The Central Intelligence Agency denied charges Sunday that its annex in Benghazi, Libya secretly held a few jihadi prisoners until it was destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack. Paula Broadwell, the girlfriend then-CIA chief Gen. David Petraeus, made that claim during an Oct. 26 speech in Denver, Colo.
“I don’t know if a lot of you have heard this, but the CIA annex had actually had taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner. And they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back,” Broadwell declared during the speech, at the University of Denver.
“That’s still being vetted,” she added.
The CIA’s denial came just hours after Arutz Sheva, an Israeli news outlet, first published a partial transcript of Broadwell’s speech. By midnight Sunday, intelligence reporters with both The Daily Beast and The Washington Post were reporting and tweeting, respectively, that the CIA said her claim was false.
CIA adamant that Broadwell claims about agency holding prisoners at Benghazi are not true.
— Greg Miller (@gregpmiller) November 12, 2012
An agency spokesperson told The Daily Beast that “[t]he CIA has not had detention authority since January 2009, when Executive Order 13491 was issued. Any suggestion that the Agency is still in the detention business is uninformed and baseless.”
One possible explanation, The Daily Beast wrote, is that Broadwell was confused about a report she had heard that day on the Fox News Channel.
“According to a source on the ground at the time of the attack,” Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin reported Oct. 26, “the team inside the CIA annex had captured three Libyan attackers and was forced to hand them over to the Libyans. U.S. officials do not know what happened to those three attackers and whether they were released by the Libyan forces.”
Petraeus’ intimate relationship with Broadwell, his biographer and a married mom of two, came to light during an FBI investigation, prompting the four-star general’s Nov. 9 resignation.
Broadwell’s claim added a new layer of controversy, however brief, about the failures before and during the Sept. 11 assault on the consulate in Benghazi and on the nearby CIA annex.
GOP leaders have said the Obama administration failed to understand the threats posed by rising Islamist political parties in Libya and nearby Egypt, failed to adequately fortify or guard the Benghazi consulate, and then tried to blame the attacks on a California filmmaker whose anti-Islam video was denounced by Muslims in nearly two dozen countries.
Last week a California judge sentenced the filmmaker to a year in jail for probation violations.
The Obama administration has tried to blame inadequate intelligence gathering for the Sept. 11 disaster, but has yet to publicly acknowledge any problems with its outreach to, and support for, Islamist groups in Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia.
However, the White House has signaled some disapproval of Egypt’s government and of the Syrian rebel leadership, both of which are closely tied to the Egyptian based Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.