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The Road to Benghazi: Operation Zero Footprint
Carolyn Elkins
July 9, 2014
What is it about Benghazi that some of us won't let go of this story? If I could, I'd ask Woodward and Bernstein what it was that made them hang on to Watergate with the tenacity of two half-starved pit bulls on a bone. I think their answers would be similar to those of us who are still looking for truth of what really happened in Benghazi and why.

Some things never change. Back then the media were brutal in getting to the truth of the Watergate affair- and many of us now have the same fierce determination to see that everything coming to light will be written about.

While my focus lately has been on the developments of ISIS and the terrorists which our own government armed while in Syria, my attention was snapped back to Benghazi when a friend asked me to look into some of the latest information and do a follow up on it, because not enough people are aware of the almost unbelievable covert operation which was known as Operation Zero Footprint.

It never ceases to amaze me after researching so many things about Obama, Clinton and others for so many years how many connections there are to all the things that have been happening in the Middle East. One of the things that stuck out in my mind when I read the article that was sent to me, was that Obama had removed AFRICOM Commander General Carter Ham from the Libyan campaign by the time Zero Footprint started. Not only the fact that Obama replaced a trusted Senior Military Commander in Libya, but it reminded me of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, claiming before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7th, 2012 that the US military can take action authorized by the UN or NATO before it is authorized by the US Congress.

Panetta's testimony makes sense as to why Obama replaced General Ham with NATO Commander Admiral Stavridis, in the 2011 NATO-led operation in Libya. Somewhere between February and March of 2011 Obama signed a presidential directive authorizing the State Department and the CIA to begin a covert operation to arm the Libyan rebels in an attempt similar to what they've done in Syria, to aid in the over throw of the nation's leader.

At the time, news that Obama had given the authorization surfaced as he and other US and allied officials spoke openly about the possibility of sending arms supplies to Gaddafi's opponents. The United States was part of a coalition, with NATO members and some Arab states, which conducted air strikes on Libyan government forces under a U.N. mandate was supposedly aimed at protecting civilians opposing Gaddafi.

Obama had said the objective was for Gaddafi to "ultimately step down" from power. He spoke of applying "steady pressure, not only militarily but also through these other means" to force Gaddafi's regime to fall, and he said in an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer that "It's fair to say that if we wanted to get weapons into Libya, we probably could. We're looking at all our options at this point."

I reported last year about claims that Obama and the State Department were working with the CIA as has been speculated by many that the compound in Benghazi was being used as a gun running platform, to arm the rebels in Syria via Turkey, using much of the cache of weapons left from the Gaddafi overthrow. In an interview back on October 31st 2012, with former CIA Operator Clare M. Lopez, she told the reporter that the compound was used for a gun running operation. "They were working with the very same al-Qaeda linked relationships in Libya, to gather up and buy back and collect weapons from Gaddafi's stock pile that were missing from the revolution in Libya last year and what it looks like is that they were shipping them onwards to Syria."

People familiar with US intelligence procedures said that a Presidential covert action "findings" are normally created to provide broad authorization for a range of potential US government actions to support covert objectives. In order for specific operations to be carried out under the authorizations, the White House also would have to give additional "permission" allowing such activities to proceed.

In 2009 Obama gave a similar authorization for the expansion of covert US counter-terrorism actions by the CIA in Yemen. One little problem however, sending in weapons would have potentially violated an arms embargo on Libya which the U.N. Security Council had imposed on February 26th, 2011. US along with the French and British believed there was a loophole, and a waiver could be attained if all 15 council members agreed. That said, countries who decided to arm the rebels most likely wouldn't have sought council approval and instead would carry out possible secret operations in Libya including covert funding, electoral manipulation, arming and training insurgents, and even encouraging a coup. US officials claimed that Saudi Arabia and Qatar had also indicated a willingness to supply Libyan rebels with weapons.

It's been reported that Qatar in 2010, a year before Operation Zero Footprint, was considered the worst participant in counter terrorism efforts in the whole Middle East according to an article in The Atlantic. Since then, it was reported in a policy analysis of the Washington Institute, this past April, the US State Department noted that private donations from Persian Gulf countries were "a major source of funding for Sunni terrorist groups", with Qatar and Kuwait singled out as terrorist financing trouble spots.

Back in 2011, Congress wasn't thrilled with the idea of US government supplying arms and aid to rebels in Libya. This brings us back to the fact that Obama went to NATO instead, and by his handpicked NATO commander, conducted the covert Operation Zero Footprint. Obama was able to bypass congress on funding as well, by allowing the Saudis, UAE and Qatar to help for according to the original article, "officials within the government of Qatar served as the intermediaries for the actual transfer of the weapons, thereby removing the footprint of the US intervention."

Operation Zero Footprint was coordinated and controlled by the State Department and CIA and was unknown to the 2011 Pentagon and DoD commanders including AFRICOM General Carter Ham.

Leon Panetta was CIA Director at the beginning of Operation Zero Footprint in March 2011, and we know from testimony from Benghazi hearings that Panetta who had since been appointed Secretary of Defense was one who initially briefed Obama on the night the Benghazi attack on September 11th 2012 while knowing of the covert mission in Benghazi. And who was it who broke the news about the unfolding situation in Benghazi to then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? Not NATO Commander Admiral James G. Stavridis who was in charge but Gen. Carter Ham, who at the time was head of AFRICOM. Transcripts said that he learned about the assault on the consulate compound within 15 minutes of its commencement, at 9:42 p.m. Libya time, through a call he received from the AFRICOM Command Center. Since he was not involved in Operation Zero footprint, Gen. Ham reported that this was a terrorist attack, not a demonstration.

If the White House followed "The Intelligence Oversight Act of 1980" in informing the congressional leaders of Zero Footprint, then those who knew about it would include John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, House Permanent Select Committee on Intel Chairman Mike Rogers, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Senate Intel Chair Diane Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss.

It makes sense as well that those on the receiving end of the weapons, training and aid would also know about the operation. This would include rebel leader Abu Khattalathe Commander of an Islamist militia group 17th Feb Brigade who has since been arrested and brought to the US to face charges in the Benghazi attack.

The CIA's exact role in Libya was never made clear to the public. Intelligence experts at the time said the CIA would have sent officials to make contact with the opposition and assess the strength and needs of the rebel forces in the event Obama decided to arm them. Last August, I wrote about the CIA and how the agency was going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remained secret after it became known that dozens of CIA operatives were on the ground in Benghazi the night of the attack.

In my article, it was reported that the C.I.A. began building a covert presence in Benghazi in February of 2011, and after Qaddifi's death and a temporary interim government was in place, the agency had been cooperating with them. The deputy Prime Minister, Mustafa Abushagour, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal that he had learned about some of the delicate American operations in Benghazi only after the attack on the mission, in large part because a surprisingly large number of Americans showed up at the Benghazi airport to be evacuated.


Carolyn Elkins' PolitiChicks articles have been shared by Mark Levin, NewsBusters and New Media Journal. She writes about everything from military issues, the Middle East, Islam, politics to the Founding Fathers. Carolyn is a guest writer on The Right Scoop and PolitiBrew under the name American Duckie. Born in Canada, but now a proud US citizen, Florida PolitiChick Carolyn is an unapologetic Christian and Constitutional Conservative. She studies the Founders and their writings, and uses what she learns to try and educate others. Carolyn is the founder of the Constitutional Freedom Party, a completely grass roots organization whose foundation is on God and the Founders' intent for a Constitutional Republic. Carolyn is married with one child and has taught American Government and Constitution to her home school co-op group of 12- 14 year olds. You can visit her via the Constitutional Freedom Party blog or on twitter @ABiCduckie and @CFP4US.

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