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A top congressional appropriator suggested on Monday evening that the State Department and CIA might have been stockpiling weapons for Syrian opposition fighters when they came under attack by jihadists in Benghazi, Libya.
“I firmly believe that whatever the State Department and CIA were doing in Benghazi had a direct connection to U.S. policy in Syria—a policy that to date has not been fully revealed to the American people or Congress,” Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.) said on Monday evening during a discussion focusing on “unanswered questions” surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed four Americans.
“Were these rebels being armed with weapons collected in Benghazi?” Wolf asked, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “Again, there is reason to believe this may be the case and a clear explanation is warranted.”
The issue has a direct bearing on Congress’ debate about military intervention in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad stands accused of using chemical weapons.
“Given the pending request for authorization to use military force in Syria, it is more important than ever that the Congress understand U.S. support and assistance to Syrian rebels and whether groups responsible for the American deaths in Benghazi may have been at the same time benefitting from U.S. assistance in Syria,” Wolf said.
Congress cannot “make an informed decision” about Syria before the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi attack are “more fully understood,” said Wolf, who sent a pair of letters to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday to reveal whether weapons in Benghazi could have reached Syrian rebels and “jihadist fighters.”
“The two [issues] are intimately related and may [have] a direct bearing on U.S. national security,” Wolf said.
Congress could get more answers by holding a public hearing with former CIA Director David Petraeus and current Director John Brennan, Wolf said.
A public hearing would help “determine what was going on at the CIA annex in Benghazi and what role it played in the collection and disbursement of weapons collected in Libya, specifically with the focus of trying to understand how the annex may have supported CIA efforts to arm and train Syrian rebels,” Wolf explained.
“Is it possible that the president’s intelligence finding included an authorization for the weapons collected in Libya to be transferred to Syrian rebels?” Wolf asked at the event, which was hosted by the advocacy group Judicial Watch.
“Was the CIA annex in Benghazi being used to facilitate these transfers?” Wolf asked. “I believe there is now enough evidence suggesting this that it demands a clear explanation.”
Wolf asked that Obama and Kerry answer seven questions that could shed light on the CIA’s secret operations in Benghazi.
His questions come on the heels of an admission by State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf that the United States has spent $40 million to help the Libyan government secure and disable “stockpiles of at-risk conventional weapons and ammunition.”
“Were the collected weapons ever held or stored at either the U.S. consulate or CIA annex in Benghazi during the collection process?” Wolf asked in his letter. “At any point in time were any of these collected weapons transferred to Syria and/or ever obtained by opposition fighters, including jihadist fighters.”
Wolf reiterated in his comments on Monday that the public and families of those killed in Benghazi deserve to know the truth.
Lawmakers must uphold “our obligation to the families of those killed and the seriously wounded survivors who fought alongside Ty Woods and Glen Doherty to save so many American lives that night,” Wolf said. “A grave injustice was committed against them when the determination was made not to send any aid or assistance over an eight-hour period of fighting.”
The name of just one Benghazi survivor has been released to the American public, Wolf said.
“But he is not alone. Others were wounded,” he said. “The story of how a handful of brave Americans fought off hundreds of armed terrorists has yet to fully come out. Do we not owe it to these men to credit them for their heroic acts?”
The State Department denied that it was stockpiling arms in Benghazi.
“As we have previously stated, the U.S. mission in Benghazi was not transferring arms to anyone,” a State Department official told the Free Beacon when approached for comment. “As we have repeatedly said, publicly and in classified briefings to members of Congress, our diplomatic mission in Benghazi was there to demonstrate U.S. commitment to this important region – the heart of the Libyan revolution.”