October 4th, 2012
07:21 PM ET

U.S. military official: Special Ops helping gather intel on Libyan militia

By Barbara Starr

U.S. Special Operations forces are in Libya and nearby countries aiding in the collection of intelligence regarding suspected Libyan militia who were part of the deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, a U.S. military official told CNN.

The intelligence gathering effort is just part of a broader involvement by the American military in the aftermath of the September 11 attack, including providing security on Thursday to an FBI investigative team that traveled to Benghazi.

The special operations units are employing various methods to investigate, including communications intercepts, satellite and drone imagery and face-to-face meetings with those who may have information, the official said.The official declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information.

The gathered information is being used to assemble proposed targeting packages for military action if ordered by the president. Those targeting packages have to include the latest intelligence demonstrating why a target would be attacked, what weapons would be used, and how the military would limit civilian casualties.

A U.S. military strike, or capture of suspects in Libya, still remains highly problematic as the Libyan government has opposed U.S. intervention.

In the immediate days following the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, the military quickly prepositioned aircraft and military teams in Sigonella, Italy, to conduct a full evacuation of Americans from Libya had it become necessary, according to a U.S. military official. Those movements were in addition to the 50-person Marine security team that was flown into Tripoli, the capital, the day after the assault.

Although Americans were able to leave the country via commercial air, the quick response is an indication of just how unsure the U.S. military was about the security situation on the ground and whether American citizens could be kept safe.

In addition, as CNN has previously reported, two Navy warships capable of firing Tomahawk missiles were quickly positioned off the coast of Libya, and surveillance of known militant strongholds by drones was stepped up. All of this is just part of an undisclosed, multifaceted effort by the Pentagon to position assets off Libya to protect Americans until they could leave Libya, be in position to conduct a military strike if ordered by the president, and collect constant intelligence on possible perpetrators of the attack and the militia movements they may have belonged to.

Those warships had moved away from Libyan waters in recent days, but CNN has learned one ship was sent back and was close offshore during the entire time the military was securing the area around the Benghazi compound on Thursday, while the FBI conducted an investigation of the site.

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Filed under: Libya • Libya • Middle East • Military • Terrorism • USSOCOM
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    Barbara,

    Not sure if you realize this...but we live in the 21st century. TERRORISTS have access to technology and are able to read your article. How about not giving so much information for the enemy to use against us...like where our service men and women are. Those involved and those they are protecting would greatly appreciate it.

    October 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Reply
    • Americans for Protection of Americans

      Anonymous,
      Thank you for making this point. I've been thinking the same thing for years... CNN and Barbara Starr, why do you think it is so easy for those who wish to do harm to innocent civilians (American or not) to find and then terrorize them... Maybe you should consider the safety of REAL HUMAN LIVES before the bonus you may or may not receive from posting an exclusive article on the whereabouts of those who actually serve our nation so selflessly.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Reply
    • jack

      That is just insane. How can you be so simplistic. Where did the information come from?! HUH?!

      October 12, 2012 at 4:10 am | Reply
    • Rescue7

      It is no secret that Special Ops guys have been used along with other intelligence agencies to gather information about key enemy individuals. Do you think the al-Qaeda pucker factor goes up more if it makes American news? It doesn't change anything. Sometimes these news articles can help to identify suspected enemies... In that way this could help our cause.
      In the long run it is irrelivent. Choosing the US as an enemy at this level begins a life long dedication of substancial resources dedicated to their demise.

      November 3, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Reply
  2. Freedom shoulnt be a lie

    So tired of being the world police. Let's tighten our home security and get out of other countries. We're breeding more hate.

    October 5, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Reply
    • Rescue7

      Nothing the US does or doesn't do will change al-Qaeda's motivation. They are trying to bring about the return of a Caliphate. It is written he will return at a time of chaos on earth. They believe they can bring his return sooner by creating that chaos. Many think tanks and stratgists have looked at this problems from every possible angle and have concludes That the only answer is to exterminate their leaders, effective warriors, and logistics.

      November 3, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Reply
  3. mnmike

    Great! What other "secret" details is the White House leaking and why haven't the names of the SEALS been revealed?

    October 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Reply
  4. Mr.Jackson

    Hey Barbara! Why not interview R. James Woolsey, Richard Armitage and Neil C. Livingstone?

    No need to have them put their views into the press through "unnamed intel sources!"

    October 5, 2012 at 10:56 am | Reply
  5. Mr.Jackson

    The GOP solution:bring back dictatorships! Bring back colonial client states!

    Because you know, al-queda wouldn't exist if only there was better police state suppression and propaganda campaigns disguised as education!

    October 5, 2012 at 10:49 am | Reply
  6. George Patton

    Every time we entered Muslim country and we made a mess. Muslim countries are better off with army dictators. It is/was a big mistake to remove Qaddafi, Assad, Saddam, Arafat, Mubarak, Musharraf, Ahmadinejad, Joseph Kory from power. They are/were the right rulers to handle masses of illiterate, fundamentalists in Islamic countries.

    October 5, 2012 at 10:21 am | Reply
    • Mr.Jackson

      Then why don't YOU go and find a dictatorship to live under, since you have the anti-AMERICAN opinion that dictatorships are better than democracies.

      We will do fine without you.

      October 5, 2012 at 10:43 am | Reply
  7. David

    Well...then the Libyan terrorists have only one escape :

    Leave Libya and go to Syria and blow up civilians there (as freedom fighters of course). In that case, they will not be hunted but helped by CIA...

    October 5, 2012 at 3:43 am | Reply
  8. 2/8

    ....well.....this confirms it....American operational security sucks, lol. This is probably the funniest story I've seen in awhile. Thanks for the laugh CNN.

    October 5, 2012 at 2:21 am | Reply
  9. maltesefalconx9

    "Targeting packages" – that's a good one.

    October 5, 2012 at 1:15 am | Reply
  10. S

    Dear CNN graphic designers,
    This is the first time I read the Security Clearance blog. Before I started reading the blog post, I laughed. The passport and fingerprint images, the connecting lines, and the font are cheesy. I think you violated the copyright of a book (cover) on forensic science for chidren. For example, please look at Forensic Science by Ron Fridell. Is this blog intended for children?

    October 5, 2012 at 1:11 am | Reply
  11. Sylvester

    The blowing up world trade center buildings number 1 & 2 was actually a 'cover' for the real prize, which was world trade center building number 7, which never had any planes fly anywhere even Close to it yet spontaneously exploded to the ground, for no apparent reason. It was completely leveled to dust, and large amounts of powder from explosive devices was later discovered when analyzing samples. Well, Duh!, SOMETHING's gotta blow it up, if no Airplanes flew anywhere even close to it, after all, building's don't just collapse and dissintegrate into dust for absolutely no reason. They later realized that they had made a mistake, and that the American people being smart, would quickly figure out that world trade center building number 7 was never hit by anything...or, anything ever came close to it, at which time they started calling it "the Twin Towers" in the hopes that people would simply forget that they had demolished and blown up world trade center building number 7. It was an Epic Fail of a mistake to blow up an entire building, and then foget that they had never run any planes into it as a cover. To overlook something so substantial is just clumsy and irrational, unless they were intentionally Trying to get caught, They should have also flew a plane into that building as well if they had any brains at all, in order to cover their Tracks. Seems very Sloppy to overlook such Huge details

    October 5, 2012 at 1:08 am | Reply
    • StivM

      Yeah, they could not imagine that there were smart people like you. So let see, they put together a team of explosive, demolition, flight, special effects experts and everyone else they needed, rigged the billding with explosives, blowed it up only to frget to orchestrate a cover story. Yeah right. Get a life!!!

      October 5, 2012 at 2:07 am | Reply
    • Joe

      Sir, let me try to explain..
      When structural cross members of a building (the ones holding the floor up) experience prolonged exposure to heat, they begin to thermally expand as well as create thermal stresses laterally throughout the members temperature gradient. The alloys used for the structural members of a building are not designed to withstand thermal loads. They are intended to withstand against gravitational load vertically. When coupled with vibrational shock-waves such as the two towers collapsing as well as the constant, the weakened structural components begin to fail and the floor collapses. Once one floor fails, the redistribution of stresses would cause a domino effect, thus resulting in the collapse of a building.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:51 am | Reply
    • BK

      It was Logistically Impossible!!! You are one ignorant person.

      October 5, 2012 at 10:46 am | Reply
    • neil480

      So, according to you, the real prize was building 7 and they (the government) rigged the building but then forgot to fly a plane into it. Seriously, do you actually believe what you write?

      Tthe 'twin towers' had been called just that way before 911, it seems to be pretty common knowledge, so I'm quite astounded that you would say it was the government that called it that after 911 as their way of trying to divert peoples attention from the collapse of building 7.

      Do you know how ridiculous and unfounded your theory is? Do you know how easy it is to do some basic research (it took me about 2 minutes) to prove your 'fact' as anything but.

      When someone says something like the government called them the Twin Towers only after 911, when it's common knowledge that it was called that before 911, and they try to state this as a fact completely ignoring the obvious evidence that says otherwise then I have to take anything else you say as total bull sheet..

      October 5, 2012 at 11:13 am | Reply
  12. manTex

    FBI ??? Why would it be collecting data instead of the CIA? The authority of the FBI there is what????

    October 5, 2012 at 12:54 am | Reply
    • StivM

      Because there was a murder of american citizens and they have to investigate the crime.

      October 5, 2012 at 2:00 am | Reply
    • Frangible

      Read "The Black Banners" by former FBI Agent Ali Soufan. It mostly covers a very, very similar attack against the USS Cole in Yemen (by Al Queda) that was also investigated by the FBI. You will certainly appreciate the FBI more after reading it.

      October 5, 2012 at 4:39 am | Reply
  13. Sylvester

    This has me wondering, the September 11th 2001 attack was so that they could blow up world trade center building number 7 that housed all the current SEC investigations into wrongdoings committed by individuals and companies (usually, that were big donors to political parties). Also, it destroyed various CIA and FBI files and Investigations that were stored there that were actually correct, accurate, legitimate Investigations that somebody wanted to "go away." I wonder if there is actually something similar to this

    October 5, 2012 at 12:52 am | Reply
    • gemtrails

      I heard obummers birth certificate was kept there too. Oh noesssss

      October 5, 2012 at 2:19 am | Reply
    • Jo

      You Sir are a complete idiot with your REALLY stupid conspiracy theory. Go back upstairs your Mom wants you to take out the garbage.

      October 5, 2012 at 7:29 am | Reply
  14. maltesefalconx9

    Kidnap, torture, kill. Kidnap,torture, kill. The very essence of Amerika.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:39 am | Reply
  15. maltesefalconx9

    Amerikan soldiers are government-brainwashed f a g g * * *.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:35 am | Reply
    • gemtrails

      America is spelled with a C commrade

      October 5, 2012 at 2:20 am | Reply
  16. maltesefalconx9

    Revenge for Kaddhafi murder.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:23 am | Reply
  17. Baa Weet

    Let them catch them.there is no way on earth the Lydians will ever let extremism ruin their country after fighting so hard for their freedom.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:14 am | Reply
  18. William Blanck

    When in doubt, bomb the living crap out of the entire country....

    October 5, 2012 at 12:04 am | Reply
  19. VA-Beach

    OpSec. Back burner, of course.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Reply
    • wootdude

      Back in my day(said with cranky old guy tone) we use to have to do that thing called OPSEC training. And since I still work with the Air Force, I know it is still mandatory training, but I guess it is just something that they do to check a box and not really have to follow?

      October 5, 2012 at 1:13 am | Reply
  20. Marc

    There is an inexorable bitter cost for attacking the US, especially with lives lost – no matter how long it takes or if you ever even hear about it. There are dead men walking in Libya today and every extra day they live is a gift from Uncle Sam.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Reply
  21. gdaym8

    "A U.S. military strike, or capture of suspects in Libya, still remains highly problematic as the Libyan government has opposed U.S. intervention."

    When has this ever been a problem for the US? Pakistan?......Bin Laden?......Remember that?

    I think if we really want to "go in".........we'll "go in".

    October 4, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Reply
  22. jeb

    call me obtuse, but isn't this a heck of a thing to be telling around on CNN? Won't this create a problem or two for their mission?

    October 4, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Reply
  23. Journey

    The real problem here is a lack of Christianity...it is what it is.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Reply
    • neil480

      I don't think a lack of Christianity has ever been a problem, quite the opposite in fact.

      October 5, 2012 at 11:29 am | Reply
  24. dumb libyans

    these arabs are so stoopid, how did they allow this

    no wonder everyone abuses them

    October 4, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Reply
  25. dou44

    Oh great, the Americans get to rain large rockets and aerial bombs down on more nameless suspects, wedding parties, farmers, herdsmen, kids playing soccer, etc.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Reply
    • Mr.Jackson

      Richard Armitage would be pleased if drone strikes destroyed the current government in Libya.

      Then he gets a second chance to cash in on a new pipeline contract under former Gaddafi regime "businessmen"

      October 5, 2012 at 10:54 am | Reply

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