Clinton Sent Ambassador Stevens to Benghazi to Retrieve Stinger Missiles-Unproven!
Summary of eRumor:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens to Benghazi to recover anti-aircraft Stinger missiles that fell into the hands of militants after the State Department illegally supplied them to Libyan rebels.
Accusations that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens to Benghazi to retrieve U.S.-supplied Stinger missiles that fell into the hands of terrorists are unproven.
These rumors, which often appear under the headline “From WikiLeaks — Worse Than Treason,” went viral in October 2016, shortly after the Justice Department dropped charges against Marc Turi, an American private arms dealer who had been accused of selling weapons to Libyan rebels. Despite the headlines, however, these allegations actually aren’t based on emails released by WikiLeaks, they’re based on various media reports over the years.
Politico reports that Turi’s lawyers pressured the DOJ to drop the charges by threatening to expose new details about Clinton’s involvement in arming rebels in the lead up to the attack in Benghazi that left Stevens dead:
The deal averts a trial that threatened to cast additional scrutiny on Hillary Clinton’s private emails as Secretary of State, and to expose reported Central Intelligence Agency attempts to arm rebels fighting Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi.
Government lawyers were facing a Wednesday deadline to produce documents to Turi’s legal team, and the trial was officially set to begin on Election Day, although it likely would have been delayed by protracted disputes about classified information in the case.
A Turi associate asserted that the government dropped the case because the proceedings could have embarrassed Clinton and President Barack Obama by calling attention to the reported role of their administration in supplying weapons that fell into the hands of Islamic extremist militants.
After charges against Turi were dropped, an older rumor went viral on Facebook that Clinton had dispatched Stevens to Benghazi to buy back U.S. Stinger missiles from an al Qaeda group after the missiles were linked to the downing of a U.S. helicopter:
Amb. Stevens was sent to Benghazi post haste in order to retrieve US made Stinger missiles supplied to Ansar al Sharia without Congressional oversight or permission. Hillary brokered the deal through Stevens and a private arms dealer named Marc Turi. Then some of the shoulder fired missiles ended up in Afghanistan used against our own military. It was July 25th, 2012 when a Chinook helicopter was taken down by one of our own Stingers, but the idiot Taliban didn’t arm the missile and the Chinook didn’t explode, but had to land anyway. An ordnance team recovered the serial number off the missile which led back to a cache of Stingers being kept in Qatar by the CIA. Obama and Hillary were now in full panic mode and Stevens was sent in to retrieve the rest of the Stingers.
That rumor uses a number of accounts citing unnamed sources, so we can’t confirm whether they’re true or false. Still, we’ll provide some background on where different parts of the rumor came from and look at public information that backs up and contradicts some of those claims.
Rumor about the actual reason for Stevens being in Libya started with a PJ Media (PJM) report by Roger Simon in May 2013. Citing unnamed whistleblowers, Simon reported that Clinton had sent Stevens to Benghazi to buy back anti-aircraft Stinger missiles that the State Department had secretly supplied to rebels:
Stevens’ mission in Benghazi, they will say, was to buy back Stinger missiles from al-Qaeda groups issued to them by the State Department, not by the CIA. Such a mission would usually be a CIA effort, but the intelligence agency had opposed the idea because of the high risk involved in arming “insurgents” with powerful weapons that endanger civilian aircraft.
Hillary Clinton still wanted to proceed because, in part, as one of the diplomats said, she wanted “to overthrow Gaddafi on the cheap.”
This left Stevens in the position of having to clean up the scandalous enterprise when it became clear that the “insurgents” actually were al-Qaeda – indeed, in the view of one of the diplomats, the same group that attacked the consulate and ended up killing Stevens.
And the idea that Clinton and Obama were in a panic to retrieve the Stinger missiles because a serial number taken from an unexploded missile had been linked to a stockpile of U.S. missiles in Qatar was advanced in Kenneth Timmerman’s 2014 book, “Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Benghazi”:
The investigation took time. Arms were twisted, noses put out of joint. But when the results came back, they were stunning: The Stinger tracked back to a lot that had been signed out by the CIA recently, not during the anti-Soviet jihad.
Reports of the Stinger reached the highest echelons of the US command in Afghanistan and became a source of intense speculation, but no action.
Everyone knew the war was winding down. Revealing that the Taliban had US-made Stingers risked demoralizing coalition troops. Because there were no coalition casualties, government officials made no public announcement of the attack.
My sources in the US Special Operations community believe the Stinger fired against the Chinook was part of the same lot the CIA turned over to the Qataris in early 2011, weapons Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State Department intended for anti-Khadafy forces in Libya.
They believe the Qataris delivered between 50 and 60 of those same Stingers to the Taliban in early 2012, and an additional 200 SA-24 Igla-S surface-to-air missiles.
Timmerman cites unnamed sources, and we weren’t able to find any outside reports verify his account of an unexploded missile being linked to the stockpile in Qatar. That part of this rumor remains unproven.
But Clinton actually made reference to the fact that Stevens was in Benghazi, at least in part, to secure shoulder-fired missiles that Gadhafi had left behind in her testimony before the House Committee on Benghazi in October 2015:
Nobody knew the dangers of Libya better. A weak government, extremist groups, rampant instability. But Chris chose to go to Benghazi because he understood America had to be represented there at that pivotal time. He knew that eastern Libya was where the revolution had begun and that unrest there could derail the country’s fragile transition to democracy. And if extremists gained a foothold, they would have the chance to destabilize the entire region, including Egypt and Tunisia. He also knew how urgent it was to ensure that the weapons Gadhafi had left strewn across the country, including shoulder-fired missiles that could knock an airplane out of the sky, did not fall into the wrong hands. The nearest Israeli airport is just a day’s drive from the Libyan border.
Clinton implied in previous testimony, however, that Stevens had gone to Benghazi on his own accord without guidance from the State Department. During a House Foreign Affairs Committee in January 2013, Clinton testified that “Chris Stevens did not ask anyone (at the State Department) for permission to go to Benghazi; I don’t think it would have crossed his mind.”
There are many, many reports about Stinger missiles in Libya before Gadhafi fell and the U.S. consulate was attacked — so it’s not clear that Stevens was working to secure U.S.-supplied stinger missiles. U.S. Gen. Carter Ham, then serving as head of U.S. Africa Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2011 that, “We do estimate that there were as many as 20,000 of these types of weapons in Libya before the conflict began.”
The Wall Street Journal reported in 2011 that Qaddafi’s regime believed that an outside source was supplying anti-aircraft Stingers to rebel fighters there. Then, in December 2012, the New York Times reported that U.S.-approved arms shipments to Libyan rebels had fallen into the hands of extremists due to lack of oversight. That report, however, indicated that U.S. officials didn’t object to Qatar shipping Russian and French arms to Libya — but officials wouldn’t allow Qatar to ship American weapons. That report also lists the CIA, not the State Department, as overseeing the arming of Libyan rebels:
The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats. . . .
The Obama administration did not initially raise objections when Qatar began shipping arms to opposition groups in Syria, even if it did not offer encouragement, according to current and former administration officials. But they said the United States has growing concerns that, just as in Libya, the Qataris are equipping some of the wrong militants.
The United States, which had only small numbers of C.I.A. officers in Libya during the tumult of the rebellion, provided little oversight of the arms shipments. Within weeks of endorsing Qatar’s plan to send weapons there in spring 2011, the White House began receiving reports that they were going to Islamic militant groups. They were “more antidemocratic, more hard-line, closer to an extreme version of Islam” than the main rebel alliance in Libya, said a former Defense Department official.
So, there are credible reports to confirm that the U.S. didn’t disapprove of arms shipments from Qatar to rebels in Benghazi. There are also credible reports that part of Stevens’ mission in Benghazi was to recover anti-aircraft weapons. But claims that Clinton secretly sent Stevens to Benghazi to recover those weapons, or that those weapons were used to shoot down a U.S. helicopter, are based on unnamed sources and cannot be verified.