This week, the Blotter is reprising seven different Brian Ross Unit investigations that made a difference in 2011. Today: Missing surface-to-air missiles in Libya.
When rebels rose up to overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, they also began looting his massive stores of weapons. Gadhafi's arsenal had once held as many as 20,000 surface-to-air missiles, and the revolution brought with it the threat of terrorists gaining access to portable weapons capable of taking down commercial airliners.
An ABC News investigation found that after the U.S.-led NATO bombing began in March, the U.S. government had failed to account for Gadhafi's missiles, also called MANPADs, and after the rebel victory at first had no more than six officials on the ground to track down and safeguard the cache.
In a story published on the Blotter, and broadcast on "Good Morning America," "World News with Diane Sawyer" and "Nightline," the ABC News investigative unit revealed that thousands of the missiles had gone missing.
Peter Bouckaert, Emergencies Director for Human Rights Watch, provided ABC News with video and photos of looted weapons depots and rebels hauling Russian-made SA-24's and SA-7's, two Stinger-like shoulder-fired missiles, from sites across Libya. At the time, Bouckaert noted that Gadhafi's 20,000 missiles represented the largest unsecured cache in the world.
Impact: Shortly after the initial ABC News report in September, the Obama Administration announced that it was sending another 20 weapons experts to locate and secure the Libyan weapons with the help of the Transitional National Coalition, Libya's post-Gadhafi government.
After an ABC News follow-up a month later, the State Department announced that roughly 5,000 of the weapons have been secured or destroyed in the NATO bombings, and that no "firm evidence" exists that any of the missiles have been smuggled out of the country.