On the third anniversary of the Benghazi terrorist attack, emails reviewed by Fox News raise significant questions about US government support for the secret shipment of weapons to the Libyan opposition.
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During the Spring of 2011, as the Obama administration ramped up efforts to topple the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, a licensed American arms dealer, Marc Turi, his business partner formerly with the CIA, senior US military officials in Europe and Africa as well as a former staffer for republican Senator John McCain considered logistics for arming the rebels, according to the emails exclusively obtained by Fox Business and Fox News.
Turi is facing federal trial this December on two counts that he allegedly violated the arms export control act by making false statements. Turi denies the charges, and alleges there was a rogue weapons operation run with the knowledge of Mrs. Clinton's state department.
The email dated March 22, 2011 was sent by Admiral James Stavridis, when he was the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, from his government email account to Turi's business partner David Manners.
The email was also copied to General Carter Ham, then head of the defense department's Africa command. Stavridis vouches for Manners as a United States Naval Academy classmate and "former CIA Officer with deep connections throughout the near Middle East."
"The person in charge of the operation from a US DoD perspective is General Carter Ham, the commander of AFRICOM...Clearly, what you are describing is a State Department lead"
Also copied on the email is Mike Kostiw who worked for Senator John McCain until February 2011 on the Senate Armed Services committee. It is not known from the emails reviewed by Fox whether the parties responded, or whether others were brought into the discussion.
Stavridis tells Manners "The person in charge of the operation from a US DoD perspective is General Carter Ham, the commander of AFRICOM...Clearly, what you are describing is a State Department lead."
Fox News contacted Stavridis who is now the dean at Tuft's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Ham, now retired, and Kostiw, in the private sector, seeking a further explanation of the email and the context in which it was sent. Stavridis said he had "nothing to add. Don't remember the email specifically. Dave Manners is a USNA classmate I've known for 40 years. Wish I could be more helpful." There was no immediate response from Ham or Kostiw. Manners turned down an earlier request from Fox to discuss the matter.
In a sworn declaration to the District Court of Arizona May 5th 2015, Manners said, "It was then, and remains now, my opinion that the United States did participate, directly or indirectly, in the supply of weapons to the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC)." The timing matters because in the Spring of 2011 the Libyan opposition was not formally recognized, and the direct supply of arms was not authorized. At that time, the CIA director was David Petraeus.
As part of Fox's ongoing reporting of the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack, Fox News senior executive producer Pamela Browne interviewed Turi, who recalled this email exchange--- adding it came after he applied for a license through the State Department to sell weapons.
"At that point in time, this would've been the first application where the thought process was: the US government was going (to) directly support the Libyan TNC-not use any ally, use their own resources and support," Turi explained. "I actually-we met: Kostiw, and Manners, and myself. and I said, 'Listen, we're going to need overflight permission."
Turi said support for arming the Libyan rebels came from the most senior levels of the US government. Turi's claim is consistent with a Reuters news service exclusive report from March 31, 2011 that stated "President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi...Obama signed the order, known as a presidential "finding", within the last two or three weeks, according to government sources familiar with the matter."
"I'm being extremely transparent and you gotta understand from a, a person in my position, you're not going to go to a country that's under war and hold yourself out there like you're a black market arms dealer. You are committing suicide," Turi said.
"'Hey, I'm here. I'm an option for you if you wanna use that option.' Otherwise, they're gonna do it themselves and that's exactly what they wanted to do because what happens is, if you don't want a US footprint-any type of US entities that's subject to subpoena powers - what do you do? You outsource it and that's what they did."
Turi and his company, Turi Defense Group deny they shipped any weapons, arguing their concept to use an Arab ally instead, so there would be a "zero foot print" for the US government, was used but without strong security and vetting procedures in place.
March 2011 was a busy time for Hillary Clinton. Even today, congressional investigators doubt they have all of the emails from her personal server when she was Secretary of State. On March 14th, 2011, along with Chris Stevens, who was the Special Representative to the Libyan Trans National Council, Clinton met with Libya's Mustafa Jibril in Paris -- a senior member of the TNC. The next day, Secretary Clinton met with Egypt's new foreign minister Nabil el Arabi in Cairo and walked through Tahrir Square with her senior adviser Huma Abedin. At the same time, Turi's proposal, a 267-million dollar contract, was working its way through US government channels.
Turi provided Fox News with emails he exchanged - in early April 2011 - with Chris Stevens to alert him to the proposed weapons deal. The emails were previously cited by the New York Times, but Fox News has made the message traffic public.
Stevens replied with a "thank you " and wrote "I'll keep it in mind and share it with my colleagues in Washington."
As Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge first reported, a heavily redacted email released to the Benghazi committee in May clearly states that on April 8, 2011, a day after the Turi/Stevens exchange, Clinton was interested in arming the rebels using contractors:
"FYI. the idea of using private security experts to arm the opposition should be considered," Clinton wrote. Significantly, the state department released emails blacked out this line, but the version given to the Benghazi select committee was complete.
In May 2011, Turi got a brokering approval from the State Department for Qatar. Federal court documents show that on June 14th, a Russian businessman wrote to Turi indicating Chris Stevens was the State Department's point man for arming the rebels.
Document 55, exhibit F, contains an email from the Russian, stating "I sent you an email days back and no answer from you....anyhow, Mr. Stevens the American embassedor (sic) in benghazi (sic) has been informed of the arrangement...and things should be ok."