United States intelligence and Pentagon officials have begun assembling preliminary information about potential targets in Libya that could be struck if President Barack Obama decided to order such action, senior military counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.
The top-secret Joint Special Operations Command is compiling “target packages” of detailed information about the suspects, the officials said.
The “target packages” also include intelligence justifying a potential strike against any enemy personnel being targeted and a specific calculation on how civilian casualties would be avoided.
Potential military options could include drone strikes, Special Operations raids similar to the one that killed Osama bin Laden and joint missions with Libyan authorities, The New York Times reported.
A senior U.S. official, who declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information, confirmed details to CNN, saying that the U.S. would likely seek cooperation from Libya before launching any military strike.
U.S. drones have been collecting intelligence in eastern Libya for weeks and American intelligence agencies have been intercepting suspected insurgent communications.
Any preliminary list of targets or personnel is part of standard procedure regarding target planning and is "highly pre-decisional,” the officials said, according to CNN.
Republicans have harshly criticized the administration for failing to adequately respond to the deadly attack and saying the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was threatened 13 times before the incident last month that killed four Americans.
Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a letter on Tuesday detailing their findings.
“Based on information provided to the Committee by individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya, the attack that claimed the ambassador’s life was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to September 11, 2012,” Issa and Chaffetz wrote. “It was clearly never, as Administration officials once insisted, the result of a popular protest."
The congressmen said the consulate asked for additional security to deal with the growing threat but was turned down by the administration.
“In addition, multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the Committee that, prior to the September 11 attack, the U.S. mission in Libya made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi. The mission in Libya, however, was denied these resources by officials in Washington,” they wrote.