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Thursday, September 20

Ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered the night before he was to attend a key meeting on improving security in Libya's oil sector

Long War Journal's sources have backed up the Fox News report last night that a former al Qaeda guest at Gitmo was most likely involved in planning for the September 11 raid on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. All this backs up the claim, which John Batchelor was the first to present to the public, that the attack on the embassy had nothing to do with an anti-Islam video and that it was an al Qaeda/AQ-linked commando operation.

Yet as fans of murder mystery novels know, a motive that seems self-evident at the start of a murder investigation could well turn out to be red herring. Such might be the case with the heavily symbolic date of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens's murder. If it should turn out that the specific date of his murder was incidental to the plot to kill him, then, despite al Qaeda's involvement and their desire to avenge the killing of one of their most valued members, the real mastermind could get away with murder most foul if the true motive for the raid isn't established.

Is there any evidence to suggest that revenge and the desire to strike hard at the USA on an anniversary of 9/11 weren't the primary motives?  There are a few suggestive reports that could point to a more prosaic motive for the murder than revenge and al Qaeda's jihadism.  Recall that at least two of the Americans who were killed along with Amb. Stevens, while referred to as his staff, were in Libya on an intelligence-gathering mission. 

Now watch carefully, don't blink:

September 14, 2012, The (U.K.) Independent
Revealed: inside story of US envoy's assassination
Exclusive: America 'was warned of embassy attack but did nothing'
by Kim Sengupta

The killings of the US ambassador to Libya and three of his staff were likely to have been the result of a serious and continuing security breach, The Independent can reveal.

American officials believe the attack was planned, but Chris Stevens had been back in the country only a short while and the details of his visit to Benghazi, where he and his staff died, were meant to be confidential.

The US administration is now facing a crisis in Libya. Sensitive documents have gone missing from the consulate in Benghazi and the supposedly secret location of the "safe house" in the city, where the staff had retreated, came under sustained mortar attack. Other such refuges across the country are no longer deemed "safe".

Some of the missing papers from the consulate are said to list names of Libyans who are working with Americans, putting them potentially at risk from extremist groups, while some of the other documents are said to relate to oil contracts.
September 20, 2012, Reuters
Security concerns worsen for oil firms in Libyaby Marie-Louise Gumuchian

There has been a spate of attacks on Western missions and organizations in Benghazi, cradle of the Libyan revolt as well as capital of Libya's eastern region where most of the country's oil is produced. Foreign oil companies have their headquarters in Tripoli which is seen as safer.

"Our highest priority is safety. For this reason, we will continue to monitor and assess the situation in Libya carefully," a spokesman for Germany's Wintershall, the oil and gas arm of chemicals group BASF, said in a written statement shortly after last week's attack, adding:

"Our employees in Libya are very concerned by the attacks."

Officials have long spoken of plans to train thousands of former rebel fighters guarding Libya's oil infrastructure under an umbrella oil protection force. However progress has been slow as central authorities remain weak and fighters hold sway.

Shakmak said late U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens had been involved in discussions about security in the oil sector. A Libyan oil source has said he had been due to meet officials at Libya's Arabian Gulf Oil Company the day after the attack.

"He had a lot of positive ideas," Shakmak said.

For U.S. international oil companies in Libya, Stevens' death means they have lost a key interlocutor.

Porter said: "It's going to be a while before the U.S. appoints a new ambassador. And then he/she will have to get up to speed. This is going to slow down U.S. IOCs."


"In addition, IOCs have been shaken by the U.S. intel failure. If the (government) didn't get the intel right, how are the security teams at IOCs supposed to know what's going on? They're all recalibrating their assessments right now."

Officials hope a new government, currently in the making after the election of Mustafa Abu Shagour last week as prime minister, will lead to concrete action to improve security.

"We need strong decision-making, better security," one Libyan oil worker said. "We all want to feel safe."

New details have emerged this week on security arrangements at the Benghazi consulate where there was no military personnel.

There were five civilian American security officers at the consulate, congressional aides said on condition of anonymity.

The State Department said it contracted with a private security firm, U.K.-based Blue Mountain Group, to hire Libyan nationals to carry out security measures at the consulate, such as operate metal detectors and sweep cars for explosives.
To return to the Independent report:
According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and "lockdown", under which movement is severely restricted.

Mr Stevens had been on a visit to Germany, Austria and Sweden and had just returned to Libya when the Benghazi trip took place with the US embassy's security staff deciding that the trip could be undertaken safely.
Amb. Stevens's visit to those countries was surely connected with oil company concerns about the bad security situation in eastern Libya, where the country's oil reserves are located. Benghazi is the capital of eastern Libya.

On Friday, September 14, the same day the Independent report was published, and without naming the newspaper, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney denied The Independent's claim that State had been given warning about an attack on the Benghazi embassy. Yet the Independent's senior diplomatic sources seem to have gotten much right -- although from a source that McClatchy reporters dug up on September 13 there was never any "mob" gathered outside the Benghazi embassy:
No protest before Benghazi attack, wounded Libyan guard says
By Nancy A. Youssef and Suliman Ali Zway

BENGHAZI, Libya — A Libyan security guard who said he was at the U.S. consulate here when it was attacked Tuesday night has provided new evidence that the assault on the compound that left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was a planned attack by armed Islamists and not the outgrowth of a protest over an online video that mocks Islam and its founder, the Prophet Muhammad.

The guard, interviewed Thursday in the hospital where he is being treated for five shrapnel wounds in one leg and two bullet wounds in the other, said that the consulate area was quiet – “there wasn’t a single ant outside,” he said – until about 9:35 p.m., when as many as 125 armed men descended on the compound from all directions.

The men lobbed grenades into the compound, wounding the guard and knocking him to the ground, then stormed through the facility’s main gate, shouting “God is great” and moving to one of the many villas that make up the consulate compound. He said there had been no warning that an attack was imminent.

“Wouldn’t you expect if there were protesters outside that the Americans would leave?” the guard said.
A September 17 McClatchy report filed by Jonathan S. Landay mentioned that the embassy compound's landlord, Mohammed al Bishari, who was present at the time of the attack, independently backed the guard's contention that there had been no protests outside the compound prior to the raid.  Both eyewitnesses described the attack as sudden and well-coordinated.

There is much more to the September 13 McClatchy report -- and, for American readers who're asking why in hell State farmed out to a private British firm such a grave responsibility as arranging guards for an American embassy located in a very dangerous region -- the guard's story backs up the Reuters report that security was provided by a private British firm.

There is also much more coming out about the true security situation in eastern Libya, which the White House, Congress, State Department, Pentagon and the American mainstream media kept carefully hidden from the American public until Amb. Stevens's murder blew the lid off.

Now, of course, U.S. news organizations are scrambling to fill in the blanks for the public. On Monday Robert Windrem, senior investigative producer for NBC News reported:
For years, the United States has been concerned about al-Qaida's recruiting along a coastal highway in eastern Libya. The stretch of highway, extending from Derna in the east, through Benghazi — the scene of the attack on a U.S. consulate that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans last week — to Ajdabiya in the southwest, has earned a reputation as a breeding ground not just for Libya's indigenous Islamists, but also for al-Qaida central on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Counterterrorism experts inside and outside the U.S. government argue that it is not an exaggeration to suggest that the region around Benghazi has become a crucial wellspring for al-Qaida that rivals even its historic breeding ground — Saudi Arabia.
Thanks for letting us know, Mr Windrem; ya'll come back and chew the fat with us any time, hear?

But to return to the murder mystery, fans of the genre also know that often it's the person who is the first to establish a clear account of what happened who's actually the perpetrator of the crime or its mastermind.  With that thought in mind I invite you to study Jonathan Landay's September 17 report, with special attention to these passages:
In a related development, Wanif al Sharif, the deputy interior minister who was in charge of eastern Libya and headed the investigation, was fired, according to the Libya Herald, because of the attack. Sharif was the only Libyan official to publicly say that there had been a protest before the attack. He didn’t respond to calls Monday seeking comment.

Even before the assault, many Libyans had complained about deteriorating security in Benghazi, where the uprising against Gadhafi first erupted. Scores of rogue militias have been drafted by the government to provide security in the absence of a regular force, and the role of extremists, including members of Ansar al Shariah, has been controversial.

The city is divided block by block among the groups, which have kept the weapons they procured during the uprising. Many of the militias occupy bases lined with tanks and machine-gun mounted trucks and are led by self-styled colonels.

Every time there was a bombing or other attack, Sharif blamed remnants of Gadhafi’s regime, despite evidence that groups empowered by the state were behind the violence, said Michel Cousins, the editor of the Libya Herald. The attack on the compound was the last straw for Libya’s first elected government, he said. [Acting Libyan president] Magarief has been a critic of the Interior Ministry before, blaming it last month for involvement in the destruction of mosques and shrines associated with the moderate Sufi strain of Islam. Interior Minister Fawzi Abdel Al handed in his resignation after Magarief’s criticism, but he rescinded it two days later, saying the threat from Islamist militants was too great for him to step down.[...]
With his firing on Monday Wanif al Sharif is going to be a hard man for the FBI to question -- whenever the FBI arrives in Benghazi, that is. On the same Monday a FBI investigation team finally landed in Tripoli -- the long delay in getting to Libya ostensibly because of safety concerns. But the delay has meant that the crime scene is now stone cold.

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