Attack on US mission in Libya big intelligence loss: report

AFP , Monday 24 Sep 2012

New York Times reports that the attack on the US consulate in Libya earlier this month, resulting in death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and staff, dealt a blow to US intelligence operations

The attack that killed the US ambassador to Libya dealt a huge blow to US intelligence operations because CIA agents and contractors were among the Americans evacuated afterward, The New York Times reported late Sunday.

The CIA's intelligence targets in unstable Libya included an Islamist militia that some have blamed for the September 11 attack in the eastern city of Benghazi and suspected members of AL-Qaeda's North African affiliate, the paper said.

More than two dozen Americans were rushed out of Libya after the attack that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. They included about a dozen CIA operatives and contractors monitoring a variety of armed groups in the city, the paper reported.

"It is a catastrophic intelligence loss," it quoted an American official who has served in Libya as saying. "We got our eyes poked out."

However, the paper quoted another official as saying the United States was still collecting information via other techniques such as informants, intercepting mobile phone conversations and use of satellite images.

"The United States isn't close to being blind in Benghazi and eastern Libya," the second official said.

The paper also said that contrary to initial accounts, a consulate annex that was also attacked was never meant to be a "safe house" for the CIA.

Last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced an official review of security at the US mission in Libya.

President Barack Obama's administration initially said it believed extremists had not really planned the attack in Libya but simply taken advantage of a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islamic trailer to mix in and attack.

The White House for the first time Thursday described the assault as a "terrorist attack" and said it could have links to Al-Qaeda.

But a Republican lawmaker, Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, cast doubt Sunday over whether the protests even happened.

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