Tag Archives: Libya

End of the Week Headlines in Homeland Security

 

 

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Memorial to UTA Flight 772

The link below is worth every second you spend reading the page and looking at the moving photos.  It’s a short story of sorts about the desert memorial to UTA Flight 772, downed in a Libyan terrorist attack in 1989.

http://www.viralnova.com/i-noticed-this-tiny-thing-on-google-maps-and-when-i-zoomed-in-well-nothing-could-prepare-me/

The memorial can be seen from Google Earth and Google Maps.

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Algerian Terrorists Execute Seven Hostages Before Raid

THE FATE OF AMERICAN HOSTAGES UNKOWN — AA
By Jeffrey FleishmanJanuary 19, 2013, 7:29 a.m.

CAIRO — Algerian troops raided a remote natural gas refinery Saturday, killing 11 Islamic militants but not before extremists executed seven hostages who for days had been trapped in a deepening international crisis, according to media reports.

Algerian state media described the army mission as the “final assault” to end a hostage ordeal that began in the predawn Wednesday at a gas compound on the Algerian-Libyan border. It was not clear if the hostages killed were Algerians or foreigners.

“It is over now, the assault is over, and the military are inside the plant clearing it of mines,” a local source familiar with the operation told Reuters.

The fate of as many as 30 foreign hostages, including an estimated seven Americans, remained unknown. Algerian forces discovered 15 burned bodies as they swept through the compound Saturday to rout heavily armed militants. The militants threatened to blow up the facility and a number of hostages were reported earlier to have been forced to wear explosive belts.

The Algerian government had refused to negotiate with the extremists, who were linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and appear to include Algerians, Libyans, Egyptians and at least one commander from Niger.

Algeria’s state-run media earlier reported that 12 refinery workers, including Algerians and foreigners, had been killed since a government operation to retake the plant began Thursday. Unconfirmed media reports suggested that as many as 35 foreign captives may have been killed, including some struck by gunfire from the Algerian military.

The militants, some dressed in fatigues, were armed with machine guns and rocket launchers. The compound is encircled by army tanks, troops and special forces. A Mauritanian news agency that has been in contact with the extremists said the captors were holding two American, three Belgians, one Japanese and one Briton.

The Algerian government on Friday said 573 Algerians and nearly 100 of an estimated 132 foreign hostages had been freed or had escaped. But the chaotic scene at the gas compound at In Amenas has frustrated international officials who complained they were not consulted about the Algerian military’s operations at the plant.

The natural gas refinery at In Amenas is also jointly operated by BP; Statoil, a Norwegian firm; and Sonatrach, the Algerian national oil company.

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Marine Times: USMC embassy guard boost will be tough

Thank you to Jenifer Adkins for directing this story my way. AA

The Marine Corps could face significant challenges filling a congressional mandate to nearly double its number of Marine embassy security guards at a time when the service is drawing down its active-duty force.

In response to the deadly attack in September on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Congress has called for 1,000 new Marine security guards to provide additional protection for U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world. With 1,200 Marine security guards currently assigned to more than 130 countries, this would boost the total number by nearly twofold.

The additional guards would be assigned to the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, which is based in Quantico, Va., and to regional commands and detachments at embassies, consulates and diplomatic facilities worldwide. The extra personnel would be authorized beginning fiscal year 2014, and would be available for three years.

A Marine Corps spokesman at the Pentagon, Capt. Gregory Wolf, told Marine Corps Times that the service anticipates it will be able to assess and train the enough Marines to fulfill the new requirement.

But filling manpower quotas has been a challenge even when the State Department capped the authorized number of Marine security guards at much lower levels, said Andrew Bufalo, a retired Marine master sergeant who served as a detachment commander at American embassies in the Republic of Congo and Australia. He’s the author of “Ambassadors in Blue,” a book about the Embassy Security Group. Nearly doubling its size won’t come easy, Bufalo said.

“When you look at the quality of troops you need out at the [Embassy Security Group], usually they’re the better Marines, so commanders don’t want to let them go to that duty,” he said. “Then you get to the school and you have a high attrition rate because the standards are high.”

Read More HERE

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My Response to a Post by Peter Bergen on Benghazi

Peter Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst and the author of “Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden — From 9/11 to Abbottabad,” an outstanding book. He’s also one of my favorite commentators on terrorism and is consistently on target. However, I took issue with his defense of the Obama administration on the opinion page of CNN.com. Here’s an excerpt from his piece: 

What is the Republican theory of the case against Rice? It appears to boil down to the idea that leading Democrats covered up the involvement of terrorists in some way connected to al Qaeda in the Benghazi attack during the run-up to the close presidential election because President Obama and others in his administration had for some time said that al Qaeda was close to strategic defeat.

 

Does this case make sense? First, you would have to accept that Obama, Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton all knowingly deceived the American public about what had happened at the Benghazi consulate.

Read the whole piece at CNN.com HERE

In response, I offer the following:

Peter, you ignore the point that by creating a cause entirely out of whole cloth–namely, citing The Innocence of Muslims–the administration also provoked more unrest, protests, and riots in Libya and other Middle Eastern nations. The president in turn made unnecessary statements on national TV and before the UN decrying a video no one would have seen had they not created such a lie. And Ansar al-Sharia isn’t so stupid as to not know they would be immediate suspects especially when they were claiming responsibility.

I’ve not received a response.

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Senate Leaders Stand Ground Against a Rice Appointment

Thankfully, Senators McCain, Ayotte, and Graham are not backing down from their criticism of, and concerns about, the prospect of Ambassador Rice becoming Secretary Rice.  The administration has failed to provide the country with anything resembling the truth, and she has done nothing but prevaricate on the Benghazi affair before national audiences.  Instead, the president has been defensive and combative.  -AA

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* Republican McCain says ‘troubled’ by answers

* Senators will not support her until questions resolved

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON, Nov 27 (Reuters) – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Tuesday failed to win over her harshest Republican critics in the U.S. Senate who are threatening to block her nomination if President Barack Obama chooses her for Secretary of State or another top post in his second-term Cabinet.

Rice met for about an hour behind closed doors at the U.S. Capitol with Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte. They have openly criticized her for initial comments after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi that suggested it was a spontaneous event arising from protests of an anti-Islam film rather than a premeditated attack.

The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in the attack on the Benghazi mission and a nearby CIA annex. Intelligence officials later said the attack was possibly tied to al Qaeda affiliates.

“We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got, and some that we didn’t get, concerning evidence that was overwhelming leading up to the attack on our consulate,” McCain told reporters after the meeting.

“It is clear that the information that she gave the American people was incorrect when she said that it was a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video,” he said.

“It was not, and there was compelling evidence at the time that that was certainly not the case, including statements by Libyans as well as other Americans who are fully aware that people don’t bring mortars and rocket-propelled grenades to spontaneous demonstrations,” McCain said.

Republicans have argued that the Obama administration tried to play down the terrorist angle in its initial comments to avoid undermining the president’s claims of success in fighting al Qaeda in the run-up to the Nov. 6 election.

Rice was accompanied by acting CIA Director Michael Morell and was not seen by reporters, but later issued a statement saying: “We explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi.”

“While, we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved,” she said. “We stressed that neither I nor anyone else in the Administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process.”

Obama has defended Rice and said if senators have a problem with the administration’s handling of Benghazi they should “go after me” rather than try to “besmirch her reputation.”

Graham also criticized U.S. intelligence agencies that wrote the talking points on which Rice based her public comments.

“I’m very disappointed in our intelligence community. I think they failed in many ways. But with a little bit of inquiry and curiosity, I think it would be pretty clear that to explain this episode as related to a video that created a mob that turned into a riot was far afield,” he said. “And at the end of the day, we’re going to get to the bottom of this.”

Rice’s controversial Benghazi statements were based on a set of unclassified talking points prepared by U.S. intelligence agencies for members of Congress.

The initial draft written by the CIA referred to “attacks” carried out by “extremists with ties to al Qaeda.” However by the time Rice received them, “attacks” had changed to “demonstrations” and “with ties to al Qaeda” had been deleted, multiple U.S. sources have said.

The White House has denied making those edits and members of Congress are trying to determine where the changes were made.

The senators who met with Rice remained unconvinced by her responses and said her visit left them with greater concerns than before the meeting.

“I wouldn’t vote for anybody being nominated out of the Benghazi debacle until I had answers about what happened that I don’t have today,” Graham said.

Asked whether he would block such a nomination, Graham said: “Oh, absolutely. I would place a hold on anybody that wanted to be promoted for any job that had a role in the Benghazi situation.”

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PETRAEUS KNEW FROM THE START IT WAS TERRORISM

via AFP-

WASHINGTON: The row over the assault on the US mission in Libya has narrowed to focus on how and why the CIA’s determination that it was a terror attack was left out of a public “talking points” memo.

Armed militants stormed the US mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi on September 11 in a coordinated assault at two different locations over several hours that left US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

President Barack Obama alluded to the attack being an “act of terror” almost immediately, but senior administration officials then started suggesting it resulted spontaneously from protests at an anti-Islam video posted on YouTube.

In hearings in Congress on Friday, former CIA chief David Petraeus, in his first public outing since his humbling resignation due to an extramarital affair with his biographer, said he knew from the start it was terrorism.

Rather than putting the matter to rest, his remarks — which sounded very different depending on whether you believed the Republican or Democratic interpretations after the closed-door hearings — just raised more questions.

Dianne Feinstein, Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, vowed on Sunday to investigate why Petraeus’ conclusion was not reflected in CIA “talking points” used by the administration to inform the public days later.

The stakes of the row are high as Obama mulls picking US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice as his next secretary of state despite the fact that Republicans accuse her of misleading the public over Benghazi.

If he does and Republicans dig their heels in during the Senate confirmation process, a bitter partisan fight looms at the start of Obama’s second term just when he is looking to bridge the Washington divide on budget talks and possible immigration reforms.

Rice, seen as the up-and-coming star of US diplomacy prior to Benghazi, fell into the Republican crosshairs when she took to the Sunday morning talk shows five days after the attack at the behest of the White House.

She said initial intelligence indicated that the assault arose “spontaneously” out of “copycat” protests like the ones in Cairo, and that the attack did not appear to be pre-planned or premeditated.

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Grinnin’ Joe Biden adds more confusion to Libya story with debate claim on security

Vice President Biden’s claim at Thursday’s debate that the administration wasn’t told of requests for more diplomatic security in the run-up to the Libya terror attack added only more confusion to an already muddled narrative.

In addition to raising eyebrows over that comment, the vice president went a step further and threw the intelligence community under the bus — putting the blame squarely on their shoulders for the faulty narrative, pushed for more than a week by the administration, that the attack was a protest spun out of control.

The exchange on Libya, which opened the debate in Kentucky, was among the toughest in a persistently confrontational face-off. But Biden’s comment on security was drawing widespread condemnation from Republicans Friday, with Romney adviser Dan Senor saying Biden “continued the administration’s pattern of misleading” on Libya.

Biden referenced the security when pressed about earlier criticism from Republican running mate Paul Ryan about the protection of diplomatic posts in Libya.

“Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again,” Biden said.

However, State Department officials who testified Wednesday before a House committee acknowledged there were indeed earlier requests for more security staffing — though they also suggested more staffing would not have prevented the Sept. 11 tragedy in Benghazi.

Two former security officers who testified at that hearing, including former top security official Eric Nordstrom, expressed frustration at how their appeals for more resources were rebuffed.

“We were fighting a losing battle. We couldn’t even keep what we had,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, former head of a 16-member U.S. military team that helped protect the embassy in Tripoli.

During the debate, Ryan later challenged the vice president on his comment.

“There were requests for extra security; those requests were not honored,” he said, adding that there should be Marines in Benghazi.

Biden also stated definitively Thursday that it was the intelligence community that originally surmised the attack was just a protest spun out of control — rather than a coordinated terror strike.

“That was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community. The intelligence community told us that. As they learned more facts about exactly what happened, they changed their assessment,” Biden said.

State Department officials who testified Wednesday suggested as well that when U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice claimed the Sunday after the attack that protests over an anti-Islam film were to blame, she was merely basing her comments on the intelligence at the time.

However, lawmakers by that point had been publicly challenging the notion that the protests were a factor. And sources have since confirmed that some in the intelligence community were pointing to terrorism within 24 hours of the attack.

Fox News

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Libya’s new leader declares an Islamic state

Foreign Policy magazine reported that Libya’s new leader has declared the country an Islamic state.  Simply put, that can’t be good.  In the end, though I’m all for the intervention, what was really accomplished? AA

In February, when Libya erupted in spontaneous protests that quickly turned into an armed revolt, Muammar al-Qaddafi and his son Seif al-Islam had a ready response: This was an al Qaeda-backed uprising, a plot to install “Islamic emirates” paying homage to Osama bin Laden.

The world scoffed (especially after the Qaddafis accused the revolutionaries of a lot more outlandish things, from putting hallucinogenic drugs in their Nescafe to being simple “criminals”). These weren’t jihadist terrorists — they were ordinary Libyans seeking freedom from an evil, capricious tyrant. And their leaders were secular liberals, people like Mahmoud Jibril, Mahmoud Shammam, and Ali Tarhouni — who sold the revolution to the West and made NATO intervention politically palatable.

This narrative was challenged as it became evident that some of the best anti-Qaddafi fighters were  Islamists like the February 17 Martyrs Brigade, which was later accused by some of killing interim “defense minister” Abdel Fattah Younis. Then, when Tripoli fell in August, one of the most prominent figures to emerge was Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the bearded former emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Belhaj — who claims to have been tortured by the CIA — was at pains to differentiate himself from al Qaeda, but his sudden ascension took many by surprise. Leading Libyan Islamists like exiled cleric Ali al-Sallabi began to agitate against the secularists on the interim council, and Jibril’s continuance in office became untenable.

All this, however, was merely an undercurrent, and the world got swept up in the excitement of the fall of Tripoli and the subsequent liberation of Qaddafi’s strongholds in Bani Walid and Sirte. Last week, the Brother Leader himself was captured and appears to have been executed later that day.

The issue of religion in politics came roaring back Sunday, however, when interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil, thought to be a moderate, declared in his “liberation” address that Libya would be an Islamic state and that sharia law would be a fundamental source of legislation. That remark differed little from statements he had made previously, however (and all Arab states have similar provisions in their constitutions). What did catch people’s attention was when he got into specifics: Libya’s new constitution “will not disallow polygamy,” he said, and charging interest will be forbidden.

Libyans seemed satisfied, but secular Arab commentators were taken aback. Sultan al-Qassemi, an Emirati columnist, tweeted that Abdel Jalil had just declared “the Islamic Republic of Libya.” Gulf News editor Abdul Hamid Ahmad said “Mustafa Abdul Jalil has just given an evidence to all [the] world that [the] Arab uprising will end up to be Islamic states.”

No doubt the international press is going to have a field day, and there will be some serious soul-searching in Western capitals, especially coming after the shocking way in which Qaddafi was killed and the far-from-transparent way in which his autopsy was conducted.

It’s hardly surprising that Libya is heading in a more religious direction — the vast majority of Libyans are conservative Muslims, after all — but what is somewhat alarming is the way Abdel Jalil simply decreed these things from the podium. If Libyans want to outlaw interest and bring back polygamy, fine, but let them do so in a democratic and transparent way: Write a new constitution and let the country vote on it.

What’s amazing is that Abdel Jalil’s speech happened on a day when, next door, Tunisians lined up to vote in what look to be free and fair elections to choose a constitutional assembly. Maybe they’ll end up granting a plurality to the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, and maybe a coalition of liberal and leftist parties will emerge to promote a secular state. Either way, the important thing is that the people are getting a chance to choose in an open and institutionalized process. After today, the gnawing doubts that Libyans will be able to do the same will only grow.

UPDATE: I should note that others had a different interpretation of Abdel Jalil’s speech. Al Jazeera English reports him calling for “a democratic state based on Islamic law” (their paraphrase) and quote him saying, “We strive for a state of the law, for a state of prosperity, for a state that will have Islamic sharia law the basis of legislation.”

I should also add that, while there are clear differences between technocrats like Tarhouni and Islamists like Belhaj, I don’t think religion will much be a faultline in Libyan politics — it’s pretty clear where the bulk of the population stands: in the conservative middle. What is worrisome are the clear geographic faultlines — between east and west, for instance, or between the Western mountains and the coast. Perhaps, then, Islam can serve as a glue that unifies the country as splits begin to emerge over reconstruction, how to distribute oil revenues, and the some $200 billion Qaddafi left behind.

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The Final Message from Osama bin Laden

On May 18, 2011 Al-Qaida’s As-Sahab Media Foundation released the final audio message of the “martyr” Usama Bin Laden addressed “to the Muslim Ummah.” In the recording, Bin Laden attempted to endorse and encourage ongoing revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and beyond. According to Bin Laden, “This revolution was not one about food or clothes, but a revolution of glory and defiance; a revolution of sacrifice and giving.” He continued, “To the free rebels in all our countries: take the lead in moving forward and beware of any dialogue, as there is no middle way.” He counseled, “The youth…should not do anything before consulting those honest ones with actual expertise who are alien to half-solutions.”

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