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Ex-Navy Seals Killed in Libya weren’t part of ambassador’s security detail but rose to occasion

Ex-Navy Seals weren’t part of ambassador’s security detail but rose to occasion, officials now confirm

BY John Solomon
Why It Matters:

The Obama administration's initial account of the Libyan consulate attack didn’t give the full story about two ex-Navy SEALs who helped repel the security breach until they were killed. Now officials are confirming those two heroes’ real jobs at the embassy along with evidence of ties between the attack and al-Qaida.

The two former Navy SEALs killed in last week's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi were not part of Ambassador Chris Stevens’ official security detail but took up arms in an effort to protect the facility when it was overrun by insurgents, U.S. officials tell the Washington Guardian.

The two former SEALS, Tyrone Woods, 41, and Glen Doherty, 42, were not employed by the State Department diplomatic security office and instead were what is known as personal service contractors who had other duties related to security, the officials said.

They stepped into action, however, when Stevens became separated from the small security detail normally assigned to protect him when he traveled from the more fortified embassy in Tripoli to Benghazi, the officials said.

The two ex-Seals and others engaged in a lengthy firefight with the extremists who attacked the compound, a fight that stretched from the inner area of the consulate to an outside annex and a nearby safe house — a location that the insurgents appeared to know about, the officials said.

The officials provided the information to the Washington Guardian, saying they feared the Obama administration’s scant description of the episode left a misimpression that the two ex-Navy SEALs might have been responsible for the ambassador’s personal safety or become separated from him.

“Woods and Doherty weren’t part of the detail, nor were they personally responsible for the ambassador’s security, but they stepped into the breach when the attacks occurred and their actions saved others lives — and they shouldn’t be lumped in with the security detail,” one senior official said, speaking only on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the State Department.

The administration has not fully described the two former Navy SEALs’ activities, characterizing their work only vaguely as being security related. “Our embassies could not carry on our critical work around the world without the service and sacrifice of brave people like Tyrone and Glen,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after the attacks.

Time and again the Seals prove their ability to persevere. Even in the midst of No Easy Day.

As recently as Sunday, UN Ambassador Susan Rice gave a similar description. “Two of the four Americans who were killed were there providing security. That was their function. And indeed, there were many other colleagues who were doing the same with them,” Rice told ABC’s This Week program.

In fact, officials said, the two men were personal service contractors whose official function was described as “embassy security,” but whose work did not involve personal protection of the ambassador or perimeter security of the compound.

The details emerged the same day that U.S. officials confirmed in public a Washington Guardian story Friday that U.S. intelligence believes al-Qaida or its affiliates played a role in the attack. “We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda’s affiliates,” Matt Olsen, the director of the National Counterrorism Center, told lawmakers.

Administration officials had downplayed al-Qaida connections shortly after the attack.

Many U.S. agencies in foreign hotspots like Benghazi rely on and even share contract workers with special skills like those of retired Navy SEALs for security, reconnaissance and threat assessments.

Unlike full embassies such as the one in Tripoli, consulates like Benghazi usually don’t have a contingent of Marines to provide security, and private contractors help fulfill some of those responsibilities. The Washington Guardian reported last week concerns about the embassy security that predated the deadly attack.

Those briefed on the latest intelligence say investigators are trying to determine when and why Stevens’ official State Department security team got separated from the ambassador when the attacks occurred the evening of Sept. 11.

The separation of the team from the ambassador remains one of the more serious matters under review, the officials said.

In addition, while the administration has downplayed any link to al-Qaida, there is evidence some of the attackers were affiliated with another group that sympathizes with al-Qaida and has grown more influential in Libya and other parts of north Africa.

State Department officials did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment Wednesday.

The current evidence leads U.S. intelligence to believe that a band of Islamist extremists with some ties to the north African affiliate of al-Qaida had accumulated a stash of weapons and extra human muscle, performed some reconnaissance to identify possible U.S. targets, and may have even infiltrated the Libyan security forces that help protect the consulate in hopes of eventually conducting a terrorist operation somewhere in Benghazi.

However, U.S. intelligence does not believe — at present — that the attackers specifically targeted Stevens, official said. Instead, they think the attackers sprang into action when, seeing crowds forming outside the consulate on Sept. 11, they perceived an opportunity to carry out a terrorist attack, officials said.

“Yes, they were killed in a terrorist attack on our embassy,” Olsen told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Wednesday. “The best information we have now, the facts that we have now, indicates an opportunistic attack on our embassy.”

U.S. officials say they have some evidence at least one of the attackers had prior connections to al-Qaida’s senior leadership and that others were linked to a sympathetic spinoff group in northern Africa known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which is gaining influence in Libya.

Specifically, U.S. intelligence is investigating whether there is any connection to an al-Qaida-linked player named Sufyan Ben Qumu, who was captured by U.S. officials after the September 11, 2001 attacks and held at Guantanamo Bay for years before being released to Libyan authorities by the Bush administration in 2007. Qumu has emerged in recent months as an increasingly influential Islamist figure in eastern Libya, near Benghazi.

Fox News reported Wednesday night he might be a mastermind of the attack, but U.S. intelligence officials said such conclusions are premature.

“There’s an active effort to uncover those individuals and groups who were responsible for the attack. Any suggestion that a leading suspect or ‘mastermind’ of the attack has been identified at this point is premature. It is safe to assume that any significant extremist in Eastern Libya is going to be under a lot of scrutiny right now,” one U.S. intelligence official told the Washington Guardian.

U.S. intelligence believes part of the motivation for launching the attack was a video from al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri that surfaced the night of Sept. 10, imploring Libyans to attack Americans in retribution for the U.S. drone strike that killed Libyan-born al-Qaida leader Abu Yahya al-Libi in June.

The Washington Guardian reported on Friday that U.S. intelligence had intercepted and translated Zawahiri’s message imploring Libyans to attack U.S. officials the night before the consulate attack and were still analyzing its significance when the ambassador was killed. No significant changes to security countermeasures at the diplomatic mission were taken until after the compound was overrun.

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The Peace President Goes To War…..Again

Obama Sends U.S. Troops to Central Africa to Aid Campaign Against Rebel Group

WASHINGTON — President Obama is sending about 100 U.S. troops to central Africa to help local forces battle the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group that the administration says has waged a campaign of murder, rape and kidnapping for more than two decades.

Obama said Friday the troops will act as advisers in efforts to hunt down rebel leader Joseph Kony but will not engage in combat except in self-defense, according to a letter to Congress that was obtained by Fox News.

The White House says the first troops arrived in Uganda on Wednesday. Ultimately, they will also deploy in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Congo.

A senior administration official downplayed the notion that the armed troops could be drawn into a hostile, combat situation, saying the move was sparked by Congress passing a law year urging the administration to do something to crack down on the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Long considered one of Africa’s most brutal rebel groups, the Lord’s Resistance Army began its attacks in Uganda more than 20 years ago but has been pushing westward.

The administration and human rights groups say its atrocities have left thousands dead and have put as many as 300,000 Africans to flight. They have charged the group with seizing children to bolster its ranks of soldiers and sometimes forcing them to become sex slaves.

Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court under a 2005 warrant for crimes against humanity in his native Uganda.

Obama’s announcement came in low-key fashion — a letter to the leader of the House, Speaker John Boehner, in which he said the deployment “furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa.”

The deployment drew support from Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican who has visited the region.

I have witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by the LRA, and this will help end Kony’s heinous acts that have created a human rights crisis in Africa,” he said in a statement. “I have been fervently involved in trying to prevent further abductions and murders of Ugandan children, and today’s action offers hope that the end of the LRA is in sight.”

But Obama’s letter stressed the limited nature of the deployment.

“Our forces will provide information, advice and assistance to select partner nation forces,”
it said. “Although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will … not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense.”

The troops deployed to central Africa will be mostly U.S. special operations forces. It’s likely many of these forces will be Army Green Berets, one military official told Fox News, but it’s unlikely that will be announced publicly.

Since 2008, the U.S. has provided $33 million to regional forces battling LRA, according to the Pentagon.

The Pentagon said the special operation forces are performing one of their core missions.

“Our intention is to provide the right balance of strategic and tactical experience to supplement host nation military efforts,”
the Pentagon said. “Ultimately, Africans are responsible for African security, but we remain committed to our partners to enable their efforts to provide for their own security.”

Fox News’ Ed Henry, Justin Fishel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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