The CIA is claiming that retired Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin is incorrect in alleging that it's possible that the U.S. was considering offering support or already in the act of supporting Syrian rebels with weapons via Benghazi, Libya. Boykin, who had an esteemed career as a commander of the U.S. Special Forces Command, the deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence and as a CIA staffer, made his comments during a recent video interview with CNS News.
On Tuesday, a CIA spokesperson told the same outlet that Boykin's "assertions are both baseless and flat wrong." The general has publicly wondered why U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was in Benghazi on Sept. 11 -- the day that an attack on the consulate inevitably killed the American diplomat. The former special forces commander has posited that an operation to assist Syrian rebels might explain Stevens' presence in the city.
"Then what was Stevens doing there on September 11 of 2012?," Boykin said in an exchange with CNS News. "More supposition was that he was now funneling guns to the rebel forces in Syria, using essentially the Turks to facilitate that. Was that occurring, (a), and if so, was it a legal covert action?"
Here, Boykin is referring to the fact that Stevens, who was residing in Tripoli after being sent back to Libya as ambassador in May 2012, had gone to Benghazi on Sept. 10 -- the day before the attack.
Amb.Chris Stevens (Photo Credit: AP)
There were only five State Department mission employees in Benghazi at the time of Stevens' arrival on Sept. 10. While the ambassador brought two security personnel with him, one left on the morning of Sept. 11, leaving six personnel and then Stevens, himself.
Boykin, who said he could not prove that a Syrian mission was on the table, noted that he had information that led him to believe that this might be the case. When asked by CNS why a "skeletal group" of State Department officials was present in Benghazi at the time, the former commander expressed his theory.
"Well, I think that they were anticipating that they would eventually be given a directive to support the Syrian rebels and that that would be the hub of that activity," Boykin said. "So, I think they kept the facilities open, they kept them functioning, they had somebody there that had to be there because of the communications equipment, because of the potentially classified material that was still there."
Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin (Photo Credit: AP)
He went on to say that he believes the personnel stayed there in anticipation of helping the Syrian rebels, nothing that "they’d probably been given a heads up on that." Boykin claims that he has information that corroborates a Syrian rebel support program. If, indeed, this is the case, he said that he has no problem with such a mission, pending it was done legally.
However, Boykin noted that if the program ran without following proper protocol (notifying Congress about the mission), then he would take issue with it. In such a case, he said that an operation moving under such parameters would be "outside of the way America should be functioning." And if Congress was notified, Boykin believes the American people deserve to know the details.
"In the context of why Ambassador Stephens was there that day, I think that the American public needs an explanation," he told CNS, noting that he doesn't believe that the exact details of the covert mission need to be released -- just the general sentiment. "And if that explanation is that he was there to meet with the Turkish General Counsel who was helping to facilitate the flow of arms, then I think that needs to come out."
You can watch Boykin's interview, during which he made these statements, below:
Following the CIA's claims that Boykin's statements on the Syrian matter are "baseless and flat wrong," Boykin responded, seemingly doubling down on his stance.
"I believe there must be an explanation for why the ambassador was there on 9/11," he told CNS. "I believe there has been significant information that has come out recently calling into question whether the ambassador was either involved in or making preparations for supplying material to the Syrian resistance forces."
(H/T: CNS News)