When it comes to grandstanding, few politicians can outdo Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. A few hours before the President’s first press conference since the election, this duo had one of their own, demanding a "Water-gate"-like special congressional investigation into the attack on our Benghazi
CIA secret prison "consulate." As if at least three congressional committees looking into the matter isn’t enough, they want another one – just to make sure it comes to the right conclusions.
And what are those conclusions? It’s the same Fox News party line that we’ve been hearing since Day One: according to the wingnuts, the President and his administration deliberately withheld military and security support from the "consulate," and ordered rescue teams to stand down while Ambassador Chris Stevens, and three others, were sacrificed on the altar of the President’s reelection campaign.
You may ask: why would Obama, then-CIA chief Gen. David Petraeus, and the Pentagon pull such a deadly and heinous betrayal? Although it is never said out loud – except by the nuttiest of the wingnuts – the clear implication is that the White House is inhabited by traitors. It all makes perfect "sense" if you fervently believe the President is a secret Muslim.
For those whose ears aren’t quite attuned to the dog whistling of the Fox News/Karl Rove media combine, we have Charles Krauthammer, who gives essentially the same tired old story a conspiratorial twist (with a dash of scandal): the administration, he avers, was holding the knowledge of his affair with Paula Broadwell over Petraeus’s head, supposedly forcing him to testify at a Sept. 13 congressional briefing that the "Innocence of Muslims" video was a significant factor in the Benghazi attack. Obama isn’t just a secret Muslim, you see: he’s a blackmailer, too.
It’s truly a sickening and singularly unconvincing narrative, not least because these three stooges of the War Party – McCain, Graham, and Krauthammer – all hailed the US intervention in Libya, while criticizing the President for being too "late and slow" about it. When radical Islamists allied with al-Qaeda were installed in Tripoli and Benghazi by NATO air power and mobs of howling savages on the ground, the War Party – personified by this tiresome trio – were over the moon. Now they’re complaining about the consequences of our great "victory" – "it’s a good day for Libya, America, and the world," Krauthammer crowed at the time. But was it?
When it comes to the Benghazi attack, all parties agree on one thing: the security arrangements provided for the CIA station/consulate were inadequate. Unarmed security guards employed by an obscure UK-based firm nobody had ever heard of, and the "protection" afforded by the February 17 Brigade, a key militia group that led the uprising against Qaddafi in Benghazi and was being "trained" by the CIA, were all the protection they had. Perhaps the State Department was confident the February 17 gang would defend them if attacked. The only problem was that the Brigade, itself a radical Islamist outfit, did nothing while the Ansar al-Sharia group – another, even more hard-line Islamist "militia" – stormed the diplomatic compound, and, later, the CIA station a mile or so away. Indeed, the consulate "guards" alerted the attackers as to the whereabouts of Ambassador Stevens and his staff, who had fled to the nearby CIA station after the initial assault.
Those "guards" came from a small outfit known as Blue Mountain Security. This was mainly a travel company catering to adventurous tourists until the "liberation" of Libya, when they managed to get around Libyan regulations on foreign security providers by partnering up with a "local" security organization. Except it wasn’t at all local: the Eclipse Group is a shadowy organization run by Iran-Contra co-conspirator and neocon loony Duane Clarridge, who boasts of running his own "private" CIA. It was this group, which just happened to have a license to operate in Libya, that gave Blue Mountain access to the Libyan security market.
Isn’t it funny how neocons turn up in the weirdest places? All you have to do is probe a bit beneath the surface of practically any foreign policy disaster, and there they are, like bugs scittering away in droves the deeper one digs.
Speaking of neocons, we now know the identity of the Shirtless Guy, the FBI agent whose dogged pursuit of the source of those "harassing" emails led to the exposure of Petraeus’s affair with Paula Broadwell and the CIA chief’s downfall:
"The agent, Frederick W. Humphries II, 47, is also described by former colleagues as relentless in his pursuit of what he sees as wrongdoing, which appears to describe his role in the F.B.I. investigation involving Mr. Petraeus. Suspecting that the case involved serious security issues and was being stalled, possibly for political reasons – a suspicion his superiors say was unjustified – he took his concerns to Congressional Republicans.
“Fred is a passionate kind of guy,’ one former colleague said. ‘He’s kind of an obsessive type. If he locked his teeth onto something, he’d be a bulldog.’"
Humphries, a former Army captain and military intelligence officer, is a friend of Jill Kelley, the woman whose "cyber-stalking" complaint triggered the investigation that eventually uncovered the Petraeus- Broadwell liaison. He reportedly became so "obsessed" by the case that his superiors forbade him from getting involved in it, and so he went around them: to the Republican congressional leadership, which spilled the beans to the top guns at the FBI. From there it went to DNI James Clapper, who insisted Petraeus resign. Humphries was convinced "the case was being stalled for political reasons," according to the Times: an earlier Times account attributed his impatience to his "worldview."
What "worldview" is that? The Times describes his "conservative political views," and a look at his background should give us a few clues.
To begin with, he was instrumental in the investigation that foiled the so-called Millennium terrorist plot of 1990. Current headlines describe him as a "hero." However, other cases in which he figured prominently paint a definitely unheroic portrait of a man consumed by hatred of Muslims. In 2007, Humphries went after Youssef Megahed, a USF student arrested in South Carolina while on a road trip with a newly acquired friend, Ahmed Mohamed. They had been pulled over for speeding and the police found suspicious items in the car: PVC pipes filled with potassium nitrate. Mohamed said they were "model rockets," while the government admitted they were "low explosives."
The two were charged with illegal transportation of explosive materials and possession of destructive devices, but neither was convicted on those counts. However, Mohamed got a 15-year sentence for a Youtube video explaining how to convert a toy car remote control device into a detonator. Megahed was acquitted of all charges, but the fanatical Humphries pursued him, and he was re-arrested, this time on suspicion of posing a “terrorist” threat. "We felt that Mr. Megahed was willingly providing assistance to Mr. Mohamed, who is a self-professed terrorist," averred Humphries at the trial. What was the evidence against Megahed? As Megahed’s lawyer put it:
"The only thing the government did — and I think it’s important for people to understand this — is they put on a supervisory FBI agent who testified about what other people investigated, and they put on a forensics computer examiner who basically said, ‘Here’s Youssef’s history on his computer,’ without giving context to either of those. And when we pointed out and were able to discuss what these two witnesses — the actual context of the allegations against Youssef, it became crystal clear that there was nothing there. There was simply no basis to the charges against Youssef."
In short, Humphries’s testimony and that of the "forensics expert" was pure innuendo, which is why the judge threw it out and freed Megahed. This should give us some idea of the "worldview" espoused by Petraeus’s pursuer.
This story says Humphries gave a talk on Afghanistan at the "FBI Citizen’s Academy," and that his friend, Jill Kelley – another key catalyst in the outing of Petraeus – also attended. Other news outlets are claiming they met there for the first time. In any case, the two became close – although the shirtless picture Humphries sent her is said to be non-sexual in nature – and when Kelley started receiving anonymous emails warning her to stay away from Petraeus she went to Humphries. He became convinced he had uncovered a grave security threat because the emailer seemed to have inside knowledge of the movements of both Petraeus and Gen. John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan.
Ms. Kelley is fast eclipsing Broadwell as the central player in this drama, which many have compared to a soap opera — but which may in fact be more akin to a spy thriller.
Kelley, 37, is married to Scott Kelley, a surgeon at a hospital in Tampa, Florida: the couple lives in a $1.5 million mansion "a stone’s throw" away from MacDill Air Force Base, headquarters of CENTCOM. The daughter of Lebanese parents who came to the US in the 1970s "due to political disputes," according to Al Arabiya, her family is Maronite Christian. Kelley was described by a onetime member of Petraeus’s staff as a "’self-appointed’ go-between for Central Command officers with Lebanese and other Middle Eastern government officials."
One can’t help wondering: which Middle Eastern governments?
Kelley and her husband moved to Tampa a decade ago, and she soon became the center of a social whirlwind involving top CENTCOM officers, including Petraeus and Allen. Famous for her lavish parties, with white tents on her manicured lawn and valet parking, she was known as the unofficial "social liaison" for MacDill and the surrounding community. (Although if you were anything less than a colonel, you could forget about getting an invite to one of her sparkling galas). She worked hard at becoming a fixture, even getting a special pass to MacDill which allowed her to breeze in and out: the pass, as you might imagine, has since been revoked.
A sumptuous mansion, a Mercedes and a BMG in the driveway, a reputation as a socialite with rather expensive tastes – these insignia of wealth hid a miasma of debt, foreclosures, and creditor lawsuits that belied the glossy surface of her life. As USA Today reports:
"The $2.1 million purchase of a three-story office building downtown ended in foreclosure. The couple defaulted on a $250,000 line of credit and owe thousands on credit cards.
"Chase Bank sued for $25,880 in 2010.
"FIA Card Services sued in February for $79,876, including more than $75,000 in cash advances on a Visa Signature card.
"Regions Bank sued in August 2010 after the Kelleys failed to make payments on $250,000 borrowed July 19, 2005. The bank ultimately settled for $85,000 and required the Kelleys to pay $850 a month toward the debt."
There was also a seemingly dubious cancer charity run by Jill and her husband, which also lists her twin sister, Natalie, as an officer. Almost half the money raised went to expenses: no one knows where the other half went. More recently, Kelley attended the Tampa GOP convention, where she met a New York City businessman who was convinced by her that she could get him a no bid coal gasification contract with the South Korean government: the hook was her relationship with Petraeus, which she said would guarantee the contract. He flew her to New York to discuss the details, but soon discovered she had no idea what she was talking about after she demanded an $80 million payment.
Sister Natalie Khawam is also quite the card: police records indicate at least half a dozen calls from Ms. Khawam concerning alleged prowlers, unwanted visits from supposed agents of her ex-boyfriend, and other domestic dramas. The boyfriend may be her ex-husband, or perhaps lobbyist Gerald Harrington, a bigtime Democratic party contributor and military lobbyist associated with Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and John Kerry. Khazam’s bankruptcy records indicate Harrington "loaned" her $300,000. In another weird twist, both Petraeus and Allen intervened in a child custody case involving Khawam and her ex-husband: both sent letters to the judge praising her to the skies. However, as the Tampa Bay Times put it:
"The court had a different opinion. ‘Ms. Khawam appears to lack any appreciation or respect for the importance of honesty and integrity in her interactions with her family, employers, and others with whom she comes in contact,’ a judge wrote after a litany of hearings and psychological evaluations. ‘The court fully expects that Ms. Khawam’s pattern of misrepresentations about virtually everything, including the most important aspects of her life, will continue indefinitely.’"
Millions of dollars in debt, Khazam moved into the Tampa Bay mansion with her sister. The two made a formidable team as they carved out a niche at the intersection of Tampa’s social elite and MacDill’s military brass. Kelley, says the Tampa Bay Times, was "determined to make her footprint" after moving to Tampa in 2003, and was apparently very clear on setting up shop as close to MacDill as possible. She "knocked on doors up and down Bayshore Boulevard, asking homeowners if their house was for sale. She wanted the prestigious address, and she got it. In June 2004, the couple paid $1.5 million for a 4,800-square-foot brick mansion with stately white pillars and a view of Hillsborough Bay, just six miles from MacDill Air Force Base."
They became renown for the untrammeled extravagance of their parties, where "there was always more than anybody could possibly eat," according to one guest. Behind the façade of wealth and self-assurance, however, the sisters were slowly sinking into an ocean of debt and accompanying litigation.
When we put what we know about the Kelley household together, we come up with a clear pattern and set of motivations pointing to an ulterior motive behind all this frenetic socializing and status-seeking:
1) To say they were living beyond their means is a bit of an understatement: saddled with an enormous debt – the mortgage on their house was in serious arrears – one has to wonder where they got all the money for this constant round of entertaining.
2) Jill Kelley made a "determined" effort to buy a house at a prestigious address minutes away from MacDill. She was very specific about where she wanted to live, almost as if she were setting up a "scene" – but to what purpose?
3) Kelley waged an aggressive campaign to embed herself and her family into the social life of MacDill, cultivating top-ranking officers such as Petraeus and Allen, continuing her relationship with these two after they left the area. At every charity event, every "outreach" effort by MacDill to the local community, there she was, right in the center of things. Her whole life revolved around these activities: it was, in effect, her job.
4) As Petraeus’s former staff member phrases her job description, she was a "’self-appointed’ go-between for Central Command officers with Lebanese and other Middle Eastern government officials."
Lebanon’s Christian Maronite community has a long history of persecution at the hands of Muslim radicals, and also one of political extremism in their own ranks. The violently anti-Muslim Phalangist movement, which engaged in several massacres, has its base in the Maronite community: they were the main pogromists at Sabra and Shatilla. Allied with the Israelis, the Maronites fought – and continue to fight – against the Muslim majority: the links between the Phalangists and other Christian extremist groups and Israeli intelligence is well-documented.
Enter FBI agent and anti-Muslim fanatic Humphries, on a crusade to save the West from infiltration, who believed the investigation into the "harassing" emails was being suppressed by the Obama administration, and you have all the ingredients of a political and ideological vendetta aimed at bringing down not only Petraeus but also That Secret Muslim in the White House.
A whole section of the loony-tunes right-wing in this country fervently believes the US government has been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. And their paranoia is completely nonpartisan: Frank Gaffney, of the vehemently pro-Israel Center for Security Policy, and the equally nutty and voluble David Horowitz – former New Leftist Black Panther groupie – turned right-wing conspiracy theorist – have both been pushing for years the crazy notion that the Bush administration was infested with Muslim fifth columnists. Their prime target: none other than Grover Norquist, the libertarian anti-tax advocate who is married to a Palestinian woman, and, among his other subversive activities, helped found a free market institute aimed at the Islamic world.
If Humphries’s "worldview" was similar to or even shaped by these nutballs, then his actions make perfect "sense": after all, the investigation into the emails was faltering, in his view, and what else could it be but those evil fifth columnists who had squelched the probe? Yet he wasn’t going to relent: this one wasn’t going to get away like Megahed did. He would go over their heads, expose the terrorist conspiracy, and – as in the Millennium case – be hailed as a hero.
However, instead of going to the Justice Department, or the chair of a congressional intelligence committee, he turned to the Republicans, and specifically House majority leader Rep. Eric Cantor. It was the tag team of Humphries, Kelley, and Cantor who revealed Petraeus’s secret to the world – although Kelley didn’t count on the FBI going into her emails and there discovering hundreds of pages of email between her and Gen. Allen.
Which leads us to the question: why did Broadwell send the harassing emails, warning Allen off of Kelley and telling the latter to back off from Petraeus? The sex-obsessed American media is naturally focusing on the salacious aspects of L’affaire Petraeus, but the reality is that neither Petraeus nor Allen was likely romantically involved with the Lebanese spitfire. I would suggest it wasn’t jealousy that motivated Broadwell, it was a desire to protect her lover – and Gen. Allen – from falling into a trap: instead, she set if off by her actions. This wasn’t a love triangle – it was a failed counterintelligence operation, and the end of a tragic love story in which the beloved was unknowingly betrayed by her lover.
We are now being treated to the spectacle of the whole "anti-terrorist" wingnut media machine pumping out the narrative of a craven and traitorous White House supposedly covering up the "real" story of what happened in Benghazi. In typical neocon style, this narrative – summed up by Krauthammer’s "blackmail" thesis – is not only a lie, it is the exact opposite of the truth. Far from being blackmailed by the administration, Petraeus was set up and hung out to dry by a murky cabal on the other end of the political spectrum.
I would note that at both ends of the twin scandals roiling official Washington – Benghazi and the Petraeus affair – we find similar catalytic elements of a definitely neoconnish complexion. At the Benghazi end, we have the Blue Mountain/Eclipse Group/Duane Clarridge connection, and on the Petreaus side we have the Humphries/Kelley/Cantor cabal, with hints of involvement by a certain "Middle Eastern government" thrown in for good measure.
Is that a coincidence, or what?
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
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