WH puts CIA on rush orders to vet Libyan rebels

The good news: the White House has suddenly found a necessity to determine who exactly we’re helping by bombing Moammar Gaddafi’s forces in Libya.  The bad news: the Obama administration isn’t known for its superior vetting skills.  Still, Obama wasn’t openly musing whether to send arms to Adolfo Carrion and Penny Pritzker, either:

The Obama administration has sent teams of CIA operatives into Libya in a rush to gather intelligence on the identities and capabilities of rebel forces opposed to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, according to U.S. officials.

The information has become more crucial as the administration and its coalition partners move closer to providing direct military aid or guidance to the disorganized and beleaguered rebel army.

Although the administration has pledged that no U.S. ground troops will be deployed to Libya, officials said Wednesday that President Obama has issued a secret finding that would authorize the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and other support to Libyan opposition groups.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, insisted that no decision has been made.

Let’s remember that Barack Obama had several weeks to figure this out before engaging in military action on behalf of the rebels, which is clearly what the allied coalition has intended.  This is information we should have known even before the uprisings broke out on either side of Libya in Tunisia and Egypt; the White House should have consulted a map and asked for this information after the convulsions in Libya’s neighbors began.  Obama certainly should have demanded it when the problems started in Libya six weeks ago.

Now we’re bombing Gaddafi’s forces and attempting to keep the rebels alive in the field, even though we don’t know who they are, and no one seemed eager to ask until Congress began balking at the military action.  Roger Simon at Politico can’t quite believe his ears:

Most of the media headlined Clinton’s statement about possibly arming the rebels. Many stories left out what I consider her more important statement: that she really had no idea who the rebels are and that, in fact, they might actually include members of Al Qaeda, the terrorist group that attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001. …

We are killing people — Muammar Qadhafi’s troops and possibly civilians through “collateral damage” — in order to put the rebels in power.

But “we do not have any specific information about specific individuals from any organization who are part of this,” according to our secretary of state.

And they might include terrorists trying to destroy our country.

Yesterday, Clinton left the impression that the White House didn’t particularly feel the need to get Congress’ approval on action in Libya, an attitude that some called arrogant.  It might be more like desperation.  If Obama went to Congress now, his team would have to answer a lot of specific questions about the rebels, Gaddafi’s forces, and the ramifications of utter collapse in Libya, and it looks like his team doesn’t know any of those answers.

If anything, this demonstrates the wisdom of requiring Congressional oversight over warmaking power.

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