House GOP Report: Despite eyewitness accounts, Clinton, administration pushed video explanation for Benghazi

694940094001_4890384526001_165bd5a0-e317-4465-892c-6c99fc40db5dFox News, by Catherine Herridge, Bret Baier, June 28, 2016

The claim that the fatal 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks were sparked by an anti-Muslim video was crafted in Washington by Obama administration appointees and reflected neither eyewitness nor real-time reports from the Americans under siege, according to the final report of the GOP-led Benghazi Select Committee.

The GOP report, released Tuesday, followed by less than a day a report by the Democrats on the panel saying that security at the Benghazi, Libya facility was “woefully inadequate” but former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton never personally denied any requests from diplomats for additional protection.

According to portions of the Republican report reviewed by Fox News, one U.S. agent at the American outpost in Benghazi, whose name was withheld for security reasons, told the committee he first heard “some kind of chanting.”

Then that sound was immediately followed by “explosions” and “gunfire, then roughly 70 people rushing into the compound with an assortment of “AK-47s, grenades, RPG’s … a couple of different assault rifles,” the agent said.

In addition, a senior watch officer at the State Department’s diplomatic security command described the Sept. 11, 2012, strikes as “a full on attack against our compound.”

When asked whether he saw or heard a protest prior to the attacks, the officer replied, “zip, nothing, nada,” according to the Republican majority report.

“None of the information coming directly from the agents on the ground in Benghazi during the attacks mentioned anything about a video or a protest. The firsthand accounts made their way to the office of the Secretary through multiple channels quickly …,” the report concluded.

Watch Benghazi Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and committee member Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., Monday at 6 p.m. ET on Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier.”  

U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, foreign service officer Sean Smith and former Navy Seals Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, were killed in the attacks.

Five days later, then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice went on every national Sunday talk show. She told Fox News Sunday, “What sparked the recent violence was the airing on the Internet of a very hateful, very offensive video that has offended many people around the world.”

The GOP committee report also identified for the first time a White House meeting that was convened roughly three hours into the attack and included deputies to senior Cabinet members and Clinton.

Stevens was missing at the time. But the report found “much of the conversation focused on the video (which) is surprising given no direct link or solid evidence existed connecting the attacks in Benghazi and the video at the time ….”

The report found that “five of the 10 action items from the rough notes of the 7:30pm meeting reference the video.”

Unlike the Usama bin Laden raid in 2011, in which Clinton, President Obama and his national security team watched events unfold from the Situation Room, they never gathered for Benghazi.

Clinton issued the only statement that night from the administration, following the White House meeting. It read in part: “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

However, Clinton said something very different privately.

In an email provided to the Select Committee, Clinton told daughter Chelsea, “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like [sic] group.”

Clinton also told Egypt’s prime minister the following day: “We know that the attacks in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack — not a protest.”

Kansas GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Benghazi committee member, told Fox News in advance of the report’s release that the report is new and significant because it’s the first to include interviews from “everybody on the ground” in Benghazi.

More than 30 people’s lives were at risk that night, and the majority worked at the secret CIA annex in Benghazi.

Pompeo also said the findings show “it’s unambiguous the administration knew immediately it was a terror attack. And the story of fog of war was known to be false immediately by everyone in the administration.”

Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has seen her campaign plagued by questions about whether she and the rest of the State Department provided adequate security for Americans before the attacks and about why the administration continued to tell Americans the attacks were inspired by the video.

Committee Republicans say the deputies’ meeting, in which Clinton was involved, on the night of the Benghazi attack shows she’s not ready for the so-called “3 a.m. call.”

The report interviewed more than 80 witnesses previously not called before Congress to testify.

Among them was Ben Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, who with political adviser David Plouffe prepped Rice for her national TV appearances claiming the video was responsible for the terrorist attack.

Rice said her statements were based on the best available information, but nobody from the intelligence community such as the CIA director or the Director of National Intelligence briefed Rice. That was done by the political appointees.

In fact, a Sept. 14, 2012 memo from Rhodes included the subject line: “RE: PREP Call with Susan: Saturday at 4:00 pm ET.”

The email was sent to a dozen members of the administration’s inner circle, including key members of the White House communications team such as then-Press Secretary Jay Carney, who also pushed the video narrative in the days after the attacks.

In the email, Rhodes specifically draws attention to the anti-Islam Internet video, without distinguishing whether the Benghazi attack was different from protests elsewhere, including one day earlier in Cairo.

The Rhodes email, which was a catalyst for the Select Committee, was first obtained by Judicial Watch through a federal court lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.

The email lists the following two goals, among others: “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video and not a broader failure of policy” and “to reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”

Rhodes was the same official who signed off on Clinton’s statement the night of the attack linking the video to Benghazi.

The report found the post attack intelligence analysis had errors, contradicting the eyewitness accounts that night, and it alleges the administration latched onto the faulty analysis to defend and justify their misleading statements to the public.

There were in fact two sets of talking points – the White House version by Rhodes and the one by the CIA.  When editing the CIA’s version, Deputy Director Michael Morell knew his personnel on the ground disputed the protest analysis, but he gave the final say to his analysts in Washington, thousands of miles away.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Senior Clinton aide maintained top secret clearance amid email probe, letters show

Cheryl Mills / AP

Cheryl Mills / AP

Fox News, by Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne, Fe. 29, 2016:

EXCLUSIVE: A senior Hillary Clinton aide has maintained her top secret security clearance despite sending information now deemed classified to the Clinton Foundation and to then-Secretary of State Clinton’s private unsecured email account, according to congressional letters obtained by Fox News.

Current and former intelligence officials say it is standard practice to suspend a clearance pending the outcome of an investigation. Yet in the case of Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff at the State Department, two letters indicate this practice is not being followed — even as the Clinton email system remains the subject of an FBI investigation.

In an Oct. 30, 2015, letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa — who has been aggressively investigating the Clinton email case — Mills’ lawyer Beth A. Wilkinson confirmed that her client “has an active Top Secret clearance.” The letter said previous reporting from the State Department that the clearance was no longer active was wrong and due to “an administrative error.”

A second letter dated Feb. 18, 2016, from the State Department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, Julia Frifield, provided additional details to Grassley about the “administrative error.” It, too, confirmed Mills maintained the top secret clearance.

The letters come amid multiple congressional investigations, as well as an FBI probe focused on the possible gross mishandling of classified information and Clinton’s use of an unsecured personal account exclusively for government business. The State Department is conducting its own administrative review.

Under normal circumstances, Mills would have had her clearance terminated when she left the department. But in January 2014, according to the State Department letter, Clinton designated Mills “to assist in her research.” Mills was the one who reviewed Clinton’s emails before select documents were handed over to the State Department, and others were deleted.

Dan Maguire, a former strategic planner with Africom who has 46 years combined service, told Fox News his current and former colleagues are deeply concerned a double standard is at play.

“Had this happened to someone serving in the government, their clearance would have already been pulled, and certainly they would be under investigation. And depending on the level of disclosure, it’s entirely possible they would be under pretrial confinement for that matter,” Maguire explained. “There is a feeling the administration may want to sweep this under the rug.”

On Monday, the State Department was scheduled to release the final batch of Clinton emails as part of a federal court-mandated timetable.

So far, more than 1,800 have been deemed to contain classified information, and another 22 “top secret” emails have been considered too damaging to national security to release even with heavy redactions.

As Clinton’s chief of staff, Mills was a gatekeeper and routinely forwarded emails to Clinton’s personal account. As one example, a Jan. 23, ‎2011 email forwarded from Mills to Clinton, called “Update on DR meeting,” contained classified information, as well as foreign government information which is “born classified.”

The 2011 email can be declassified 15 years after it was sent — indicating it contained classified information when it was sent.

Fox News was first to report that sworn declarations from the CIA notified the intelligence community inspector general and Congress there were “several dozen emails” containing classified information up to the most closely guarded government programs known as “Special Access Programs.”

Clinton has maintained all along that she did not knowingly transmit information considered classified at the time.

The U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual lays out the penalties for taking classified information out of secure government channels – such as an unsecured email system. While the incidents are handled on a “case by case” basis, the manual suggests the suspension of a clearance is routine while “derogatory information” is reviewed.

The manual says the director of the Diplomatic Security Service, “based on a recommendation from the Senior Coordinator for Security Infrastructure (DS/SI), will determine whether, considering all facts available upon receipt of the initial information, it is in the interests of the national security to suspend the employee’s access to classified information on an interim basis. A suspension is an independent administrative procedure that does not represent a final determination …”

Fox News has asked the State Department to explain why Mills maintains her clearance while multiple federal and congressional investigations are ongoing. Fox News also asked whether the department was instructed by the FBI or another entity to keep the clearance in place. Fox News has not yet received a response.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Pamela K. Browne is Senior Executive Producer at the FOX News Channel (FNC) and is Director of Long-Form Series and Specials. Her journalism has been recognized with several awards. Browne first joined FOX in 1997 to launch the news magazine “Fox Files” and later, “War Stories.”

Also see:

Official: Some Clinton emails ‘too damaging’ to release

Fox News, by Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne, Jan. 30. 2016:

EXCLUSIVE: The intelligence community has deemed some of Hillary Clinton’s emails “too damaging” to national security to release under any circumstances, according to a U.S. government official close to the ongoing review. A second source, who was not authorized to speak on the record, backed up the finding.

The determination was first reported by Fox News, hours before the State Department formally announced Friday that seven email chains, found in 22 documents, will be withheld “in full” because they, in fact, contain “Top Secret” information.

The State Department, when first contacted by Fox News about withholding such emails Friday morning, did not dispute the reporting – but did not comment in detail. After a version of this report was first published, the Obama administration confirmed to the Associated Press that the seven email chains would be withheld. The department has since confirmed those details publicly.

The decision to withhold the documents in full, and not provide even a partial release with redactions, further undercuts claims by the State Department and the Clinton campaign that none of the intelligence in the emails was classified when it hit Clinton’s personal server.

Fox News is told the emails include intelligence from “special access programs,” or SAP, which is considered beyond “Top Secret.” A Jan. 14 letter, first reported by Fox News, from intelligence community Inspector General Charles McCullough III notified senior intelligence and foreign relations committee leaders that “several dozen emails containing classified information” were determined to be “at the CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, AND TOP SECRET/SAP levels.”

The State Department is trying to finish its review and public release of thousands of Clinton emails, as the Democratic presidential primary contests get underway in early February.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, there is an exemption that allows for highly sensitive, and in this case classified, material to be withheld in full — which means nothing would be released in these cases, not even heavily redacted versions, which has been standard practice with the 1,340 such emails made public so far by the State Department.

According to the Justice Department FOIA website, exemption “B3” allows a carve-out for both the CIA and NSA to withhold “operational files.” Similar provisions also apply to other agencies.

Fox News reported Friday that at least one Clinton email contained information identified as “HCS-O,” which is the code for intelligence from human spying.

One source, not authorized to speak on the record, suggested the intelligence agencies are operating on the assumption there are more copies of the Clinton emails out there, and even releasing a partial email would provide enough clues to trace back to the original – which could allow the identification of “special access programs” intelligence.

There was no comment to Fox News from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Office of the Intelligence Community Inspector General, or the agency involved. Fox News has chosen not to identify the agency that provided sworn declarations that intelligence beyond Top Secret was found in the Clinton emails.

The State Department was scheduled to release more Clinton emails Friday, while asking a D.C. federal court for an extension.

FBI investigators looking into the emails are focused on the criminal code pertaining to “gross negligence” in the handling and storage of classified information, and “public corruption.”

“The documents alone in and of themselves set forth a set of compelling, articulable facts that statutes relating to espionage have been violated,” a former senior federal law enforcement officer said. The source said the ongoing investigation along the corruption track “also stems from her tenure of secretary. These charges would be inseparable from the other charges in as much as there is potential for significant overlap and correlation.”

Based on federal regulations, once classified information is spilled onto a personal computer or device, as was the case with Clinton and her aides, the hardware is now considered classified at the highest classification level of the materials received.

While criticized by the Clinton campaign, McCullough, an Obama administration appointee, was relaying the conclusion of two intelligence agencies in his letter to Congress that the information was classified when it hit Clinton’s server — and not his own judgment.

Joseph E. Schmitz, a former inspector general of the Department of Defense, called the attacks on McCullough a “shoot the watchdog” tactic by Clinton’s campaign.

The developments, taken together, show Clinton finding herself once again at the epicenter of a controversy over incomplete records.

During her time as the first female partner at the Rose Law firm in Arkansas during the mid-1980s, she was known as one of the “three amigos” and close with partners Webb Hubbell and Vince Foster. Hubbell ended up a convicted felon for his role in the failure of the corrupt Madison Guaranty, a savings and loan which cost taxpayers more than $65 million. Hubbell embezzled more than a half-million dollars from the firm.

Foster killed himself in Washington, D.C., in July 1993. As Clinton’s partner in the Rose Law firm, he had followed the Clintons into the White House where he served as the Clintons’ personal lawyer and a White House deputy counsel.

Clinton’s missing Rose Law billing records for her work for Guaranty during the mid-1980s were the subject of three intense federal investigations over two years. Those records, in the form of a computerized printout of her work performed on behalf of Guaranty, were discovered under mysterious circumstances in the Book Room of the private White House living quarters.

The discovery of those records was announced during a  blizzard in January 1996 by attorney David Kendall, who still represents Hillary Clinton. After Clinton testified before a grand jury, prosecutors concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt she committed perjury or obstruction of justice.

Despite Clinton’s recent public statements about not knowing how the technology works, at least one email suggests she directed a subordinate to work around the rules. In a June 2011 email to aide Jake Sullivan, she instructed him to take what appeared to be classified talking points, and “turn into nonpaper w no identifying heading and send nonsecure.”

A State Department spokesman could not say whether such a fax was sent.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Pamela K. Browne is Senior Executive Producer at the FOX News Channel (FNC) and is Director of Long-Form Series and Specials. Her journalism has been recognized with several awards. Browne first joined FOX in 1997 to launch the news magazine “Fox Files” and later, “War Stories.”

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Also see:

FBI using elite surveillance teams to track at least 48 high risk ISIS suspects

Screen-Shot-2015-06-23-at-12.23.20-PMFox News, by Catherine Herridge, November 26, 2015:

With as many as 1000 active cases, Fox News has learned at least 48 ISIS suspects are considered so high risk that the FBI is using its elite tracking squads known as the mobile surveillance teams or MST to track them domestically.

“There is a very significant number of people that are on suspicious watch lists, under surveillance,”  Republican Senator Dan Coats said.

Coats, who sits on the Select Committee on Intelligence, would not comment on specifics, but said the around the clock surveillance is a major commitment for the bureau. “The FBI together with law enforcement agencies across the country are engaged in this. It takes enormous amount of manpower to do this on a 24-7 basis.  It takes enormous amount of money to do this,” Coats explained.

These elite FBI teams are reserved for espionage, mob violence and high priority terrorism cases, like a joint terrorism task force case last June, where a 26 year old suspect Usaama Rahim, was killed outside a Massachusetts CVS.  When a police officer and FBI agent tried to question him, the Boston Police Commissioner said Rahim threatened them with a knife, and was shot dead.

With at least a dozen agents assigned to each case, providing 24/7 coverage, this high level of surveillance reflects the severe risk associated with suspects most likely to attempt copycat attacks after Paris.

“It is a big resource drain.  Yes it is.  Almost overwhelming,”  Coats said when asked about the demand placed on the FBI.   “There will be a lot of people over the Thanksgiving weekend that will not be enjoying turkey with their family.  They’ll be out there providing security for the American people and the threat is particularly high during this holiday period.”

One of the lessons of Paris is that the radicalization process can be swift.  According to published reports, friends of the female suspect who was killed in the siege of Saint Denis, Hasna Ait Boulahcen, abandoned her party life only a month before joining her cousin, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the plot’s on the ground commander.  He was also killed in the siege.

The FBI Director James Comey has consistently drawn attention to this phenomenon, calling it the “flash to bang,” that the time between radicalization and crossing the threshold to violent action can be very short. Last week, in a rare public appearance with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Comey would only say that “dozens” of suspected radicals have been under “tight surveillance.”

“Together we are watching people of concern using all of our lawful tools.  We will keep watching them and if we see something we will work to disrupt it,”  Comey said.

Contacted by Fox News, an FBI spokesman had no comment on the high risk cases, nor the use of elite surveillance teams.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

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Classified emails from Clinton aides kick-started FBI probe, candidate downplays controversy

Clinton-Vegas-Getty-640x480

Fox News, by Catherine Herridge, August 19, 2015:

EXCLUSIVE: An email from a top Clinton adviser containing classified military intelligence information, and one from a top aide containing classified information about the Benghazi terror attack, were the documents that kick-started the FBI investigation into the mishandling of classified information, Fox News has learned.

The emails, among thousands on Hillary Clinton’s personal server, were released to the Benghazi select committee in May and have been widely discussed but Fox News for the first time has identified which Clinton aides sent them and the subject matter.

The revelation came as the Democratic presidential candidate and former secretary of state tried to brush aside the burgeoning scandal, joking at a campaign event when asked by Fox News whether she had wiped her private server clean, “What, with like with a cloth or something? I don’t know how it works at all.”

Clinton last week handed the FBI her private server, which she used to send, receive and store emails during her four years as secretary of state.

Fox News has identified two of the Benghazi-related emails on the server that were deemed to contain classified information at the time they were sent.

The first was forwarded by Clinton adviser Huma Abedin and contained classified material from military intelligence sources. The 2011 email forwards a warning about how then-Ambassador Chris Stevens was “considering departure from Benghazi” amid deteriorating conditions in a nearby city. The email was mistakenly released by the State Department in full, and is now considered declassified.

The second was sent by Clinton aide Jake Sullivan and contained classified information as well as sensitive law enforcement information on Benghazi. The partly redacted November 2012 email detailed how Libyan police had arrested “several people” with potential connections to the terror attack.

Abedin and Sullivan now work for the Clinton presidential campaign. A spokeswoman for the intelligence community inspector general confirmed to Fox News that the information was classified at the time it was sent.

But Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon says the information was not classified at the time the emails were sent. In maintaining this position, the campaign pointed to the fact that the State Department shared this judgment, as the Abedin email was released in full by the State Department on its FOIA website. The campaign spokesman acknowledged there is disagreement with the intelligence community inspector general.

A State Department spokesman said they shared Fallon’s stance.

The emails are now just a fraction of those under review by the intelligence community. On Tuesday, while Clinton joked about her server’s apparently missing contents, Fox News has learned the FBI is aggressively trying to recover the data.

An intelligence source familiar with the review told Fox News that FBI investigators are confident they may be able to recover some of the deleted files, a detail first reported by NBC News.

Yet at the contentious press conference on Tuesday, Clinton insisted anything she did with her email server was “legally permitted.”

In the press conference following a Las Vegas town hall meeting Tuesday, Fox News’ Ed Henry pressed the Democratic presidential candidate by pointing out that leadership is about taking responsibility.

“Look, Ed, I take responsibility,” Clinton replied. “In retrospect, this didn’t turn out to be convenient at all and I regret that this has become such a cause celebre. But that does not change the facts. The facts are stubborn — what I did was legally permitted.”

The FBI is holding Clinton’s server in protective custody after the intelligence community’s inspector general raised concerns recently that classified information had traversed the system.

Clinton told reporters she was “very comfortable that this will eventually get resolved and the American people will have plenty of time to figure it out.”

When asked whether she oversaw the process to wipe the server clean, Clinton said, “my personal emails are my personal business. Right? We went through a painstaking process and through 55,000 pages we thought could be worth relating,” she continued. “Under the law, that decision is made by the official. I was the official. I made those decisions.”

As she departed the room, a reporter asked whether the email scandal will ever end, Clinton turned to reporters shrugged and said, “Nobody talks to me about it other than you guys.”

Fox News’ Ed Henry and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

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Also see:

Sources: Administration tried to recruit Taliban 5 members as informants, effort was ‘total failure’

5-taliban-traded-soldiers (1)Fox News, by Catherine Herridge, June 5, 2015:

The U.S. government tried to recruit members of the Taliban Five as assets, so they could gather intelligence and the U.S. could influence their future actions, Fox News has learned.

The effort to “flip” the five Taliban leaders into becoming informants, however, didn’t work. A source familiar with the strategy described it as a “total failure.”

Other sources, who discussed the option on the condition of anonymity, backed up the account.

The move was pursued to strengthen the Obama administration’s ability to prevent the ex-Guantanamo prisoners — traded more than a year ago for American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — from returning to terrorism. The Taliban Five have been living in Qatar under a travel ban, which was set to expire earlier this week but was temporarily extended amid ongoing talks between the U.S. and Qatar.

Asked about the strategy of flipping Taliban Five members, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest offered little information at Friday’s press briefing.

“Even as a general matter, this is an intelligence matter that I won’t be able to discuss from here,” Earnest said.

The Taliban Five were held for 12 years at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, where military reviews concluded they were a likely security threat and had “high intelligence value.” For those reasons, among others, seasoned military officers believe the Taliban Five were obvious recruitment targets.

“We would definitely have tried to work that with these people because of who they are, and because of the relationships they have,” Fox News military analyst and retired Gen. Jack Keane said. “These are people that had significant senior positions inside this organization.”

A year ago, the men were greeted as heroes in the gulf nation of Qatar. They are now joined in the oil-rich nation by some 65 immediate family members and other relatives.

Asked by Fox News if their presence might “increase the men’s ability to re-engage with terrorist networks,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, “I’m not sure why that would be the case. It seems like pure speculation to me.”

But a leading Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who receives regular briefings said otherwise.

“Without going into the details of the numbers, they have had access to outsiders who in turn have had access to the outside. And this can’t bode well for American national security,” Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo said. “I wish I could tell you that I thought the administration understood the threat [from] these five, frankly, as well as the threat from Al Qaeda and ISIS, but I think in the case of these five in particular the administration continues to underestimate what it means for them to come back.”

The wisdom of the administration’s decision to swap the five Taliban leaders for Bergdahl without the necessary congressional notification is the subject of an ongoing national security debate.

In a statement to Fox News, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said: “Although we cannot detail the measures the United States and our partners take to mitigate the potential threat posed by these former detainees, it is fair to say that we remain both vigilant and in close contact on these matters. We have relied on extensive monitoring measures and travel restrictions to prevent them from threatening our interests.”

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

FOX Report Today: Documents Reveal Benghazi Libya Weapons (Provided by U.S. and NATO) Shipped To Syria

benghazi4-e1351495805540 (3)

The Last Refuge, May 18, 2-15:

Today Fox News is reporting confirmation that weapons from Benghazi were shipped to Syria. This affirms one of the essential elements outlined in our Benghazi Brief.

The “Benghazi Brief” remains the most controversial research report we have ever produced. The brief contains over two years of research and hundreds of very specific citations supporting it.

The Brief has also been challenged and with extensive vetting factually withstood all scrutiny. The report, while exhaustive in detail, remains the strongest summary of events surrounding the two years leading up to the Benghazi Libya attack on 9/11/12.

We have repeatedly stated The Benghazi Brief, and ALL of the cited information contained therein, is available for use by anyone who has a goal of communicating the truth surrounding the controversial events.

The Power Point version is AVAILABLE HERE

Read the full report HERE

Read Catherine Herridge’s report:

Read Judicial Watch’s report:

Social media analysis suggests links between Baltimore and Ferguson violence

Baltimore firefighters battle a three-alarm fire Monday, April 27, 2015, at a senior living facility under construction at Federal and Chester Streets in East Baltimore. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Baltimore firefighters battle a three-alarm fire Monday, April 27, 2015, at a senior living facility under construction at Federal and Chester Streets in East Baltimore. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Fox News, by Catherine Herridge, April 28, 2015:

EXCLUSIVE – An analysis of social media traffic in downtown Baltimore Monday has unearthed striking connections to the protests in Ferguson, Mo. last year, according to a leading data mining firm that shared its findings exclusively with Fox News.

The firm, which asked to remain anonymous because of its government work, found between 20 and 50 social media accounts in Baltimore that were also tied to the peak period of violence in Ferguson. While further analysis is being conducted on the data, it suggests the presence of “professional protesters” or anarchists taking advantage of Freddie Gray’s death to incite more violence.

Gray, 25, died April 18, a week after being injured while in police custody. A wave of violence erupted in Baltimore following his funeral Monday.

One account, which also tracked the recent union protests in New York City as well as other disturbances, tweeted photos of Gray’s funeral and used language that seemed to anticipate violence in Baltimore.

The discovery that some social media accounts were tied to cities 825 miles apart was described to Fox News as “surprising.” While it is possible to spoof accounts and make it appear as if someone is in one location when they are really in another, the data mining firm told Fox News that it can’t fully explain the numbers.

The use of social media to fuel violence in Baltimore has already been highlighted by law enforcement. On Monday, police said an online call was issued for a “purge” at 3 p.m. ET, starting at Mondawmin Mall and ending in the downtown area. That type of threat is based on a movie called “The Purge,”  the plot of which involves rampant lawlessness.

The Washington Times also reported Monday that law enforcement intelligence officials issued a warning after someone sent a text urging people to “kill all white police officers” in reaction to Gray’s death. The text has fueled fears that the violence in Baltimore could spread nationally, according to safety memos obtained by The Washington Times.

Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, announced a 10 p.m.-5a.m. curfew would be imposed beginning Tuesday.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Update: Uneasy peace: Social media buzz points to more Baltimore violence as cops, troops keep the peace

Bergdahl’s platoon mates: Head of Joint Chiefs knew he walked off base in 2009

oreilly_catherine_041615Fox News, By Catherine Herridge, April 16, 2015:

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl walked away from his base in Afghanistan June 30, 2009, and by December of that same year, the president’s principal military adviser, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, knew those details, according to three of Bergdahl’s platoon mates who spoke to Fox News.

“I asked him (Mullen) if he knew about Bergdahl and that he deserted and he (Mullen) told me that he knew of the circumstances surrounding his walking off,” former Sgt. Matt Vierkant told Fox,”(and) that they were developing leads and following leads, trying to do everything they could to get him back.”

After pulling security duty for the chairman, who was doing a swing through Afghanistan in December 2009, Vierkant, along with Evan Buetow and Cody Full, said they met informally with Mullen and about eight other soldiers. After a pep talk about the mission, the three said Mullen asked the squad leaders and platoon leadership to take a break.

“He sat down with all the lower enlisted guys and the team leaders and basically he said, ‘Hey, what do you want to know…You got any questions? He’s like, I’m an open book. Let’s just have a little question and answer session,” Buetow explained.

“So Matt asked him, you know Bergdahl deserted, what’s going on with that? And Admiral Mullen said, ‘Yes, we know all the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl walking away from the OP (outpost,)and we’re still working on getting him back, figuring out where he is and kind of figuring out that whole situation.’”

This account was backed up by a third platoon mate, former Specialist Cody Full. The men were split on whether Mullen singled them out because of the Bergdahl connection or whether it was a chance meeting, but they emphasized that at the time, they appreciated the fact that Mullen seemed to speak candidly and openly.

“I don’t remember him being taken aback by it at all, you know, he knew what was going on, he answered not confidently but he didn’t have to think about it, he didn’t want to give us some political answer,” Buetow explained. “He just gave us an answer.

Asked if there was any ambiguity based on the conversation, Vierkant said no. “Without a doubt, he (Mullen) knew he (Bergdahl) deserted or, you know, was suspected of desertion. There was no doubt in my mind that he fully understood what Bergdahl did.”

The three said they felt relieved, and grateful to Mullen for the conversation.

The men’s account is significant because Mullen reported directly to President Obama and then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and the reported admission comes a full four and a half years before National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Bergdahl served honorably and his parents were called to the White House for a Rose Garden ceremony after he had been swapped for five Taliban commanders.

“If Mullen knew, and now it’s alleged that he did know, it would be, it would be unthinkable that he didn’t pump this up the chain of command, his chain of command, or, tell the president directly,” Brad Blakeman who served in the Bush White House, explained. “At a minimum, this would have been included in the president’s daily brief, and at a maximum, it would’ve been told directly to the President by Mullen.”

In a statement to Fox News, Mullen said, “From the moment Sgt. Bergdahl went missing, the U.S. Military was focused on finding him–as it does with any serviceman or woman who goes missing. The exact circumstances were not known then, nor did they drive our decisions. We do not leave our people behind.”

Fox has extended an open invitation to the Admiral to explain his recollection of events during the 2009 trip, what he knew in December 2009 about the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s capture, and whether he told anything to the president and defense secretary, or if the circumstances were already well understood at senior levels of the White House.

A military official who was travelling with Mullen during the 2009 Afghanistan trip confirmed Bergdahl’s teammates did pull security during a leg of the trip,

While not commenting on the claims that they met informally with Mullen, the official said it was common practice for Mullen to ask leadership to take a break so that he could speak directly and candidly with soldiers.

“I want to ask him (Mullen) did they brief the White House? Who knew about it and why would you still do this trade knowing all the information that you knew?” Vierkant said. “We don’t leave anyone behind. The thing is, we never left him (Bergdahl) behind. He left us behind. He chose to walk off and do whatever and get captured, that was his fault. Those were his choices.”

Bergdahl has not been convicted of any charges, but faces a military court martial in the summer.

U.S. Backed Rebel Reportedly Leads Islamic State in Libya

map derna

CSP, by Kyle Shideler, March 2, 2015: 

Major news out of Libya as  the former head of the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and a major player in the U.S.-backed overthrow of Mummar Gaddafi, has reportedly joined the Islamic State and is leading its forces there. This according to The Blaze National Security journalist Sara Carter on twitter, and Fox News’ Catherine Herridge in a Fox News report.

Belhadj’s ties to Al Qaeda were controversial during the run up to U.S. airstrikes in support of the Libyan rebels, but this did not prevent him from maintaining a high profile at the time, including being made head of the Tripoli Military Council, a position he held until resigning to run for office in May 2012. Belhadj has a reputation for involvement in the international jihad has well, playing a role in the 2004 Madrid training bombings, and accused by investigators of being involved in the murder of two Tunisian politicians at behest of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Islamic State fighters landed in Libya back in November of 2014, and have been at work establishing training camps in the Libyan city of Derna before launching a terror offensive which included an attack on a Libyan hotel, attacks on oil field workers, and the execution of 21 Copts in a graphic video which made international headlines.

If Belhadj has gone over to Islamic State, it will represent a major boost to IS’ efforts to co-opt and bring in Libya’s existing jihadist forces under their banner, which now reportedly includes as many as 3,000 fighters.   BelHadj’s forces play a significant role in the Islamist “Libyan Dawn” coalition (which includes the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda’s Ansar al-Sharia), which currently holds Tripoli, and which claims to be the rightful government in opposition to the UN recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni.

Libyan Dawn supporters have repeatedly blamed Anti-Islamist general Khalifa al Haftar for the terror attacks of the Islamic State, including on the hotel residence of the Libyan Dawn prime minister, so there is reason to believe that if a binary choice develops between Belhadj and Haftar (who was recently made Commander and Chief of the Al-Thinni government forces), the Islamist factions will chooses Belhadj.

This would represent a major coup for the Islamic State, whose global strategy requires the incorporation of pre-established jihadist groups to bolsters their claim to Caliphate status and take additional territory, thus reinforcing their religious and legal authority, and attracting additional recruits.

Also see:

Brother in Paris massacre met with American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen

anwar22

Fox News, By , January 12, 2015:

Exclusive: Said Kouachi, one of the two brothers who massacred the staff at Charlie Hebdo, met with the American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011 in Yemen at an Al Qaeda camp east of the capital Sana’a, a Yemeni government official briefed on the terrorist investigation told Fox News.

The Yemeni official, who is not authorized to speak on the record, confirmed the 34-year-old Kouachi came to Yemen in 2011 to study at an Islamic institute and Arabic language center – the same center where John Walker Lindh, an American and Muslim convert arrested as an enemy combatant in Afghanistan, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutullab, also known as the “underwear bomber,” both studied.

While the investigation is still ongoing, the official said there is thus far no evidence Said and the underwear bomber knew each other.

The Yemeni official said Kouachi came to Yemen on a visa to study, but was kicked out of the institute, in part because he failed to show up for class.

In the spring or summer of 2011, al-Awlaki had moved out of the capital of Sana’a to the Al Qaeda camps for security reasons.

Al-Awlaki was the “talent spotter” for Al Qaeda in Yemen and, according to US government sources, the head of their external operations – including terror plotting. The training camp was described as makeshift, and “like roving bandits.”

Significantly, after he met with al-Awlaki, the Yemeni government official said there is no record Said Kouachi ever returned to Yemen, and they had no inquiries from the French or American intelligence services about the brother’s time in Yemen, suggesting the trip was successfully kept below the radar.

“This is the first significant foreign fighter case that we have seen where they travel to Yemen and back, trained under al-Awlaki,”  Mike McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News. “One of the brothers actually funneled fighters to Al Qaeda in Iraq, which is a precursor to ISIS.”  McCaul was referring to the younger brother, Cherif Kouachi.

Fox News has been told that the evidence increasingly points to the involvement of a foreign terrorist organization either inspiring or directing the attack. Less than an hour after the attack, Fox News was first to report on a series of tweets accompanied by images of three Al Qaeda members – Ayman al Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, and two American members of AQAP who were both killed in U.S. drone strikes, Samir Khan and al-Awlaki – went out, raising more suspicions the attack was an Al Qaeda plot.

Fox’s ongoing reporting on Al Qaeda in Yemen has shown that in October 2002 the cleric was in federal custody, and despite an outstanding warrant for his arrest on passport fraud, was released on the say-so of FBI Agent Wade Ammerman.

Shortly after al-Awlaki re-entered the US, he showed up in Ammerman’s investigation of Ali al-Timimi whose conviction is on appeal. In an August 2013 interview with Fox News, the outgoing director of the FBI did not deny there was an effort by the bureau to work with, and even recruit, the cleric as an asset.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

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Money Jihad has this: Kouachi brothers’ weapons trail leads to AQAP

Yemini intelligence has confirmed that both Said and Cherif Kouachi travelled to Yemen by way of Oman and received marksmanship training after meeting with deceased terrorist imam Anwar al-Awlaki between July and August of 2011. (French authorities have said earlier that one of the brothers also traveled to Yemen in 2005.) From Reuters:

…”These two brothers arrived in Oman on July 25, 2011, and from Oman they were smuggled into Yemen where they stayed for two weeks,” a senior Yemeni security official, who declined to be named, said.

“They met (al Qaeda preacher) Anwar al-Awlaki and then they were trained for three days in the deserts of Marib on how to fire a gun. They returned to Oman and they left Oman on Aug. 15, 2011 to go back to France.”

A senior Yemeni intelligence source confirmed the brothers had entered Yemen via Oman in 2011, citing the ease with which they entered while the security forces were focused on the Arab Spring protests that were convulsing the country at the time.

The source also confirmed the brothers had met Awlaki “and trained in Wadi Abida,” – which is between Marib and Shabwa provinces where Awlaki was known to move freely…

But the tale of the weapons trail doesn’t end there. During their attacks in Paris last week, the Kouachi brothers had AK-47s, a rocket propelled grenade launcher, and 10 smoke grenades among other military-grade weapons. One expert has theorized that the Kouachi sleeper cell was simply waiting for these weapons until they could activate for the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Many of the firearms on the black market in France are sold by the Italian mafia and originate from the Balkans (and perhaps Libya), but illegal online weapons purchases in France are on the rise, too. Keeping in mind that neither of the Kouachi brothers had full-time jobs, and that even just their two Kalashnikovs would have cost about $3,000, it is unlikely they were able to fund these purchases on their own without external help. Cherif Kouachi said before his death that he had been financed by AQAP.

One wonders when France will begin air strikes against AQAP targets in Yemen.

34-year-old Paris suspect directly linked to Al Qaeda training camp in Yemen

Brothers Cherif Kouachi, (l.), and Said Kouachi, (r.), are suspects in the deadly attack on a French satirical magazine in Paris. (AP) (Judicial Police of Paris)

Brothers Cherif Kouachi, (l.), and Said Kouachi, (r.), are suspects in the deadly attack on a French satirical magazine in Paris. (AP) (Judicial Police of Paris)

Fox News, by Catherine Herridge, Jan.8, 2015:

One of the two brothers suspected of gunning down 12 people in an attack on a Paris-based satirical magazine traveled to Yemen in 2011 and had direct contact with an Al Qaeda training camp, according to U.S. government sources.

Fox News is told the investigators have made it a priority to determine whether he had contact with Al Qaeda in Yemen’s leadership, including a bomb maker and a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.

Both Said Kouachi, 34, who is known to have gone to Yemen, and his brother, Cherif Kouachi, who served time in France on a terrorism conviction, were on a U.S. no-fly list, sources confirmed. The new information shows both suspects, who were still being hunted Thursday night, had ties to Al Qaeda affiliates, one in Yemen and the other in Iraq.

“AQAP (Al Qaeda’s Arabian Peninsula affiliate) has been the real force within Al Qaeda that’s always been focused on external operations against the West and the United States – the most committed to doing this,” Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News. McCaul has been getting regular briefings about the Paris attack.

“This would be one of the more real successes that they’ve have had if it turns out to be true.”

While there has been no credible claim of responsibility for the attack, Fox News was told that the evidence increasingly points to the likely involvement of a foreign terrorist organization — either inspiring or directing the attack. Less than an hour after the attack, a series of tweets accompanied by images of three Al Qaeda members – Ayman al Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, and two American members of AQAP who were both killed in U.S. drone strikes, Samir Khan and Anwar al-Awlaki – went out, raising more suspicions the attack was a possible Al Qaeda plot.

The Twitter account is well known in counter-terrorism circles and linked to AQAP.

Even as French authorities focused an intense manhunt on a vast forest north of Paris, other details about the Kouachis were trickling out, painting a picture of alienated brothers, sons of Algerian immigrants who later died. Experts who viewed cellphone video of their escape from Wednesday’s rampage told FoxNews.com it was apparent they’d had training, citing such examples as the way the laid down cover fire for each other and their commando-style flight in a getaway car.

Here’s what is known about Cherif and Said Kouachi:

— They were born in Paris’ 10th Arrondissement (district) to parents of Algerian origin, but reportedly grew up in a secular home.

— They are believed to have lost their parents, and grew up as orphans, with Cherif bouncing around foster homes in the city of Rennes, in the Brittany region of western France.

— Cherif trained to be a fitness instructor, and eventually both brothers returned to Paris as adults.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Also see:

Evidence in Sony hack attack suggests possible involvement by Iran, China or Russia, intel source says

cyyber attackFox News, By Catherine Herridge, December 18, 2014

The U.S. investigation into the recent hacking attack at Sony Pictures Entertainment has turned up evidence that does not point to North Korea as the “sole entity” in the case, but rather, raises the possibility that Iran, China or Russia may have been involved, an intelligence source told Fox News on Thursday.

Earlier Thursday, Fox News confirmed that the FBI is pointing a digital finger at North Korea for the attack.

The source pointed to the sophistication of malware “modules or packets” that destroyed the Sony systems — on a level that has not been seen from North Korea in the past — but has been seen from Iran, China and Russia.

There is no evidence of a forced entry into the Sony systems, pointing to an insider threat or stolen credentials. And the first emails sent to Sony, described as blackmail or extortion, included demands unrelated to the movie.

The malware had two destructive threads, the source said: it overwrites data and it interrupts execution processes, such as a computer’s start-up functions. After the initial attack, the FBI warned the industry that the malware can be so destructive that the data is not recoverable or it is too costly a process to retrieve. The intelligence source added that the forensic evidence suggests that the final stage of the attack was launched outside North Korea’s borders — creating some plausible deniability.

“Given the destructive efforts or effects of this attack, we’re treating this as a national security matter, and as such, members of the president’s national security team have been in regular meetings regarding this attack,” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Also, Fox News has learned that U.S. security firms were first notified Monday by the U.S. government that they planned to publicly blame North Korea, which is inconsistent with past practice, as the U.S. government often has chosen to work behind the scenes in similar instances.

The White House declined earlier Thursday to directly blame North Korea for the attack, though Press Secretary Josh Earnest referred to the incident as a “serious national security matter.”

The case is “being treated as seriously as you’d expect,” Earnest told reporters at an afternoon briefing. He added that the White House would allow the investigation to move forward before speculating about a response.

“There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor,” Earnest said. “And it is being treated by those investigative agencies both at the FBI and the Department of Justice as seriously as you would expect.”

The North Korean link came shortly after Sony canceled plans for its Dec. 25 release of “The Interview,” a comedy about the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.  Getting Sony to pull the release of the movie had been one of the hackers’ public demands.

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the attack originated outside North Korea, but believe the individuals behind it were acting on orders from the North Korean government.

While the U.S. government is unlikely to issue formal charges against North Korea or its leadership, a formal announcement of North Korea’s involvement is likely to come Thursday.

The Sony hack attack is “deeply worrying” to the intelligence community because it is believed to be the first time destructive malware has targeted a U.S. firm, according to the Fox News source, who added that the cyber assault is seen as “retribution” for “The Interview.”

Fox News is told that the malware used in the Sony hack attack has two destructive threads: it overwrites data and it interrupts execution processes, such as a computer’s start-up functions. The FBI warns that the malware can be so destructive that the data is not recoverable or it is too costly a process to retrieve.

It is not clear how long the malware needs to be in the system before it brings on an almost complete paralysis. In the case of Sony, support functions — including emails –were knocked off-line, seen as a distraction while the more destructive attack was launching.

This week North Korea’s state-run media KCNA endorsed the Sony hacking, saying it was done by “sympathizers.” Andrei Lankov, an expert on North Korea who writes a column for The Korea Times, says this is as close to an endorsement as possible.

Another expert noted “ambiguity of attribution and guerilla-warfare approach” are the tactics of North Korea. The expert concluded it will be seen that America is vulnerable to blackmail and North Korea will try it again.

Fox News has also been told, however, there was “zero” chance there would have been any actual attacks on theaters.”

“Sony was stupid to make a movie about killing Kim Jung-un,” Lankov said, “but it was even more stupid to cave in to pressure.”

A Steve Carell “paranoid” thriller “that was to be set in North Korea” also has been scrapped, sources say. The project from director Gore Verbinski and writer Steve Conrad wasn’t yet titled, though industry outlets said the working title was “Pyongyang,” which is the North Korean capital.

“Sad day for creative expression,” Carell tweeted Wednesday evening, adding “#fear eats the soul” as a hashtag.

In an interview with ABC News aired Wednesday, President Obama encouraged Americans to go to the movies.

The Sony hacking saga took a sinister turn on Tuesday when hackers sent a message threatening to target theaters showing “The Interview” in a 9/11-type attack.

Sony then told theaters they will not be penalized should they choose not to show it.

A representative for the FBI Los Angeles Field Office told FOX411 that the bureau is “aware of the recent threats and continues to work collaboratively with our partners to investigate.”

Security experts told Fox that in the wake of the Sydney siege and the release of the CIA enhanced interrogation report last week, it was crucial the threat be taken seriously by authorities.

“This threatening statement obviously has some foundation and may be linked to current global hostilities toward the West and predominantly the U.S.,” said Lee Oughton, global security and risk management expert. “We are still unaware how deep the hackers were able to penetrate into the Sony systems. Only time will tell how much information they were able to ascertain and what price Sony will pay in the international market.”

Actors James Franco and Seth Rogen already canceled all media appearances promoting their film.

Fox News’ Greg Palkot, Lucas Tomlinson, Hollie McKay and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Also see:

 

Leading Republican wants Senate to join House probe of Benghazi attack

Sept. 11, 2012: A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames. (Reuters)

Sept. 11, 2012: A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames. (Reuters)

By Catherine Herridge, Pamela Browne:

A leading Republican wants to expand the House investigation into the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack by adding a Senate probe, as a new House Intelligence Committee report Friday concluded that the initial CIA assessment found no demonstrations prior to the assault and a primary purpose of the CIA operation in eastern Libya was to track the movement of weapons to Syria.

The report described the attack as “complex” with the attackers affiliated with Al Qaeda. It also said the initial CIA assessment concluded there were no demonstrations outside the State Department Consulate in Eastern Libya.

Referring to the House Select committee Chairman, and the Democratic ranking member, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, said the current House investigation should be expanded.

“(Republican) Trey Gowdy and (Democrat) Elijah Cummings have done a good job,” he said. “I can’t imagine the U.S. Senate not wanting to be a part of a joint select committee. We’ll bootstrap to what you’ve done, but we want to be part of discussion,” Graham told Fox News. “What I would suggest to (incoming Senate majority leader) Mitch McConnell is to call up Speaker Boehner and say ‘Listen, we want to be part of this’.”

Graham, along with his two Republican colleagues, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, have been outspoken advocates of a special investigation, because they say then-acting director of the CIA Mike Morell misled them about his role in crafting the so-called media talking points that blamed an opportunistic protest gone awry for the assault.

“Number one, Mike Morrell misled three senators,” Graham said of their November 2012 meeting on Capitol Hill, where Morell accompanied then UN Ambassador Susan Rice to explain her flawed explanation on national television five days after the attack.

“I think it’s important that for future CIA personnel to understand, that if you come to Congress and you’re asked a question and you give a deceptive answer, you tell half the story, not the entire story, you play word games, it will follow you and will be unacceptable,” Graham said.

On Friday, with little fanfare, the House Intelligence Committee released the findings of its two year, bi-partisan investigation into the terrorist attack. The 37 page report found that the first, internal CIA assessment was accurate — that no protests were involved — but then-CIA Director David Petraeus, Morell and the administration latched onto information that supported the flawed demonstration scenario.

Fox News was first to report on September 17, 2012, one day after Rice’s controversial Sunday talk show appearances, that there were no protests when the attack unfolded.

“One day after the assault, on 9/12/12, the first CIA assessment about the attacks, a September 12th Executive update, said ‘the presence of armed assailants from the incident’s outset suggests this was an intentional assault and not the escalation of a peaceful protest,” investigators found.  And while intelligence gaps remain, “No witness has reported believing at any point that the attacks were anything but terrorist acts,” the report added.

On Saturday September 14, 2012, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes wrote in an email titled “PREP CALL with Susan,” that one of the goals for the administration’s public statements should be “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”  The House report says these conclusions were “incorrect.”

Judicial Watch, not Congress, obtained the Rhodes email as the result of a federal lawsuit.

The Obama White House did not move away from the protest explanation for the attack that killed four Americans – Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department Foreign Service officer Sean Smith, and former Navy Seals and CIA contractors Ty Woods and Glenn Doherty – until September 20, when then White House Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters ‘It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack,” and the State Department did the same much later.

The report found the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs made three “substantive” changes to the talking points that included the removal of references to Al Qaeda and swapping the word “attacks” with “demonstrations.”  It is not clear from the publicly available, and heavily redacted emails exactly who made the changes and who directed them, since the CIA public affairs office would be unlikely to make these changes unilaterally.

When Morell retired from the CIA last year, he told The Wall Street Journal he hoped to advise a presidential campaign, with anonymous sources telling the paper Morell was close to HillaryClinton. Morell now works as a counselor at Beacon Global Strategies, a Washington D.C. firm closely aligned with the former secretary of State. He is also a national security analyst for CBS News. The President of CBS News is David Rhodes, the brother of Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

An appendix filed by Democrats did not find evidence of “political motivations,” and Morell is praised for testifying “freely and openly” about the process.  Four Republicans, including chairman Mike Rogers, concluded “Mr. Morell operated beyond his role as CIA Deputy Director and inserted himself into a policy making and public affairs role….It is simply unfathomable that the White House’s policy preferences, or the concerns of the State Department senior officials, did not factor into his calculation about what was fair.  For these reasons, we believe that Mr. Morell’s testimony was at time inconsistent and incomplete.”

The House report leaves no doubt that the attack drew heavily on “those affiliated with al-Qai’da,”  including AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb), AAS (Ansar al-sharia), AQAP (Al Qaeda in Yemen), AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq) as well as the Egypt based Jamal Network.  As Fox News was first to report, and the committee investigation affirms, at least two long time Al Qaeda operatives, Faraj al-Chalabi, and former Guantanamo detainee Sufian bin Qumu, were significant players in the assault.

Read more at Fox News

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Taliban claim freed ex-Gitmo prisoners visited by members of terror group

TalibanFox News, by Catherine Herridge, October 21, 2014:

The Taliban are claiming that two senior members of the Haqqani terror network recently visited the five former Guantanamo detainees who were traded for an American soldier, raising new questions about the terms of their one-year house arrest in Qatar and eventual release in the spring as U.S. forces leave Afghanistan.

The Taliban statement, first reported by the Long War Journal, claims that Qari Abdul Rasheed Omari, a military commander for southeastern Afghanistan, and associate Anas Haqqani were taken into Afghan custody after visiting the former Guantanamo detainees in Qatar earlier this month.

At least one of the visitors is said to be related to one of the five detainees under house arrest. Charles “Cully” Stimson, who oversaw detainee affairs under President George W. Bush and heads the Heritage National Security Law Program, told Fox News: “We know that family visits are allowed.”

He added: “I would expect that not only those two guys talked to the Taliban Five but others have already talked to them and they are in constant communications, preparing for their eventual return.”

While the Taliban’s claim of a visit has not been independently verified, the Taliban are not known to provide patently false statements. The release posted online alleges American involvement, saying the two visitors were captured afterward.

“While returning home on 12th October after spending about a week both were captured by the American forces in Bahrain from where they were sent back to Qatar and then handed over to Kabul via United Arab Emirates,” the statement says. “It must be mentioned that the above mentioned journey took place under the watchful eyes of America before both men were handed over to Kabul despite the freed Guantanamo detainees being assured that their relatives may visit them unharmed.”

Asked about the Taliban statement, and the reported meeting between known members of the Haqqani terror network and the former Guantanamo detainees, neither the government of Qatar nor the CIA provided comment. Significantly, no denial was issued.

The Pentagon, contacted about the report in advance of Tuesday’s briefing, appeared to be on the same talking points — also offering no denial, and no detail.

“I have nothing for you on that, right now. I’ll take it for the record and if I can get more information for you, I will but I have nothing for you on it right now,”Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said at Tuesday’s briefing. Asked if the Taliban claim was false, Kirby said, “I have nothing for you right now.I’ll see what I can do to get back to you.”

The Long War Journal’s Thomas Joscelyn describes Anas Haqqani as “the youngest son of veteran jihadist leader Jalaluddin Haqqani,” and Qari Omari as the younger brother of Mohammad Nabi Omari, a senior Taliban official and former Guantanamo detainee who is among the five held by Qatar.

“This provides an additional reason the ‘Taliban Five’ should not have been transferred as the younger Omari oversees suicide operations in south eastern Afghanistan,” Joscelyn said.

The five men in Qatar were part of the Obama administration’s controversial deal in May with the Taliban, to swap the Guantanamo detainees for American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.Critics describe the five men as a kind of terror “dream team” because of their long-standing ties to the Taliban or Al Qaeda leadership.

“I don’t think we [the Bush administration] would have allowed the five to go to Qatar for a mere year under the conditions that we’ve read about,” Stimson said, adding: “I think we would have struck a much harder bargain than that and maybe forced them to stay in custody for five years or longer under house arrest conditions so that we had more assurances than the one-year deal.”

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.