Senior Lawmakers Urge U.S. Engagement in Libya

Libyans take part in a celebration with fireworks marking the sixth anniversary of the Libyan revolution / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, Natalie Johnson, April 25, 2017:

Senior lawmakers on Tuesday rejected President Donald Trump’s declaration that the United States has “no role” in Libya, citing the threat of regional instability to U.S. national security interests.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and ranking Democrat Ben Cardin (D., Md.) said Libya’s ongoing battle over power and access to natural resources has created a permissive environment for extremist groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Cardin, during opening remarks for a hearing assessing U.S. policy options in the war-torn nation, said it is vital to U.S. security interests that the Trump administration work with the international community and local forces to craft a political solution that creates a representative government.

“The United States must be engaged,” Cardin said. “When we don’t have representative governments … it creates a void and that void is filled by ISIS, as we’ve seen in northern Africa, and it’s filled by Russia, which we’re seeing Russia’s engagement now in Libya.”

“I think this hearing is an important indication by Congress that we do expect a role to be played,” he added.

Trump raised concerns Thursday when he rejected calls from Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni to maintain America’s “very critical” role in Libya. The United States currently is working to build political consensus around the fragile United Nations-backed government in Tripoli. Trump said during the joint press conference with Gentiloni that the U.S. priority in Libya is counterterrorism efforts to degrade ISIS.

Moscow in recent months has ramped up support for Libyan military commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who controls large swaths of eastern Libya, including Benghazi. Haftar’s forces do not recognize the UN-backed Government of National Accord, posing a significant challenge to international efforts to unify the country.

Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told lawmakers Tuesday that U.S. disengagement from the embattled nation would widen the opening for Russian involvement and create conditions likely to perpetuate the spread of ISIS.

U.S. Africa Command released its 2017 posture statement in March, declaring instability in Libya and North Africa the “most significant near-term threat” to the United States and its allies in the region. The command warned that Libya’s precarious security situation has created spillover effects in Tunisia, Egypt, and most of western North Africa, enabling the flow of foreign fighters and migrants to Europe.

“The notion of the problems of Libya spilling over is really profound—we’re talking about a number of U.S. interests in the region. [It’s] really this epicenter that effects the surrounding region.” Wehrey testified.

Arms dealer says administration made him scapegoat on Libya operation to ‘protect’ Clinton

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Fox News, by Catherine Herridge, Pamela K. Browne, October 12, 2016:

EXCLUSIVE: American arms dealer Marc Turi, in his first television interview since criminal charges against him were dropped, told Fox News that the Obama administration — with the cooperation of Hillary Clinton’s State Department — tried and failed to make him the scapegoat for a 2011 covert weapons program to arm Libyan rebels that spun out of control.

“I would say, 100 percent, I was victimized…to somehow discredit me, to throw me under the bus, to do whatever it took to protect their next presidential candidate,” he told Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge.

The 48-year-old Arizona resident has been at the epicenter of a failed federal investigation led by the Justice Department spanning five years and costing the government an estimated $10 million or more, Turi says.

Turi says the Justice Department abruptly dropped the case to avoid public disclosure of the weapons program, that was designed to force the ouster of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi during the 2011 Arab Spring.

“Those transcripts from current as well as former CIA officers were classified,” Turi said of the evidence. “If any of these relationships [had] been revealed it would have opened up a can of worms. There wouldn’t have been any good answer for the U.S. government especially in this election year.” The Justice Department faced a deadline last week to produce records to the defense.

Turi says he was specifically “targeted by the Obama administration “and “lost everything–my family, my friends, my business, my reputation.”

As Fox News has reported extensively, in 2011, the Obama administration with support from some Republican and Democratic lawmakers explored options to arm the so-called “Libyan rebels” during the chaotic Arab Spring but United Nations sanctions prohibited direct sales.

Turi’s plan was to have the U.S. government supply conventional weapons to the Gulf nations Qatar and UAE, which would then in turn supply them to Libya. But Turi says he never sold any weapons, and he was cut out of the plan.  Working with CIA, Turi said Clinton’s State Department had the lead and used its own people, with weapons flowing to Libya and Syria.

“Some (weapons) may have went out under control that we had with our personnel over there and the others went to these militia. That’s how they lost control over it,” Turi said. “I can assure you that these operations did take place and those weapons did go in different directions.”

Asked by Fox News who got the weapons — Al Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia, or ISIS — Turi said: “All of them, all of them, all of them.”

Turi exchanged emails in 2011 with then U.S. envoy to the Libyan opposition Chris Stevens. A day after the exchange about Turi’s State Department application to sell weapons, Clinton wrote on April 8, 2011 to aide Jake Sullivan, “fyi. the idea of using private security experts to arm the opposition should be considered.”

Asked if the email exchanges are connected or a coincidence, Turi said, “When you look at this timeline, none of it was a coincidence. It was all strategically managed and it had to come from her own internal circle.”

Turi also told Fox News that he believes emails sent about the weapons programs were deleted by Hillary Clinton and her team because that “it would have gone to an organization within the Bureau of Political Military affairs within the State Department known as PM/RSAT (Office of Regional Security and Arms Transfers.)  That’s where you would find Jake Sullivan, Andrew Shapiro and a number of political operatives that would have been intimately involved with this foreign policy.”

The four felony counts — which included two of arms dealing in violation of the Arms Export Control Act and two of lying on his State Department weapons application — were dismissed last week against Turi “with prejudice,” meaning the government cannot come after him again on this matter.

The Justice Department decision, weeks before the election, coupled with the now public emails, cast a new light on Clinton’s 2013 Benghazi testimony where she was asked about the movement of weapons by Sen. Rand Paul.

Paul: Were any of these weapons transferred to other countries. Any countries. Turkey included?

Clinton: Well, senator you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the annex and I will see what information is available.

Paul: You’re saying you don’t know?

Clinton: I don’t know.

Turi first told his story to Fox News senior executive producer Pamela Browne in 2014, and since, Turi says he’s lost everything to fight the Justice Department, which had no further comment beyond the publicly available court records.

“With all the resources that they were throwing at me, I knew there would have to be some type of explanation of the operation that was going terribly wrong in Libya,” Turi said. “It is completely un-American…I was a contractor for the Central Intelligence Agency.”

Turi said he is grateful the case is over. “It really is ungodly, and unjust and unconscionable, that the entire force of the United States government came after me for a simple application. I was working for the U.S. government.”

Turi added, “I never shipped anything. I never even received the contract. So all I received was an approval for $534 million to support our interests overseas. And it would have been the United States government that facilitated that operation from Qatar and UAE by way of allowing those countries to land their planes and land their ships in Libya.”

Close friend and Turi adviser Robert Stryk described Turi this way to Fox News in a statement:

“Marc Turi is a true patriot who served his country in the fight against Islamofascist terrorists in the Middle East. His fraudulent prosecution by Hillary Clinton’s associates in the Justice Department is deplorable as is the fate of the American heroes murdered in Benghazi. Our most loyal citizens deserve better.”

And Turi hinted there is more to emerge on the 2012 Benghazi attacks which killed four Americans including Stevens.

“Now there’s a flip side to this. Some of the operations that I was involved in, in another country for the agency has a linkage and there’s a backstory to the actual buy-back program of the surface to air missiles that were shipped and mysteriously disappeared out of Benghazi,” Turi said. “So we can save that for another time, but the reality is a lot of this could have exposed a number of covert operations that I don’t think the American public would really want to know at this point in time.”

Fox News asked the State Department about Turi’s allegations, and whether no weapons reached extremists groups on Clinton’s watch.  A spokesperson said they would check.

See Hillary’s Libyan jihadi atrocities

A rebel fighter shouts "Allahu Akbar!" (God is the greatest!) in front of a burning vehicle belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

A rebel fighter shouts “Allahu Akbar!” (God is the greatest!) in front of a burning vehicle belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic (LIBYA – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

WND, by Jerome R. Corsi, October5, 2016:

NEW YORK – The extreme brutality unleashed by the mercenaries and Islamic fighters who joined Libyan-based jihadists to oust leader Moammar Gadhafi with the backing of Hillary Clinton’s State Department and NATO is demonstrated in three videos released to WND.

The videos, obtained through a trusted source, were vetted by Libyan tribal parliamentary leaders who spoke to WND. The Libyans verified the videos were taken in Libya in the weeks after the U.S.-backed NATO bombing that began in 2011.

As WND has reported, Clinton’s State Department had decided to rebuff offers Gadhafi had made to abdicate peacefully and avoid a war. And, meanwhile, Politico reported Tuesday the Obama administration is moving to drop charges against an arms dealer who had threatened to expose Hillary Clinton’s determination to arm anti-Gadhafi rebels.

The Libyan tribal parliamentary leaders, in an exclusive Skype interview published by WND on Sept. 21, characterized Clinton as the “Butcher of Libya.” They contended her State Department was “behind the terrorist groups controlling Libya, Ansar al-Sharia, behind the militia in Misurata who destroyed a great part of Libya and displaced 2 million people from their lands because they were accused of being loyal to Gadhafi.”

Readers are cautioned that the three videos published here are shockingly graphic.

The first video shows a group of unidentified foreign mercenaries and terrorists interrogating a half-naked soldier from Gadhafi’s army, who is lying prone on his stomach, with his arms and legs spread, while his interrogators simulate sodomy with a weapon and a boot.

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Obama DOJ drops charges against alleged provider of Libyan weapons

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walks with President Barack Obama on Sept. 12, 2012, where he spoke about the death of U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. | AP Photo

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walks with President Barack Obama on Sept. 12, 2012, where he spoke about the death of U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. | AP Photo

Arms dealer had threatened to expose Hillary Clinton’s talks about arming anti-Qadhafi rebels.

Politico, by  Kenneth P. Vogel and Josh Gerstein, October 4, 2016:

The Obama administration is moving to dismiss charges against an arms dealer it had accused of selling weapons that were destined for Libyan rebels.

Lawyers for the Justice Department on Monday filed a motion in federal court in Phoenix to drop the case against the arms dealer, an American named Marc Turi, whose lawyers also signed the motion.

The deal averts a trial that threatened to cast additional scrutiny on Hillary Clinton’s private emails as Secretary of State, and to expose reported Central Intelligence Agency attempts to arm rebels fighting Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi.

Government lawyers were facing a Wednesday deadline to produce documents to Turi’s legal team, and the trial was officially set to begin on Election Day, although it likely would have been delayed by protracted disputes about classified information in the case.

A Turi associate asserted that the government dropped the case because the proceedings could have embarrassed Clinton and President Barack Obama by calling attention to the reported role of their administration in supplying weapons that fell into the hands of Islamic extremist militants.

“They don’t want this stuff to come out because it will look really bad for Obama and Clinton just before the election,” said the associate.

In the dismissal motion, prosecutors say “discovery rulings” from U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell contributed to the decision to drop the case. The joint motion asks the judge to accept a confidential agreement to resolve the case through a civil settlement between the State Department and the arms broker.

“Our position from the outset has been that this case never should have been brought and we’re glad it’s over,” said Jean-Jacques Cabou, a Perkins Coie partner serving as court-appointed defense counsel in the case. “Mr Turi didn’t break the law….We’re very glad the charges are being dismissed.”

Under the deal, Turi admits no guilt in the transactions he participated in, but he agreed to refrain from U.S.-regulated arms dealing for four years. A $200,000 civil penalty will be waived if Turi abides by the agreement.

A State Department official confirmed the outlines of the agreement.

“Mr. Turi cooperated with the Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls in its review and proposed administrative settlement of the alleged violations,” said the official, who asked not be named. “Based on a compliance review, DDTC alleged that Mr. Turi…engaged in brokering activities for the proposed transfer of defense articles to Libya, a proscribed destination under [arms trade regulations,] despite the Department’s denial of…requests for the required prior approval of such activities.”

Turi adviser Robert Stryk of the government relations and consulting firm SPG accused the government of trying to scapegoat Turi to cover up Clinton’s mishandling of Libya.

“The U.S. government spent millions of dollars, went all over the world to bankrupt him, and destroyed his life — all to protect Hillary Clinton’s crimes,” he said, alluding to the deadly Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Republicans hold Clinton responsible for mishandling the circumstances around that attack. And Stryk said that Turi was now weighing book and movie deals to tell his story, and to weigh in on the Benghazi attack.

Representatives of the Justice Department, the White House and Clinton’s presidential campaign either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment on the case or the settlement.

Turi was indicted in 2014 on four felony counts: two of arms dealing in violation of the Arms Export Control Act and two of lying to the State Department in official applications. The charges accused Turi of claiming that the weapons involved were destined for Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, when the arms were actually intended to reach Libya.

Turi’s lawyers argued that the shipments were part of a U.S. government-authorized effort to arm Libyan rebels.

It’s unclear if any of the weapons made it to Libya, and there’s no evidence linking weapons provided by the U.S. government to the Benghazi attacks.

“The proposal did not result in an actual transfer of defense articles to Libya,” the State Department official told POLITICO on Tuesday.

But questions about U.S. efforts to arm Libyan rebels have been mounting, since weapons have reportedly made their way from Libya to Syria, where a civil war is raging between the Syrian Government and ISIL-aligned fighters.

During 2013 Senate hearings on the 2012 Benghazi attack, Clinton, under questioning from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), said she had no knowledge of weapons moving from Libya into Turkey.

Wikileaks head Julian Assange in July suggested that he had emails proving that Clinton “pushed” the “flows” of weapons “going over to Syria.”

Additionally, Turi’s case had delved into emails sent to and from the controversial private account that Clinton used as Secretary of State, which the defense planned to harness at any trial.

At a court hearing in 2015, Cabou said emails between Clinton and her top aides indicated that efforts to arm the rebels were — at a minimum — under discussion at the highest levels of the government.

“We’re entitled to tell the jury, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the Secretary of State and her highest staff members were actively contemplating providing exactly the type of military assistance that Mr. Turi is here to answer for,” the defense attorney said, according to a transcript.

Turi’s defense was pressing for more documents about the alleged rebel-arming effort and for testimony from officials who worked on the issue the State Department and the CIA. The defense said it planned to argue that Turi believed he had official permission to work on arms transfers to Libya

“If we armed the rebels, as publicly reported in many, many sources and as we strongly believe happened and as we believe at least one witness told the grand jury, then documents about that process relate to that effort,” Cabou told Campbell at the same hearing last year.

Libya’s Terrorist Descent: Causes and Solutions

Fighters from al Qaeda-backed Ansar al Sharia Libya operate a training camp in Benghazi.

Fighters from al Qaeda-backed Ansar al Sharia Libya operate a training camp in Benghazi.

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Sept. 27, 2016:

Editor’s note: Below is Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade on jihadist groups operating inside Libya, including the Islamic State and al Qaeda. If you wish to view the testimony with footnotes included,download the PDF by clicking here.

Chairman Poe, Ranking Member Keating and members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the turmoil in Libya. Obviously, the multi-sided conflict in Libya is complex, with various forces pulling the country in multiple directions. My testimony today focuses on the jihadist groups operating inside Libya, especially the Islamic State’s arm and groups belonging to al Qaeda’s network. I am going to emphasize five key points:

1. The Islamic State is on the verge of losing its safe haven in Sirte, Libya. The loss of Sirte would be a major blow to the so-called caliphate, as Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s organization has invested significant resources in this state-building project. From the Islamic State’s perspective, Sirte was one of the most important cities under its control. This was true even though most of the city’s citizens had fled the jihadists’ occupation. By controlling Sirte, the Islamic State was able to portray its “caliphate” as having significant territory outside of Iraq and Syria. If Baghdadi’s loyalists are cleared from Sirte in the coming weeks, then the U.S. and its allies should trumpet the group’s loss. During its rise to power, the Islamic State’s motto was “remaining and expanding.” This was a key part of the organization’s marketing message. But in Libya, as in Iraq and Syria, it is no longer true.

2. Despite losing its grip on Sirte and the surrounding towns and villages, however, the Islamic State will retain a presence inside Libya. The group has cadres in Benghazi and elsewhere. The Islamic State’s leaders likely evacuated some of their men from Sirte as the offensive on the city progressed. It is important to note that even though the Islamic State is on the verge of a significant defeat, the effort required a robust commitment by local Libyan ground forces, as well as more than 170 “precision” American airstrikes to date. As the Islamic State’s men have been cleared block by block from Sirte, they have demonstrated that they continue to maintain a strong operational capacity, launching suicide bombings in neighborhoods they’ve lost and killing dozens of their Libyan enemies. The U.S. and its partners will have to make sure that they hold Sirte once it is cleared, as well as prevent the Islamic State from seizing significant terrain elsewhere. 

3. The Islamic State’s loss of Sirte will be viewed in jihadist circles as a vindication of al Qaeda’s strategy. Al Qaeda’s senior leaders, including Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, repeatedly warned that the premature declaration of an Islamic state harms the jihadists’ cause. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) emir, Abdulmalek Droukdel, has made the same argument. Al Qaeda has consistently argued that a jihadist state cannot survive if the U.S. and its allies decide to intervene. This is exactly what happened in Sirte.

4. Some assume that, unlike the Islamic State, al Qaeda does not seek to control territory and build Islamic emirates (states). But this is an erroneous assumption. A wealth of evidence shows that this is, in fact, al Qaeda’s primary goal. However, al Qaeda and the Islamic State have very different strategies for achieving this same end. AQIM and its allies briefly controlled much of Mali beginning in 2012. Documents recovered in Mali show that AQIM was laying the groundwork for an Islamic state. But Droukdel and his advisors concluded that their effort needed to be firmly rooted in the host society, so AQIM was willing to partner with tribes and organizations that did not share its ideology. AQIM is following a version of this same strategy inside Libya today and has been working to embed itself in various local groups and communities. The Islamic State’s model for state-building is top-down authoritarian. In the view of Baghdadi and his key advisors, all Muslims must submit to the so-called caliphate’s authority. Al Qaeda’s follows a bottom-up plan, which means that the organization is seeking to spread the jihadist ideology, win popular support and embed itself within local societies. Al Qaeda and AQIM, which is openly loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri, are not close to achieving their goals in many areas. But the al Qaeda network remains deeper than many assume.

5. In addition to the assistance the U.S. military provides local forces, the U.S. government should work to expose al Qaeda’s network inside Libya. Sun light is a key part of any plan to combat al Qaeda’s clandestine strategy. Al Qaeda’s senior leadership has dispatched operatives to Libya in the past. AQIM doesn’t typically advertise its presence in Libya, but has clearly backed groups such as Ansar al Sharia in Libya and the Mujahideen Shura Council in Derna. Indeed, al Qaeda has worked under multiple brand names in Libya.

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Aiding and Abedin

Credit: Dave Clegg

Credit: Dave Clegg

Weekly Standard, THE MAGAZINE: From the September 5 Issue by Stephen F. Hayes:

As Bill Clinton entered the final year of his presidency, his aides put together a legacy-building trip to South Asia—the first visit to the region by a U.S. president since Jimmy Carter’s in 1978. Early drafts of the itinerary featured a notable exclusion: The president would visit India, an emerging ally, but had no plans to stop in neighboring Pakistan.

There were good reasons for this. Pervez Musharraf had seized power there in a military coup six months earlier. His regime was regarded as tolerant of Islamic radicals, perhaps even complicit in their attacks, and unhelpful on nuclear talks with India. Whatever the potential benefits to regional stability, a visit would be seen as legitimizing a troublemaker. Clinton had the support of many in the foreign policy establishment and his decision was popular among liberals in his party. In an editorial published February 18, 2000, the New York Times noted, “Pakistan has been lobbying hard in Washington”; the paper urged Clinton to stand firm, absent a return to civilian rule in the country and “concrete progress” on nukes and terror.

Four days later, Hillary Clinton weighed in. At a gathering in a private home on Staten Island, Clinton said she hoped her husband would be able to find time to visit Pakistan on his trip. That she spoke up on a matter of public controversy was interesting; where she did it was noteworthy.

Clinton was the guest of honor at a $1,000-per-plate fundraiser hosted by a group of prominent Pakistani doctors in New York, who acknowledged holding the dinner as part of that lobbying effort. The immediate beneficiary? Hillary Clinton, candidate for U.S. Senate. Organizers were told they’d need to raise at least $50,000 for her to show up. They did. The secondary beneficiary? Pakistan. Two weeks after Clinton told her hosts that she hoped her husband would do what they wanted him to do, the White House announced that Bill Clinton would, indeed, include Pakistan on his trip to South Asia.

Win, win, and win.

The White House naturally insisted that Hillary Clinton’s views had no bearing on her husband’s decision to change his itinerary. And a subsequent New York Times article about the curious sequence of events found “no evidence” she had prevailed upon the president to alter his plans. But that same article, published under the headline “Donating to the First Lady, Hoping the President Notices,” noted the “unique aspect” of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy: “While her husband still occupies the White House, people may seek to influence his policies by making donations to her Senate campaign.”

In fact, people did. The hosts of the event moved it up so that it might take place before a final decision had been made on the South Asian schedule. Suhail Muzaffar, one of two primary organizers of the fundraiser, told the paper: “‘We thought it went very well, in terms of the message and the timeliness of it, especially in terms of the president’s going to the region.” His co­host, Dr. Asim Malik, added: “I cannot deny that the fact that she’s the president’s wife makes a difference.”

A similar dynamic is at play in the growing controversy over Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation: People sought to influence her decisions as secretary of state by making donations to his foundation. And while we cannot yet offer definitive conclusions about the extent to which those efforts were successful, disclosures over the past several weeks make clear that Clinton and her top aides eagerly provided special access to Clinton Foundation donors—and, in some cases, provided that special access because they were Clinton Foundation donors.

Such conflicts of interest—perceived and real—should come as no surprise. They were the focus of Clinton’s cabinet nomination. “The main issue related to Senator Clinton’s nomination that has occupied the committee has been the review of how her service as secretary of state can be reconciled with the sweeping global activities of President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation,” said Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, moments after her nomination hearing was gaveled to order on January 13, 2009. “The core of the problem is that foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of state, although neither Senator Clinton nor President Clinton has a personal financial stake in the foundation.” The keys, Lugar said, will be transparency and preventing overlap between the work of the State Department and the Clinton Foundation. Large chunks of the hearing were devoted to an extended discussion about whether a Memorandum of Understanding drafted to make clear the lines between State and the foundation went far enough. Republicans wanted more assurances and a more detailed statement of the rules. Democrats, for the most part, were happy to leave things vague. Democrats won.

The recent revelations leave in tatters Clinton’s unequivocal claim from July: “There is absolutely no connection between anything that I did as secretary of state and the Clinton Foundation.”

There are, in fact, many connections.

In June 2009, Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the crown prince of Bahrain, sought a meeting with Secretary Clinton. He initially made requests through normal diplomatic channels but they went unfulfilled. Khalifa, a Clinton Foundation donor, got creative. Doug Band, a longtime aide to Bill Clinton who helped create the Clinton Foundation, emailed Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary Clinton. Band noted that Khalifa, “a good friend of ours,” would be visiting Washington and was seeking a meeting with Secretary Clinton. Abedin responded, noting that she was aware of Khalifa’s requests made “through normal channels.” She told Band that her boss didn’t want to commit to a meeting.

Two days later, the situation had changed. Abedin emailed Band to inform him that Khalifa was on the schedule and would be seeing Secretary Clinton in Washington. “If u see him, let him know,” she emailed. “We have reached out thru official channels.”

Another email, this one from Dennis Cheng, a fundraiser at the Clinton Foundation, to Abedin at the State Department, reveals that Clinton invited Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk, a high-dollar Clinton Foundation donor, to a reception at her home in 2012. When Clinton’s team was asked about her involvement with Pinchuk in 2014, her spokesman, Nick Merrill, told the New York Times that Clinton had never met Pinchuk and the Ukrainian “was never on her schedule” during her tenure at the State Department. (Cheng had been a colleague of Abedin at the State Department before moving to the Clinton Foundation.)

That same month, in June 2012, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, traveled to New York City to interview two candidates to lead the Clinton Foundation. Mills, Clinton’s top aide, appears to have had significant involvement with those at the highest levels of the Clinton Foundation. Laura Graham, chief operating officer of the Clinton Foundation, left 148 telephone messages for Mills between 2010 and 2012, according to State Department records obtained by Citizens United via Freedom of Information Act requests and first reported by James Rosen of Fox News. The tally covers only half of Clinton’s tenure at the State Department and does not include calls in which Graham and Mills connected. Still, the 148 messages from Graham were exponentially more than any other individual left for Clinton’s top aide.

Many of these recent revelations have come despite efforts by Clinton defenders to keep them from the public. The FBI last week turned over to the State Department nearly 15,000 emails it recovered during its investigation of Clinton’s private server. Many of them—”thousands,” according to FBI director James Comey—were “work-related” emails that Clinton claimed she had turned over to the State Department. On August 8, 2015, Clinton signed a declaration submitted to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., swearing “under penalty of perjury” that she’d directed all emails that “were or potentially were” work-related turned over to the State Department.

That plainly didn’t happen. Why not? Comey offered several explanations in his July 5 press conference announcing he wouldn’t be charging anyone in connection with the scandal. Perhaps they were lost in routine system purges of the kind that any email user might perform. Or maybe her lawyers mistook these thousands of “work-related” emails as “personal” because their search techniques weren’t as sophisticated as those used by the FBI.

While the FBI recovered thousands of work-related emails that Clinton failed to turn over, Comey reported that many others had been deleted. The FBI director acknowledged that while the FBI did not have “complete visibility” as to the contents of these emails or a thorough understanding of how they were permanently erased, he nonetheless offered his assurances that “there was no intentional misconduct” in the sorting of the emails.

If Comey’s explanations seemed generous when he made them, they seem even more charitable today. In his telling, Clinton’s failure to turn over thousands of work-related emails—at least some of which include evidence of coordination between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department that Clinton World was eager to keep secret—was merely the result of incompetence or bad luck. And the efforts her lawyers undertook to delete the others were unremarkable, benign. “We found no evidence that any of the additional work-related e-mails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them,” Comey said at his press conference. Yet moments later, Comey acknowledged: “They deleted all e-mails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.”

There may be a simple reason the FBI didn’t find evidence of intent: They didn’t ask. That’s the explanation Representative Trey Gowdy offered in an interview with Fox News on August 24. “I didn’t see any questions on the issue of intent,” Gowdy said, referring to the FBI’s notes from its interview with Secretary Clinton.

And the evidence the FBI collected, particularly with respect to how some of Clinton’s “personal” emails were deleted, indicates that questions about intent ought to have been among the first ones asked. FBI interviews with the techs responsible for erasing Clinton’s emails suggest that her team went to great lengths to ensure the messages would never be seen again. The Clinton team used a technology called “BleachBit” to permanently delete those emails. BleachBit, according to its website, allows users to “shred files to hide their contents and prevent data recovery” and “overwrite free disk space to hide previously deleted files.” The techs used additional tools to ensure those emails would be unrecoverable.

So Clinton, who took virtually no precautions to safeguard her emails—”personal” or “work-related”—while they sat on her server, went to great lengths to ensure that the emails she withheld from the State Department could never again be seen by anyone. She did this nearly two years following her departure from the State Department and only after she understood that the government was interested in seeing her emails. Seems like a lot to do to protect yoga schedules and emails about the grandkids.

The challenge for Clinton is simple: survive until November 8. So she’s avoiding the media—265 days and counting since her last press conference—and trying to offer reassurances about the Clinton Foundation.

There’s little reason to believe her. This is the same woman, after all, who promised during her nomination hearing seven years ago that she would take extraordinary measures to separate the foundation from her work at the State Department and do her best to “avoid even the appearance of a conflict.”

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.

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Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Debacle: Arming Jihadists in Libya . . . and Syria

hillary-clinton-benghazi-scandal-arm-syrian-rebels-isis_0National Review, By Andrew C. McCarthy — August 2, 2016

As U.S. armed forces attack ISIS in Libya, WikiLeaks is poised to remind us that ISIS is in Libya — indeed, that ISIS is ISIS — thanks to disastrous policies championed by Hillary Clinton as President Obama’s secretary of state. Also raised, yet again, is the specter of Mrs. Clinton’s lying to Congress and the American people — this time regarding a matter some of us have been trying for years to get answers about: What mission was so important the United States kept personnel in the jihadist hellhole of Benghazi in 2012?

Specifically, did that mission involve arming the Syrian “rebels” — including al-Qaeda and forces that became ISIS — just as, at Mrs. Clinton’s urging, our government had armed Libyan “rebels” (again, jihadists) to catastrophic effect?

It has been less than two weeks since WikiLeaks rocked the Clinton campaign on the eve of the Democratic convention by leaking hacked e-mails illuminating DNC efforts to rig the nomination chase in Clinton’s favor. Now the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, has announced that WikiLeaks is soon to publish highly sensitive government e-mails that demonstrate Hillary Clinton’s key participation in efforts to arm jihadists in Syria. Just as in Libya, where Mrs. Clinton championed the strategy of arming Islamist “rebels,” the Syrian “rebels” who ultimately received weapons included the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and ISIS.

The Daily Wire and other outlets are reporting on Assange’s comments, published by Democracy Now. Clearly, we should not take Assange’s word for what is to be gleaned from the hacked records, which he says include some 17,000 e-mails “about Libya alone.” Let’s see if he has what he says he has. But it is worth setting the stage, because what is known is outrageous and has not been given nearly enough attention — largely because Beltway Republicans were complicit in the Obama-Clinton policy of allying with Islamists, and thus have shown no interest in probing the inevitably disastrous fallout.

As I have been pointing out for years, for example, we have never gotten to the bottom of why the State Department, under Mrs. Clinton’s direction, had an installation in Benghazi, one of the world’s most dangerous places for Americans.

The Obama administration, like the Bush administration, had touted Qaddafi as a key counterterrorism ally against rabidly anti-American jihadists in eastern Libya. Nevertheless, Secretary Clinton led the policy shift in which our government changed sides in Libya — shifting support to the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, just as Mrs. Clinton had urged shifting U.S. support to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. In Libya, this included arming “rebels,” who naturally included a heavy concentration of jihadists.

EDITORIAL: What We Know about the Benghazi Attack Demands a Reckoning 

As I’ve recounted, to topple Qaddafi on behalf of the Islamists, the Obama administration — which did not seek congressional authorization for its offensive war (and preposterously maintained that bombing another country’s government was not really “war” anyway) — had to flout a United Nations resolution. The U.N. had agreed only to military operations for the purpose of protecting civilians, not offensive operations against the regime. Besides arming jihadists, the administration took no meaningful steps to make sure that Qaddafi’s military arsenals did not fall into terrorist hands. The regime was toppled and Qaddafi was brutally murdered — prompting Secretary Clinton’s bizarrely giddy quip, “We came, we saw, he died.” As some of us not-so-giddy types had warned would happen, Libya then became a safe haven for terrorists who turned on the American and Western forces that had cleared the path for them.

In small compass, this is the story of J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador killed in the Benghazi massacre. As Business Insider’s Michael B. Kelley recounts, before becoming ambassador, Stevens was the Obama administration’s official liaison to Qaddafi’s Islamist opposition in Libya, including its al-Qaeda-linked groups. The latter included the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Stevens worked directly with a top LIFG leader, Abdelhakim Belhadj.

When the Qaddafi regime was ousted, Belhadj took control of the Tripoli Military Council. In 2011, Belhadj met with anti-Assad “rebels” in Turkey to plan weapons shipments from Libya to Syria. As Mr. Kelley explains, in September 2012 the Times of London reported that “a Libyan ship ‘carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria . . . has docked in Turkey.’” According to that report:

The shipment reportedly weighed 400 tons and included SA-7 surface-to-air anti-craft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades. Those heavy weapons are most likely from Muammar Gaddafi’s stock of about 20,000 portable heat-seeking missiles — the bulk of them SA-7s — that the Libyan leader obtained from the former Eastern bloc. Reuters reports that Syrian rebels have been using those heavy weapons to shoot down Syrian helicopters and fighter jets. The ship’s captain was “a Libyan from Benghazi and the head of an organization called the Libyan National Council for Relief and Support,” which was presumably established by the new government.

Fox News subsequently reported that the ship, a Libyan-flagged vessel, Al-Entisar (The Victory), docked in the Turkish port of Iskenderun, only 35 miles from the Syrian border, on September 6, 2012. That was just five days before jihadists conducted the patently coordinated terrorist attack on the mysterious State Department and CIA compounds in Benghazi, killing four Americans including Stevens — who had been promoted to ambassador in May.

It is incontestable that the Obama administration has worked closely with the Islamist government of Turkey in efforts to arm and train “rebels” in Syria. Stevens’s last meeting on the night of September 11, 2012, right before the State Department’s Benghazi compound was attacked, was with Turkey’s consul general, Ali Sait Akin.

RELATED: Why Doesn’t the Buck Stop with Hillary?

In the months leading up to the attack on the State Department facility, and on the even more shadowy CIA outpost a little over a mile away, jihadists in eastern Libyaconducted a series of attacks against Western targets — including, on June 6, 2012, a bomb detonated just outside the State Department compound. The British government and the International Red Cross pulled their personnel out; yet the Obama administration left U.S. government personnel in, despite grossly inadequate security precautions.

Why? I believe that one significant mission was the coordination of weapons transfers from Libya to Syrian jihadists.

Remember the state of play in mid 2012. Obama was locked in a tight reelection race. He was falsely claiming that he had “decimated” al-Qaeda (which was actually thriving); that he was ending American wars (which were actually intensifying as he drew troops down despite ground conditions); and that his pro-Islamist policies were helping forge democracy in places like Egypt (then under Muslim Brotherhood rule) and Libya (which had disintegrated into a failed state under domination by Islamist militias). Prior to the November election, if Obama had openly announced that his administration was arming Syrian Islamists, it would have been highly controversial. It would have spotlighted how that same policy had failed in Libya, a fact to which neither the media nor Republicans had called public attention. This, no doubt, is why reports that Obama was “launching a covert operation to send weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time” (as the Times of London’s Christina Lamb put it) did not appear untilimmediately after Obama had won a second term.

Were Obama, Clinton, and others in the administration steering arms to Syrian jihadists before that time?

RELATED: The Benghazi Debacle Should Have Ended Hillary Clinton’s Career

Recall that in mid 2012, Obama was also feeling heat — from the Islamist regimes he was appeasing, from Beltway Republicans, and even from some in his own administration, apparently including Secretary Clinton — for not doing enough to help the “rebels” drive Assad from power in Syria. There was a good explanation for this reluctance: Our government knew that the Syrian “rebels,” like the Libyan “rebels,” teemed with jihadists. Not only has this fact long been notorious; Judicial Watch managed to wangle from the government an August 2012 Defense Department memo that flatly states, “The Salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [i.e., al-Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.” The memo elaborates that its reference to AQI incorporates both Jaish al-Nusra (which is al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in Syria) and the Islamic State (the breakaway “caliphate” spawned by AQI).

There was no defensible security arrangement or diplomatic need for the State Department facility in Benghazi (U.S. diplomatic functions were handled in Tripoli). Was its real purpose to give diplomatic cover to covert intelligence operations (such as those at the nearby CIA compound)? If so, did those operations include aiding and abetting the arming of the Syrian rebels?

Unnamed U.S. government sources furtively described the CIA facility as, according to Reuters, “a base for, among other things, collecting information on the proliferation of weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals, including surface-to-air missiles” (my italics). Putting aside the administration’s recklessness in failing to keep Qaddafi’s arsenals out of jihadist hands, what are the “other things” that the State Department and the CIA were up to?

We know, as detailed above, that Ambassador Stevens’s jihadist contact, Belhadj, moved an enormous shipment of weapons from Benghazi to the Syrian “rebels” in Turkey. And we know that, while claiming not to be directly arming those “rebels,” the Obama administration was working with Turkey, the Saudis, and other Islamist governments to determine which Syrian “rebels” should be armed. As the New York Times reported in June 2012, some three months before the Benghazi massacre:

A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers. The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.

The Times elaborated that “the Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.” To repeat, however: Soon after Obama’s reelection, the Times was explaining that “with help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment.” And by June 2013, the Times reported that the administration had begundirectly supplying the Syrian “rebels” with “small arms and ammunition.”

Right after Stevens and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi, the U.K.’s Telegraph reported that the CIA’s facility there was an operation “to supply missiles from Libyan armouries to Syrian rebels.” Simultaneously, CNN’s Jake Tapper reported that enormous pressure was being brought to bear on CIA operatives not to reveal what the agency had been doing in Benghazi.

When Mrs. Clinton testified about the Benghazi massacre before a Senate committee in early 2013, she claimed to have no knowledge of any transfers of weapons from Libya to Turkey, Syria, or any other countries. As the The Daily Signal report details, Clinton was pointedly asked by Senator Rand Paul (R., Ken.) whether the U.S. had been “involved in any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya.” She initially tried to deflect the question, claiming that “nobody’s ever raised that with me.” But Senator Paul kept pressing:

It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that they may have weapons. And what Id’ like to know is, that [CIA] annex that was close by [the State Department facility], were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons, and were any of these weapons being transferred to other countries? Any countries, Turkey included?

When Mrs. Clinton again tried to deflect, suggesting that he instead put the question “to the agency that ran the annex” — as if the State Department had had no knowledge of what the CIA was doing next door — Senator Paul countered that he was asking about what Clinton herself knew. Mrs. Clinton answered, “I don’t know. I don’t have any information on that.”

Was she telling the truth? Were U.S. personnel stationed as sitting ducks in Benghazi in order to help supply weapons to Syria, where it was inevitable they would fall into the hands of America’s enemies? Perhaps we’ll soon find out.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is as senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.