Alleged al Qaeda operative Abu Anas al Libi pleads not guilty
October 15th, 2013
02:32 PM ET

Alleged al Qaeda operative Abu Anas al Libi pleads not guilty

Alleged al Qaeda operative, Abu Anas al Libi, accused of playing a role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, has entered a not guilty plea to terrorism charges brought against him in federal court in New York on Tuesday.

An alleged al Qaeda operative accused of playing a role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania is to appear Tuesday in federal court in New York.

U.S. Army Delta Force soldiers seized Abu Anas al Libi, a 49-year-old Libyan, on October 5 from outside his house in Tripoli, Libya.

U.S. officials say he was taken initially to a Navy ship for questioning before he was taken to the United States over the weekend.

His arrival in the U.S. has reopened a debate over whether international terrorist suspects should be tried in U.S. courts.

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Filed under: Libya • Military • Special Operations Forces
Alleged al Qaeda operative Al Libi taken to New York week after capture in Libya
October 14th, 2013
04:27 PM ET

Alleged al Qaeda operative Al Libi taken to New York week after capture in Libya

By Evan Perez and Susan Candiotti

The United States has brought Abu Anas al Libi - an alleged al Qaeda operative whom U.S. Army Delta Force soldiers captured in Libya this month - to New York, a U.S. attorney's office said Monday.

He was transferred to law enforcement custody over the weekend, the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Al Libi is expected to appear before a judicial officer on Tuesday, the office said.

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Libya approves U.S. operations to get Benghazi suspects
October 9th, 2013
11:17 PM ET

Libya approves U.S. operations to get Benghazi suspects

By Barbara Starr

The Libyan government has given the United States "tacit approval" to conduct missions inside Libya to capture suspects involved in the terror attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

The official has direct knowledge of the arrangements but declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information.

Approval for action against Benghazi suspects, which was granted in recent weeks, is the same type of agreement that allowed a U.S. raid this past weekend in Tripoli.
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GOP senators: Bad decision not to put Al Libi in Gitmo
October 9th, 2013
10:45 AM ET

GOP senators: Bad decision not to put Al Libi in Gitmo

By Gabe LaMonica

Three Republican senators are accusing the Obama administration of compromising intelligence gathering by holding Abu Anas al Libi on a Navy ship instead of sending him to the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay.

During a press conference Tuesday, Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called the detainment of al Libi on a Navy vessel in the Mediterranean Sea a "huge mistake."

Graham commended the administration's use of "boots on the ground to capture people" as a "good change in policy," but said there are "fatal flaws" in the U.S. intelligence gathering system.

"It's hard to interrogate a dead man," he said, so it's good that the administration is no longer "killing everybody by drones." But the refusal to send al Libi to Gitmo and to hold him instead at sea is "not a proper way to gather intelligence in the war on terror," Graham added.
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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Libya
October 6th, 2013
09:47 AM ET

U.S. forces strike in Libya, Somalia, capture al Qaeda leader

By Barbara Starr, Evan Perez and Greg Botelho, CNN

In two operations in Africa nearly 3,000 miles apart, U.S. military forces went after two high-value targets over the weekend.

One operation took place early Saturday in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, when U.S. forces captured Abu Anas al Libi, an al Qaeda leader wanted for his role in the deadly 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

In the second raid, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs in southern Somalia targeted the top leader of Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked with al Qaeda.

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Officials: Al Qaeda leader captured in Libya
October 5th, 2013
07:25 PM ET

Officials: Al Qaeda leader captured in Libya

By Evan Perez and Barbara Starr

A key al Qaeda operative wanted for his role in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 has been captured in a U.S. special operations forces raid in Tripoli, Libya, U.S. officials tell CNN.

Abu Anas al Libi was grabbed from the Libyan capital in what one of the officials described as a "capture" operation from the Libyan capital. The U.S. operation was conducted with the knowledge of the Libyan government, a U.S. official said.

Al Libi - on whom the U.S. government had put out a $5 million reward - is alleged to have played a key role in the August 7, 1998, bombings of American embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Nairobi, Kenya.

He has been indicted in the United States on charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, murder, destruction of American buildings and government property, and destruction of national defense utilities of the United States.

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Authors of Benghazi report grilled in Congress
The U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya following an attack on September 11, 2012
September 19th, 2013
08:46 PM ET

Authors of Benghazi report grilled in Congress

By Jamie Crawford

The leader of a review board that investigated the deadly terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, lacked sufficient independence to reach an objective finding of fault, a congressional committee chairman said on Thursday.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa told retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering that he failed to see how the Accountability Review Board could have come to an objective conclusion about the September 2012 attack based on Pickering's long career as a State Department official.

"You talked about 42 years in the organization you were overseeing," Issa said to Pickering, who drew on his diplomatic experience to help him lead the panel.

"If we looked at the bank failures of 2007 and brought Jamie Dimon in to head the board, some might say that there was an inherent conflict because of his experience in life," Issa said of the JPMorgan Chase chairman.

"Mr. chairman, with greatest respect, this was not, quote, a 'gotcha' investigative panel," Pickering replied.

He asked why a group looking for answers would be empaneled without understanding the specific minutiae of how diplomacy is carried out.

"I appreciate that," Issa shot back. "Obviously, this was not a 'gotcha' panel, because nobody was 'gotcha-ed.'"

The exchange between Issa and Pickering illustrated the sharp political emotion that has defined many exchanges over the Benghazi attack by armed militants, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Issa's investigation has been a partisan flashpoint as he has pushed the Obama administration hard to get a better understanding of pre-attack security at the diplomatic outpost and why no one at the State Department lost their jobs after Pickering's investigation noted shortcomings.

Earlier this week, the Republican majority staff of the committee released a report that also raised new questions. It noted the relatively short time it took the review board to investigate the attack and issue its findings, and pointed out that those interviewed by the panel were not made available to members of Congress.

The Democratic minority staff, led by its ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, released its own report just as Thursday's hearing got underway. It questioned the findings of the Republican staff report.

"Based on all of the evidence obtained by this committee, this Benghazi review was one of the most comprehensive ARB reviews ever conducted," Cummings said. "I have seen no evidence, none whatsoever, to support these reckless Republican accusations. To the contrary, witness after witness told the committee that the ARB's work was 'penetrating,' 'specific,' 'critical,' 'very tough,' and the 'opposite of a whitewash.'"

But the fireworks were just getting started as a session that ran more than four hours got underway. It examined numerous areas around how and why certain facets of the review board investigation were undertaken.

Former Joint Chiefs Chairman retired Adm. Michael Mullen, who served as Pickering's co-chair, was effusive in his assertions that there were no orders for any military detachments to "stand down" that had already put in motion to try and arrest the assault on the diplomatic building and a nearby CIA annex.

"This is not something you can just wish to happen instantly. There's a lot of planning, preparation, as rapidly - to do it as rapidly as one can do it," Mullen said in reference to questions of how no U.S. military assets made it to Benghazi that night.

"We are not big enough in the military to be everywhere around the world to respond to where every embassy is that might be high-risk. We have to take risks and figure that out," he said.

Questions emerged from multiple members of the committee as to why the review board did not assign any culpability for management and other shortcomings to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as head of the department.

"We had very clear evidence, full and complete to our information, that the authority - responsibility, the accountability rested with the people we identified," Pickering said in explaining why failures in the State Department structure were centered at the assistant secretary level.

"If the secretary (Clinton) wasn't involved, I must be on another planet," Rep. John Mica said in response.

In interviews with media outlets prior to her stepping down earlier this year, Clinton said she took responsibility for the security of diplomats and diplomatic outposts around the world in her role as secretary.

There have been 18 such review boards since 1986 that have investigated attacks on U.S. facilities overseas.

Many members of the panel questioned Pickering and Mullen as to why certain recommendations from the report that looked into the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa were not carried forward.

"Secretary (Madeleine) Albright as a result of that recommendation, met daily with the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security first thing in the morning. And that established a nexus, a chain, which neither her - I think none of her three successors kept. I think that may have been an error," Pickering said.

"I think that in some ways her interest - and put it this way - in no more Nairobis and no more Dar es Salaams was an important instinct. I think that that was a rather good process, and in some ways I'm sorry it wasn't repeated," he said.

The review board led by Pickering and Mullen made 29 recommendations, one of which was to establish another independent review to identify "best practices" in the public and private sectors in security intelligence, risk management and accountability - all areas where problems were identified at the State Department.

That panel, led by former Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, warned that the State Department did not pay enough attention to the bureau overseeing security for 275 diplomatic posts and called for it to be elevated in its importance to deal with a growing threat.

As a result of the Benghazi attack, the State Department created a new position of deputy assistant secretary of state for high threat posts and has begun to beef up security and improve training.

But Issa contended Thursday that it was the purview of his committee and that of Congress to interview many of the same witnesses who were on the ground in Benghazi that spoke to the review board in order to get an understanding of where accountability for the attack lay.

"I am in the process of issuing subpoenas because the State Department has not made those people available, has played hide and go seek, and is now hiding behind a thinly veiled statement that there's a criminal investigation," he said of the FBI probe.

And in the next sentence, Mr. Issa laid out the roadmap for his committee in the Benghazi investigation.

"That's part of the reason that this investigation cannot end until the State Department gives us at least the same access that they gave your board," he said.

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Benghazi • Congress • Hillary Clinton • Issa • Libya • Security Brief • State Department
FBI barred from making Benghazi arrests in Libya
September 18th, 2013
07:11 PM ET

FBI barred from making Benghazi arrests in Libya

By CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott

The Libyan government will not allow the FBI into Benghazi to arrest suspects for last year's deadly terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission, a top State Department official told a House panel on Wednesday.

Federal authorities have filed charges against suspects in connection with the September 11 attack on the mission and nearby CIA annex that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

But Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said they were shocked nobody has been brought to justice.

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U.S. Marines moved closer to Libya as 9/11 anniversaries approach
September 9th, 2013
04:19 PM ET

U.S. Marines moved closer to Libya as 9/11 anniversaries approach

Scores of U.S. Marines have been moved closer to Libya this week as part of an overall effort to beef up any potential security response, CNN has learned, as the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack approaches along with the first anniversary of the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Two U.S. officials told CNN that in the past few days, 250 combat-ready Marines have moved from their base in Moron, Spain, to the U.S. naval installation at Sigonella, Italy. That would enable them to reach Tripoli, the capital of Libya, in three to four hours in the event of a crisis.
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Filed under: 9/11 • Benghazi • Libya
Following Benghazi, report finds security not State Dept. priority
September 4th, 2013
04:51 PM ET

Following Benghazi, report finds security not State Dept. priority

By Elise Labott

An independent panel has found the State Department has not overall paid enough attention to oversees security for diplomatic posts and called for it to be elevated in importance, several sources familiar with the matter said.

Led by former Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, the panel was created as part of a broad inquiry of last September's deadly terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

A separate assessment by the Accountability Review Board, established after the Benghazi attack, criticized the department for failing to provide adequate security and made 29 recommendations.

One was the creation of the latest analysis to identify "best practices" in the public and private sectors in security intelligence, risk management and accountability, all areas where problems were identified at the State Department.

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