250 U.S. Marines are moved closer to Libya on first Benghazi anniversary - as Americans are still waiting for the first arrestBy David Martosko In Washington
U.S. military commanders have moved 250 Marines into position at a naval air base on the Italian island of Sicily in order to put them within a three-hour flight to Libya on the first anniversary of the Benghazi terror attack and the twelfth observance of 9/11.
But no one has been arrested in connection with the mortar and firebomb assault a year ago that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other American personnel.
There is not 'anyone in custody who can tell us' specifics about the Benghazi attack, a counterterrorism official told The Washington Post on Wednesday. 'That is a huge gap. What we lack is a source of information that puts us where we need to be.'
Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy is hosting half of the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force unit, while its remaining 250 Marines remain at the Morón Air Base in southern Spain.
The Marines' move to Italy was undertaken to place them closer to Libya in the event Islamist terror groups unleashed another Benghazi-style attack.
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Hooah! U.S. Marine Corps contingents stand ready to storm into Libya if they're needed on 9/11
An MV-22B Osprey (pictured), a C-130 transport plane, or other aircraft can whisk armed battalions from southern Italy to northern Africa in just hours
Who is this man? U.S. authorities still don't have anyone in custody who can shed light on what happened in Benghazi, and congressional Republicans are weary of what they see as a White House political stonewall
During an August 9 press conference, President Barack Obama disclosed that the Justice Department had obtained sealed indictments in the case, a highly unusual move given the tight secrecy surrounding federal grand jury proceedings.
But on the same day, the founder of Libya's Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia told reporters that he had yet to hear from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Ahmed Abu Khattala admitted that he was present during the Benghazi attack, but said no U.S. official had interviewed him.
The Accountability Review Board that investigated the Benghazi attack recommended this year that Marine units in Europe should be augmented to give military commanders more options in Northern Africa.
The renewed posture of readiness is a marked change from a year ago, when al-Qaeda-linked radicals in Ansar al-Sharia stormed a U.S. diplomatic post and its CIA annex in Benghazi.
On that night, as the attack was ongoing, a Special Forces team was ordered to disembark from a military plane in Tripoli that was headed to Benghazi. Pentagon officials have not testified publicly about who gave that order.
CNN's Arwa Damon toured the rubble of the U.S. Consulate and interviewed Ahmed Abu Khattala, the militant suspected of spearheading the Benghazi attack
Khattala told CNN on August 6 that the FBI has never tried to contact him, and insisted that while he was present at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi he had nothing to do with the attack
But it's unclear how commanders on the ground could have known how long the military-style assault would last while it was underway.
More public hearings on Benghazi are likely to be in Congress' future, as House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, said Wednesday that he planned to continue his probe into the terror attack.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on Wednesday that former UN Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, who co-authored the
Accountability Review Board report, will testify in a Sept. 19 hearing.
Also reportedly on the witness list are family members of the U.S. personnel other than Ambassador Stevens who perished in Benghazi. The three victims were all from San Diego County.
In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Issa threatened on Tuesday that he would issue subpoenas to compel testimony from Benghazi survivors who are not made available to congressional investigators by Sept. 24.
'The survivors of the attacks are the only people who can give testimony to the Committee about what happened on the ground in Benghazi,' wrote Issa.
President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have struggled to explain how the American investigation into the Benghazi attack has produced so few results
No accountability: The lack of criminal arrests in the Benghazi case frustrates lawmakers and family members of the deceased whose loved ones held on as long as they could before Islamist forces took their lives
In Benghazi on Wednesday, a powerful car bomb was detonated near Libya’s Foreign Ministry building. The early morning explosion resulted in no serious casualties.
That building, the Associated Press reported, once housed the U.S. consulate during the monarchy of King Idris, who ruled the country before Muammar Gaddafi overthrew him in 1969.
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan told reporters on Wednesday that his government would track down the bombers and 'cut off their hands.'
As Libyans deal with this latest attack, some Republicans in Congress are still looking rearward at a crisis that has killed their confidence in the Obama administration.
Even the president's seemingly unrelated Syria strategy has at times come under fire out of lawmakers' year-old frustrations.
South Carolina GOP Rep. Jeff Duncan told Kerry during a Syria hearing last week in the House Foreign Affairs Committee that he 'can't discuss the possibility of the U.S. involvement in Syria's civil war without also talking about Benghazi.'
'The administration has a serious credibility issue with the American people,' claimed Duncan, 'due to the unanswered questions surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi almost a year ago.'
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