Broadwell and Benghazi

By James Taranto
The Wall Street Journal
November 12, 2012

If you're a conspiracy theorist, the timing of David Petraeus's resignation was perfect. He stepped down as CIA director Friday, six days before he was to have testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on the 9/11 attacks in Benghazi and three days after Barack Obama's re-election, thereby shielding Obama from both pre-election embarrassment and postelection revelations of failure or worse. The proximate cause only adds to the suspicion: What better distraction than a sex scandal?
The trouble with conspiracy theories, and with conspiracies, is that they assume conspirators can control events. As it turns out, Petraeus's resignation has raised new questions about Benghazi. That is thanks to a report by Israel's Arutz Sheva, which found a speech that Paula Broadwell, author of "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus," delivered Oct. 26. Broadwell, who "was allegedly improperly involved with" Petraeus, spoke at her alma mater, the University of Denver.
Here's the pertinent quote from the Broadwell speech:
"The fact that came out today [in a report by Fox News Channel] is that the ground forces there at the CIA annex, which is different from the consulate, were requesting reinforcements.
"They were requesting the--it's called the C-in-C's [Commander in Chief's] In Extremis Force--a group of Delta Force operators, our very, most talented guys we have in the military. They could have come and reinforced the consulate and the CIA annex. Now, I don't know if a lot of you have heard this but the CIA annex had actually taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner, and they think that the attack on the consulate was an attempt to get these prisoners back. It's still being vetted.
"The challenging thing for Gen. Petraeus is that in his new position, he's not allowed to communicate with the press. So he's known all of this--they had correspondence with the CIA station chief in Libya, within 24 hours they kind of knew what was happening."
As Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell notes, "a CIA spokeswoman disputed the Fox News account at the time, saying, 'no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.' "
Associated Press
Paula Broadwell with her Petraeus bio.
Hounshell observes that Broadwell's "most interesting revelation is her claim that the CIA was holding several Libyan militia members prisoner, which may have prompted the attack." The Daily Beast's Eli Lakereports the agency denies this: "The CIA has not had detention authority since January 2009, when Executive Order 13491 was issued. Any suggestion that the Agency is still in the detention business is uninformed and baseless."
Fox's Jennifer Griffin, however, has sources who confirm and expand on Broadwell's account:
A well-placed Washington source confirms to Fox News that there were Libyan militiamen being held at the CIA annex in Benghazi and that their presence was being looked at as a possible motive for the staged attack on the consulate and annex that night.
According to multiple intelligence sources who have served in Benghazi, there were more than just Libyan militia members who were held and interrogated by CIA contractors at the CIA annex in the days prior to the attack. Other prisoners from additional countries in Africa and the Middle East were brought to this location.
The Libya annex was the largest CIA station in North Africa, and two weeks prior to the attack, the CIA was preparing to shut it down. Most prisoners, according to British and American intelligence sources, had been moved two weeks earlier.
Griffin concludes with the question: "What was the CIA really doing in Benghazi . . ., and who in the White House knew exactly what the CIA was up to?" Did the CIA act in contravention of the executive order, and if so, did the president approve? Did the order create a need to keep up appearances that led to the deaths of Americans in the field?