No-one amid all current tentacles and story lines is at a higher risk from a President-Elect Donald Trump full public vetting of the intelligence community than former Obama CIA Director Leon Panetta.
When President Obama signed the original 2011 ‘finding memo’ authorizing covert CIA action in Libya it was Leon Panetta who carried it out. Both the Libyan intervention and the initial Syrian intervention were joint White House regime change operations began during Hillary Clinton’s tenure. Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton were both carrying out Obama’s policy.
However, once things collapsed in Libya, and Chris Stephens was killed, Leon Panetta did not carry the same escape cards afforded to Clinton and the White House. Panetta’s ability to escape unscathed was always further down the list of protected personages.
In the aftermath of Benghazi Panetta has carried that risk for years. If the DC intelligence community stopped kicking the can down the road, or if the DC intelligence community were blocked from kicking that can (Trump), it has always been accepted that Leon Panetta would be the last man standing in a game of deadly political dodge ball.
Hence, there he sits today in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, visibly sweating bullets, hoping and praying the incoming administration will not sunlight his swamp.
(SEE VIDEO 01:45):
Understanding the previous recording of Secretary John Kerry is half of the back-story surrounding Panetta’s involvement. That explosive audio recording surrounded President Obama’s planned intervention in Syria, and Secretary Kerry’s efforts to carry out the policy of regime change – the removal of Bashir Assad.
However, before Secretary Kerry and Director Brennan (Syrian regime change), there was Secretary Clinton and Director Panetta (Libyan regime change):
The Libyan uprising began on February 10th of 2011, and we know that sometime around the end of February 2011 President Obama signed a presidential directive authorizing the State Dept and CIA to begin a covert operation to arm the Libyan “rebels”.
Operation “Zero Footprint” began. Secretary Clinton and Leon Panetta were the policy team carrying out the objective.
There was, as we previously outlined, also a Second Presidential Finding Memo authorizing additional CIA covert action in 2012, this time in Syria. Again, Secretary Clinton on policy team, however now David Petraeus was CIA director.
Leon Panetta was the CIA Director when Libyan CIA operations were authorized and began, but he left the CIA about 4 months later (June 30th, 2011) and became Defense Secretary. Panetta was replace in the CIA by General David Petraeus (August/Sept 2011).
We know Operation Zero Footprint was the covert transfer of weapons from the U.S to the Libyan “rebels”. We also know the operation avoided the concerns with congressional funding, and potential for public scrutiny, through financing by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
We also know that officials within the government of Qatar served as the intermediaries for the actual transfer of the Libyan destined weapons, thereby removing the footprint of the U.S. intervention.
We know the entire operation was coordinated and controlled by the State Department and CIA. We also know (from the Senate Foreign Relations Benghazi hearings) that “Zero Footprint” was unknown to the 2011 Pentagon and/or DoD commanders. Defense Secretary Bob Gates, Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullen and AFRICOM Commander General Carter Ham were notably out of the loop.
Both 2011 Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chief Mullen had testified to congress they were opposed to any Libyan intervention, and the U.S. was under no direct national security threat from Libya.
Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told members of the House Armed Services panel that many other countries have the ability to train and support the rebels: “My view would be, if there is going to be that kind of assistance to the opposition, there are plenty of sources for it other than the United States,” said Gates. “Somebody else should do that.” – link – Neither Gates nor Mullen knew anything about the covert CIA operations underway at the time of their testimony.
In hindsight we are now fully aware that unknown to both Mullen and Gates -at the time they were speaking- was President Obama having authorized Operation Zero Footprint several weeks earlier, and Leon Panetta was carrying it out.
We now know against the March/April 2011 backdrop of growing information about al-Qaeda’s presence within the rebel units – there was a genuine difference of opinion on whether even getting involved was a good idea. The Defense Department (Gates, Mullen) was saying no, the State Department (Clinton, Susan Rice, S Power), was saying yes.
Meanwhile, the White House policy construct ensured that Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta were essentially operating under the radar of the Pentagon and well outside the wire of traditional oversight. However, the congressional intelligence “Gang of Eight”, would have been informed of the Presidential authorizations in Libya ’11, and Syria ’12.
The Gang of Eight in 2011 would have included: Speaker – John Boehner, Minority Leader – Nancy Pelosi; House Permanent Select Committee on Intel Chairman – Mike Rogers, and his Democrat counterpart Charles Ruppersberger; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; along with Senate Intel Chair Diane Feinstein and her Republican counterpart, Saxby Chambliss.
In the aftermath of the September 11th 2012 Benghazi attack, we know from Hillary interviews and testimony the White House liaison for Secretary Clinton and CIA Director Leon Panetta during the Libyan operation was National Security Advisor To the President, Tom Donilon.
President Obama authorized arming the Libyan rebels, but the covert nature of Zero Footprint reflected the political filter through which all Obama White House decisions are made. If the “Libyan rebels” were al-Qaeda, the covert-op lends plausible deniability to the policy, if things go wrong.
In 2017 hindsight we can clearly see the motive for what was called the “Benghazi narrative”. The White House needed the escape hatch because they, through the program initiated by Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, were arming al-Qaeda; and on September 11th 2012 it did go horribly and publicly wrong.