Benghazi’s Real Scandal: Why Is the Libyan Investigation Such a Mess?

As the Benghazi episode takes center stage in Washington, questions loom over why the Libyans have bungled the investigation

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Mohammad Hannon / AP

A man investigates inside the U.S. consulate after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012

For two months now, politicians in Washington have argued furiously over who is to blame for the attack against the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, which killed the ambassador and three other Americans. And while that argument is sure to rage again on Thursday and Friday during a closed-door hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, there is another controversy roiling about that disastrous assault — in Benghazi itself. There, Libyans are questioning why officials have failed to place a single suspect in custody or, for that matter, to conduct many probing interrogations, despite the attack’s damaging impact on Libya’s international standing. “There is no serious investigation being undertaken by the Libyan authorities,” Rami el-Obeidi, the former intelligence chief for the Libyan rebels’ National Transitional Council, told TIME by phone on Wednesday. He says “the Libyan authorities are unwilling to conduct a proper investigation into the terrorist attack, as this would expose them to retaliation from extremist militias.”

In phone interviews on Wednesday, some Libyans describe the investigation into the attack on Sept. 11 as haphazard, inept and in parts half-hearted. There was a sense among some of those reached that an investigation that went too deeply could set off unwanted recriminations. “I’m not sure there is any progress right now,” says Ali Tarhouni, a secular politician, speaking after he landed in Tripoli from a visit to Benghazi. “Nothing has really happened. There is no credible source of information.” Despite government assurances last month that some arrests had been made, “there are none that I can authenticate,” he says.

El-Obeidi, however, has examined the details and believes the assault was a sophisticated, preplanned operation and that Ambassador Christopher Stevens might himself have been the target. Stevens, who was popular among rebel leaders as the sole American diplomat stationed in Benghazi during the revolution, was initially believed to have been caught in the attack through sheer bad luck. But el-Obeidi says he believes armed militant groups had scoped out the consulate and knew of Stevens’ whereabouts.

Part of the problem in the Benghazi investigation, to be sure, is the general upheaval of postwar Libya, which is still digging out from 42 years of dictatorship. The country has barely a functional government, and its security forces comprise a patchwork of armed militias, some of whom are locked in lethal rivalries between one another.

But besides the possible ineptitude of some officials, el-Obeidi believes some elements of Libya’s law-enforcement structures were themselves involved in the attack, essentially compromising any probe of the details. The lack of investigation, he says, is “because of the suspected implication of some of the members of Benghazi’s law-enforcement and security services who belong to or sympathize with extremist movements.” The man named as the main suspect, Ahmed Abu Khattala, leader of the Islamist organization Ansar al-Shari‘a, has not been arrested, and in October, conducted interviews in a Benghazi hotel with the New York Times and Reuters. When a reporter from McClatchy Newspapers this week asked a militia commander in Benghazi why Khattala had not been arrested, he said if he arrested Khattala, “a member of his forces will get him out.”

Despite elections in July, previous attempts to form a ruling coalition have failed, and although the newest government was sworn into office on Wednesday, it still lacks an Interior Minister — the person who, presumably, would be responsible for arresting the Benghazi attackers and bringing them to court. In the vacuum, says el-Obeidi, “the only real investigation and intelligence gathering being efficiently undertaken is by the U.S. authorities.”

Then there is the matter of Libya’s justice system. On Wednesday, a Benghazi judge, Naima Gebril, told TIME that the city’s jurists had gathered shortly after the attack to appoint a judge to oversee the investigation. That judge quit quickly, however, after a single visit to the burnt-out consulate — a building that now stands in ruins and has been left unguarded since the attack nine weeks ago. “He went to look at the consulate and said it was impossible to make a good investigation, because everything was destroyed,” Gebril says. “So we chose another person from Tripoli, because he speaks very good English. But perhaps he too will say no.” Even if that process goes ahead, she says, weeks of delay has been deeply damaging to the investigation. “Much of the proof has disappeared,” she says.

Assuming witnesses and evidence can be found, there is still only a vague line of command. In her article on Tuesday, the McClatchy Newspapers journalist described the deep confusion among Libyan officials about who was even in charge of investigating the attack. The country’s deputy interior minister told her that the prosecutor was, and the Supreme Security Council, which organizes the Libyan National Army, told her that the police were. The prosecutor, meanwhile, did not know who was in charge.

69 comments
TIME_correspondent
TIME_correspondent

The Petrause scandal is deeply related to Beghanzi attack. Ms. Broadwell had stated in her speech in October at University of Denver; "They were trying to rescue the hostages from the annex of Consulate." Kelly was Honourary Ambassador to JSOC; a commando squad of Midfield Air Base CentCom, Tampa in Florida. This unit is engaged with Pentagon in the investigations of Beghanzi attack. Thunit was supposedly involved in the hostage-taking operation in Beghanzi.It is now getting clearer fro the "Never-Started Investigtions" & the US-act of abanoning the Libyan Guards; that Truth is what was revealed by s. Broawell in the Denver Versity speech.

I recall Jimmy Carter's operationin Tehran on the verge of his second-term poll which failed.

Putney
Putney

A cover-up of MOSSAD complicity, compromised CIA operatives, and a deep divide within the Halls of Power.

JerryHowe
JerryHowe

Let us forget about this stupid thing. It has no redeeming value, and most people that are interested in making an issue out of it have  no real grasp of diplomatic missions abroad and how security is handled or of foreign affairs in general. They have no or very little  knowledge of the world outside of the U.S. sphere of influence .

So for the sake of all of us, let us all put this in the past.

MikeTatom
MikeTatom

Well that's just great. It appears that Libya is just as back-asswards as the rest of the Middle East--still locked in the 7th century where people are murdered on the streets by Islamic barbarians. These people are a threat to modern civilization. They're the lowest form of humanity-both ignorant and violent.   

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight

Its a mess because half the gov wants this to be about what they want to believed happened Vs what actually happened.  But then again these are the same men and woman who believe women have special anti rape sperm defenses and  that dinosaurs walked with early men.

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

"the consulate"

There is no US consulate in Benghazi, which is why State didn't care about security and why State tried to avoid responsibility. It was a CIA operation with about two dozen agents.  (Ineffective in intelligence, of course.) Why should State provide security for CIA? Besides, the Agency likes to keep a low profile.

The US does not have an embassy, a consulate or a diplomatic mission in Benghazi. There are none listed on this State Department list of all the US embassies and consulates in the world.

http://www.usembassy.gov/

On September 12, 2012, SecState Clinton made two statements. She never used the word “consulate.”To describe the place that was attacked in Benghazi she used instead the words ‘U.S. diplomatic post, compound, our buildings and our office.’

http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2012/09/197654.htm

http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2012/09/197630.htm

There is (and was) no US consulate in Benghazi. No consul. No consular officials. No commercial officers. No diplomats of any kind. No consulate. It was a CIA operation with two dozen agents which the US has euphemistically called a "mission." Gives it a religious flavor. Chris Stevens was in this dangerous, volatile city in eastern Libya to coordinate CIA arms shipments to Turkey. His last official act in Benghazi was a dinner meeting with the Turkish ambassador. 

Why doesn't Libya investigate an attack on the US CIA? Let me guess: The CIA is not a popular organization.

cml.taxgod
cml.taxgod

Problem - Lack of credibility by the Republicans.

The problem is a gap in communication involving what the right and left think is the "truth." To the Democrats, the truth is whatever comes out of the investigations. For the right, the truth is "Obama is a worthlessly incompetent idiot that never should have been elected." 

Until you see their "truth," the Republicans are never going to stop this endless attempt to tar and feather Obama. You are also going to find that they don't care much for the outcome of these investigations unless it leads to their "truth" about Obama. 

See everyone. Obama is so incompetent. Aren't we all just terribly disgusted that we voted for him? Geez, if we would have just known this before the election, it would have factored in to my choice.............not one iota. Just knowing that Obama didn't say exactly what the Republicans wanted when they wanted, would have definitely made me vote for Mitt. These guys think America is retarded and cannot remember what happened last week, let alone 10 years ago. 

FrankBlank
FrankBlank

The posts show the almost unimaginable stupidity of the right.  The can't understand what happened or even the articles they read, so they respond with their deepest feeling: their always available hatred. But most sickening of all is their hypocritical display of crocodile tears.  4 dead Americans: they weep, wail and want to start a war. 11 dead Americans: they want to apologize to BP.  Filth.    

gracechiou88
gracechiou88

Following the Benghazi attack, diplomats and reporters have to be extremely careful about their personal safety in Lybia.  It seems the nation is still rebuilding.

SaloumehZ
SaloumehZ

@ldommel Yes, I believe that is true.

tfdrumm
tfdrumm

After 7 hours, why wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that the incident had run its course? I.e., that is was over.

robert.david.steele.vivas
robert.david.steele.vivas

An independent veteran's investigation has already taken a close look, and published a graphic of the DoD assets 1-2 hours from Benghazi during the seven hours from time of call for help to first two Americans being killed.  7 hours.  Our analysis of where all failed, but particularly the Secretary of Defense once the President allegedly gave orders to do everything possible, was in failing to move anyone for SEVEN HOURS.  See 

http://tinyurl.com/DoDBenghaziMap

also consider

http://tinyurl.com/Kerry-Flournoy

JeffLz
JeffLz

The Republicans cannot overcome their humiliation in the 2012 election by making political hay out of the tragic deaths of American diplomats. Where were these hypocrites when Bush/Cheney ignored all warnings about 9/11?

tfdrumm
tfdrumm

"Obeidi, however, has examined the details and believes that the assault was a sophisticated, preplanned operation, and that Ambassador Christopher Stevens might himself have been the target."

So the plan was to attack the consulate, set it on fire, then hope that the Ambassador might die of smoke inhalation?  Sure was a sophisticated plan.

doubleJ
doubleJ

Libya is the responsible party in the attack on the American consulate and Obama administration has done nothing about it. We need justice not cover ups. It is blatantly obvious that this was a terrorist attack and the administration lied to the American people but this is not the solution to the crisis. We need to move on and respond to this attack wich should be considered an act of war. The administration's lack of response is sending a message across the world that America can be attacked and they will not fight back. The entire region is escalating into all out war. The Muslim Brotherhood will take advantage of our weakness and attack Israel from all sides. This group is not our allies. When will the Obama administration respond after Israel is eliminated completly?

PaulE.Grayson
PaulE.Grayson

It is amazing to me after reading the witch hunt motivated bloggers responses here that they have such a deep understanding of the heavily classified information of our intelligence agencies that such blame at this juncture can be levied. I would suggest that time will prevail as it did with Ben Landin and the guilty will in the end pay for their crimes. People the election is over, get used to it!  

sedj4wd
sedj4wd

Delusion,Deprive,Dishonor, this is the image that President Obama has brought to our Military men & to the image of America around the globe.When education and wealth are fought by states and freedom has to make a stand for who we are . Then Obama has a mirror that has an image to destroy our values and Liberty's to all men ,women and children looking for peace and independence from socialismWe will always complete the Mission to the Best of our Ability.We will Never Surrender.We will Never leave a Soldier behind.An attack on any one of us is an attack on us all.Where goes one so goes us all.Four Americans were murdered and watched Live . And President Obama went to a donation event .Chris Stevens, 52, United States AmbassadorSean Smith, 34, former U.S. Air ForceGlen Doherty, 42, former U.S. Navy SealTyrone Woods, 41, former U.S. Navy SealTyrone { Tyrone left behind 3 kids 1 a new born and a wife }President Obama deserted the Code of a Leader and Solder !!!

falcon269
falcon269

The terrorist attack was successful because embassy security was outsourced to mercenaries under policies set in place by Dubya. Obama made a huge mistake not returning security to the U.S. Marine Corps. There is a big difference between attacking civilian mercenaries and the USMC.

MikadoCat
MikadoCat

Amazing, so the Libyans are far ahead and much more advanced and serious in there investigation than Obama. Obama still doesn't know what he knew or what he did yet, let alone what anyone else knew or did.

So how does this relate to Iraq and WMD? With Iraq the entire intelligence community agreed it was a grave risk, congress was fully informed and voted on the action against Iraq, and perhaps the largest point, the presence or absence of WMD did not materially alter the need to neutralize Saddam Hussein. After France and Russia blocked any serious economic sanctions little alternative remained.

With Benghazi there was live feed, video and phone, of the organized militia attacking. Video that shows the walls and other features of the facility did not meet minimum security standards. CNN Canada covered the Cairo demonstration demanding the release of the Blind Sheik. It was 9/11, and NOTHING pointed to it being other than Alkada marking the date to show it was still a major power in the area. Where it gets nasty isn't Obama lying and blaming a video, going so far as to send the FBI after the maker of the video, and telling the public for week it was about the video. The nasty part is what Obama covered up with those lies, why he chose to let the people die.

DolsonP
DolsonP

Where is the outrage over the WMD lies that started the Iraq war and killed nearly a billion people/

We demand an investigation and punishment for the perpetrators of this lie, Bush and Cheney.

RockyShorz
RockyShorz

@SaloumehZ @ParamjitGarewal @TIMEWorld now the same group involved is launching rockets from #Egypt into #Israel

RockyShorz
RockyShorz

@SaloumehZ @ParamjitGarewal @TIMEWorld the story ends up being the same as the timeline I shared from the Libyan Brigade commander.

marcoslee
marcoslee

I have been in the loop of the coordination of many of the terrorists attacks against the U.S. and U.S. interests over the past 20 years.  My contact, a former Soviet GRU agent, has demonstrated her prior knowledge and influence in the 1993 WTC attack, the attack on the USS Cole and the African Embassy bombings, 9/11 and the anthrax attack and more.  Most attacks these recent two decades have been a continuation of the cold war coordination of the earlier decades.  The attack against Tel Aviv this week is included.  The project is one of revenge by rogue former elements of the Soviet cold war.  This is absolutely real and certain.  Read my reports in a free download at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/occupythewhitehouse

mbsludwig
mbsludwig

In response to 'Floridaskies' comment that the president was 'MIA when American's are dieing(sic)', then it must follow that GWB/coherts were MIA during the Iraq war he started, and there was none of this angst over comments by Condi Rice nor Colin Powell. Get your facts straight b-4, and refrain from showing your ignorance, although I could assume your are from FL and knowing their difficulties with facts & voting.

superlogi
superlogi

It's a stupid question. You know why and it has nothing to do with a government that can barely prop itself up.  What it has to do with an incompetent running a super-power who is more engaged in golf and an election than in finding out what went wrong.  On the other hand, maybe he knows what went wrong.  But, I doubt the rest of us will ever find out.

dpharrington
dpharrington

Many posters seem not to have read beyond the headline and perhaps the first third of the first paragraph of an eight-paragraph story, whose subject is  the ineffectiveness of the investigation by the LIBYAN Government.

The sole mention of US involvement on-site is from an interview with  Rami el-Obeidi:  “[T]he only real investigation and intelligence gathering being efficiently undertaken is by the U.S. authorities."

JerryHowe
JerryHowe

@Don_Bacon He took well calculated risks that did not pan out well. This is part of a consulars life in a place like  Libya. All people in the diplomatic corps from all countries take risks like this from time to time. It is part of the job. Most of the time they are safe, but sometimes thing go bad, and in the worst cases they may indeed lose their life. 

This is part of what makes these appointments exciting and challenging.

JerryHowe
JerryHowe

@cml.taxgod Tar and Feather ? Forget Obama, It is Mitt  and Ann Romney that need to be tarred and feathered. 

JerryHowe
JerryHowe

@gracechiou88  Again, this is part of the reason that foreign service people and foreign journalists choose these professions. They thrive on the element of risk, uncertainty and challenge of it all. This is true every where in the world and certainly more so in war zones.  They love the life.

robert.david.steele.vivas
robert.david.steele.vivas

@tfdrumm Ambassador was collateral damage and failure to protect him falls on State and SecDef.  There was no diplomatic presence in Benghazi other than the visiting Ambassador.  It was a CIA base involved in an undeclared unauthorized war on Syria, the Treaty of Westphalia still being in effect.  The attack on Benghazi has nothing to do with Bimbo-Gate, it DOES have something to do with the Lebanese general car bombed to death on 19 October, he was the front man for the CIA operation running arms, very clumsily and overtly   Or so say the open sources.  Congress is being diddled.http://tinyurl.com/DoDBenghaziMap

cml.taxgod
cml.taxgod

Looks as if the Repubs are going to get the angry, white male vote next election. Oh God, never mind. They already firmly had that demographic. Which begs the question. Why are they still spending massive amounts of time trying to shore up that group in ways that will likely alienate that ones they aren't getting?

These searches for the truth are going to become expensive come election time. I don't think Daryl Issa's last one did more than make the same people angry that already hated Obama.

But either way. Look everyone, Double J woke up on January 20th, 2009 expecting 100% accurate information from the government days after the fact. hahaha. That is so funny. This must be your first day in the country. This guy has been lied every day on this Earth by the government, but a consulate attack in Libya is just where he MUST draw the line. I mean, this is massive compared to anything the government has ever done. Obama knew it was dark blue and not sky blue. And if he didn't then he should have. I am straight waiting for a cuckoo to jump out of your head my man. 

FrankBlank
FrankBlank

@doubleJ  So what do you expect the administration to do?  Send in the B-52's?  Or ground troops?  A million?  Two million?  Do you think the then administration should have rocketed the homes of the executives of Massey Energy after they killed 37 Americans?  What do you think? Think?

tfdrumm
tfdrumm

@doubleJ 

So it is news to you that the CIA is sometimes secretive, even stooping to the tactic of disinformation?  Have you ever watched a spy movie?

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight

@sedj4wd anti Americans like you are the one's who bring dishonor upon us. Obama has the mandate of the American people for another 4 years. And in all likelihood  if the GOP doesn't banish the extreme right back into the dank caves they crawled out the Dems will pick up the presidency in 2016.

tfdrumm
tfdrumm

@sedj4wd There are other channels than FOX, you know.  In your impliedly vast military experience, did you ever notice that disinformation was used as a tactic?  

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight

@falcon269 civilian mercenaries who have a track record of being drunken criminals.

Its time for the DoD to end this none sense of contracting  jobs out that should be handled by the armed forces.

SaloumehZ
SaloumehZ

@rockyshorz Launching rockets from Egypt? Do you have a link for that?

Floridaskies
Floridaskies

ALL Presidents are accountable to the people.  The people should beoutraged!!! The media should be asking the right questions.  Have welearned any lessons?  Your personal attacks of me do little for the families of our 4 deadAmericans.  Don't fight with me - use that energy to ask your representative and Obama what they knew, when did they know it and what did they do to protect our fellow Americans. 

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@superlogi 

Yes yes, we've heard your pomp before.  By all means, continue your witch hunt.

Ohiolib
Ohiolib

@superlogi +Pats super on the head+ That's nice. Now run along, and play with your little friends. 

MikadoCat
MikadoCat

@dpharrington What do you suppose they found during half a day three weeks later that went beyond the live video and phone calls from people on the ground? Did they even talk to any locals?

Do the names of the militia members mean anything?

The "crime" is not Alkada doing what it always does, its Obama not doing his job. Failing to provide minimum standard security in a high danger zone, because it did not suit his politics and might offend the locals. Failing to send a serious armed response to save our people, because it might offend the locals. Why can't Obama tell the truth behind his actions?

American-Outlaw
American-Outlaw

Scerry Howe, you sound like a semi-educated Idoit! But, thanks to the "American" Constitution of the United States of AMERICIA! you have the right to sound ignorant.

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight

@Floridaskies Nice, I saw 3 Americans die with in 20 minutes in Iraq hunting for WMDs that the then president knew didn't exist. Where was all the Righteous Republican outrage back then?

JerryHowe
JerryHowe

@American-Outlaw :

Thanks for the reply. It takes a truly ignorant, semi-educated person to know one, especially if you a supporter of the GOP. 

Does Rush Limbaugh ring a bell ?