Three days after the Benghazi attack, agents of CNN entered the unsecured consulate compound and found seven pages of handwriting in a hard-bound book. which belonged to U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens
These writings, confirmed by knowledgeable sources, indicate that in the months prior to the attack, the ambassador was concerned about security in Benghazi and Islamic extremism.
The State Department calls CNN’s actions an “indefensible” invasion of privacy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s senior adviser Philippe Reines, says CNN is:
“not owning up to is reading and transcribing Chris’s diary well before bothering to tell the family or anyone else that they took it from the site of the attack. Or that when they finally did tell them, they completely ignored the wishes of the family, and ultimately broke their pledge made to them only hours after they witnessed the return to the Unites States of Chris’s remains.”
CNN released a statement Saturday:
“CNN did not initially report on the existence of a journal out of respect for the family, but we felt there were issues raised in the journal which required full reporting, which we did. We think the public had a right to know what CNN had learned from multiple sources about the fears and warnings of a terror threat before the Benghazi attack which are now raising questions about why the State Department didn’t do more to protect Ambassador Stevens and other US personnel. Perhaps the real question here is why is the State Department now attacking the messenger.”
The New York Times reports that a dozen C.I.A. operatives and contractors were among the evacuees from the consulate in Benghazi. These specialists were critical to coordination with local intelligence officers, tracking shoulder-fired missiles taken from Qaddafi’s forces and locating chemical weapons.
The CIA had been active in the area since the start of Libyan revolution in February 2011. Benghazi was a center of rebel activity against the regime.
The attack revealed extensive CIA contacts with the new post-Qaddafi Libyan intelligence service, apparently surprising some Libyan leaders such as the deputy prime minister, Mustafa Abushagour, who told the Wall Street Journal that he learned about American operations in Benghazi only after the attack on the mission.
On CNN last Sunday Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and head of the House Intelligence Committee, said that there was “a high degree of probability that it is an Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-affiliated group that had a very specific target in mind, and that was to attack the consulate and cause as much harm, chaos and death as possible.”
Ironically, one of the groups the CIA monitored was Ansar al-Sharia, a militia which may have conducted the attack. Friday, Libyan protesters attacked and seized several militia groups including the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia. A vehicle on fire, and there were reports of one dead and that several wounded militiamen.
The militias represent many political orientations; some are moderate, while others are Salafis, ultraconservative Islamists. Frederic Wehrey, a senior policy analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said “The region’s deeply entrenched Salafi community is undergoing significant upheaval, with debate raging between a current that is amenable to political integration and a more militant strand that opposes democracy.”
More details have emerged about the compounds occupied by the consulate. One was the diplomatic facility where the Ambassador died. The other an annex a half-mile away consisting of four buildings inside a walled compound where C.I.A. personnel worked
The annex was not a safe house, but a sensitive working area. Reports indicate that the two former SEALs, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty, were killed just outside the annex’s front gate by a mortar round which hit struck the roof.
The F.B.I. is conducting an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the attack. The investigation is hampered by the lack of security in Benghazi and the inability to interview witnesses spread across Europe and the United States.
Featured Photo: AP, Alaguri