Three years after the attack on the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, which claimed the lives of two CIA contractors and two State Department officials—including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens—there are still just as many questions surrounding the events that happened on the night of September 11th, 2012, as there are answers.

Congressman Trey Gowdy’s Special Committee on Benghazi is a positive development, one which should have happened from the very beginning. The problem with previous committees was that they did not have jurisdictions that allowed them to probe into the activities of all the agencies and organizations involved in the events surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi. The House Armed Services Committee only has purview over the military, while the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence only has jurisdiction over the intelligence services, and so on. Gowdy’s committee can draw upon the State Department, the military, the CIA, and any other relevant actors.


Still, what will come from the Special Committee on Benghazi remains to be seen. The fulcrum of the Benghazi incident rests upon U.S.-led covert operations that were taking place prior to the Benghazi attack. Both Republicans and Democrats were read on to these operations in the intelligence committee, although it was only the heads of that committee that were informed about said operations. This creates a type of mutually assured destruction for both political parties as they investigate Benghazi, and ensures that neither side wants to probe into JSOC and CIA activities that may have kicked the hornet’s nest and led to the attacks.

In February of 2011, President Obama signed off on the first intelligence finding, which covered covert activities in Libya during the onset of the civil war that led to the ousting of Gaddafi. This allowed the CIA to begin undermining the regime and supporting the rebels. SOFREP reported at the time that JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) advisors were flown into Libya, deployed as “analysts” to begin teaching the rebels about weapons employment and tactics. In 2012, a second intelligence finding was signed—this one to deal with Islamist threats in Libya.


The way these covert operations were run, while technically legal, was irregular. Operational activities were being reported directly to two White House officials. The first, John Brennan, was Obama’s deputy national security advisor for homeland security and counterterrorism. He’s currently the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The second was Tom Donilon—Obama’s national security advisor.

Brennan and Donilon, working under Obama, had authorization to conduct blended operations that utilized military and CIA resources thanks to Obama’s intelligence finding on Libya, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), while JSOC was able to operate in-country while conducting operational preparation of the environment (OPE). OPE is described in a previous article as the following: