By Shannon Knutsen, independent researcher.
An overlooked reference in CIA emails sent just two days after the assault on Benghazi leads to speculation that officials believed the attackers had help on the inside.
The declassified emails detail communications between Administration officials on September 14, 2012, as they crafted the (now, infamous) “Benghazi Talking Points”.
In addition to the talking points banter, the emails also contain a request for information on “motivations for Green on Blue violence.”
“Green on Blue” is a term used by the US government to refer to “insider” attacks on US Personnel often by local security forces thought to be friendly or neutral. The term has previously been used in reference to attacks in on US interests in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If the Administration suspected the attack on Benghazi was a case of “Green on Blue” violence, then who would have been the likely perpetrators?
Prior to the Benghazi attack, the State Department had contracted with local Libyan militia members from the February 17th Martyrs Brigade to provide security to the Consulate and its personnel, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The February 17th Martyrs Brigade has been directly linked to Ansar al-Sharia, the terrorist group responsible for the attacks in Benghazi. Al-Sharia is the Libyan faction of Al Qaeda also known as AQAP or Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. The Founder of the February 17th Martyrs Brigade, Ismail al-Sallabi, is a known Al Qaeda associate who also has close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.
An intelligence briefing issued by Ambassador Stevens on the day of the Benghazi attack reported on a September 9, 2012 meeting between local militia members including the February 17th Brigade and Libyan Shield Force, another militia with ties to Al Qaeda. At the meeting, militia leaders discussed the “very fluid relationship and blurry lines that they say define membership in the Benghazi-based brigades.”
Attendees also voiced their support for the Muslim Brotherhood candidate for Prime Minister and criticized the US for not doing the same. Militia members warned Stevens that if the US- backed candidate for Prime Minister won instead, they would not “continue to guarantee security in Benghazi.”
Investigations by the State Department, House, and Senate have all revealed significant concerns with the February 17th Martyrs Brigade and its role in Benghazi.
The Accountability Review Board (ARB) convened by then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, stated that it had learned of “troubling indicators February 17th’s loyalties and its readiness to assist US personnel.”
The ARB also revealed that its investigation found “little evidence that the armed February 17 guards offered any meaningful defense … or succeeded in summoning a February 17 militia presence to assist expeditiously.”
A 2013 House Interim report raised further suspicions about the loyalties of the February 17th Martyrs Brigade and its actions. It declared that “numerous reports indicated that the Brigade had extremist connections” and had been implicated in “threats against U.S. military assets.”
In January 2014, a Senate Intelligence Committee report revealed that, during the attack on the consulate, US security forces asked members of February 17th to provide cover as they entered the compound. The Brigade members refused, saying they preferred to negotiate with the attackers.
Finally, Gregory Hicks, a 22-year Foreign Service veteran and the man who took over the State Department’s highest position in Libya immediately after Chris Stevens’ murder, testified before the House Select Committee on his experience in Benghazi on the night of the attack.
When asked if he believed the February 17th played a role or was complacent in the attacks, Hicks replied:
“Certainly elements of that militia were complicit in the attacks. The attackers had to make a long approach march through multiple checkpoints that were manned by February 17
The State Department has confirmed initial suspicions that Al Qaeda-run Ansar al-Sharia was responsible for the siege in Benghazi and subsequent investigations have repeatedly expressed concerns about the loyalty of the February 17th Martyrs Brigade and its affiliations with Ansar al-Sharia. Did the Administration have early indications of an insider attack in Benghazi? If not, why then were officials seeking information on “motivations for Green on Blue” violence on September 14, 2012?