A reader, relying on publicly available information, has reconstructed what we know and can infer about what happened in Benghazi. I haven’t tried to verify all of his facts nor do I necessarily vouch for his inferences, although in general they seem reasonable. But his analysis is, I think, a valuable contribution to our understanding, and I reproduce it here in slightly edited form:
This last week may have finally broken the protective wall around the POTUS. Between the comments of Hillary Clinton, Gen. Petraeus, Defense Secretary Panetta and the FOX News report, the picture of what really transpired in Benghazi is starting to emerge. The trail is leading straight to the POTUS….
I have no military service, security clearance, or contacts in the middle east. I don’t speak Arabic and have no special skills that would allow me to have a special insight into how the travesty in Benghazi happened, and who is responsible for letting our people die.
All I have are my instincts and google. They allowed me to ascertain within a couple of days that there was no protest outside the consulate before it was attacked. For the administration to attempt to sell such a story infuriated me, especially when Ambassador Rice appeared on five Sunday talks shows on September 16th to spin an obvious lie.
The latest bombshell revelations by FOX News about our people being denied assistance while under attack fits in with my theory of what transpired on 9/11 in Benghazi. I developed my theory by using google to find as many disparate sources of information as I could, and I am presenting you more of what I discovered in hopes you can shine a brighter light on the obvious falsehoods of the Administration’s storyline about what they knew and when.
Rather than include links within the story, I footnoted them and include them at the end of this document.
The timeline of the attack is very important in understanding what happened at the consulate, the “rescue” by Tyrone Woods and other members of the annex staff, the subsequent assault on the annex, and ultimately, the evacuation of the staff to the Benghazi airport.
First we have the attack, which everyone now agrees happened at 9:40 and was not preceded by a protest of any nature. Charlene Lamb said she was at the situation room monitoring the attack in real time, and that the consulate staff sounded the alarm at about 9:40. By monitoring the attack in real time by watching the video feed from the cameras at the consulate, the State Dept situation room staff … would have seen a large number of armed men.
In the State Dept timeline briefing (1) given on October 9th, the briefer describes their version of what happened that night. Here is how they describe the “rescue” of the Americans at the consulate:
At this point, the special security team, the quick reaction security team from the other compound, arrive on this compound. They came from what we call the annex. With them – there are six of them – with them are about 16 members of the Libyan February 17th Brigade, the same militia that was – whose – some members of which were on our compound to begin with in the barracks.
Here is how FOX News (2) describes the same event:
Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a small team who was at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When he and others heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out. They were told to “stand down,” according to sources familiar with the exchange. Soon after, they were again told to “stand down.”
Woods and at least two others ignored those orders and made their way to the consulate which at that point was on fire. Shots were exchanged. The rescue team from the CIA annex evacuated those who remained at the consulate and Sean Smith, who had been killed in the initial attack. They could not find the ambassador and returned to the CIA annex at about midnight.
Question 1: Tyrone Woods and his group were described by the State Dept as “the quick reaction security team.” This implies they were in Benghazi to provide precisely the kind of protective force that would be needed if a situation like this arose. WHO TOLD THEM TO STAND DOWN? Did the order come from their superiors at the annex or from Washington DC? Were their superiors CIA officers or State Dept staff?
So we now have everyone but deceased Ambassador Stevens at the annex at about midnight local time. Again, according to FOX News (2), they called for military assistance because the annex had begun to take fire from the terrorists:
At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied. There were no communications problems at the annex, according those present at the compound. The team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters. In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound. The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Spectre gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights.
The State Department on Oct. 9th (1) describes it this way:
Once at the annex, the annex has its own security – a security force there. There are people at the annex. The guys in the car join the defense at the annex. They take up firing positions on the roof – some of them do – and other firing positions around the annex. The annex is, at this time, also taking fire and does take fire intermittently, on and off, for the next several hours. The fire consists of AK-47s but also RPGs, and it’s, at times, quite intense.
As the night goes on, a team of reinforcements from Embassy Tripoli arrives by chartered aircraft at Benghazi airport and makes its way to the compound – to the annex, I should say. And I should have mentioned that the quick reaction – the quick reaction security team that was at the compound has also, in addition to my five agents, has also returned to the annex safely. The reinforcements from Tripoli are at the compound – at the annex. They take up their positions. And somewhere around 5:45 in the morning – sorry, somewhere around 4 o’clock in the morning – I have my timeline wrong – somewhere around 4 o’clock in the morning the annex takes mortar fire. It is precise and some of the mortar fire lands on the roof of the annex. It immediately killed two security personnel that are there, severely wounds one of the agents that’s come from the compound.
Question 2: Leon Panetta said this (3) about sending military assistance to the annex:
We quickly responded, as General Dempsey said, in terms of our deploying forces to the region. We had fast platoons in the region. We had ships that we had deployed off of Libya, and we were prepared to respond to any contingency and certainly had forces in place to do that. But as a basic principle here – the basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on, without having some real time information about what’s taking place. And as a result of not having that kind of information the commander who was on the ground in that area, General Ham, General Dempsey, and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.
The fact is, American assistance WAS sent from Tripoli that night, but it was not military assistance. Who were the 8 guys sent from Tripoli working for? It is logical to assume they were CIA agents or on their payroll. Notice, in the State Department briefing of Oct. 9th, they do not describe the Tripoli contingent other than this:
As the night goes on, a team of reinforcements from Embassy Tripoli arrives by chartered aircraft at Benghazi airport and makes its way to the compound.
So what we have here is the first huge contradiction between Panetta and the military and the CIA. SOMEONE sent those guys from Tripoli, but it was not the military. Why was it ok to send 8 lightly armed American guys from Tripoli into harm’s way to rescue 30+ people in Benghazi, but not ok to send a heavily armed special forces contingent who have trained for just such a scenario?
The State Dept. was asked about the Tripoli 8 on Oct. 9th and here was their response:
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER TWO: The calls were made to Tripoli at the moment that the – at the same time the agent in the [Tactical Operations Center] sounded the alarm and then proceeded to make calls. I’m not going to go into any details about the number of security personnel who moved.
Notice the State Dept. refers to them as “security personnel.” Whose security personnel? Why only 8 sent (notice State Dept won’t give number sent)?
The best description of what happened that night with the rescue mission from Tripoli I found on 9/13, but was skeptical because part of the story conflicted with my “no protest” theory. After re-reading the story (4), and comparing it with the FOX News report and State Dept briefing, I am sure the part of the story having to do with the rescue of the annex personnel is 100% accurate. Here is how that story describes the rescue:
Captain Fathi al-Obeidi, commander of a special operations force for the February 17 Brigade, told Reuters that he took a call about 1:30 a.m. from Tripoli telling him that a helicopter was on its way from the capital’s Mitiga airport with a rescue squad of eight U.S. troops – he described them as marines.
After he met them at Benghazi airport with a convoy of 10 vehicles, mostly pickup trucks, one mounted with an anti-aircraft cannon, the U.S. force directed Obeidi and his men to the GPS coordinates of a farmhouse to find the survivors there.
Here, two more things went wrong. First, Obeidi found four times as many Americans at the single-story, fortified house as he had been told expect – 37, not just 10. So he did not have enough transport. Then, the villa came under massive attack.
This time, there was little doubt in the minds of Libyans who experienced it that this was a well-organized assault by men who had mastered the complexities of military mortar fire.
“This attack was planned,” Obeid said. “The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any ordinary revolutionaries.”
While some Libyan officials suggested that former soldiers from Gaddafi’s army may have been involved in Benghazi, some of the Islamist fighters also have substantial military experience from years spent fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Though Libya’s deputy interior minister described the locating of the safe house as a “critical security breach,” the attack may not have been planned for long in advance. The assailants would have had some hours to follow the fleeing Americans and set up an ambush after the consulate attack.
“It began to rain down on us,” Obeidi said just as the rescue force was preparing to leave. “About six mortars fell directly on the path to the villa,” he said. One American fell wounded by him. A mortar struck the building itself, throwing from the roof another American posted there onto the men below.
“I was being bombarded by calls from all over the country by Libyan government officials who wanted me to hurry and get them out,” he said. “But … I needed more men and more cars.”
Two Americans, including one of the eight security personnel sent from Tripoli, were killed and several wounded.
Finally, dozens more vehicles from the Libyan security forces arrived, the attackers melted away and, as the sun came up over the desert, they reached Benghazi airport, from where the surviving Americans and the bodies were flown out.
So we now know Tyrone Woods was part of those on staff in Benghazi and Glen Doherty was part of the rescue group sent from Tripoli.
Question 3: According to FOX News, one of those killed (Tyrone Woods) was “painting the enemy mortar team with a laser” and calling for air support to take it out. He was killed when a mortar shell hit the roof. The question is: Was any air support available in the area? Were either of the two drones on station armed? Was there an AC130 gunship in the area? Why was no airpower deployed to assist those in the consulate? Even if Panetta did not want to send men, airpower could have been used to provide cover for those in the annex.
Another reader, Thomas Wictor, weighs in on this point via email:
The Benghazi coverup is much worse than you think. Clearly there were air assets on the scene above the CIA annex and they were denied permission to fire.
Tyrone Woods was painting a target with a ground laser designator (GLD). Those are only used when the air asset is overhead, ready to fire. The jihadis can use cell phones with night-vision capabilities to see the laser beam, which then pinpoints the location of the person using the GLD. As a former Navy SEAL, Woods would’ve known that. He would only have exposed himself if he thought that the mortar squad was about to be taken out. The air asset didn’t fire, and Woods and Glen Doherty were killed by the mortar squad.
There was either a Spectre gunship or an armed Predator or Reaper drone overhead, and it was denied permission to fire. That’s the only explanation that fits. Woods would not have used his GLD for any other reason than to paint a target for an immediate air strike.
Only the commander of AFRICOM and the president have the authority to tell the air asset to not fire in this situation.
Now back to our original correspondent:
Gen Petraeus through the CIA spokesperson said, “We can say with confidence that the Agency reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi. Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.” Interesting choice of words, “nobody told anybody NOT to help.” That is a little different from saying they did tell somebody to help. If an order is NOT given to help, you did not tell somebody not to help, you just ignored their plea.
On to Hillary and her claim that Facebook and Twitter postings (2) during the attack don’t constitute “evidence that Ansar al-Shariah (and by association Al Qaeda) was involved.” When I saw that quote, it immediately brought me back to the most iconic photo of the attack.
When I saw this picture, the thing that instantly struck me was the way the guy was wearing his pants. I started doing some research and came across this (5) — another interview from one of the injured Blue Mountain guards at the consulate:
He himself was hit by grenade shrapnel, and then was shot through the knee when the first wave of attackers came in. He said those he heard speak had local, Benghazi accents, though he added that two men “looked foreign.”
He said some of the attackers wore masks, and many had their trouser legs rolled up – a mark of Salafi, or purist, Muslims and a common feature in members of Ansar al-Sharia.
Does Mrs. Clinton or the CIA have anybody with expertise on Ansar al-Shariah? Between the Facebook and Twitter posts and this picture, the evidence that Ansar al–Shariah was involved should have been clear as day. If I can figure it out, those paid to be “experts” in the Middle East had to know right away who was responsible.
So what do we think is the bottom line? Who were the 8 guys from Tripoli working for and who ordered them to Benghazi? Why was the military not used in terms of special forces or airpower?
The answers to the above lead directly to the White House and POTUS. The time difference between Benghazi and Washington DC is 6 hours. We also note that at 5 p.m. on September 11 2012, President Obama, Vice President Biden and the Secretary of Defense were meeting in the Oval Office. … The attack was going on for more than an hour, the Ambassador’s whereabouts were unknown, and you have to assume Obama, Biden, and Panetta were talking about what to do.
Instead of calling up the military resources at his disposal, the POTUS went “small.” The protection and rescue operations were outsourced to the Feb 17th militia, who had failed already in their responsibility to protect the consulate, and most of whom fled when the fighting at the consulate started. The ONLY US assets that could be spared were EIGHT brave Americans in Tripoli who most likely were CIA contract employees (including Glen Doherty).
The final call was by the POTUS. No military action to Libya from Italy or elsewhere could have been undertaken without the POTUS signing off. In the end, his “leading from behind” strategy and failure to realize the nature of the situation in Benghazi led to the deaths of at least Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. His meeting at 5 p.m. was 5 hours before they were killed. That is why there is a cover up, the POTUS failed to act. The screw up of not having enough security on the ground in Benghazi can be passed off to Charlene Lamb, Hillary, etc., but in the midst of the crisis, when the lives of the 30+ Americans were on the line, the POTUS froze, and Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed as a result. He can’t pass that blame off on anyone, he was informed of the attack and as a result of the decisions he made in the Oval Office with Biden and Panetta, those two brave Americans died. The Panetta smokescreen does not hold water because US personnel WERE sent into harm’s way, they just weren’t US military personnel. If there was enough info to send the 8 men from Tripoli, why was that not good enough for our military? This is 100% on Obama.
One related point that may be relevant was this. (6) Sending the military into another country can be a sensitive and delicate decision. CBS News has been told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did seek clearance from Libya to fly in their airspace, but the administration won’t say anything further about what was said or decided on that front.
How do you request clearance from a government which really only exists on paper? The prime minister was not even sworn in yet, and the country was and is ruled by armed militias. When Americans are dying, and someone attacks an embassy or consulate, we do not require permission to do everything in our power to protect out people. In a lawless country like Libya, protocol should take a back seat to saving our Ambassador.
Will all of our correspondents’ inferences hold up as we learn more about what happened in Benghazi? I don’t know. Readers who have additional insights are invited to share them in the comments.
Someday a proper investigation will be done and the truth about Benghazi will emerge. In the meantime, Bill Kristol and the Weekly Standard have posed a series of questions to President Obama:
Friday, in response to questions regarding the events of September 11 in Benghazi, President Obama said this: “Nobody wants to find out more what happened than I do. But we want to make sure we get it right, particularly because I have made a commitment to the families impacted as well as to the American people, we’re going to bring those folks to justice. So, we’re going to gather all the facts, find out exactly what happened, and make sure that it doesn’t happen again but we’re also going to make sure that we bring to justice those who carried out these attacks.”
The interviewer followed up: “Were they denied requests for help during the attack?”
The president responded: “Well, we are finding out exactly what happened. I can tell you, as I’ve said over the last couple of months since this happened, the minute I found out what was happening, I gave three very clear directives. Number one, make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to. Number two, we’re going to investigate exactly what happened so that it doesn’t happen again. Number three, find out who did this so we can bring them to justice. And I guarantee you that everyone in the state department, our military, the CIA, you name it, had number one priority making sure that people were safe. These were our folks and we’re going to find out exactly what happened, but what we’re also going to do it make sure that we are identifying those who carried out these terrible attacks.”
THE WEEKLY STANDARD understands that it will take some time to “gather all the facts” about what happened on the ground in Benghazi. But presumably the White House already has all the facts about what happened that afternoon and evening in Washington—or, at least, in the White House. The president was, it appears, in the White House from the time the attack on the consulate in Benghazi began, at around 2:40 pm ET, until the end of combat at the annex, sometime after 9 p.m. ET. So it should be possible to answer these simple questions as to what the president did that afternoon and evening, and when he did it, simply by consulting White House meeting and phone records, and asking the president for his recollections.
1.) To whom did the president give the first of his “three very clear directives”—that is, “make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to?”
2.) How did he transmit this directive to the military and other agencies?
3.) During the time when Americans were under attack, did the president convene a formal or informal meeting of his national security council? Did the president go to the situation room?
4.) During this time, with which members of the national security team did the president speak directly?
5.) Did Obama speak by phone or teleconference with the combatant commanders who would have sent assistance to the men under attack?
6.) Did he speak with CIA director David Petraeus?
7.) Was the president made aware of the repeated requests for assistance from the men under attack? When and by whom?
8.) Did he issue any directives in response to these requests?
9.) Did the president refuse to authorize an armed drone strike on the attackers?
10.) Did the president refuse to authorize a C-130 to enter Libyan airspace during the attack?
UPDATE: Some readers are deeply skeptical of the claim that there must have been a C-130 or similar aircraft in the vicinity of Benghazi. Tom Lipscomb writes:
I have been in touch with the people who have been proposing the “on-scene C130u” and still have gotten no facts in support of their thesis. Evidently, like your reader, they assumed that the Seals wouldn’t have used the laser if there hadn’t been aircraft on site who could take advantage of it…. they have a point…. lighting up that laser gave away the Seals’ position the same way using tracer ammo does at night.
But NO ONE has confirmed any aircraft and that is a major problem with that hypothesis. No commander is going to send aircraft like a C130u for “observation.” They have drones to do that and they were apparently already there. If a C130u is on site, it is going to attack. No attack, no planes on site is the way to bet.
It is always possible that something was sent and recalled, but I don’t think so. Panetta’s statement indicates he did nothing for the pathetic reason he gave us. With one hundred percent communication contact, including video, and frequent accurate reports coming in for hours, something no national security official ever had before in such an incident, Panetta claims he didn’t know enough.
I have an alternate explanation. Our guys were getting pounded by deadly accurate mortar fire, and while they knew there weren’t any aircraft coming, the terrorists didn’t, but the terrorists did know if any were around that laser target indication was a death sentence.
So our team risked using the laser target indicator to try to force the mortar team to MOVE…. causing them a delay of up to an hour needed to break down the mortar, reseat the base plate somewhere they didn’t get hit with the laser and re-lay the mortar and fire a few test rounds…. which might have bought our guys some time to get some help. Remember, the attack stopped a little over an hour later at dawn. They might have made it.
It was worth trying.