Obama Authorizes Secret Aid For Libyan Rebels
The order, which is known as a presidential "finding" was signed "within the last two or three weeks."
Reuters, which was the first outlet to report on the authorization, notes, "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."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement, "As is common practice for this and all administrations, I am not going to comment on intelligence matters. I will reiterate what the president said yesterday -- no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya."
Though the U.S. has the right to arm the Libyan rebels under the UN Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention, major debate has surrounded the issue.
Both Obama and Sec. of State Hillary Clinton have said no decisions have been made.
"It's fair to say that if we wanted to get weapons into Libya, we probably could," Obama told ABC News' Diane Sawyer. "We're looking at all our options at this point."
Continuing his media circuit, Obama told NBC News, “I’m not ruling it out, but I’m also not ruling it in. We’re still making an assessment partly about what Qaddafi’s forces are going to be doing. Keep in mind, we’ve been at this now for nine days.”
The New York Times reports:
"While President Obama has insisted that no American military ground troops participate in the Libyan campaign, small groups of C.I.A. operatives have been working in Libya for several weeks as part of a shadow force of Westerners that the Obama administration hopes can help bleed Colonel Qaddafi’s military, the officials said.
In addition to the C.I.A. presence, composed of an unknown number of Americans who had worked at the spy agency’s station in Tripoli and others who arrived more recently, current and former British officials said that dozens of British special forces and MI6 intelligence officers are working inside Libya. The British operatives have been directing airstrikes from British jets and gathering intelligence about the whereabouts of Libyan government tank columns, artillery pieces and missile installations, the officials said.
American officials hope that similar information gathered by American intelligence officers — including the location of Colonel Qaddafi’s munitions depots and the clusters of government troops inside towns — might help weaken Libya’s military enough to encourage defections within its ranks."
Providing arms supplies to the Libyan rebels would likely help their chances against Gaddafi's forces who are much better equipped. Some U.S. officials are quoting Obama's director of national intelligence who reportedly compared anti-Gaddafi forces to a "pick-up basketball team."
But U.S. officials have some major concerns about arming the rebels, including possible links between the rebels and Al Qaeda. Others are worried about the price tag of the operations in Libya and fear getting more involved.
A Defense Department spokeswoman said Tuesday that the U.S. intervention in Libya has cost "about $550 million" in extra spending thus far.
The White House has said it is looking into "all types of assistance" to bring down Gaddafi, and Reuters notes, "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."
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