So What Exactly Was the CIA Doing in Benghazi?

CNN reports that dozens of agents were on ground before attack in secretive mission
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2013 2:25 PM CDT
So What Exactly Was the CIA Doing in Benghazi?
A man walks near a charred vehicle at the entrance of the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

A new CNN report might resurrect the controversy of last year's attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that killed ambassador Chris Stevens. The report asserts that not only did the CIA have "dozens" of operatives on the ground at the consulate before the attack, it is now going to "unprecedented" lengths to keep them from talking about what they were doing. An excerpt:

  • "Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency's missions in Libya have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency's workings. The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress." (It's described as "pure intimidation.")

What might the secretive mission have been? "Speculation on Capitol Hill has included the possibility the US agencies operating in Benghazi were secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels," says the report by Drew Griffin. Could this have played a role in triggering the attack? At the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf thinks Congress must investigate. The Benghazi debates that played out during last year's election might have been political hot air, but this looks to be substantive. "If CNN's report is correct, the CIA is at minimum trying to hide something huge from Congress, something that CIA agents might otherwise want to reveal—itself a reason for Congress to press hard for information." (Read more Benghazi stories.)

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