Twitter and email info

Monday, September 8, 2014

Benghazi and Operation Eagle Claw

Link: Operation Eagle Claw

Last night I watched the Fox News special on the Benghazi scandal.  A group of Special Ops guys announced that on the night of the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other
Americans at the CIA Annex in Benghazi, Libya, a CIA official named "Bob" ordered the Ops unit to "stand down".  After 30 minutes, the Ops team moved to the Annex on their own volition, but were too late to affect a rescue.  I haven't read the book these gentlemen have written (I will), but the revelations from the Fox News program do not conflict with the hypothesis I offered in yesterday's blog.

I am not attempting to assign blame to anyone.  Instead, I am simply providing an educational service.  A very delicate relationship exists between the CIA and the Department of State.  On occasion CIA officers are obliged to function within State Department facilities. I cannot and will not elaborate further on that particular statement.  I am comfortable pointing out, though, that one fact which is drilled into the skulls of all CIA operations personnel is that within State Department facilities, the prevailing authority is the Ambassador or Chief of Mission (in 2001 Kosovo, no U.S. embassy existed because Kosovo was still Kosovo-Metohija, a province of Serbia, therefore the highest authority was the Chief of Mission Christopher Dell).  Under normal functions, CIA personnel who are obliged to work within State Department confines will follow the instructions of their Ops Chief, Deputy Chief or Chief of Station.  But at the end of the day, big decisions that have diplomatic fallout potential, are left to the highest Department of State authority.

The decision to conduct either a rescue or an exfil operation in a foreign country is left to the diplomats, with the responsibility falling on the Administration and the President.  In 1980, President Jimmy Carter made the decision to attempt a rescue of 52 captive American diplomats held in Teheran, Iran (Operation Eagle Claw).  The operation failed and Jimmy Carter went on national television and bravely took responsibility (the good old days of "the buck stops here").  The CIA were undoubtedly heavily involved in the planning and operational aspects of Eagle Claw, but at the end of the day, the decision to move was made by Jimmy Carter.  This is the point I was attempting to make in last night's blog.  No CIA officer has the authority to give "thumbs up" or "stand down" to an operation that includes the rescue of an American Ambassador.  Although Bob gave the order, I can safely assume that he was only repeating his instructions.

Since this is a blog, it should be understood that unless I provide a source, anything I say is an opinion backed up by my years of experience.  From my institutional knowledge of the relationship between the CIA and the Department of State, I want to make it clear that I do not believe that the decision to leave those four men to die was made in Langley or in the mind of some mid-level CIA Ops Chief (or Branch Chief, as Bob has become in some of today's news sources).  Without certain bits of information that very few people seem to have access to, I cannot say with certainty who gave what order that night.  I can only say that normally the decision would have been made by the Secretary of State or by the President, in consultation with his/her security team.  When a U.S. Ambassador is trapped and under fire, they usually inform the President, don't they?  Or have things changed that much in the four years I have been away from DC?

No comments:

Post a Comment