According to Reuters, President Obama signed orders authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as long as 2 to 3 weeks ago.
“Obama signed the order, known as a presidential “finding”, within the last two or three weeks, according to government sources familiar with the matter.
Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. This is a necessary legal step before such action can take place but does not mean that it will.”
“Interviews by U.S. networks on Tuesday, Obama said the objective was for Gaddafi to “ultimately step down” from power. He spoke of applying “steady pressure, not only militarily but also through these other means” to force Gaddafi out.
Obama said the U.S. had not ruled out providing military hardware to rebels. “It’s fair to say that if we wanted to get weapons into Libya, we probably could. We’re looking at all our options at this point,” he told ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer.
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted to reporters on Wednesday that no decision had yet been taken.”
“In order for specific operations to be carried out under the provisions of such a broad authorization — for example the delivery of cash or weapons to anti-Gaddafi forces — the White House also would have to give additional “permission” allowing such activities to proceed.
Former officials say these follow-up authorizations are known in the intelligence world as “‘Mother may I’ findings.”
It goes on…
“Because U.S. and allied intelligence agencies still have many questions about the identities and leadership of anti-Gaddafi forces, any covert U.S. activities are likely to proceed cautiously until more information about the rebels can be collected and analyzed, officials said.
“The whole issue on (providing rebels with) training and equipment requires knowing who the rebels are,” said Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA Middle East expert who has advised the Obama White House.”
Riedel said that helping the rebels to organize themselves and training them how use weapons effectively would be more urgent then shipping them arms.
Sending in weapons would arguably violate an arms embargo on Libya by the U.N. Security Council imposed on February 26, although British, U.S. and French officials have suggested there may be a loophole.
Getting a waiver would require the agreement of all 15 council members, which is unlikely at this stage. Diplomats say any countries that decided to arm the rebels would be unlikely to seek formal council approval.
An article in early March on the website of the Voice of America, the U.S. government’s broadcasting service, speculated on possible secret operations in Libya and defined a covert action as “any U.S. government effort to change the economic, military, or political situation overseas in a hidden way.”
The article, by VOA intelligence correspondent Gary Thomas, said covert action “can encompass many things, including propaganda, covert funding, electoral manipulation, arming and training insurgents, and even encouraging a coup.” U.S. officials also have said that Saudi Arabia and Qatar, whose leaders despise Gaddafi, have indicated a willingness to supply Libyan rebels with weapons.
This isn’t the first time the U.S. has supplied weapons to rebel fighters. You probably can think of what happened in Afghanistan nearly three decades ago… we supplied the mujahedeen who were engaging the former Soviet Union. Many of those weapons have fallen into the hands of those fighting America ever since, including Osama Bin Laden. I’m not sure that training these guys will accomplish anything better either because one of our students just happened to be OBL as well. Fortunately, it appears that some members of Congress have remembered that…
The chairman of the House intelligence committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, said on Wednesday he opposed supplying arms to the Libyan rebels fighting Gaddafi “at this time.””We need to understand more about the opposition before I would support passing out guns and advanced weapons to them,” Rogers said in a statement.
Let’s consider the changing environment of the Middle East and now the northern shores of Africa for a moment…
The next time that we need to send ships into the Mediterranean, we will be cruising dangerously close to the shores of Tunisia and Libya. Our main entry into the Mediterranean is through the Strait of Gibraltar… once in the Mediterranean, we then need to head to Egypt to use the Suez Canal in order to get to the Middle Eastern region that we are currently engaged in. We are steadily walking on eggshells in these regime changes. We have engaged in a no-win situation in Libya unless we can ensure that the al-Qaeda forces are non-existent, the Muslim Brotherhood does not suddenly appear there, and Qaddafi is long gone. Should any of those oppositional enemies to America gain power in Libya, we will be in grave danger as we cruise the Mediterranean after we’ve armed and trained them.
As it is, I think we may be in for a world of hurt if reports of the Muslim Brotherhood suddenly gaining traction in Egypt prove to be true. We will have a serious problem getting through the Suez Canal safely and who knows who the MB-led Egypt will tip off in Yemen to be waiting for us at the exit. We need to seriously rethink our involvement in all of this “revolution” BS that we are playing a role in.
***For the Reuters article, please follow the link: Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret help for Libya rebels