CNN Wire Staff
Benghazi, Libya (CNN) - The CIA is operating in Libya to help the United States increase its "military and political understanding" of the situation, a U.S. intelligence source said Wednesday.
"Yes, we are gathering intel firsthand and we are in contact with some opposition entities," the source told CNN.
The White House refused to comment on a Reuters report Wednesday that President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel troops.
"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," said White House press secretary Jay Carney in a statement. "We're not ruling it out or ruling it in. We're assessing and reviewing options for all types of assistance that we could provide to the Libyan people, and have consulted directly with the opposition and our international partners about these matters."
Meanwhile, another senior Libyan official broke Wednesday with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, whose loyalist forces have opposition fighters on the run after a string of successes.
And members of Congress questioned administration officials as to why they weren't asked to authorize Obama's decision to commit U.S. forces.
According to the Reuters report, Obama signed the covert aid order, or "finding," within the past few weeks. Such findings are required for the CIA to conduct secret operations, the report said.
A U.S. official not authorized to speak publicly could not confirm the finding but noted when there are crises like this, "you look at all instruments of national power."
In early March, a U.S. official told CNN "the intelligence community is aggressively pursing information on the ground" in Libya.
There has been growing discussion over whether the coalition will arm the opposition and provide training on the use of effective weapons systems.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with