Unconfirmed Sites

(updated December 31, 2012 by Byron Zinonos)

As previously mentioned,[1] on January 22, 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order stripping the CIA of its authority to detain prisoners in secret prisons.[2] On September 11, 2012, armed men assaulted the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.[3] Some “early accounts” originally stated that “the attack stemmed from a spontaneous protest”[4] or that the attack was “a terrorist act, perpetrated by people either associated with or who sympathize with al Qaeda, that took advantage of the protest [that took place outside of the Consulate before the attack began].”[5] A recent investigation into the attacks has revealed that in fact “there were no protests of an anti-Islamic video before the attack,”[6] as originally reported. The cause of the Consulate’s vulnerability and ultimate attack now is reported to be a failure of American intelligence to broadly assess a “deteriorating security environment.”[7]

However, according to Paula Broadwell, biographer of former CIA director David Petraeus, “the [CIA] held militants in Libya before the Sept. 11 attack.”[8] At a talk in October at the University of Denver, she “said the CIA had detained people at a secret facility in Benghazi, and the attack on the U.S. Consulate [on September 11, 2012] was an effort to free those prisoners.”[9] While the CIA, citing the executive order issued by President Barack Obama in January 2009, has denied Ms. Broadwell’s assertion,[10] similar allegations had been made by Fox News, in a report that Broadwell evidently quoted from in her Denver talk.[11] In a report discussing CIA operators’ requests for help being denied during the Benghazi attack, Fox News Reporter Jennifer Griffin reported:

According to a source on the ground at the time of the attack, 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.[12]

In a follow-up on Ms. Broadwell’s allegations, Griffin and Adam Housley reported that Broadwell’s statements might lead to questions as to whether she revealed classified information.[13]  The report noted that Broadwell had cited Fox News’ own earlier story, but explained that Broadwell went on to “explain more sensitive details from the Benghazi attacks.”[14] The Griffin & Housley article also went on to expand on the earlier report that there were Libyan militia members being held by the CIA:

A well-placed Washington source confirms to Fox News that there were Libyan militiamen being held at the CIA annex in Benghazi and that their presence was being looked at as a possible motive for the staged attack on the consulate and annex that night.

According to multiple intelligence sources who have served in Benghazi, there were more than just Libyan militia members who were held and interrogated by CIA contractors at the CIA annex in the days prior to the attack. Other prisoners from additional countries in Africa and the Middle East were brought to this location.

The Libya annex was the largest CIA station in North Africa, and two weeks prior to the attack, the CIA was preparing to shut it down. Most prisoners, according to British and American intelligence sources, had been moved two weeks earlier.[15]

So far, only Broadwell and Fox News have suggested that the CIA detained prisoners in Benghazi. Nevertheless, the possibility still remains that the U.S. may have operated a secret prison site in Benghazi at the time of this attack.


[1] Jaqueline Pimpinelli, An Overview of U.S. Operated Black Sites, Detained By U.S. (May 31, 2012), http://www.detainedbyus.org/an-overview-of-u-s-operated-“black-sites/.

[2] CIA Denies It Detained Militants in Benghazi, CBS News (Nov. 12, 2012, 1:58 P.M.), http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57548494/cia-denies-it-detained-militants-in-benghazi/.

[3] CNN Wire Staff, Pentagon Releases Official Timeline of Benghazi Attack, CNN (Nov. 10, 2012, 1:22 P.M.), http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/09/world/africa/libya-benghazi-timeline/index.html.

[4] Timeline: How Benghazi Attack, Probe Unfolded, CBS News (Nov 2, 2012, 8:55 P.M.), http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57544719/timeline-how-benghazi-attack-probe-unfolded/.

[5] Id.

[6] Eric Schmitt & Michael R. Gordon, Panel Assails Role of State Department in Benghazi Attack, N.Y. Times (Dec. 18, 2012), http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/us/politics/inquiry-into-libya-attack-is-sharply-critical-of-state-department.html.

[7] Id.

[8] CIA Denies It Detained Militants in Benghazi, supra note 2 (summarizing Broadwell’s assertions).

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] On Broadwell’s use of this Fox News report, see Jennifer Griffin & Adam Housley, EXCLUSIVE: Petraeus Mistress May Have Revealed Classified Information at Denver Speech on Real Reason for Libya attack, Fox News (Nov. 12, 2012), http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/11/12/petraeus-mistress-may-have-revealed-classified-information-at-denver-speech/.

[12] Jennifer Griffin, EXCLUSIVE: CIA Operators Were Denied Request for Help During Benghazi Attack, Sources Say, Fox News (Oct. 26, 2012), http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/10/26/cia-operators-were-denied-request-for-help-during-benghazi-attack-sources-say/.

[13] Griffin & Housley, supra note 11.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.