Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) says there are “gaps of months, and months, and months” in the Hillary Clinton emails that have been turned over to Congress from her time as secretary of state. Clinton has been heavily criticized for setting up and using a private email system instead of a government email account during her tenure at the State Department.
Gowdy said he’s also concerned that there were no emails from one specific day included in the trove of emails.
“There are gaps of months, and months, and months. And if you think to that iconic picture of her on a C-17 flying to Libya, she has sunglasses on and she has her handheld device in her hand – we have no emails from that day,” Gowdy told CBS anchor Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” Sunday morning.
“In fact, we have no emails from that trip,” he added. “So it strains credibility to believe that if you’re on your way to Libya to discuss Libyan policy, that there’s not a single document that’s been turned over to Congress. So there are huge gaps.”
Gowdy said he has “lost confidence” in the State Department to maintain a public record for lawmakers and the American people.
“It’s not up to Secretary Clinton to decide what’s a public record and what’s not,” he said. “And secondly, what is our committee entitled to? We’re not entitled to everything. I don’t want everything. I just want everything related to Libya and Benghazi.”
Watch part of the interview below:
Islamist militias in Libya took control of nearly a dozen commercial jetliners last month, and western intelligence agencies recently issued a warning that the jets could be used in terrorist attacks across North Africa.
Intelligence reports of the stolen jetliners were distributed within the U.S. government over the past two weeks and included a warning that one or more of the aircraft could be used in an attack later this month on the date marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against New York and Washington, said U.S. officials familiar with the reports.
“There are a number of commercial airliners in Libya that are missing,” said one official. “We found out on September 11 what can happen with hijacked planes.”
The official said the aircraft are a serious counterterrorism concern because reports of terrorist control over the Libyan airliners come three weeks before the 13th anniversary of 9/11 attacks and the second anniversary of the Libyan terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.
Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the Benghazi attack, which the Obama administration initially said was the result of a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video.
A senior State Department counterterrorism official declined to comment on reports of the stolen jetliners.
A second State department official sought to downplay the reports. “We can’t confirm that,” he said.
Meanwhile, officials said Egyptian military forces appear to be preparing to intervene in Libya to prevent the country from becoming a failed state run by terrorists, many with ties to al Qaeda.
Libya remains an oil-rich state and if the country is taken over completely by Islamist extremists, U.S. counterterrorism officials believe it will become another terrorist safe haven in the region.
The officials said U.S. intelligence agencies have not confirmed the aircraft theft following the takeover of Tripoli International Airport in late August, and are attempting to locate all aircraft owned by two Libyan state-owned airline companies, as security in the country continued to deteriorate amid fighting between Islamists and anti-Islamist militias.
Video surfaced on Sunday showing armed fighters from the Islamist militia group Libyan Dawn partying inside a captured U.S. diplomatic compound in Tripoli. The footage showed one fighter diving into a pool from a second-story balcony at the facility.
Tripoli airport and at least seven aircraft were reported damaged during fighting that began in July. Photos of the airport in the aftermath showed a number of damaged aircraft. The airport has been closed since mid-July.
The state-owned Libyan Airlines fleet until this summer included 14 passenger and cargo jetliners, including seven Airbus 320s, one Airbus 330, two French ATR-42 turboprop aircraft, and four Bombardier CJR-900s. Libyan state-owned Afriqiyah Airways fleet is made up of 13 aircraft, including three Airbus 319s, seven Airbus 320s, two Airbus 330s, and one Airbus 340.
The aircraft were reportedly taken in late August following the takeover of Tripoli International Airport, located about 20 miles south of the capital, by Libyan Dawn.
Al Jazeera television reported in late August that western intelligence reports had warned of terror threats to the region from 11 stolen commercial jets.
In response, Tunisia stopped flights from other Libyan airports at Tripoli, Sirte, and Misrata over concerns that jets from those airports could be on suicide missions.
Egypt’s government also halted flights to and from Libya.
Military forces in North Africa, including those from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt have been placed on heightened alert as a result of intelligence warning of the stolen aircraft.
Egyptian military jets reportedly have conducted strikes inside Libya against Libyan Dawn positions recently, and U.S. officials said there are signs a larger Egyptian military incursion is being planned.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi was quoted as denying Egyptian air strikes into Libya have taken place but suggested that military action is being considered.
Secretary of State John Kerry last week told his Egyptian counterpart that the United States would speed up the delivery of Apache attack helicopters, although it is not clear the Apaches would be used in any Libyan operations.
Egypt’s military-backed government appears to be seeking a more significant role in regional security after the Obama administration helped engineer the ouster of Libyan strongman Moammar Qaddafi in 2011. Since then, the Obama administration, through its announced policy of “leading from behind,” has stood by while Libya gradually has spiraled into chaos.
The Libyan government announced Sunday that it no longer controlled the capital of Tripoli.
“We announce that the majority of the ministries, institutions, and associations in the capital Tripoli are no longer under its control,” a government statement said.
Libya’s parliament in August declared both Ansar al Sharia and Libyan Dawn as terrorist organizations working to overthrow the government.
Ansar al Sharia, which is based in Benghazi, recently publicized on social media that it has obtained large numbers of more sophisticated weapons, including SA-6 surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft guns, rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, assault rifles, and armored vehicles. The group is closely aligned with al Qaeda-linked rebels in Syria.
Abderrahmane Mekkaoui, a Moroccan military expert, told Al Jazeera television, which first reported the airline theft Aug. 21, the alert regarding the stolen jetliners was preventive and covers the region from Cairo to Lagos Nigeria.
Mekkaoui said the jets being held by the Libyan group called Masked Men Brigade that was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in December.
The Masked Men Brigade is linked to al Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia—the group behind the Benghazi terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2012.
Until the Libya Dawn takeover of the airport, announced Aug. 24, two other militia groups, known as Al Qaqa and Al Sawa controlled the airport and all aircraft belonging to Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways.
Mekkaoui said “credible intelligence” reports given to states in the region indicated the Masked Men Brigade “is plotting to use the planes in attacks on a Maghreb state” on the 9/11 anniversary.
Counterterrorism expert Sebastian Gorka said that if the theft is confirmed, the stolen aircraft could be used in at least two ways.
“The first would be how commercial airliners were used on Sept. 11, 2001, literally turning an innocent mode of mass transit into a super-high precision guided missile of immense potency,” said Gorka, who holds the Maj. Gen. Charles Horner chair at Marine Corps University in Quantico, Va.
“The second tactic could be to use the airframe with its civilian markings as a tool of deception to insert a full payload of armed terrorists into a locale that otherwise is always open to commercial carriers,” he said.
Michael Rubin, a counterterrorism specialist with the American Enterprise Institute, said commercial jetliners in the hands of terrorists could be formidable weapons.
“Who needs ballistic missiles when you have passenger planes? Even empty, but loaded up with fuel they can be as devastating,” Rubin said.
“Each plane could, if deployed by terrorists to maximum devastating effect, represent 1,000 civilian casualties.”
Among the potential targets are urban areas and economic targets, like Saudi Arabia’s oil fields.
“Anyone who has ever flown over Saudi Arabia at night can see refineries like Yanbu lit up like Christmas trees against the blackness of the desert,” Rubin said. “One Saudi security officer once told me that they would only have about 90 seconds to shoot down a hijacked plane from the time it left international airspace to impact in one of the region’s most important refineries.”
Rubin said in 2003 a Boeing 727 went missing in Africa fueling concerns about a terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Karachi.
“What is striking is that more than a decade later, the United States hasn’t taken the need to safeguard what are effectively giant guided missiles seriously,” he said.
A former Libyan general, Khalifa Haftar, has been leading anti-Islamist forces. His group has access to Libyan air force MiG jets that have conducted strikes on Libyan Dawn positions in recent days. Haftar also has conducted military raids in Benghazi.
The United Nations Security Council on Aug. 27 announced plans for new sanctions on Libyan militias and terrorists. In a resolution the U.N. warned of the “growing presence of al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups and individuals operating in Libya.”
The U.S. military had a multitude of forces in the region surrounding Libya when terrorists attacked the Special Mission in Benghazi and murdered four Americans, according to an unclassified Navy map obtained by Judicial Watch this week.
The map features the Navy fleet positions in the North Africa Area of Responsibility (AOR) on September 11, 2012, the day Islamic jihadists raided the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, the first diplomat to be killed overseas in decades, and three other Americans were murdered in the violent ambush.
Dozens of vessels were stationed in the region on that day, including two aircraft carriers (Dwight D. Eisenhower and Enterprise), four amphibious ships, 13 destroyers, three cruisers and more than a dozen other smaller Navy boats as well as a command ship. Carriers are warships, the powerhouse of the naval fleet with a full-length flight deck for aircraft operations. During the Benghazi attack, two carriers were based to the east in the Arabian Sea, the Navy map shows.
Two amphibious assault ships (Iwo Jima and Gunston Hill) were situated to the east in the Gulf of Oman and one (New York) was in the Gulf of Aden, the map shows.
A little under two years ago, Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, urged British businessmen to begin “packing their suitcases” and to fly to Libya to share in the reconstruction of the country and exploit an anticipated boom in natural resources.
Yet now Libya has almost entirely stopped producing oil as the government loses control of much of the country to militia fighters.
Mutinying security men have taken over oil ports on the Mediterranean and are seeking to sell crude oil on the black market. Ali Zeidan, Libya’s Prime Minister, has threatened to “bomb from the air and the sea” any oil tanker trying to pick up the illicit oil from the oil terminal guards, who are mostly former rebels who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi and have been on strike over low pay and alleged government corruption since July.
As world attention focused on the coup in Egypt and the poison gas attack in Syria over the past two months, Libya has plunged unnoticed into its worst political and economic crisis since the defeat of Gaddafi two years ago. Government authority is disintegrating in all parts of the country putting in doubt claims by American, British and French politicians that Nato’s military action in Libya in 2011 was an outstanding example of a successful foreign military intervention which should be repeated in Syria.
In an escalating crisis little regarded hitherto outside the oil markets, output of Libya’s prized high-quality crude oil has plunged from 1.4 million barrels a day earlier this year to just 160,000 barrels a day now. Despite threats to use military force to retake the oil ports, the government in Tripoli has been unable to move effectively against striking guards and mutinous military units that are linked to secessionist forces in the east of the country.
Libyans are increasingly at the mercy of militias which act outside the law. Popular protests against militiamen have been met with gunfire; 31 demonstrators were shot dead and many others wounded as they protested outside the barracks of “the Libyan Shield Brigade” in the eastern capital Benghazi in June.
Though the Nato intervention against Gaddafi was justified as a humanitarian response to the threat that Gaddafi’s tanks would slaughter dissidents in Benghazi, the international community has ignored the escalating violence. The foreign media, which once filled the hotels of Benghazi and Tripoli, have likewise paid little attention to the near collapse of the central government.
The strikers in the eastern region Cyrenaica, which contains most of Libya’s oil, are part of a broader movement seeking more autonomy and blaming the government for spending oil revenues in the west of the country. Foreigners have mostly fled Benghazi since the American ambassador, Chris Stevens, was murdered in the US consulate by jihadi militiamen last September. Violence has worsened since then with Libya’s military prosecutor Colonel Yussef Ali al-Asseifar, in charge of investigating assassinations of politicians, soldiers and journalists, himself assassinated by a bomb in his car on 29 August.
Rule by local militias is also spreading anarchy around the capital. Ethnic Berbers, whose militia led the assault on Tripoli in 2011, temporarily took over the parliament building in Tripoli. The New York-based Human Rights Watch has called for an independent investigation into the violent crushing of a prison mutiny in Tripoli on 26 August in which 500 prisoners had been on hunger strike. The hunger strikers were demanding that they be taken before a prosecutor or formally charged since many had been held without charge for two years.
The government called on the Supreme Security Committee, made up of former anti-Gaddafi militiamen nominally under the control of the interior ministry, to restore order. At least 19 prisoners received gunshot shrapnel wounds, with one inmate saying “they were shooting directly at us through the metal bars”. There have been several mass prison escapes this year in Libya including 1,200 escaping from a prison after a riot in Benghazi in July.
The Interior Minister, Mohammed al-Sheikh, resigned last month in frustration at being unable to do his job, saying in a memo sent to Mr Zeidan that he blamed him for failing to build up the army and the police. He accused the government, which is largely dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, of being weak and dependent on tribal support. Other critics point out that a war between two Libyan tribes, the Zawiya and the Wirrshifana, is going on just 15 miles from the Prime Minister’s office.
Diplomats have come under attack in Tripoli with the EU ambassador’s convoy ambushed outside the Corinthia hotel on the waterfront. A bomb also wrecked the French embassy.
One of the many failings of the post-Gaddafi government is its inability to revive the moribund economy. Libya is wholly dependent on its oil and gas revenues and without these may not be able to pay its civil servants. Sliman Qajam, a member of the parliamentary energy committee, told Bloomberg that “the government is running on its reserves. If the situation doesn’t improve, it won’t be able to pay salaries by the end of the year”.