Posted by Rafiq A. TschannenAs the clock ticks on a decision about whether and how to target suspects in the Benghazi attacks, intelligence officials say the president might lose his shot if he doesn’t act fast.
Eli Lake reports. The Daily Beast
President Obama has vowed to bring justice to those behind the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, but the president hasn’t chosen what kind of justice that will be. Five administration officials tell The Daily Beast that the White House is now weighing whether to pursue those responsible through law enforcement or via military means like drone strikes or special operations.
The delay from the White House could allow specific intelligence on the locations of suspects to whither on the vine if the suspects flee the country and evade detection, according to three U.S. intelligence officials working closely on the manhunt in Libya. A list of so-called high-value targets is now residing at a Pentagon office responsible for contingency special-operations planning, according to two of those U.S. intelligence officials.
The existence of the list was first reported this week by The New York Times. It was compiled with input from several U.S. intelligence agencies and is being constantly revised and edited as new information comes in to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. Some U.S. intelligence officials say there is enough detail to begin military operations to kill or capture 10 of the operatives tied to the planning of the attack.
“These targets are believed to be located throughout Libya,” one U.S. intelligence officer told The Daily Beast. Another senior U.S. defense official acknowledged that some of the early intelligence could lose its value if there is too much delay. But this official also said there were risks in acting too quickly. “There is always the risk of flight in a situation like this,” this official said. “But it’s probably worth doing right and waiting a bit and trying to get more intel on these guys. You have to worry about relationships. If you do the wrong thing, the ramifications could be serious.” The U.S. intelligence officer said the information on the 10 suspects was “good enough to authorize action if this was Pakistan or Afghanistan.”