Intelligence officials angered by Obama administration cover up of intelligence on Iranian, al Qaeda surge in Egypt and Libya
Weeks before the presidential election, President Barack Obama’s administration faces mounting opposition from within the ranks of U.S. intelligence agencies over what careerofficers say is a “cover up” of intelligence information about terrorism in North Africa.
Intelligence held back from senior officials and the public includes numerous classified reports revealing clear Iranian support for jihadists throughout the tumultuous North Africa and Middle East region, as well as notably widespread al Qaeda penetration into Egypt and Libya in the months before the deadly Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
“The Iranian strategy is two-fold: upping the ante for the Obama administration’s economic sanctions against Iran and perceived cyber operations against Iran’s nuclear weapons program by conducting terror attacks on soft U.S. targets and cyber attacks against U.S. financial interests,” said one official, speaking confidentially.
The Iranian effort also seeks to take the international community’s spotlight off Iran’s support for its Syrian ally.
Two House Republicans, Reps. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), stated in a letter sent this week to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that officials “with direct knowledge of events in Libya” revealed that the Benghazi attack was part of a string of terror attacks and not a spontaneous uprising against an anti-Muslim video produced in the U.S. The lawmakers have scheduled congressional hearings for Oct. 10.
Susan Phalen, spokeswoman for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.), said the panel is “reviewing all relevant intelligence and the actions of the [intelligence community], as would be expected of the oversight committee.”
But she noted: “At this point in time it does not appear that there was an intelligence failure.”
Intelligence officials pointed to the statement issued Sept. 28 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) that raised additional concern about the administration’s apparent mishandling of intelligence. The ODNI statement said that “in the immediate aftermath, there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo.”
Officials say the ODNI’s false information was either knowingly disseminated or was directed to be put out by senior policy officials for political reasons, since the statement was contradicted by numerous intelligence reports at the time of the attack indicating it was al Qaeda-related terrorism.
Among the obvious signs of terrorism was the arms used by the attackers, who were equipped with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.
A U.S. intelligence official who disputes the idea of an Obama administration coverup said: “Intelligence professionals follow the information wherever it leads.”
“When there isn’t definitive information, it makes sense to be cautious,” the official said. “There has never been a dogmatic approach to analyzing what happened in Benghazi. Staying open to alternative explanations—and continually refining assessments as new and credible information surfaces—is part of the intelligence business.”
Officials with access to intelligence reports, based on both technical spying and human agents, said specific reporting revealed an alarming surge in clandestine al Qaeda activity months before the attack in Benghazi.
Yet the Obama administration sought to keep the information from becoming public to avoid exposing what the officials say is a Middle East policy failure by Obama.