The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

The CIA is closely watch­ing the un­fold­ing fed­eral pros­e­cu­tion of the ring­leader of the Sept. 12, 2012, ter­ror­ist at­tack on U.S. fa­cil­i­ties in Beng­hazi over con­cerns that the case will lead to the dis­clo­sure of one of the en­dur­ing se­crets of the Beng­hazi af­fair: a covert CIA op­er­a­tion in the city.

The su­per­sed­ing indictment re­leased Tues­day adds charges to the case against Ahmed Abu Khat­tala, a Beng­hazi leader of the al Qaeda-linked group An­sar al-Shariah, for the deaths of four Americans, in­clud­ing U.S. Am­bas­sador to Libya J. Christo­pher Stevens.

Ac­cord­ing to the new indictment, the ter­ror­ist plot was or­ga­nized be­cause Mr. Khat­tala thought the diplo­matic com­pound was be­ing used to gather in­tel­li­gence, a prac­tice he re­garded as il­le­gal.

After 20 armed men at­tacked the com­pound and burned it, the in­trud­ers stole com­put­ers re­veal­ing the lo­ca­tion of the CIA an­nex in Beng­hazi. The group then went to an An­sar al-Shariah camp in Beng­hazi and at­tacked the an­nex on Sept. 12.

Count 15 of the new indictment spec­i­fies that the ter­ror­ists de­stroyed the an­nex and dur­ing the raid killed CIA con­trac­tors Ty­rone Woods and Glen Do­herty.

By in­clud­ing the an­nex in the indictment, the Jus­tice Depart­ment faces the prospect of hav­ing to dis­close the CIA ac­tiv­i­ties that took place in Beng­hazi — if the case goes to trial.

Le­gal ob­servers say con­vic­tions of the new charges could re­sult in the death penalty, so pros­e­cu­tors may be cal­cu­lat­ing that Mr. Khat­tala will seek a plea bar­gain that will avoid a trial and thus fore­stall dam­ag­ing in­tel­li­gence dis­clo­sures about the CIA op­er­a­tions.

Avoid­ing an open-court ex­pla­na­tion of the CIA op­er­a­tion would be nearly im­pos­si­ble dur­ing a trial be­cause the indictment states that Mr. Khat­tala’s pri­mary mo­ti­va­tion for the at­tack was coun­ter­ing U.S. in­tel­li­gence ac­tiv­i­ties in Beng­hazi.

A for­mer se­nior in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial close to the CIA said the an­nex was op­er­at­ing un­der a March 2011 pres­i­den­tial in­tel­li­gence “find­ing” that au­tho­rized the agency to con­duct a covert ac­tion pro­gram to train and arm Libyans op­pos­ing strong­man Moam­mar Gad­hafi.

The for­mer of­fi­cial said in­ves­ti­ga­tors look­ing into the Beng­hazi af­fair likely will dis­cover that some of the weapons used in the Sept. 11 at­tack were sup­plied to rebels dur­ing the CIA op­er­a­tion.

De­spite nu­mer­ous U.S. gov­ern­ment in­quiries on Beng­hazi, de­tails of the CIA op­er­a­tion there have not been dis­closed.

Dur­ing a Se­nate hear­ing on Jan. 23, 2013, Sen. Rand Paul, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, asked Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton whether the U.S. gov­ern­ment used the an­nex for the “procur­ing of weapons, trans­fer of weapons, buy­ing, sell­ing, any­how trans­fer­ring weapons to Turkey out of Libya.” Mrs. Clin­ton told him to ask the agency that op­er­ated the an­nex.

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