A CIA timetable and a report by the Wall Street Journal, both released on Nov. 1, have revealed the extent to which the CIA was involved in responding to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the agency’s massive presence in the country. The attack ended in the killing of ambassador Christopher Stephens, an architect of the war on Libya, and three others.
We now know that at least two of the three others killed were not diplomats or members of a security team, as was initially reported, but were former Navy SEALs who were working for the CIA.
While most news outlets have focused on the level of confusion that took place in the response to the attack, the report is significant in that it provides further confirmation of the colonialist nature of U.S. involvement in Libya. The report also illustrates the role of U.S. embassies throughout the world, which function not as sites for diplomacy but as sites for covert operations and intelligence gathering.
Further, the revelations shed light on the CIA’s massive presence in the once-sovereign country. CIA agents in Tripoli were dispatched to Benghazi to respond to the attack. The CIA has an armed compound in Benghazi about one mile from the U.S. embassy, which was also attacked on Sept. 11. The Wall Street Journal wrote: “the U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation.”
It is now known that several news agencies, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Associated Press, had known about the CIA’s extensive presence in Libya and role that it played in responding to the attacks, but had agreed to a request by the CIA not to make that information public. (The Huffington Post, Nov. 2) These news agencies, in other words, withheld information from the public in order to help the CIA frame the attack on Benghazi as an attack on U.S. diplomacy instead of what it was: an attack on U.S. imperialism.
A timetable released by the CIA suggests that the attack was planned and executed by a grouping of militants, countering the original State Department narrative which attributed the attack to a group of demonstrators protesting against an anti-Islamic film. During the first wave of the attack a fire was started with diesel fuel, which filled the embassy with a thick smoke, immobilizing those inside. As a convoy tried to flee the embassy, it came under fire from militants. Then, when the convoy reached the CIA base, that compound came under fire from weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.
The CIA’s now massive presence in Libya is yet another affirmation that what took place in Libya last year was indeed a counterrevolution. Following the 1969 Libyan revolution led by Moammar Gaddafi, the country embarked on a path of nationalist development, which included purging two British military bases and the U.S. operated Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli.