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Feb 9

Written by: Diana West
Saturday, February 09, 2013 2:57 AM 

Despite media coverage of the Panetta-Dempsey Benghazi hearing best described as extra-terrestrial -- as in, what planet are these reporters on? -- several new pieces of information are now part of the record. They are not, however, part of the mainstream news feed.

Nonetheless, we now have testaments to the stunning detachment of President Obama and then-Secretary of State Clinton from the Pentagon during the 7 1/2-hour terrorist attack on Americans in Benghazi on September 11-12, 2012. According to both SecDef Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Dempsey, neither Obama nor anyone else at the White House ever contacted Panetta or Dempsey directly again after they initially told the president at around 5 pm Washington time that the US compound in Benghazi was under attack. According to Panetta and Dempsey, then-SecState Clinton never contacted either of them at any time during the attack. (The Washington Times nails the White House for recently claiming the president was "routinely updated" by Panetta and Clinton among others on the night of the attack.)  Further, no aircraft, no soldier was ever ordered into motion to aid Americans under fire, only to evacuate them in the aftermath.

None of this appalling information was headline news in the MSM. It was left to Fox News' Sean Hannity to present a segment called "Was Obama AWOL on Benghazi Night?" and talk radio hosts such as Mark Levin to spread the news. But doesn't this story belong, not just to conservatives, but to all Americans?

Apparently not. Big Media covered the hearing almost exclusively for the news (not unnotable, of course) that emerged under questioning that Panetta and Dempsey both supported arming the Syrian "rebels" last year, along with then-CIA Director Petraeus and SecState Clinton.The White House, we are supposed to believe, overruled them. That's what the NYT reported last weekend -- just in time for this week's Benghazi hearing as a matter of fact. But did Obama really overrule all of his top cabinet officials? What was going on in that CIA annex in Benghazi anyway? (No answers.) Why are the survivors of the attack -- I hear that three (not just the one Mrs. Clinton mentioned in testimony) are still at Walter Reed in recovery -- incommunicado to the point that Rep. Chaffetz and others are not permitted to speak to them, or even learn their names? What would they tell us about what they were doing in Benghazi prior to the attack? And what did Stevens and Turkish consul Ali Akin talk about that night before the attack began anyway? (Here's what Ali Alibi, I mean, Ali Akin told me.) As Fox's Jennifer Griffin has asked, have US investigators interviewed Ali Akin? 

This is just tip-of-the-iceberg stuff next to the massive mystery that stil engulfs Benghazi. We need a solution, and despite our we-don't-see-any-scandal-here-on-Mars media. Whatever Obama was moved to do that ghastly night rather than burn up the hot line to his Pentagon chief, the next day he began the long Obama-Clinton-Rice-Petraeus-Carney denial (abetted by Steve Kroft at CBS)  that any terrorist attack had taken place in Benghazi on the anniversary of 9/11; on the contrary, that a Youtube "insulting" to Islam had "caused" this latest umma-wide eruption.This was their story and they were sticking to it, all told for two weeks until September 25 when the president at the UN publicly embraced Islamic blasphemy law, declaring: "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam."

Phew. That blow-up in Benghazi almost wrecked everything, drew attention to the wrong place, led to news reports that a major covert gun-running operation to arm jihad in Syria might have been in operation out of the CIA Annex in Benghazi, possibly run by or assisted by  Amb. Stevens himself. What a pre-election scandal that almost was! Good thing Mitt Romney was too timid to press it. Good thing Hillary thought to reassure slain ex-SEAL Ty Woods' father that we would be arresting and prosecuting the Youtube video-maker responsible for his son's death ....

The vectors of misdirection are dizzying.

Today, WND's Aaron Klein reminds us just how implausible the administration's denials regarding arming jihad in Syria (Libya redux) really are.

Here is the Feb. 2, 2013 NYT story in which news of Obama's "rebuff" to the plan for arming the Syrian "rebels" appeared.

And here, from this October 2012 article by Clare M. Lopez laying out the Benghazi arms flow theory, is a very interesting Reuters story by Mark Hosenball of August 1, 2012, "Exclusive: Obama Authorizes Secret Support for Syrian Rebels":

It makes interesting re-reading:

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, U.S. sources familiar with the matter said.

Obama's order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence "finding," broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad.

This and other developments signal a shift toward growing, albeit still circumscribed, support for Assad's armed opponents - a shift that intensified following last month's failure of the U.N. Security Council to agree on tougher sanctions against the Damascus government.

The White House is for now apparently stopping short of giving the rebels lethal weapons, even as some U.S. allies do just that.

But U.S. and European officials have said that there have been noticeable improvements in the coherence and effectiveness of Syrian rebel groups in the past few weeks. That represents a significant change in assessments of the rebels by Western officials, who previously characterized Assad's opponents as a disorganized, almost chaotic, rabble.

Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorization, an action not previously reported, could not be determined.

The full extent of clandestine support that agencies like the CIA might be providing also is unclear.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined comment.

'NERVE CENTER'

A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.

Last week, Reuters reported that, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital military and communications support to Assad's opponents.

As Hillary Cinton might say, "Turkey????"

This "nerve center" is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.

Turkey's moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad's departure with growing vehemence. Turkish authorities are said by current and former U.S. government officials to be increasingly involved in providing Syrian rebels with training and possibly equipment.

European government sources said wealthy families in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were providing significant financing to the rebels. Senior officials of the Saudi and Qatari governments have publicly called for Assad's departure.

On Tuesday, NBC News reported that the Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen surface-to-air missiles, weapons that could be used against Assad's helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Syrian government armed forces have employed such air power more extensively in recent days.

NBC said the shoulder-fired missiles, also known as MANPADs, had been delivered to the rebels via Turkey.

Hillary: Turkey???? "Nobody has ever raised that with me,” as she said to Sen. Rand Paul last month.

On Wednesday, however, Bassam al-Dada, a political adviser to the Free Syrian Army, denied the NBC report, telling the Arabic-language TV network Al-Arabiya that the group had "not obtained any such weapons at all." U.S. government sources said they could not confirm the MANPADs deliveries, but could not rule them out either.

Current and former U.S. and European officials previously said that weapons supplies, which were being organized and financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, were largely limited to guns and a limited number of anti-tank weapons, such as bazookas.

Indications are that U.S. agencies have not been involved in providing weapons to Assad's opponents. In order to do so, Obama would have to approve a supplement, known as a "memorandum of notification, to his initial broad intelligence finding.

Further such memoranda would have to be signed by Obama to authorize other specific clandestine operations to support Syrian rebels.

But what about a nice, quiet operation out of someplace no one is thinking about, someplace where the US "footprint" is so light, so low-key as to be unofficial, even undefended....

Reuters first reported last week that the White House had crafted a directive authorizing greater U.S. covert assistance to Syrian rebels. It was unclear at that time whether Obama had signed it.

OVERT SUPPORT

Separately from the president's secret order, the Obama administration has stated publicly that it is providing some backing for Assad's opponents.

The State Department said on Wednesday the U.S. government had set aside a total of $25 million for "non-lethal" assistance to the Syrian opposition. A U.S. official said that was mostly for communications equipment, including encrypted radios.

The State Department also says the United States has set aside $64 million in humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people, including contributions to the World Food Program, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other aid agencies.

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury confirmed it had granted authorization to the Syrian Support Group, Washington representative of one of the most active rebel factions, the Free Syrian Army, to conduct financial transactions on the rebel group's behalf. The authorization was first reported on Friday by Al-Monitor, a Middle East news and commentary website.

Last year, when rebels began organizing themselves to challenge the rule of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Obama also signed an initial "finding" broadly authorizing secret U.S. backing for them. But the president moved cautiously in authorizing specific measures to support them.

Some U.S. lawmakers, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized Obama for moving too slowly to assist the rebels and have suggested the U.S. government become directly involved in arming Assad's opponents.

Other lawmakers have suggested caution, saying too little is known about the many rebel groups.

Recent news reports from the region have suggested that the influence and numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al Qaeda or its affiliates, have been growing among Assad's opponents.

U.S. and European officials say that, so far, intelligence agencies do not believe the militants' role in the anti-Assad opposition is dominant.

While U.S. and allied government experts believe that the Syrian rebels have been making some progress against Assad's forces lately, most believe the conflict is nowhere near resolution, and could go on for years.

(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Warren Strobel and Peter Cooney)

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Copyright 2012 by Diana West