WASHINGTON – A day-long congressional hearing into the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi left open questions about al-Qaida’s alleged connections to CIA operations in the Mideast.
A senior U.S. intelligence source deeply involved in the Libya investigation said the real test of the House probe will be whether lawmakers go beyond the Obama administration’s account of the Sept. 11, 2012 events.
“While the administration clearly put out a disinformation line that the terrorist attack was actually a spontaneous demonstration protesting a film slandering the Prophet Mohammed, the bigger issue is the secret Obama administration program to arm rebels in Syria via the CIA safehouse in Benghazi,” according to the source quoted by Executive Intelligence Review.
If reports of a CIA gunrunning operation became the target of the congressional inquiry, they could affirm published allegations that the administration had a covert program to arm the Syrian rebels with weapons confiscated after the assassination of Col. Moammar Qaddafi.
In a new book, “Benghazi: The Definitive Report,” Brandon Webb and Jack Murphy accuse John Brennan — then the U.S. counterterrorism chief — of transferring the weapons to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s opponents.
Chris Stevens, ambassador to Libya and one of four Americans killed in last year’s attack, reportedly opposed such activity as an impediment to his efforts to build relations between the U.S. and Libyan governments.
“While it is an open secret that the United States has been facilitating or, at the very least, allowing large weapons transfers from Libya to rebel fighters in Syria, it is unlikely that Stevens was involved in these activities, as they do not fall under purview of a Foreign Services officer in the State Department,” Webb and Murphy stated.
“Stevens likely helped consolidate as many weapons as possible after the war to safeguard them, at which point Brennan exported them overseas to start another conflict,” the authors charge.
“This was an illegal operation, and clearly shows the Obama administration in bed with al-Qaida-linked terrorists, both in Libya and in Syria,” said the U.S. intelligence source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Brennan, now CIA director, did not respond to a request for comment.
Last week, Newsmax reported that a Libyan militia group hired by the State Department to defend the Benghazi compound prominently displayed the al-Qaida flag on a Facebook page months before the deadly attack.
The February 17th Martyrs Brigade was paid by the U.S. government to provide security at the U.S. diplomatic mission. But Newsmax said there was no indication the Martyrs Brigade fulfilled its commitment to defend the mission when it came under attack.
On April 23, House Republicans released an interim progress report citing “numerous reports” that “the Brigade had extremist connections, and it had been implicated in the kidnapping of American citizens as well as in the threats against U.S. military assets.”
Top administration officials declined invitations to appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday.
The committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., heard testimony from three State employees: Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism; Gregory Hicks, foreign service officer and former deputy chief of mission/chargé d’affairs in Libya; and Eric Nordstrom, diplomatic security officer and former regional security officer in Libya.
Nordstrom testified before the same committee last fall, declaring “In my view, the Taliban is inside the (consular) building.”
Midway through Wednesday’s hearing, titled “Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage,” the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijiah Cummings, of Maryland, released a statement saying:
“We all watched today as unsubstantiated Republican allegations disintegrated one by one. What should have been a bipartisan investigation involving our national security was another sorry example of Republicans promising explosive new facts but delivering only a press spectacle.”
But Steve Stockman, R-Texas, said, “The Department of State and the Obama administration are clearly engaged in a cover-up that may well reach to the highest levels of Washington, D.C.”
Turning up the heat, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., has called for the formation of a bipartisan, select committee to dig deeper. As of Friday afternoon, his House Resolution 36 had garnered 139 co-sponsors, all Republicans.
Wolf, who heads the appropriations committee that controls the State Department budget, told the Washington Times he has received no response to his repeated requests for information about survivors of the attack.
The Times said officials called the issue “complicated” because many of the Americans on the ground in Libya “might be undercover or covert operatives whose identities cannot be disclosed.”
As for the alleged arms pipeline to Syrian rebels, syndicated columnist Patrick Buchanan said President Obama made a strategic blunder by drawing a “red line” warning against use of chemical weapons by Assad’s government.
Signaling a possible policy shift, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Tuesday an agreement to co-sponsor negotiations between the Assad government and the Syrian rebels.
The secretary’s pronouncement, made in Moscow, got a backhanded compliment from one of Obama’s biggest critics.
“Kerry is an opportunist who will shift on the basis of perceived shifts in the power balance,” Lyndon LaRouche, a former presidential candidate, said Friday.
“On Sunday, as the immediate result of the Israeli attacks (on Syria), we were on the verge of regional and likely general war. There was clearly an agreement among sane circles in the U.S., Russia and elsewhere that this had to be stopped.”
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