by Aaron Klein
TEL AVIV - Has the White House been misleading the public by repeatedly denying it was coordinating arms shipments to the rebels in Syria, insurgents known to consist in large part of al-Qaida and other jihadist groups?
Other top U.S. officials and former officials, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have implied in congressional testimony that they didn't know about any U.S. involvement in procuring weapons for the rebels.
Now, a starkly different picture is emerging, one that threatens the longstanding White House narrative that claims the Obama administration has only supplied nonlethal aid to the rebels.
Confirming WND's exclusive reporting for over a year, the New York Times two days ago reported that since early 2012, the CIA has been aiding Arab governments and Turkey in obtaining and shipping weapons to the Syrian rebels.
While the Times report claims most of the weapons shipments facilitated by the CIA began after the latest presidential election, Middle Eastern security officials speaking to WND have said U.S.-aided weapons shipments go back more than a year, escalating before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi.
Aaron Klein's New York Times bestseller, "Fool Me Twice," is more relevant than ever.
In fact, the Middle Eastern security officials speaking to WND since last year describe the U.S. mission in Benghazi and nearby CIA annex attacked last September as an intelligence and planning center for U.S. aid to the rebels in the Middle East, particularly those fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
The aid, the sources stated, included weapons shipments and was being coordinated with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Days after the Benghazi attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, WND broke the story that Stevens himself played a central role in recruiting jihadists to fight Assad's regime in Syria, according to Egyptian and other Middle Eastern security officials.
Stevens served as a key contact with the Saudis to coordinate the recruitment by Saudi Arabia of Islamic fighters from North Africa and Libya. The jihadists were sent to Syria via Turkey to attack Assad's forces, said the security officials.
The officials said Stevens also worked with the Saudis to send names of potential jihadi recruits to U.S. security organizations for review. Names found to be directly involved in previous attacks against the U.S., including in Iraq and Afghanistan, were ultimately not recruited by the Saudis to fight in Syria, said the officials.
Now the New York Times has bolstered WND's reporting, citing air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders describing how the CIA has been working with Arab governments and Turkey to sharply increase arms shipments to Syrian rebels in recent months.
The Times reported that the weapons airlifts began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanding into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows.
The Times further revealed that from offices at "secret locations," American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia. They have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive.
The CIA declined to comment to the Times on the shipments or its role in them.
The Times quoted a former American official as saying that David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director until November, had been instrumental in helping set up an aviation network to fly in the weapons. The paper said Petraeus had prodded various countries to work together on the plan.
Petraeus did not return multiple emails from the Times asking for comment.
Both WND's reporting, which first revealed the U.S.-coordinated arms shipments, and the Times reporting starkly contrast with statements from top U.S. officials who have denied aiding the supply of weapons to the rebels.
Last month, the White House flatly denied involvement in arming the Syrian rebels, going so far as to say the Obama administration rejected a plan by former Secretary of State Clinton and then-CIA Director Petraeus to help arm the rebels.
'Nobody has ever raised that with me'
Further, in testimony during the Benghazi hearings, Clinton claimed she did not know whether the U.S. was aiding Turkey and other Arab countries in procuring weapons.
The exchange on the subject took place with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Paul asked Clinton: "Is the U. S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?"
"To Turkey?" Clinton asked. "I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody has ever raised that with me."
Continued Paul: "It's been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that may have weapons, and what I'd like to know is the annex that was close by, were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons, and were any of these weapons being transferred to other countries, any countries, Turkey included?"
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