While some U.S. officials feared that Harzi’s release was coming, Tunisian officials did not inform the U.S. government ahead of time.
Meanwhile, in Libya, the landscape is becoming increasingly lawless. In Benghazi this week, Ahmed Abu Khattala, a militia leader who claimed in an interview with Reuters that he was at the U.S. mission on the night of the consulate attack, survived an assassination attempt after a bomb was placed under his car. The device exploded prematurely and instead killed one of Khattala’s assailants. Additionally, the Benghazi police officer investigating the murder of the chief of Benghazi police in November went missing last week.
One source of frustration for U.S. intelligence community: the president’s decision to make the Benghazi probe a criminal investigation. While the CIA has an ever-changing list of suspects it dubs the “Benghazi attack network,” the drones and Special Operations teams that are used to hunt al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan and Yemen are not being used to track down Stevens’s killers. Instead, the investigation is being led by the FBI, which relies on cooperation from local and national police in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt.