The top-secret JSOC
or Joint Special Operations Command is busy gathering information on militants who are suspected to be behind the attacks on the U.S. consular office in Benghazi, according to senior U.S. counter-terrorism officials. The officials described the process as preparing the "target packages". This would be the first step that would set the stage for orders from President Obama and top advisers to carry out any action against those thought to be responsible for the attack in Benghazi.
President Obama has vowed that he would bring the killers of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans to justice. As in the case of Osama bin Laden, this may mean simply killing them through a raid by Special Forces, or perhaps through drone attacks. U.S. drones are operating throughout eastern Libya in areas where suspected militants are operating. Obama could attack together with Libyan security forces in order to show that Libya is a sovereign country. In Pakistan, the attack that killed Bin Laden was done without Pakistani knowledge in order to ensure Bin Laden was not warned of the attack. There may be the same concerns about secrecy in Libya.
U.S. officials say
that Special Operations planners are increasingly active in tracking suspect members of the Ansar al-Shariah group as well as other militants including those thought to have ties with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The U.S. officials say that Libyan authorities identified several suspected attackers based upon eyewitness accounts, video, and photographs at the scene. One U.S. official, who had been briefed on the plans, said:
"They are putting together information on where these individuals live, who their family members and their associates are, and their entire pattern of life."
Drones constantly monitor suspects in order to update and refine data. Rick Nelson
, a former Special Operations planner, who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said:
"You need to be constantly updating and refining the information on the top targets so that when you get approval, you're absolutely ready to take action."
The decision to act would be made by Obama after meetings with top advisers headed by John Brennan. The U.S. is working closely with the Libyan authorities who are in turn cooperating with the F.B.I.'s investigation into the attacks. An F.B.I. team
recently arrived in Tripoli.
The U.S. takes the position that it can target anyone anywhere aligned with a terrorist group. If the attack on Bin Laden is any precedent this is supposedly legal even though the U.S. does not have authorization from the country in which the attack takes place.
U.S. officials report that U.S. spy agencies intercepted electronic communications from some Ansar al-Shariah fighters who bragged about the attack to a militant from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb. Details of this and other intercepts have been reported in the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Beast.
I am astonished that all this information is being released or leaked by anonymous officials. A key article on these operations of the JSOC comes from the New York Times.
, a newspaper that often is a mouth piece for the U.S. government. Perhaps the public is being prepared for a surprise to boost Obama's ratings just before the November election. However, it may just be intended to show that Obama is hard at work trying to bring terrorists to justice or just to show how transparent this administration is in telling the public what is going on!