This would help solve the lingering mystery of why Paula Broadwell sending snippy anonymous e-mails to Jill Kelley somehow warranted a sustained FBI investigation that led all the way back to the director of the CIA. What if, as the authors of the new book on Benghazi claim, “CIA officers pressured the Justice Department to keep the inquiry open” after the FBI tried to close it?
That’s not the real news here, though. This is:
Petraeus was furious, they say, because he was kept in the dark about the raids being conducted without his knowledge by the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) across Libya and North Africa.
Webb and Murphy claim that the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate and a CIA outpost in Benghazi proved to Petraeus that he was an outsider in the Obama administration and that he would remain marginalized as long as he was at the CIA.
The central premise of ‘Benghazi: The Definitive Report’ is that the attacks were precipitated by secret raids JSOC had performed in Libya. An attack on the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia days before September 11 may have been the final straw.
Heavily-armed militants with Ansar al-Sharia attacked the consulate on September 11 as retaliation, the book claims.
Who would have enough authority inside the administration to order special operations raids so secret that not even David Petraeus, the sitting DCIA and former four-star general, would be privy to them? According to the book: John Brennan, formerly Obama’s counterterror czar and currently the nominee to, er, replace Petraeus at CIA. That’s interesting for a few reasons. First, if true, it shows how easy it is for a president to evade the “advise and consent” requirement even for executive appointees who wield tremendous foreign-policy power. The Senate gets to veto the secretary of state and CIA director if it likes, but when it comes to the guy who’s moving JSOC pieces around the global chessboard, nope. So much for accountability.
Second, the idea of O installing Petraeus at CIA while Brennan allegedly went over his head makes me wonder if something similar’s planned for Hagel at defense. Petraeus had political value to Obama insofar as his bipartisan credibility could shield O somewhat on CIA ops. Hagel has … much less credibility, but he still carries the Republican label and can give O some cover that way when the defense cuts start coming. If Brennan really was, shall we say, “supplementing” Petraeus on intelligence, I wonder if, say, Michele Flournoy will be installed somewhere so that she can “supplement” Chuck “I promise to learn more about defense if confirmed” Hagel.
Third, the reason CIA honchos wanted Petraeus out, supposedly, is that he came from a different agency culture (the CIA is notorious for chafing under directors who are outsiders) and because, by emphasizing drone strikes, he steered the agency away from espionage and towards paramilitary activity. But it’s Brennan who, arguably more than anyone else, has been the administration’s point man on drone targeting. He’s the consummate intel insider so he’ll face no resistance of the sort Petraeus did on that count, but unless he can unload drone responsibilities on Hagel and the Pentagon, the CIA’s going to have to get used to its new paramilitary role. I wonder if that’s part of the reason O wants Brennan at the agency now. If anyone can sell them on becoming Team Drone for the indefinite future, it’s him.