On August 1, 2012 Reuters reported that President Obama had signed a “secret” presidential finding authorizing US support to the Syrian rebels that stopped short of lethal weapons. A supplemental “memorandum of notification”, or MON, would need to be added to the finding by the president in order to legalize lethal weapons support.
It has been widely reported that weapons have gone from Libya to Turkey and on to Syria. The question is was it legal? Did the president inform the “Gang of Eight” congressmen as is required by law? And do those congressmen have a duty to the American public to tell us if the president is illegally supplying arms to jihadists?
Current Members of the Gang of Eight – they all know!
John Boehner (R), Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
Nancy Pelosi (D), House Minority Leader
Harry Reid (D), Senate Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell (R), Senate Minority Leader
Mike Rogers (R), Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Dianne Feinstein (D), Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Dutch Ruppersberger (D), Ranking Minority Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Saxby Chambliss (R), Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Here is the relevant portion transcribed:
Ingraham: Mr. Speaker, Rand Paul asked a question about funneling perhaps arms from Turkey through that CIA Annex to be shipped ultimately to Syrian rebels. Hillary Clinton – there was about four or five beats before she answered the question. Do you know anything about this and have you been briefed on any possibilities…?
Boehner: I’m somewhat familiar with the chatter about this and the fact that these arms were moving toward Turkey but most of what I know about this came from a classified source and really can’t elaborate on it.
Excerpt of interview of retired Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin by Terence P. Jeffrey: (and follow the link to the video)
CNSNews.com asked Gen. Boykin: “What possibly was the State Department doing in Benghazi at that point with that sort of skeletal group?”
“Well, I think that they were anticipating that they would eventually be given a directive to support the Syrian rebels and that that would be the hub of that activity,” said Boykin.
“So, I think they kept the facilities open, they kept them functioning, they had somebody there that had to be there because of the communications equipment, because of the potentially classified material that was still there,” said Boykin. “And I think that they stayed there in anticipation of supporting the Syrian rebels. They’d probably been given a heads up on that.”
Boykin stressed that he could not prove that the U.S. was conducting or planning a covert action to support the Syrian rebels that would involve the facilities in Benghazi, only that he had information supporting this supposition.
“Now, with regards to supporting the rebels in Syria, I can’t prove that there was a covert action program,” said Boykin. “I’ve got a lot of information that says there was. But if there was and it was done legally, I have no issue with it. But if it was done without the proper process being followed, including the Congress being notified–and generally when the Congress is notified they appropriate money for it–I’ve got a big issue with it because we don’t operate that way. That’s outside of the way America should be functioning.”
In June 2011, when the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence considered the nomination of General David Petraeus to be director of the CIA, Petraeus submitted a written outline of the legal process for initiating a covert action. Key elements include that the action must be formally approved by the president and that key leaders in Congress must be notified.
“The CIA carries out covert action on behalf of the president,” Petraeus told the committee. “It is the president, his national security staff, or other members of the executive branch that propose ideas for covert action programs that will support the national security objectives of the U.S. CIA then develops a plan for carrying out the program, including the preparation of a draft Presidential Finding or Memorandum of Notification (MON) and supporting paperwork.
“The CIA then submits that plan to the National Security Staff, after coordination with the ODNI and the Intelligence Community, as appropriate,” Petraeus said. “The proposed Finding or MON is reviewed by the National Security Staff and then sent to the president for approval. Once approved, and after required notification to the two intelligence committees, the president typically will direct the CIA to implement the program. Once implemented, the Agency itself, as well as the NSC and the intelligence committees of Congress, review the conduct of the program on an ongoing basis.”
Petraeus told the committee he would refuse an order to conduct an illegal covert action.
“If confirmed as Director of the CIA, I would refuse to carry out any activity that I believed to be illegal,” he said. “As outlined above, the CIA has an active role in the development of any covert action program, and I intend to be a strong voice for the CIA in that process. If I assessed that a covert action proposal would be ineffective or otherwise unsuited to the Agency’s capabilities, I would recommend against such a program, and, if necessary, raise my concerns directly with the president.”
Gen. Boykin said that if there was a legal U.S. covert action in Libya to help arm the Syrian rebels, or a plan for such an action, Congress should inform the American people about it.
“In the context of why Ambassador Stephens was there that day, I think that the American public needs an explanation,” said Boykin. “And if that explanation is that he was there to meet with the Turkish General Counsel who was helping to facilitate the flow of arms, then I think that needs to come out.
“I do not think that the details of the covert action need to be explained to the American public,” said Boykin. “Otherwise, why would you have a covert action program? No, I for one don’t think we should be supporting the rebels in Syria. There’s no good outcome in Syria but I won’t get off on that tangent. I don’t think that they necessarily have to explain to us exactly the mechanism or the mechanics of a covert action program.”
Boykin said he did not believe it would harm U.S. interest for Congress to simply reveal the fact of such a covert action without going into the details.
“Absolutely, they could tell us,” said Boykin. “First of all if it was legal, the Congress has been briefed so the Congress could tell you tomorrow whether there was an operation to supply arms and material to the rebels in Syria. If it was legal.”
When told that the CIA, in responding to his interview with CNSNews.com, said that the supposition that the U.S. was conducting or planning a covert action to support the Syrian rebels through Benghazi was “both baseless and flat wrong,” Gen Boykin said: “I am totally supportive of covert action and believe it is an important method for advancing U.S. policy. I believe there must be an explanation for why the ambassador was there on 9/11. I believe there has been significant information that has come out recently calling into question whether the ambassador was either involved in or making preparations for supplying material to the Syrian resistance forces.”
During his 36-year career in the U.S. Army, Lt. Gen. Boykin served as an original member of Delta Force, as the commander of Delta Force, as the commander of U.S. Special Forces Command, as the commander of the U.S. Army Special Forces Center and as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence. In 1994-1995, he did a tour with the CIA. He is currently executive vice president of the Family Research Council.
Go to CNS News to read more and listen to the entire interview