jets and AC-130 gunships. Gary Berntsen stated, “They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died.”
The New York Times reported that Ms. Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, “has said that the judgments she offered on the five talk shows on Sept. 16 came from talking points prepared by the C.I.A., which reckoned that the attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans had resulted from a spontaneous mob that was angry about an anti-Islamic video that had set off protests elsewhere. That assessment, described to Ms. Rice in briefings the day before her television appearances, was based on intercepted communications, informants’ tips and Libyan press reports, officials said.” 
Media reports indicate that the State Department’s Operations Center sent a “Sensitive but unclassified” email at 4:05 p.m. Washington time (10:05 p.m. Benghazi time) on September 11 titled “U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack” to the White House Situation Room and other U.S. security units and two hours later sent an email titled “Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack.” The first email reads in part: “approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well. Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM (Chief of Mission/embassy) personnel are in the compound safe haven.” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cautioned that those emails are “not in and of itself evidence” that the administration had definitively assessed the assault as a terrorist attack from the beginning. A Tunisian man who was arrested in Turkey earlier this month with reported links to the Benghazi attack has been returned to Tunisia and is facing terrorism charges.
It is reported that both Reuters and Fox News obtained copies of an email sent about 2 hours after the attack in which the White House, Pentagon, and other agencies are told that the Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia had “claimed responsibility.”
A suspected Al-Qaeda member who was believed to have been involved in the Consulate attack was shot dead by Egyptian police, after they received a tip that he was staying in an apartment in Madinat Nasr. Egyptian police also arrested a seven-member cell in Cairo, five of whom are Libyans and the other two Egyptians.
Republican Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, CIA Director David Petraeus, and Attorney General Eric Holder requesting they make public the surveillance video taken at the consulate during the attack.Fox News reported that military back-up was denied by the CIA chain of command, and the annex was instructed twice to “stand down”. Woods, and two others, ignored those instructions and evacuated the consulate. Upon returning to the annex, and after beginning to taking fire, the annex requested fire support as they had a laser targeted on the mortar team that was attacking them. A CIA spokeswoman, Jennifer Youngblood, denied the claims.
The Associated Press published a timeline of the comments by the administration and Libyan officials regarding the Benghazi attack, as well as Libyan witnesses account. The AP article noted that a witness said he militants before the attack gathering around 20 youths from nearby to chant against the anti-Islam film. The article reports that American officials suggest it was a planned militant assault and that the attackers may have used the film controversy as a cover for the attack.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested that “at least two networks have emails from the National Security Adviser’s office telling a counterterrorism group to stand down” in assisting the besieged U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Gingrich said that the bombshell emails could be revealed within the next two days.Fox News reported that a cable marked “SECRET” and addressed to the Office of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton summarized an “emergency meeting” convened by the U.S. Mission in Benghazi on August 15, 2012. In the meeting the State Department’s regional security officer “expressed concerns with the ability to defend Post in the event of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support, and the overall size of the compound.” According to Fox News, “The details in the cable seemed to foreshadow the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. compound, which was a coordinated, commando-style assault using direct and indirect fire. Al Qaeda in North Africa and Ansar al-Sharia, both mentioned in the cable, have since been implicated in the consulate attack.”
CBS News reported that during the attack the Obama administration did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource: the Counterterrorism Security Group, (CSG). A high-ranking government official was quoted: “The CSG is the one group that’s supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies. They were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon.” The article goes on to state that counterterrorism sources and internal emails reviewed by CBS News expressed frustration that key responders were ready to deploy but were not called upon to help in the attack.
Documents found by reporters for the American magazine Foreign Policy on Oct. 26 amid the wreckage of the U.S. consulate indicate there was concern about security at the compound. One letter dated Sept. 11 and addressed to Mohamed Obeidi, the head of the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ office in Benghazi, reads in part: “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 article states that this accords with a message written by Smith, the IT officer who was killed in the assault, on a gaming forum on Sept. 11. “Assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures,” he wrote hours before the assault.
Washington Post published a detailed CIA timeline of the attack described by a senior intelligence official.
Fifty-three members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary Clinton requesting responses to oversight questions, including questions on the president’s Daily Brief, how the State Department designated the Benghazi compound (and how it affected security requirements), contradictions in the administration’s public statements of the attack as a deliberate terrorist attack or a spontaneous protest, and discrepancies between danger pay increases for mission personnel but denial for additional security.Senior U.S. intelligence officials acknowledged that Woods and Doherty were contracted by the Central Intelligence Agency, not the State Department as originally publicly identified.
Fox News reported that U.S. military intelligence informed senior commanders as early as 7 p.m. ET (that is, less than 4 hours after the attack began) that Ansar al-Sharia carried out the attack. The intelligence was relayed with no caveats, according to a source familiar with the intelligence.
The Pentagon said that two U.S. service members volunteered to join the CIA team that travelled from Tripoli to Benghazi on the rescue mission.
U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) urged the immediate creation of a temporary Select Committee to investigate the Benghazi attack.Fox News reported that the Blue Mountain Security manager (who was in charge of the local force hired to guard the consulate perimeter) made calls on both two-way radios and cell phones to colleagues in Benghazi warning of problems at least an hour earlier than the attack. Allegedly, those calls were to local security contractors, who say that the annex was also notified much earlier than 9:40 p.m., when the attack started. U.S. military intelligence also said that armed militias were gathering up to 3 hours before the attack.
David H. Petraeus resigned his position as CIA Director and admitted to having an extramarital affair; he was scheduled to testify before Congress the week of November 12 on the Benghazi attack. As of then it was not clear that General Petraeus would have to testify, and whether he would be disposed to do so if requested or required by Congress, though Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, indicated that the Congress would need to interview him. On Wednesday, November 14, 2012, it was made known that he had agreed to testify the following day, Thursday, November 15.
The Department of Defense released a press release stating they released a detailed timeline yesterday of the Pentagon’s response to the attack.
Paula Broadwell gave a talk on October 26 at the University of Denver in which she revealed that the CIA annex was used to imprison Libyan militia members. In the same speech, Broadwell speculated that this may have been the motivation behind the attack on the consulate. A Fox News Source confirmed to them that the CIA Annex was used as a detention center for not just militia members, but for prisoners from all parts of Northern Africa and the Middle East. The CIA has denied these allegations.
U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials testified in congressional public and closed hearings today. CNN reported that legislators saw “real-time film (showing) exactly what happened”, starting before the attack began up “through the incident and the exodus,” according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The video was reported to be from “a combination of video from a surveillance camera and a drone.”
Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified in closed hearings to both congressional intelligence committees. Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Representative Peter T. King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said that Petraeus testified that he knew that the attack was a terrorist attack linked to al-Qaeda affiliates and not sparked by a protest over an anti-Islam video, as White House officials and President Obama had said for days afterwards. “The original talking points put out by the CIA were different from what was later put out,” King said. “Petraeus says his initial assessment was from the start it was a terrorist attack.” King said a CIA analyst specifically told lawmakers that the al-Qaeda affiliates line “was taken out.”
Other House members in attendance at the hearing said that Petraeus made clear that the modifications of the original talking points were not done for political reasons. Petraeus “was adamant there was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). “He completely debunked that idea.” Regarding Ambassador Susan Rice‘s comments during television interviews after the attack, Schiff went on to say that the, according to Petraeus, the comments “reflected the best intelligence at the time that could be released publicly”. “There was an interagency process to draft it, not a political process,” Schiff said. “They came up with the best assessment without compromising classified information or source or methods. So changes were made to protect classified information.” According to Petraeus’s statements during the hearing, administration officials were concerned that, by publicly disclosing the involvement of Al Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers in the attack, those groups would be tipped off that US government agencies were aware of their involvement.
The Washington Post reported that, since the attack, the CIA and other intelligence analysts have settled on a hybrid view of the attack, suggesting that the Cairo protest sparked militants in Libya, who quickly mobilized the assault on U.S. facilities in Benghazi. Details about possible al-Qaeda links were not in initial talking points used by both Petraeus and UN Ambassador Susan Rice because they were preliminary and based on classified sources, intelligence officials said.
CBS News reported that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) cut specific references to “al Qaeda” and “terrorism” from the unclassified talking points given to Ambassador Susan Rice on the attack, with the agreement of the CIA and FBI.
In a White House press briefing to reporters, Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters: “There was no protest outside the Benghazi facility. To this day, it is the assessment of this administration and of our intelligence community and certainly the assessment of your colleagues and the press who have interviewed participants on the ground in the assault on our facilities in Benghazi that they acted at least in part in response to what they saw happening in Cairo and took advantage of that situation.”
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice testified for about an hour in a closed session with Republican Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte. McCain told reporters after the meeting: “We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got, and some that we didn’t get, concerning evidence that was overwhelming leading up to the attack on our consulate…. It is clear that the information that she gave the American people was incorrect when she said that it was a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video.” Rice later issued a statement saying: “We explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi…. While, we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved.”
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify, as early as next week, at an open hearing on the Benghazi attack.
Hillary Clinton faints and suffers a concussion. As a result, her aides announce that they no longer expect her to testify at the hearing on the Benghazi attack.
An independent inquiry into the attack sharply criticises State Department officials in Washington for ignoring requests for more guards and safety upgrades, and for failing to adapt security procedures to a deteriorating security environment.
A bipartisan SenateHomeland Security Committee report faults the State Department and Pentagon for providing inadequate protection to the U.S. Consulate. It also criticized the Obama Administration’s handling of the attack.
Hillary Clinton testifies before Congress on the subject of the attack. She decries the “politicization” of incident, and defends the State Department. Noteworthy highlights from her testimony include her comment, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” in response to questions about why the Benghazi attack occurred and how the controversial talking points were created. She also stated, in response to Senator Rand Paul‘s question about the U.S. transferring weapons to Turkey from Libya, “I do not know. I don’t have any information on that,” further stating, “you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the annex.”
Leon Panetta and Martin Dempsey testify before Senate Armed Services Committee on the subject of the attack. Under questioning by Lindsey Graham, Panetta and Dempsey said that they both only talked to President Obama one time on the day of the attack.
The United States has been denied access to individuals who were detained after a raid in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo by Egyptian officials. One of these individuals is Muhammad Jamal al Kashef, who is suspected of establishing training camps where attackers of the Benghazi consulate and CIA annex had trained.
House Republicans released a report on the Benghazi attack that was highly critical of the White House and the State Department; the White House dismissed the report, and House Democrats called the report biased.Among dozens of findings, the report states that:
“Senior State Department officials knew that the threat environment in Benghazi was high and that the Benghazi compound was vulnerable and unable to withstand an attack, yet the department continued to systematically withdraw security personnel”
The “[Obama] Administration willfully perpetuated a deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative that the attacks evolved from a political demonstration caused by a YouTube video.”
“… after a White House Deputies Meeting on Saturday, September 15, 2012, the Administration altered the talking points to remove references to the likely participation of Islamic extremists in the attacks. The Administration also removed references to the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya….”
“The Administration deflected responsibility by blaming the IC [intelligence community] for the information it communicated to the public in both the talking points and the subsequent narrative it perpetuated.”
Gregory Hicks, Eric Nordstrom, and Mark Thompson testify before the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and were called “whistleblowers” by the committee chairman. Hicks testified that more assistance from the U.S. military could have been provided, that attempts to send additional forces were told to stand down by another authority, and he was demoted for telling his recollection of events; the Defense Department disputed Hicks’ testimony, and the State Department did not respond. Hicks further stated that since the Libyan government had called the attack a terrorist attack, and the United States did not, complicated the FBI investigation. Thompson testified that a Foreign Emergency Support Team was not sent due to instructions from the State Department, which the State Department said would have taken too long to be effective; Nordstrom criticized the Accountability Review Board, that it did not look into decisions made by those individuals in higher authority. Furthermore, they testified that their previous attempts to increase security leading up to the attacks were denied. Democrats charged that the Republicans were politicizing the investigation.
The United States Department of Justice filed the first criminal charges in the Benghazi attack against Ahmed Abu Khattala, leader of a Libyan militia. The charges were sealed and their exact nature wasn’t clear, nor was the number of suspects named in the case. The Justice Department declined to comment on specific charges.
Ansar al-Sharia was formed during the Libyan Civil War and rose to prominence after the killing of Muammar Gaddafi. Made up of former rebels from the Abu Obayda Bin Aljarah Brigade, Malik Brigade and February 17th Martyrs Brigade and many more, the Salafist militia initially made their name by posting videos of themselves fighting in the Battle of Sirte, the final battle in the war.
Their first major public appearance occurred on 7 June 2012, when they led a rally of as many as 200 pickup trucks mounted with artillery along Benghazi’s Tahrir Square and demanded the imposition of Sharia law. According to the New York Times, “Western diplomats who watched said they were stunned by the scale and weaponry of the display.”
The leader of Ansar al-Sharia, Sheikh Muhammad al-Zahawi, later gave an interview on a local TV station forbidding participation in Libya’s first post-civil war parliamentary elections on the grounds that they were un-Islamic. The militia went on to provide security to some public property in eastern Libya, including Benghazi’s Al Jala Hospital. The group is reportedly the military arm of Al-Dawa wa Al-Islah, a charitable organization.
Ansar al-Sharia used its online presence to denounce the 2013 capture and removal from Libya of al-Qaeda operative Abu Anas al-Libi, by American military forces.
Aside from militant activities, Ansar al-Sharia has attempted to gain local support through Dawah (missionary activities), the provision of social services, ranging from security patrols to garbage collection, and the establishment of medical clinics and religious schools. In January 2015, the group introduced Islamic religious police and a sharia court in parts of Benghazi.
As of 6 August 2013, U.S. officials confirmed that Ahmed Abu Khattala, the Libyan leader of Ansar al-Sharia, has been charged with playing a significant role in last year’s attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi. According to NBC, the charges were filed under seal in Washington, D.C. in late July. Khattalah was arrested by U.S. Delta Force special operations personnel in a raid on Libya on 15 June 2014. He is being transported to the United States aboard the USS New York aircraft carrier and is expected to face trial in a U.S. criminal court.
Temporary withdrawal and resurgence
On 21 September 2012, after massive anti-militia protests in Benghazi which largely blamed Ansar al-Sharia for the mission attack, hundreds of protesters stormed the militia headquarters, pulled down flags of the militia and torched a vehicle inside the base. The group was forced out of its bases in Benghazi the next day.
A few hours after the attack, Martyrs of February 17, together with Bou Salim Martyrs brigade, allegedly agreed to disband, however about 150-200 militiamen moved from Benghazi to Jebel Akhdar area.
As of December 2012, the group still existed, although it had adopted a low-key position. By March 2013, the group had returned to Benghazi and began patrolling hospitals and manning checkpoints, as well as providing humanitarian services to residents. By late 2013, the group had opened up a branch in Derna, under the slogan “A step toward building the Islamic state”. The group also established a presence in the Libyan cities of Ajdabiya and Sirte.
Following prolonged tensions between Islamists and non-Islamists in Libya, on 16 May 2014 military forces loyal to General Khalifa Belqasim Haftar launched a large scale air and ground offensive codenamed Operation Dignity on Islamist militia groups in Benghazi including Ansar al-Sharia.
In late 2014, the group’s leader, Mohamed al-Zahawi, died of wounds he had received from the fighting. In the months that followed, many members of Ansar al-Sharia, including the majority of its organisation in Sirte, reportedly defected to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Libya. On 30 March 2015, the group’s chief Sharia jurist, Abu Abdullah Al-Libi, pledged allegiance to ISIL, and defected with a number of fighters. Ansar al-Sharia quickly announced that Abu Tamim al Libi has been selected as his replacement. While there have been rumors that the group could pledge allegiance to ISIL, it has retained its independence.
Designation as a terrorist organization
The countries and organizations below have officially listed the Ansar Al Sharia as a terrorist organization.
This article is about a particular use of the term connected with military and political organizations. For covert operations in intelligence gathering, organized crime and religious or minor political groups, see Front organization.
“Covert operative” redirects here. For the legal definition of covert agents or operatives, see covert agent.
The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2009)
This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2013)
According to the U.S. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, a covert operation (also as CoveOps or covert ops) is “an operation that is so planned and executed as to conceal the identity of or permit plausible denial by the sponsor.” It is intended to create a political effect which can have implications in the military, intelligence or law enforcement arenas. Covert operations aim to fulfill their mission objectives without any parties knowing who sponsored or carried out the operation.
Under United States law, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) must lead covert operations unless the president finds that another agency should do so and properly informs the Congress. Normally, the CIA is the US Government agency legally allowed to carry out covert action. The CIA’s authority to conduct covert action comes from the National Security Act of 1947. President Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order 12333 titled United States Intelligence Activities in 1984. This order defined covert action as “special activities”, both political and military, that the US Government could legally deny. The CIA was also designated as the sole authority under the 1991 Intelligence Authorization Act and in Title 50 of the United States Code Section 413(e). The CIA must have a “Presidential Finding” issued by the President of the United States in order to conduct these activities under the Hughes-Ryan amendment to the 1991 Intelligence Authorization Act. These findings are then monitored by the oversight committees in both the US Senate and the House of Representatives. As a result of this framework, the CIA “receives more oversight from the Congress than any other agency in the federal government”. The Special Activities Division (SAD) is a division of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, responsible for Covert Action and “Special Activities”. These special activities include covert political influence and paramilitary operations. The division is overseen by the United States Secretary of State.
In a covert operation, the identity of the sponsor is concealed, while in a clandestine operation the operation itself is concealed. Put differently, clandestine means “hidden,” while covert means “deniable.” The term stealth refers both to a broad set of tactics aimed at providing and preserving the element of surprise and reducing enemy resistance and to a set of technologies (stealth technology) to aid in those tactics. While secrecy and stealthiness are often desired in clandestine and covert operations, the terms secret and stealthy are not used to formally describe types of missions.
Covert operations are employed in situations where openly operating against a target would be disadvantageous. These operations are generally illegal in the target state and are frequently in violation of the laws of the sponsoring country. Operations may be directed at or conducted with allies and friends to secure their support for controversial components of foreign policy throughout the world. Covert operations may include sabotage, assassinations, support for coups d’état, or support for subversion. Tactics include the use of a false flag or front group.
The activity of organizations engaged in covert operations is in some instances similar to, or overlaps with, the activity of front organizations. While covert organizations are generally of a more official military or paramilitary nature, like the DVS German Air Transport School in the Nazi era, the line between both becomes muddled in the case of front organizations engaged in terrorist activities and organized crime.
Richard Quirin, German World War II saboteur landed by German submarine in the US, as part of Operation Pastorius. Captured and executed. ex parte Quirin was a Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of execution of unlawful combatants.
Executive Secrets: Coved the Presidency, William J. Daugherty, University of Kentucky Press, 2004, page 25.
Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency, William J. Daugherty, University of Kentucky Press, 2004.
All Necessary Means: Employing CIA operatives in a Warfighting Role Alongside Special Operations Forces, Colonel Kathryn Stone, Professor Anthony R. Williams (Project Advisor), United States Army War College (USAWC), 7 April 2003, page 7
Special Operations Group (SOG) is the department within SAD responsible for operations that include the collection of intelligence in hostile countries and regions, and all high threat military or intelligence operations with which the U.S. government does not wish to be overtly associated. As such, members of the unit (called Paramilitary Operations Officers and Specialized Skills Officers) normally do not carry any objects or clothing (e.g., military uniforms) that would associate them with the United States government. If they are compromised during a mission, the United States government may deny all knowledge.
SOG Paramilitary Operations Officers account for a majority of Distinguished Intelligence Cross and Intelligence Star recipients during any given conflict or incident which elicits CIA involvement. An award bestowing either of these citations represents the highest honors awarded within the CIA organization in recognition of distinguished valor and excellence in the line of duty. SAD/SOG operatives also account for the majority of the names displayed on the Memorial Wall at CIA headquarters indicating that the agent died while on active duty.
Political Action Group (PAG) is responsible for covert activities related to political influence, psychological operations and economic warfare. The rapid development of technology has added cyberwarfare to their mission. Tactical units within SAD are also capable of carrying out covert political action while deployed in hostile and austere environments. A large covert operation usually has components that involve many, or all, of these categories, as well as paramilitary operations. Political and Influence covert operations are used to support U.S. foreign policy. Often overt support for one element of an insurgency would be counter-productive due to the impression it would have on the local population. In such cases, covert assistance allows the U.S. to assist without damaging these elements in the process. Many of the other activities (such as propaganda, economic and cyber) support the overall political effort. There have been issues in the past with attempts to influence the US media such as in Operation Mockingbird. However, these activities are now subject to the same oversight as all covert action operations.
SAD provides the President of the United States with an option when overt military and/or diplomatic actions are not viable or politically feasible. SAD can be directly tasked by the President of the United States or the National Security Council at the President’s direction. This is unlike any other U.S. special mission force. However, SAD/SOG has far fewer members than most of the other special missions units, such as the U.S. Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (Delta Force) or Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU).
The political action group within SAD conducts the deniable psychological operations, also known as black propaganda, as well as “Covert Influence” to effect political change as an important part of any Administration’s foreign policy. Covert intervention in a foreign election is the most significant form of political action. This could involve financial support for favored candidates, media guidance, technical support for public relations, get-out-the-vote or political organizing efforts, legal expertise, advertising campaigns, assistance with poll-watching, and other means of direct action. Policy decisions could be influenced by assets, such as subversion of officials of the country, to make decisions in their official capacity that are in the furtherance of U.S. policy aims. In addition, mechanisms for forming and developing opinions involve the covert use of propaganda.
Propaganda includes leaflets, newspapers, magazines, books, radio, and television, all of which are geared to convey the U.S. message appropriate to the region. These techniques have expanded to cover the internet as well. They may employ officers to work as journalists, recruit agents of influence, operate media platforms, plant certain stories or information in places it is hoped it will come to public attention, or seek to deny and/or discredit information that is public knowledge. In all such propaganda efforts, “black” operations denote those in which the audience is to be kept ignorant of the source; “white” efforts are those in which the originator openly acknowledges himself; and “gray” operations are those in which the source is partly but not fully acknowledged.
There remains some conflict between the National Clandestine Service and the more clandestine parts of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), such as the Joint Special Operations Command. This is usually confined to the civilian/political heads of the respective Department/Agency. The combination of SAD and USSOCOM units has resulted in some of the most notable successes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to include the locating and killing of Osama bin Laden. SAD/SOG has several missions. One of these missions is the recruiting, training, and leading of indigenous forces in combat operations. SAD/SOG and its successors have been used when it was considered desirable to have plausible deniability about U.S. support (this is called a covert operation or “covert action”). Unlike other special missions units, SAD/SOG operatives combine special operations and clandestine intelligence capabilities in one individual. These individuals can operate in any environment (sea, air or ground) with limited to no support.
The Pentagon commissioned a study to determine whether the CIA or the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) should conduct covert action paramilitary operations. Their study determined that the CIA should maintain this capability and be the “sole government agency conducting covert action.” The DoD found that, even under U.S. law, it does not have the legal authority to conduct covert action, nor the operational agility to carry out these types of missions. The operation in May 2011 that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden was a covert action under the authority of the CIA.
SAD/SOG has several hundred officers, mostly former members of special operations forces (SOF) and a majority from the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). The CIA has also recruited individuals within the agency. The CIA’s formal position for these individuals is “Paramilitary Operations Officers” and “Specialized Skills Officers.” Paramilitary Operations Officers attend the Clandestine Service Trainee (CST) program, which trains them as clandestine intelligence operatives (known as “Core Collectors” within the Agency). The primary strengths of SAD/SOG Paramilitary Officers are operational agility, adaptability, and deniability. They often operate in small teams, typically made up of six operators (with some operations being carried out by a single officer), all with extensive military special operations expertise and a set of specialized skills that does not exist in any other unit. As fully trained intelligence case officers, Paramilitary Operations Officers possess all the clandestine skills to collect human intelligence—and most importantly—to recruit assets from among the indigenous troops receiving their training. These officers often operate in remote locations behind enemy lines to carry out direct action (including raids and sabotage), counter-intelligence, guerrilla/unconventional warfare, counter-terrorism, and hostage rescue missions, in addition to being able to conduct espionage via HUMINT assets.
There are four principal elements within SAD’s Special Operations Group: the Air Branch, the Maritime Branch, the Ground Branch, and the Armor and Special Programs Branch. The Armor and Special Programs Branch is charged with development, testing, and covert procurement of new personnel and vehicular armor and maintenance of stockpiles of ordnance and weapons systems used by SOG, almost all of which must be obtained from clandestine sources abroad, in order to provide SOG operatives and their foreign trainees with plausible deniability in accordance with U.S. Congressional directives.
Together, SAD/SOG contains a complete combined arms covert military. Paramilitary Operations Officers are the core of each branch and routinely move between the branches to gain expertise in all aspects of SOG. As such, Paramilitary Operations Officers are trained to operate in a multitude of environments. Because these officers are taken from the most highly trained units in the U.S. military and then provided with extensive additional training to become CIA clandestine intelligence officers, many U.S. security experts assess them as the most elite of the U.S. special missions units.
One of the OSS’ greatest accomplishments during World War II was its penetration of Nazi Germany by OSS operatives. The OSS was responsible for training German and Austrian commandos for missions inside Nazi Germany. Some of these agents included exiled communists and socialist party members, labor activists, anti-NaziPOWs, and German and Jewish refugees. At the height of its influence during World War II, the OSS employed almost 24,000 people.
OSS Paramilitary Officers parachuted into many countries then behind enemy lines, including France, Norway, Greece and The Netherlands. In Crete, OSS paramilitary officers linked up with, equipped and fought alongside Greek resistance forces against the Axis occupation.
OSS was disbanded shortly after World War II, with its intelligence analysis functions moving temporarily into the U.S. Department of State. Espionage and counterintelligence went into military units, while paramilitary and related functions went into an assortment of ‘ad hoc’ groups, such as the Office of Policy Coordination. Between the original creation of the CIA by the National Security Act of 1947 and various mergers and reorganizations through 1952, the wartime OSS functions generally went into CIA. The mission of training and leading guerrillas generally stayed in the United States Army Special Forces, but those missions required to remain covert were folded into the paramilitary arm of the CIA. The direct descendant of the OSS’ Special Operations is the CIA’s Special Activities Division.
After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in October 1950, the CIA inserted SAD paramilitary teams into Tibet to train and lead Tibetan resistance fighters against the People’s Liberation Army of China. These teams selected and then trained Tibetan soldiers in the Rocky Mountains of the United States; training occurred at Camp Hale. The SAD teams then advised and led these commandos against the Chinese, both from Nepal and India. In addition, SAD Paramilitary Officers were responsible for the Dalai Lama‘s clandestine escape to India, narrowly escaping capture and certain execution by the Chinese government.
According to a book by retired CIA officer John Kenneth Knaus, entitled Orphans Of The Cold War: America And The Tibetan Struggle For Survival, Gyalo Thondup, the older brother of the 14th (and current) Dalai Lama, sent the CIA five Tibetan recruits. These recruits were then trained in paramilitary tactics on the island of Saipan in the Northern Marianas. Shortly thereafter, the five men were covertly returned to Tibet “to assess and organize the resistance” and selected another 300 Tibetans for training. U.S. assistance to the Tibetan resistance ceased after the 1972 Nixon visit to China, after which the United States and China normalized relations.
The CIA sponsored a variety of activities during the Korean War. These activities included maritime operations behind North Korean lines. Yong Do Island, connected by a rugged isthmus to Pusan, served as the base for those operations. These operations were carried out by well-trained Korean guerrillas. The four principal U.S. advisers responsible for the training and operational planning of those special missions were Dutch Kramer, Tom Curtis, George Atcheson and Joe Pagnella. All of these Paramilitary Operations Officers operated through a CIA front organization called the Joint Advisory Commission, Korea (JACK), headquartered at Tongnae, a village near Pusan, on the peninsula’s southeast coast. These paramilitary teams were responsible for numerous maritime raids and ambushes behind North Korean lines, as well as prisoner of war rescue operations. These were the first maritime unconventional warfare units that trained indigenous forces as surrogates. They also provided a model, along with the other CIA-sponsored ground based paramilitary Korean operations, for the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) activities conducted by the U.S. military and the CIA/SAD in Vietnam. In addition, CIA paramilitary ground-based teams worked directly for U.S. military commanders, specifically with the 8th Army, on the “White Tiger” initiative. This initiative included inserting South Korean commandos and CIA Paramilitary Operations Officers prior to the two major amphibious assaults on North Korea, including the landing at Inchon.
The Bay of Pigs Invasion (known as “La Batalla de Girón”, or “Playa Girón” in Cuba), was an unsuccessful attempt by a U.S.-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba and overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The plan was launched in April 1961, less than three months after John F. Kennedy assumed the presidency of the United States. The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, trained and equipped by Eastern Bloc nations, defeated the exile-combatants in three days.
The National Liberation Army of Bolivia (ELN-Ejército de Liberación Nacional de Bolivia) was a communist guerrilla force that operated from the remote Ñancahuazú region against the pro-U.S. Bolivian government. They were joined by Che Guevara in the mid-1960s. The ELN was well equipped and scored a number of early successes against the Bolivian army in the difficult terrain of the mountainous Camiri region. In the late 1960s, the CIA deployed teams of SAD Paramilitary Operations Officers to Bolivia to train the Bolivian army in order to counter the ELN. These SAD teams linked up with U.S. Army Special Forces and Bolivian Special Forces to track down and capture Guevara, who was a special prize because of his leading role in the Cuban Revolution. On October 9, 1967, Guevara was executed by Bolivian soldiers on the orders of CIA paramilitary operative Félix Rodríguez shortly after being captured, according to CIA documents.
Vietnam and Laos
South Vietnam, Military Regions, 1967
The original OSS mission in Vietnam under MajorArchimedes Patti was to work with Ho Chi Minh in order to prepare his forces to assist the United States and their Allies in fighting the Japanese. After the end of World War II, the US agreed at Potsdam to turn Vietnam back to their previous French rulers and in 1950 the US began providing military aid to the French.
CIA Paramilitary Operations Officers trained and led Hmong tribesmen in Laos and Vietnam, and their actions of these officers were not known for several years. Air America was the air component of the CIA’s paramilitary mission in Southeast Asia and was responsible for all combat, logistics and search and rescue operations in Laos and certain sections of Vietnam. The ethnic minority forces numbered in the tens of thousands and they conducted direct actions mission, led by Paramilitary Operations Officers, against the communist Pathet Lao forces and their North Vietnamese allies.
Elements of SAD were seen in the CIA’s Phoenix Program. One component of the Phoenix Program was involved in the capture and killing of suspected Viet Cong (National Liberation Front – NLF) members. Between 1968 and 1972, the Phoenix Program captured 81,740 National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF or Viet Cong) members, of whom 26,369 were killed. This was a large proportion of U.S. killings between 1969 and 1971. The program was also successful in destroying their infrastructure. By 1970, communist plans repeatedly emphasized attacking the government’s “pacification” program and specifically targeted Phoenix agents. The NLF also imposed quotas. In 1970, for example, communist officials near Da Nang in northern South Vietnam instructed their agents to “kill 400 persons” deemed to be government “tyrant[s]” and to “annihilate” anyone involved with the “pacification” program. Several North Vietnamese officials have made statements about the effectiveness of Phoenix.
MAC-V SOG (Studies and Observations Group) (which was originally named the Special Operations Group, but was changed for cover purposes), was created and active during the Vietnam War. While CIA was just one part of MAC-V SOG, it did have operational control of some of the programs. Many of the military members of MAC-V SOG joined the CIA after their military service. The legacy of MAC-V SOG continues within SAD’s Special Operations Group.
Maritime activities against the USSR
In 1973, SAD/SOG and the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology built and deployed the USNS Glomar Explorer (T-AG-193), a large deep-sea salvage ship, on a secret operation. This operation was called Project Azorian (erroneously called Project Jennifer by the press). Her mission was to recover a sunken Sovietsubmarine, K-129, which had been lost in April 1968. A mechanical failure caused two-thirds of the submarine to break off during recovery, but SAD recovered two nuclear-tipped torpedoes, cryptographic machines and the bodies of six Soviet submariners. An alternative theory claims that all of K-129 was recovered and that the official account was an “elaborate cover-up”.
In 1979, the U.S.-backed Anastasio Somoza Debayle dictatorship in Nicaragua fell to the socialist Sandinistas. Once in power, the Sandinistas disbanded the Nicaraguan National Guard, who had committed many human rights abuses, and arrested and executed some of its members. Other former National Guard members helped to form the backbone of the Nicaraguan Counterrevolution or Contra. SAD/SOG paramilitary teams were deployed to train and lead these forces against the Sandinista government. These paramilitary activities were based in Honduras and Costa Rica. Direct military aid by the United States was eventually forbidden by the Boland Amendment of the Defense Appropriations Act of 1983. The Boland Amendment was extended in October 1984 to forbid action by not only the Defense Department, but also to include the Central Intelligence Agency.
The Boland Amendment was a compromise because the U.S. Democratic Party did not have enough votes for a comprehensive ban on military aid. It covered only appropriated funds spent by intelligence agencies. Some of Reagan’s national security officials used non-appropriated money of the National Security Council (NSC) to circumvent the Amendment. NSC officials sought to arrange funding by third parties. These efforts resulted in the Iran-Contra Affair of 1987, which concerned Contra funding through the proceeds of arms sales to the Islamic Republic of Iran. No court ever made a determination whether Boland covered the NSC and on the grounds that it was a prohibition rather than a criminal statute, no one was indicted for violating it. Congress later resumed aid to the Contras, totaling over $300 million. The Contra war ended when the Sandinistas were voted out of power by a war-weary populace in 1990.Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was re-elected as President of Nicaragua in 2006 and took office again on January 10, 2007.
CIA personnel were also involved in the Salvadoran civil war. Some allege that the techniques used to interrogate prisoners in El Salvador foreshadowed those later used in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, when a similar counter-insurgency program was proposed in Iraq, it was referred to as “the Salvador Option”.
Location of Somalia
SAD sent in teams of Paramilitary Operations Officers into Somalia prior to the U.S. intervention in 1992. On December 23, 1992, Paramilitary Officer Larry Freedman became the first casualty of the conflict in Somalia. Freedman was a former Army Delta Force operator who had served in every conflict that the U.S. was involved in, both officially and unofficially, since Vietnam. Freedman was killed while conducting special reconnaissance in advance of the entry of U.S. military forces. His mission was completely voluntary, as it required entry into a very hostile area without any support. Freedman was awarded the Intelligence Star on January 5, 1993 for his “extraordinary heroism”.
SAD/SOG teams were key in working with JSOC and tracking high value targets (HVT), known as “Tier One Personalities”. Their efforts, working under extremely dangerous conditions with little to no support, led to several very successful joint JSOC/CIA operations. In one specific operation, a CIA case officer, Michael Shanklin and codenamed “Condor”, working with a CIA Technical Operations Officer from the Directorate of Science and Technology, managed to get a cane with a beacon in it to Osman Ato, a wealthy businessman, arms importer, and Mohammed Aideed, a money man whose name was right below Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s on the Tier One list.
Once Condor confirmed that Ato was in a vehicle, JSOC‘s Delta Force launched a capture operation.
a Little Bird helicopter dropped out of the sky and a sniper leaned out and fired three shots into the car’s engine block. The car ground to a halt as commandos roped down from hovering Blackhawks [sic], surrounded the car and handcuffed Ato. It was the first known helicopter takedown of suspects in a moving car. The next time Jones saw the magic cane, an hour later, Garrison had it in his hand. “I like this cane,” Jones remembers the general exclaiming, a big grin on his face. “Let’s use this again.” Finally, a tier one personality was in custody.
President Bill Clinton withdrew U.S. forces on May 4, 1994.
In June 2006, the Islamic Courts Union seized control of southern Somalia, including the country’s capital Mogadishu, prompting the Ethiopian government to send in troops to try to protect the transitional government. In December, the Islamic Courts warned Ethiopia they would declare war if Ethiopia did not remove all its troops from Somalia. Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, leader of the Islamic Courts, called for a jihad, or holy war, against Ethiopia and encouraged foreign Muslim fighters to come to Somalia. At that time, the United States accused the group of being controlled by al-Qaeda, but the Islamic Courts denied that charge.
In 2009, PBS reported that al-Qaeda had been training terrorists in Somalia for years. Until December 2006, Somalia’s government had no power outside of the town of Baidoa, 150 miles (240 km) from the capital. The countryside and the capital were run by warlords and militia groups who could be paid to protect terrorist groups.
CIA officers kept close tabs on the country and paid a group of Somali warlords to help hunt down members of al-Qaeda according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, issued a message calling for all Muslims to go to Somalia. On January 9, 2007, a U.S. official said that ten militants were killed in one airstrike.
On September 14, 2009, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a senior al-Qaeda leader in East Africa as well as a senior leader in Shabaab, al Qaeda’s surrogate in Somalia, was killed by elements of U.S. Special Operations. According to a witness, at least two AH-6 Little Bird attack helicopters strafed a two-car convoy. Navy SEALs then seized the body of Nabhan and took two other wounded fighters captive. JSOC and the CIA had been trying to kill Nabhan for some time including back in January 2007, when an AC-130 Gunship was called in on one attempt. A U.S. intelligence source stated that CIA paramilitary teams are directly embedded with Ethiopian forces in Somalia, allowing for the tactical intelligence to launch these operations. Nabhan was wanted for his involvement in the 1998 United States embassy bombings, as well as leading the cell behind the 2002 Mombasa attacks.
From 2010 to 2013, the CIA set up the Somalia National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) by providing training, funding and diplomatic access. In the same time period, the EU and UN has spent millions of dollars for the military training of the Somali National Army (SNA). NISA is considered a professional Somali security force that can be relied upon to neutralize the terrorist threat. This force responded to the complex al-Shabaab attack on the Banadir Regional Courthouse in Mogadishu which killed 25 civilians. NISA’s response however saved 100s and resulted in the death of all the al-Shabaab guerrillas involved.
Significant events during this timeframe included the targeted drone strikes against British al-Qaida operative Bilal el-Berjawi  and Moroccan al-Qaida operative Abu Ibrahim. It also included the rescue of U.S. citizen Jessica Buchanan by U.S. Navy SEALs. All likely aided by intelligence collection efforts in Somalia.
Hamid Karzai with Special Forces and CIA Paramilitary in late 2001.
During the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Paramilitary Operations Officers were instrumental in equipping Mujaheddin forces against the Soviet Army. Although the CIA in general, and a Texas congressman named Charlie Wilson in particular, have received most of the attention, the key architect of this strategy was Michael G. Vickers. Vickers was a young Paramilitary Operations Officer from SAD/SOG. The CIA’s efforts have been given credit for assisting in ending the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan and bringing Taliban to power.
SAD paramilitary teams were active in Afghanistan in the 1990s in clandestine operations to locate and kill or capture Osama Bin Laden. These teams planned several operations, but did not receive the order to execute from President Bill Clinton because the available intelligence did not guarantee a successful outcome weighed against the extraordinary risk to the SAD/SOG teams that would execute the mission. These efforts did however build many of the relationships that would prove essential in the 2001 U.S. Invasion of Afghanistan.
On September 26, 2001, members of the Special Activities Division, led by Gary Schroen, were the first U.S. forces inserted into Afghanistan. The Northern Afghanistan Liaison Team entered the country nine days after the 9/11 attack and linked up with the Northern Alliance as part of Task Force Dagger.
They provided the Northern Alliance with resources including cash to buy weapons and prepared for the arrival of USSOCOM forces. The plan for the invasion of Afghanistan was developed by the CIA, the first time in United States history that such a large-scale military operation was planned by the CIA. SAD, U.S. Army Special Forces, and the Northern Alliance combined to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan with minimal loss of U.S. lives. They did this without the use of conventional U.S. military ground forces.
What made the Afghan campaign a landmark in the U.S. Military’s history is that it was prosecuted by Special Operations forces from all the services, along with Navy and Air Force tactical power, operations by the Afghan Northern Alliance and the CIA were equally important and fully integrated. No large Army or Marine force was employed”.
The valor exhibited by Afghan and American soldiers, fighting to free Afghanistan from a horribly cruel regime, will inspire even the most jaded reader. The stunning victory of the horse soldiers – 350 Special Forces soldiers, 100 C.I.A. officers and 15,000 Northern Alliance fighters routing a Taliban army 50,000 strong – deserves a hallowed place in American military history”.
Small and highly agile paramilitary mobile teams spread out over the countryside to meet with locals and gather information about the Taliban and al-Qa’ida. During that time, one of the teams was approached in a village and asked by a young man for help in retrieving his teenage sister. He explained that a senior Taliban official had taken her as a wife and had sharply restricted the time she could spend with her family. The team gave the man a small hand-held tracking device to pass along to his sister, with instructions for her to activate it when the Taliban leader returned home. The team responded to her emergency signal, capturing the senior Taliban official and rescuing the sister. The siblings’ tearful reunion left the team at a loss for words—a rarity for the normally loud warriors of CIA’s Special Activities Division.
In December 2001, SAD/SOG and the Army’s Delta Force tracked down Osama bin Laden in the rugged mountains near the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan. Former CIA station chief Gary Berntsen as well as a subsequent Senate investigation claimed that the combined American special operations task force was largely outnumbered by al-Qaeda forces and that they were denied additional US troops by higher command. The task force also requested munitions to block the avenues of egress of bin Laden, but that request was also denied. The team allegedly uncovered evidence in the subsequent site exploration that bin Laden’s ultimate aim was to obtain and detonate a nuclear device in a terrorist attack. According to other press reports, SAD were ineffectual and “Bin Laden and bodyguards walked uncontested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan’s unregulated tribal area.”
In September 2009, the CIA planned on “deploying teams of spies, analysts and paramilitary operatives to Afghanistan, part of a broad intelligence ‘surge’ ordered by President Obama. This will make its station there among the largest in the agency’s history.” This presence is expected to surpass the size of the stations in Iraq and Vietnam at the height of those wars. The station is located at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and is led “by a veteran with an extensive background in paramilitary operations”. The majority of the CIA’s workforce is located among secret bases and military special operations posts throughout the country.
Also in 2009, General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, planned to request an increase in teams of CIA operatives, including their elite paramilitary officers, to join with U.S. military special operations forces. This combination worked well in Iraq and is largely credited with the success of that surge. There have been basically three options described in the media: McChrystal’s increased counterinsurgency campaign; a counter-terror campaign using special operations raids and drone strikes; and withdrawal. The most successful combination in both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been the linking up of SAD and military special forces to fight alongside highly trained indigenous units. One thing all of these options have in common is a requirement for greater CIA participation.
The End Game
According to the current and former intelligence officials, General McChrystal also had his own preferred candidate for the Chief of Station (COS) job, a good friend and decorated CIA paramilitary officer. The officer had extensive experience in war zones, including two previous tours in Afghanistan with one as the Chief of Station, as well as tours in the Balkans, Baghdad and Yemen. He is well known in CIA lore as “the man who saved Hamid Karzai‘s life when the CIA led the effort to oust the Taliban from power in 2001″. President Karzai is said to be greatly indebted to this officer and was pleased when the officer was named chief of station again. According to interviews with several senior officials, this officer “was uniformly well-liked and admired. A career paramilitary officer, he came to the CIA after several years in an elite Marine unit”.
General McChrystal’s strategy included the lash up of special operations forces from the U.S. Military and from SAD/SOG to duplicate the initial success and the defeat of the Taliban in 2001 and the success of the “Surge” in Iraq in 2007. This strategy proved highly successful and worked very well in Afghanistan with SAD/SOG and JSOC forces conducting raids nearly every night having “superb results” against the enemy.
In 2001, the CIA’s SAD/SOG began creating what would come to be called Counter-terrorism Pursuit Teams (CTPT). These units grew to include over 3,000 operatives by 2010 and have been involved in sustained heavy fighting against the enemy. It is considered the “best Afghan fighting force”.
Located at 7,800 feet (2,400 m) above sea level, Firebase Lilley in Shkin serves as a “nerve center for the covert war”. This covert war includes being a hub for these CTPT operations with Firebase Lilley being just one in a constellation of CIA bases across Afghanistan. These units have not only been highly effective in combat operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, but have also been used to engage with the tribes in areas with no other official government presence.
This covert war also includes a large SOG/CTPT expansion into Pakistan to target senior al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). CTPT units are the main effort in both the “Counterterrorism plus” and the full “Counterinsurgency” options being discussed by the Obama administration in the December 2010 review. SOG/CTPT are also key to any exit strategy for the U.S. government to leave Afghanistan, while still being able to deny al-Qaeda and other trans-national extremists groups a safehaven both in Afghanistan and in the FATA of Pakistan.
In January 2013, a CIA drone strike killed Mullah Nazir a senior Taliban commander in the South Waziristan area of Pakistan believed responsible for carrying out the insurgent effort against the US military in Afghanistan. Nazir’s death degraded the Taliban.
The U.S. has decided to lean heavily on CIA in general and SAD specifically in their efforts to withdraw from Afghanistan as it did in Iraq. There are plans being considered to have several US Military special operations elements assigned to CIA after the withdrawal.
On November 5, 2002, a missile launched from a CIA-controlled Predator drone killed al-Qaeda members traveling in a remote area in Yemen. SAD/SOG paramilitary teams had been on the ground tracking their movements for months and called in this air strike. One of those in the car was Ali Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, al-Qaeda’s chief operative in Yemen and a suspect in the October 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole. Five other people, believed to be low-level al-Qaeda members, were also killed to include an American named Kamal Derwish. Former Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz called it “a very successful tactical operation” and said “such strikes are useful not only in killing terrorists but in forcing al-Qaeda to change its tactics”.
“It’s an important step that has been taken in that it has eliminated another level of experienced leadership from al-Qaeda,” said Vince Cannistraro, former head of counter-terrorism for the CIA and current ABC News consultant. “It will help weaken the organization and make it much less effective.” Harithi was on the run, pursued by several security forces who were looking for him and Muhammad Hamdi al-Ahdal, another suspect in the USS Cole bombing case.
In 2009, the Obama administration authorized continued lethal operations in Yemen by the CIA. As a result, the SAD/SOG and JSOC have joined together to aggressively target al-Qaeda operatives in that country, both through leading Yemenese special forces and intelligence driven drone strikes. A major target of these operations is ImamAnwar al-Aulaqi, an American citizen with ties to both Nidal Hassan, the alleged Fort Hood attacker, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas 2009 attempted bomber of Northwest Airline flight 253. Imam al-Aulaki was killed on September 30, 2011 by an air attack carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command.
SAD paramilitary teams entered Iraq before the 2003 invasion. Once on the ground they prepared the battle space for the subsequent arrival of U.S. military forces. SAD teams then combined with U.S. Army special forces (on a team called the Northern Iraq Liaison Element or NILE). This team organized the KurdishPeshmerga for the subsequent U.S. led invasion. This joint team combined in Operation Viking Hammer to defeat Ansar al-Islam, an Islamist group allied to al-Qaeda, which several battle-hardened fighters from Afghanistan had joined after the fall of the Taliban, in a battle for control over the northeast of Iraq – a battle that turned out being one of the “most intense battles of Special Forces since Vietnam”. This battle was for an entire territory that was completely occupied by Ansar al-Islam and was executed prior to the invasion in February 2003. If this battle had not been as successful as it was, there would have been a considerable hostile force in the rear of the U.S./secular Kurdish force in the subsequent assault on the Iraqi army to the south. The U.S. side was represented by paramilitary operations officers from SAD/SOG and the army’s 10th Special Forces Group (10th SFG). 10th SFG soldiers were awarded three Silver Stars and six Bronze Stars with V for valor for this battle alone  and several paramilitary officers were awarded the Intelligence Star for valor in combat. This battle was a significant direct attack and victory on a key U.S. opponent. It resulted in the deaths of a substantial number of militants and the uncovering of a crude laboratory that had traces of poisons and information on chemical weapons at Sargat. The team found foreign identity cards, visas, and passports on the enemy bodies. They had come from a wide variety of Middle Eastern and north African countries including Yemen, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Tunisia, Morocco, and Iran. Sargat was also the only facility that had traces of chemical weapons discovered in the Iraq war.
The village of Biyara and Base of Ansar al-Islam 2001–2003
In a 2004 U.S. News & World Report article, “A firefight in the mountains”, the author states:
“Viking Hammer would go down in the annals of Special Forces history—a battle fought on foot, under sustained fire from an enemy lodged in the mountains, and with minimal artillery and air support.”
SAD/SOG teams also conducted high risk special reconnaissance missions behind Iraqi lines to identify senior leadership targets. These missions led to the initial assassination attempts against Iraqi PresidentSaddam Hussein and his key generals. Although the initial air strike against Hussein was unsuccessful in killing the dictator, it was successful in effectively ending his ability to command and control his forces. Other strikes against key generals were successful and significantly degraded the command’s ability to react to and maneuver against the U.S.-led invasion force. SAD operations officers were also successful in convincing key Iraqi army officers to surrender their units once the fighting started and/or not to oppose the invasion force.
NATO member Turkey refused to allow its territory to be used by the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division for the invasion. As a result, the SAD/SOG, U.S. Army special forces joint teams, the Kurdish Peshmerga and the 173d Airborne Brigade were the entire northern force against the Iraqi army during the invasion. Their efforts kept the 13 divisions of the Iraqi Army in place to defend against the Kurds rather allowing them to contest the coalition force coming from the south. This combined U.S. special operations and Kurdish force defeated the Iraqi Army. Four members of the SAD/SOG team received CIA’s rare Intelligence Star for “extraordinary heroism”.
The mission that captured Saddam Hussein was called “Operation Red Dawn“. It was planned and carried out by JSOC’s Delta Force and SAD/SOG teams (together called Task Force 121). The operation eventually included around 600 soldiers from the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division. Special operations troops probably numbered around 40. Much of the publicity and credit for the capture went to the 4th Infantry Division soldiers, but CIA and JSOC were the driving force. “Task Force 121 were actually the ones who pulled Saddam out of the hole” said Robert Andrews, former deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict. “They can’t be denied a role anymore.”
CIA paramilitary units continued to team up with the JSOC in Iraq and in 2007 the combination created a lethal force many credit with having a major impact in the success of “the Surge“. They did this by killing or capturing many of the key al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq. In a CBS60 Minutes interview, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward described a new special operations capability that allowed for this success. This capability was developed by the joint teams of CIA and JSOC. Several senior U.S. officials stated that the “joint efforts of JSOC and CIA paramilitary units was the most significant contributor to the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq”.
In May 2007, Marine Major Douglas A. Zembiec was serving in SAD Ground Branch in Iraq when he was killed by small arms fire while leading a raid. Reports from fellow paramilitary officers stated that the flash radio report sent was “five wounded and one martyred” Major Zembiec was killed while saving his soldiers, Iraqi soldiers. He was honored with an intelligence star for his valor in combat.
On October 26, 2008, SAD/SOG and JSOC conducted an operation in Syria targeting the “foreign fighter logistics network” bringing al-Qaeda operatives into Iraq (See 2008 Abu Kamal raid). A U.S. source told CBS News that “the leader of the foreign fighters, an al-Qaeda officer, was the target of Sunday’s cross-border raid.” He said the attack was successful, but did not say whether or not the al-Qaeda officer was killed.Fox News later reported that Abu Ghadiya, “al-Qa’ida’s senior coordinator operating in Syria”, was killed in the attack.The New York Times reported that during the raid U.S. forces killed several armed males who “posed a threat”.
In September 2014 with the rise of the Islamic State, the U.S. government began aggressive military operations against them in both Iraq and Syria. SAD Ground Branch was placed in charge of the ground war. This is a testament to SAD being the preeminent force for unconventional warfare and their long-standing relationship with the most effective fighting force in the region, the Kurdish Peshmerga.
SAD/SOG has been very active “on the ground” inside Pakistan targeting al-Qaeda operatives for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Predator strikes and along with USSOCOM elements they have been training Pakistani Special Service Group Commandos. Before leaving office, President George W. Bush authorized SAD’s successful killing of eight senior al-Qaeda operatives via targeted air strikes. Among those killed were the mastermind of a 2006 plot to detonate explosives aboard planes flying across the Atlantic Rashid Rauf and the man thought to have planned the Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing on September 20, 2008 that killed 53 people. The CIA Director authorized the continuation of these operations and on January 23, SAD/SOG performed killings of 20 individuals in northwestern Pakistan that were terrorists. Some experts assess that the CIA Director – at that time Leon Panetta – has been more aggressive in conducting paramilitary operations in Pakistan than his predecessor. A Pakistani security official stated that other strikes killed at least 10 insurgents, including five foreign nationals and possibly “a high-value target” such as a senior al-Qaeda or Taliban official. On February 14, the CIA drone killed 27 taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in a missile strike in south Waziristan, a militant stronghold near the Afghan border where al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri were believed to be hiding.
In a National Public Radio (NPR) report dated February 3, 2008, a senior official stated that al-Qaeda has been “decimated” by SAD/SOG’s air and ground operations. This senior U.S. counter-terrorism official goes on to say, “The enemy is really, really struggling. These attacks have produced the broadest, deepest and most rapid reduction in al-Qaida senior leadership that we’ve seen in several years.” President Obama’s CIA Director Leon Panetta stated that SAD/SOG’s efforts in Pakistan have been “the most effective weapon” against senior al-Qaeda leadership.
These covert attacks have increased significantly under President Obama, with as many at 50 al-Qaeda militants being killed in the month of May 2009 alone. In June 2009, sixty Taliban fighters were killed while at a funeral to bury fighters that had been killed in previous CIA attacks. On July 22, 2009, National Public Radio reported that U.S. officials believe Saad bin Laden, a son of Osama bin Laden, was killed by a CIA strike in Pakistan. Saad bin Laden spent years under house arrest in Iran before traveling last year to Pakistan, according to former National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell. It’s believed he was killed sometime in 2009. A senior U.S. counter-terrorism said U.S. intelligence agencies are “80 to 85 percent” certain that Saad bin Laden is dead.
On August 6, 2009, the CIA announced that Baitullah Mehsud was killed by a SAD/SOG drone strike in Pakistan.The New York Times said, “Although President Obama has distanced himself from many of the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism policies, he has embraced and even expanded the C.I.A.’s covert campaign in Pakistan using Predator and Reaper drones”. The biggest loss may be to “Osama bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida”. For the past eight years, al-Qaeda had depended on Mehsud for protection after Mullah Mohammed Omar fled Afghanistan in late 2001. “Mehsud’s death means the tent sheltering Al Qaeda has collapsed,” an Afghan Taliban intelligence officer who had met Mehsud many times told Newsweek. “Without a doubt he was Al Qaeda’s No. 1 guy in Pakistan,” adds Mahmood Shah, a retired Pakistani Army brigadier and a former chief of the Federally Administered Tribal Area, or FATA, Mehsud’s base.
Airstrikes from CIA drones struck targets in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan on September 8, 2009. Reports stated that seven to ten militants were killed to include one top al-Qaida leaders. He was Mustafa al-Jaziri, an Algerian national described as an “important and effective” leader and senior military commander for al-Qaida. The success of these operations are believed to have caused senior Taliban leaders to significantly alter their operations and cancel key planning meetings.
The CIA is also increasing its campaign using Predator missile strikes on al-Qaeda in Pakistan. The number of strikes in 2009 exceeded the 2008 total, according to data compiled by the Long War Journal, which tracks strikes in Pakistan. In December 2009, the New York Times reported that President Obama ordered an expansion of the drone program with senior officials describing the program as “a resounding success, eliminating key terrorists and throwing their operations into disarray”. The article also cites a Pakistani official who stated that about 80 missile attacks in less than two years have killed “more than 400” enemy fighters, a number lower than most estimates but in the same range. His account of collateral damage was strikingly lower than many unofficial counts: “We believe the number of civilian casualties is just over 20, and those were people who were either at the side of major terrorists or were at facilities used by terrorists.”
On December 6, 2009, a senior al-Qaeda operative, Saleh al-Somali, was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan. He was responsible for their operations outside of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and formed part of the senior leadership. Al-Somali was engaged in plotting terrorist acts around the world and “given his central role, this probably included plotting attacks against the United States and Europe”. On December 31, 2009, senior Taliban leader and strong Haqqani ally Haji Omar Khan, brother of Arif Khan, was killed in the strike along with the son of local tribal leader Karim Khan.
In January 2010, al-Qaeda in Pakistan announced that Lashkar al-Zil leader Abdullah Said al Libi was killed in a drone missile strike. Neither al-Qaeda nor the US has revealed the date of the attack that killed Libi. On January 14, 2010, subsequent to the suicide attack at Camp Chapman, the CIA located and killed the senior Taliban leader in Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud. Mehsud had claimed responsibility in a video he made with the suicide bomber Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi.
On February 5, 2010, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and CIA’s SAD/SOG conducted a joint raid and apprehended Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Baradar was the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the beginning of the Afghan War more than eight years ago until that date. He ranked second to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s founder and was known to be a close associate of Osama bin Laden. Mullah Baradar was interrogated by CIA and ISI officers for several days before news of his capture was released. This capture sent the message that the Taliban leadership is not safe in Afghanistan or Pakistan. “The seizure of the Afghan Taliban’s top military leader in Pakistan represents a turning point in the U.S.-led war against the militants”, U.S. officials and analysts said. Per Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik, several raids in Karachi in early February netted dozens of suspected Afghan militants. In other joint raids that occurred around the same time, Afghan officials said that the Taliban “shadow governorsP for two provinces in northern Afghanistan had also been detained. Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban’s leader in Kunduz, and Mullah Mir Mohammed of Baghlan were captured in Akora Khattack.
On February 20, Muhammad Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, was one of four people killed in the drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal region in North Waziristan, according to two Pakistani intelligence sources.
On May 31, 2010, the New York Times reported that Mustafa Abu al Yazid (AKA Saeed al Masri), a senior operational leader for Al Qaeda, was killed in an American missile strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
From July to December 2010, predator strikes killed 535 suspected militants in the FATA to include Sheikh Fateh Al Misri, Al-Qaeda’s new third in command on September 25. Al Misri was planning a major terrorist attack in Europe by recruiting British Muslims who would then go on a shooting rampage similar to what transpired in Mumbai in November 2008.
The operation in the Bilal military cantonment area in the city of Abbottabad resulted in the acquisition of extensive intelligence on the future attack plans of al-Qaeda. The body of bin Laden was flown to Afghanistan to be identified and then out to the USS Carl Vinson for a burial at sea. DNA from bin Laden’s body, compared with DNA samples on record from his dead sister, confirmed his identity.
The operation was a result of years of intelligence work that included the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the CIA, the DSS, and the Delta Force‘s, apprehension and interrogation of Khalid Sheik Mohammad (KSM), the discovery of the real name of the courier disclosed by KSM, the tracking, via signal intelligence, of the courier to the Abbottobad compound by paramilitary operatives and the establishment of a CIA safe house that provided critical advance intelligence for the operation.
The material discovered in the raid indicated that bin Laden was still in charge of his Al-Qaeda organization and was developing plans and issuing orders at the time of his death. There is considerable controversy over claims that elements of the Pakistani government, particularly the ISI, may have been concealing the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Bin Laden’s death has been labeled a “game changer” and a fatal blow to Al-Qaeda, by senior U.S. officials.
On March 9, 2007 alleged CIA Agent Robert Levinson was kidnapped from Iran’s Kish Island. On July 7, 2008, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and author Seymour Hersh wrote an article in the New Yorker stating that the Bush Administration had signed a Presidential Finding authorizing the CIA to begin cross border paramilitary operations from Iraq and Afghanistan into Iran. These operations would be against Quds Force, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, public and private sector strategic targets, and “high-value targets” in the war on terror. Also enrolled to support CIA objectives were the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, known in the West as the M.E.K.,and the Baluchis insurgents. “The Finding was focused on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.” Any significant effort against Iran by the Obama Administration would likely come directly from SAD. and in July 2010, Director Panetta chose a former chief of SAD as the new NCS Director.
After the Arab Spring movements overthrew the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt, its neighbours to the west and east respectively, Libya had a major revolt beginning in February 2011. In response, the Obama administration sent in SAD paramilitary operatives to assess the situation and gather information on the opposition forces. Experts speculated that these teams could be determining the capability of these forces to defeat the Muammar Gaddafi regime and whether Al-Qaeda had a presence in these rebel elements.
U.S. officials had made it clear that no U.S. troops would be “on the ground”, making the use of covert paramilitary operatives the only alternative. During the early phases of the Libyan offensive of U.S. led air strikes, paramilitary operatives assisted in the recovery of a U.S. Air Force pilot who had crashed due to mechanical problems. There was speculation that President Obama issued a covert action finding in March 2011 that authorizes the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and support to the Libyan opposition.
CIA paramilitary teams have been deployed to Syria to report on the uprising, to access the rebel groups, leadership and to potentially train, equip and lead one of those rebel groups against the Bashar al-Assad regime. In early September 2013, President Obama told U.S. Senators that the CIA had trained the first 50-man insurgent element and that they had been inserted into Syria. The deployment of this unit and the supplying of weapons may be the first tangible measure of support since the U.S. stated they would begin providing assistance to the opposition.
In October 2013, SAD was tasked with overthrowing the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. This program was considered too limited to have the desired outcome. However, with the rise of the Islamic State, SAD was given the overall command and control of the ground fight against them. This fight will cross the borders between Iraq and Syria.
The CIA has always had a Special Activities Division, which secretly carries out special operations mission. However, since September 11, 2001 the US government has relied much more on SAD/SOG because fighting terrorists does not usually involve fighting other armies. Rather, it involves secretly moving in and out of countries like Pakistan, Iran and Somalia where the American military is not legally allowed to operate.
If there are missions in these countries that are denied to U.S. military special operations forces, SAD/SOG units are the primary national special missions units to execute those operations.
In 2002, the George W. Bush Administration prepared a list of “terrorist leaders” the CIA is authorized to kill in a targeted killing, if capture is impractical and civilian casualties can be kept to an acceptable number. The list includes key al Qaeda leaders like Osama bin Laden (deceased) and his chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, as well as other principal figures from al Qaeda and affiliated groups. This list is called the “high value target list”. The U.S. president is not legally required to approve each name added to the list, nor is the CIA required to obtain presidential approval for specific attacks, although the president is kept well informed about operations.
SAD/SOG teams have been dispatched to the country of Georgia, where dozens of al Qaeda fugitives from Afghanistan are believed to have taken refuge with Chechen separatists and thousands of refugees in the Pankisi Gorge. Their efforts have already resulted in 15 Arab militants linked to al Qaeda being captured.
The SAD/SOG teams have also been active in the Philippines, where 1,200 U.S. military advisers helped to train local soldiers in “counter-terrorist operations” against Abu Sayyaf, a radical Islamist group suspected of ties with al Qaeda. Little is known about this U.S. covert action program, but some analysts believe that “the CIA’s paramilitary wing, the Special Activities Division (SAD), has been allowed to pursue terrorist suspects in the Philippines on the basis that its actions will never be acknowledged”.
On July 14, 2009, several newspapers reported that DCIA Leon Panetta was briefed on a CIA program that had not been briefed to the oversight committees in Congress. Panetta cancelled the initiative and reported its existence to Congress and the President. The program consisted of teams of SAD paramilitary officers organized to execute targeted killing operations against al Qaeda operatives around the world in any country. According to the Los Angeles Times, DCIA Panetta “has not ruled out reviving the program”. There is some question as to whether former Vice President Dick Cheney instructed the CIA not to inform Congress. Per senior intelligence officers, this program was an attempt to avoid the civilian casualties that can occur during predator drone strikes using Hellfire missiles.
According to many experts, the Obama administration has relied on the CIA and their paramilitary capabilities, even more than they have on U.S. military forces, to maintain the fight against terrorists in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region, as well as places like Yemen, Somalia and North Africa. Ronald Kessler states in his book The CIA at War: Inside the Secret War Against Terror, that although paramilitary operations are a strain on resources, they’re winning the war against terrorism.
SAD/SOG paramilitary officers executed the clandestine evacuation of U.S. citizens and diplomatic personnel in Somalia, Iraq (during the Persian Gulf War) and Liberia during periods of hostility, as well as the insertion of Paramilitary Operations Officers prior to the entry of U.S. military forces in every conflict since World War II. SAD officers have operated covertly since 1947 in places such as North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Libya, Iraq, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Chile, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Fulton surface-to-air recovery system (STARS) is a system developed in the early 1950s by CIA paramilitary officers for retrieving persons on the ground from a MC-130E Combat Talon I aircraft. It uses a harness and a self-inflating balloon that carries an attached lift line. An MC-130E engages the line with its V-shaped yoke and the individual is reeled on board.Project COLDFEET was a very successful mission in 1962 in which two military officers parachuted into a remote abandoned Soviet site in the Arctic. The two were subsequently extracted by the Fulton sky hook. The team gathered evidence of advanced research on acoustical systems to detect under-ice US submarines and efforts to develop Arctic anti-submarine warfare techniques.
Sergeant Major (SgtMaj) Billy Waugh was a Special Forces soldier attached to CIA in the 1960s. During his time at MACV-SOG in Vietnam, he developed and conducted the first combat High Altitude-Low Opening (HALO) jump, “In October 1970, my team made a practice Combat Infiltration into the NVA owned War Zone D, in South Vietnam, for reassembly training, etc. This was the first one in a combat zone.” HALO is a method of delivering personnel, equipment, and supplies from a transport aircraft at a high altitude via free-fall parachute insertion. HALO and HAHO (High Altitude-High Opening) are also known as Military Free Fall (MFF). In the HALO technique, the parachutist opens his parachute at a low altitude after free-falling for a period of time to avoid detection by the enemy. Waugh also led the last combat special reconnaissance parachute insertion into enemy territory occupied by communist North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops on June 22, 1971.
On October 25, 2003, paramilitary officers Christopher Mueller and William “Chief” Carlson were killed while conducting an operation to kill/capture high level al-Qa’ida leaders near Shkin, Afghanistan. Both these officers were honored with Stars on the CIA Memorial Wall at their Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. “The bravery of these two men cannot be overstated,” Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet told a gathering of several hundred Agency employees and family members. “Chris and Chief put the lives of others ahead of their own. That is heroism defined.” Mueller, a former US Navy SEAL and Carlson, a former Army Special Forces soldier, Delta Force operator, and member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, died while on this covert operation. Both officers saved the lives of others, including Afghan soldiers, during the engagement with al-Qa’ida forces. In Oliver North’s book American Heroes in Special Operations, a chapter is devoted to their story.
Notable political action officers
Virginia Hall Goillot started as the only female paramilitary officer in the OSS. She shot herself in the leg while hunting in Turkey in 1932, which was then amputated below the knee. She parachuted into France to organize the resistance with her prosthesis strapped to her body. She was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. She married an OSS officer named Paul Goillot and the two joined the CIA as paramilitary operations officers in SAD. Once aboard, Mrs. Goillot made her mark as a political action officer playing significant roles in the Guatemala and Guyana operations. These operations involved the covert removal of the governments of these two countries, as directed by the President of the United States.
E. Howard Hunt (October 9, 1918 – January 23, 2007) was an Ivy league educated Naval officer who joined the CIA in 1949 after serving with the OSS in World War II. Hunt was a political action officer in what came to be called their Special Activities Division. He became station chief in Mexico City in 1950, and supervised William F. Buckley, Jr., (Not to be confused with a famous SAD Paramilitary Officer of the same name) who worked for the CIA in Mexico during the period 1951–1952. Buckley, another SAD political action specialist, only served briefly in the CIA and went on to be considered the father of the modern American conservative movement. Buckley and Hunt remained lifelong friends. Hunt ran Operation PBSUCCESS, which overthrew the government in Guatemala in 1954, was heavily involved in the Bay of Pigs Invasion operation, frequently mentioned in the JFK assassination, and was one of the operatives in the Watergate scandal. Hunt was also a well-known author with over 50 books to his credit. These books were published under several alias names and several were made into motion pictures.
David Atlee Phillips Perhaps the most famous propaganda officer ever to serve in CIA, Phillips began his career as a journalist and amateur actor in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He joined the Agency in the 1950s and was one of the chief architects of the operation to overthrow Communist president Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954. He was later heavily engaged as a principal member of the Bay of Pigs Task Force at Langley, and in subsequent anti-Castro operations throughout the 1960s. He founded the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) after successfully contesting a libel suit against him.
The CIA Memorial Wall is located at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It honors CIA employees who died in the line of duty. As of August 6, 2012, there were 103 stars carved into the marble wall, each one representing an officer. A majority of these were paramilitary officers. A black book, called the “Book of Honor”, lies beneath the stars and is encased in an inch-thick plate of glass. Inside this book are stars, arranged by year of death, and the names of 77 employees who died in CIA service alongside them. The other names remain secret, even in death.
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Acceptance Speech as the 1964 Republican Presidential candidate
“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!
And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”
~Senator Barry Goldwater
Two of Ten planks of Karl Marx’s
ARE Americans practicing Communism?
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
Americans know this as misapplication of the 16th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, 1913, The Social Security Act of 1936.; Joint House Resolution 192 of 1933; and various State “income” taxes. We call it “paying your fair share”.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
Americans call it Federal & State estate Tax (1916); or reformed Probate Laws, and limited inheritance via arbitrary inheritance tax statutes.