WorldMag.com, By J.C. DERRICK, May 18, 2015:
WASHINGTON—Documents released today confirm the Obama administration knew weapons were flowing out of Benghazi, Libya, to Syrian rebels in 2012 even though the rebels had well-publicized ties to al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.
Previous reports, including one by WORLD in 2013, have linked U.S. involvement in Libya to arms flowing into Syria, but the new documents provide the first verification that contradicts administration officials and congressional Democrats who maintained there was no evidence to support it. The documents provide further confirmation that the CIA and the State Department—under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—received immediate intelligence that the attack was committed by al-Qaeda- and Muslim Brotherhood-linked brigades, even as Clinton and other officials claimed it was the result of rioting against a Muslim-bashing video.
“Weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya, to the Port of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria,” says an October 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document released with heavy redactions. It notes the activity took place weeks before terrorists attacked the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, killing four Americans in September: “The weapons shipped during late-August 2012 were  sniper rifles,  RPGs, and  125 mm and 155 mm howitzers missiles.”
Judicial Watch, a Washington, D.C., watchdog group, obtained the cache of more than 100 documents after filing a lawsuit in federal court. The judge who ordered the release, Ketanji Brown Jackson, is a 2013 appointee of President Barack Obama.
“These documents are jaw-dropping,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said. “No wonder we had to file more FOIA lawsuits and wait over two years for them.”
Administration officials—including the CIA’s former acting director in sworn congressional testimony last year—have argued that initial intelligence showed no evidence of a pre-planned attack at Benghazi. But new documents undercut that assertion. A DIA memo dated September 12, 2012, says the attack was planned at least 10 days in advance to “kill as many Americans as possible” in revenge for a U.S. air strike that killed a militant leader in Pakistan and to commemorate the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
That document, also heavily redacted, was circulated to top administration officials, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, four days before U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice went on several national television shows claiming the attack was the result of a spontaneous protest.
Clare Lopez, a member of the Citizens Commission on Benghazi—a group of former intelligence officers, military personnel, and national security experts—told me it comes as no surprise that Benghazi was a retaliatory attack since al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a video had called on the “sons of Libya” to avenge his deputy’s death. Lopez said the Judicial Watch release is “very significant,” because it “begins to peel back a little more of the layers of the onion about what was going on in Benghazi, and why that mission [facility] was there.”
Lopez, a former CIA officer who is now a vice president at the Center for Security Policy, said the commission has confirmed it was not the CIA but the State Department that managed the gun-running operation. According to Lopez, the department put up between $125,000 to $175,000 for each surface-to-air missile it funneled out of Libya to the Syrian battlefield.
The new revelations raise the stakes in the ongoing Benghazi investigation, which threatens to extend deep into the 2016 presidential campaign season. Republican members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, created a year ago following another Judicial Watch release, say the administration is stalling in its production of documents. Democrats have accused Republicans of moving at a “glacial pace” to unnecessarily drag out the probe.
Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner in the 2016 race, has agreed to testify before the panel, but the Republicans who control the committee say they won’t call her until they receive all relevant documents.
Monday’s disclosure includes startling detail showing that U.S. intelligence agencies know about militant activities down to the measurements of a room where al-Qaeda collects documents in Libya. The militants responsible for the Benghazi attacks controlled large caches of weapons “disguised by feeding troughs for livestock” and trained “almost every day focusing on religious lessons and scriptures including three lessons a day of jihadist ideology.”
A DIA report from August 2012 detailed the “dire consequences” of unfolding events in the Middle East, and predicted the rise of ISIS and a possible caliphate 17 months before Obama called the group a “JV team.”
“This creates the ideal atmosphere for AQI [al Qaeda Iraq] to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi and will provide a renewed momentum under the presumption of unifying the jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria and the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world against what it considers one enemy, the dissenters,” the document reads. “ISI could also declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.”
J.C. is a reporter in WORLD’s Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.