Benghazi: Not so foggy after all

We have said, based on the statements of government officials, that our intelligence personnel knew straight away that the Benghazi attack was an act of organized terrorism, not a spontaneous, “populist” response to a video, as the Obama administration persistently claimed. But I wondered how, during the “fog” of the battle, anyone was able to reach this conclusion.

I supposed that it was organized terrorism from the nature of the attack, including the weaponry used, and from the planning that would have had to precede it. And indeed, even without more, this might well have been a sound inference.

But it turns out there is much more. Citing “multiple sources,” Bret Baier and James Rosen report that the terrorists who attacked our facilities in Benghazi used cell phones seized from State Department personnel during the attacks, and that U.S. spy agencies overheard them contacting more senior terrorist leaders to report on the success of the operation.

One of their sources is Eric Stahl. He’s the Air Force major who commanded and piloted the aircraft used to transport the corpses of the four casualties from the Benghazi attacks. Stahl told Fox News that members of a CIA-trained Global Response Staff who raced to the scene of the attacks were “confused” by the administration’s repeated implication of the video as a trigger for the attacks, because “they knew during the attack…who was doing the attacking.”

How did they know? Because “right after [the CIA personnel] left the consulate in Benghazi and went to the [CIA] safehouse, they were getting reports that cell phones, consulate cell phones, were being used to make calls to the attackers’ higher ups.”

Did Hillary Clinton’s State Department also know what was being said by the terrorists during these calls? Almost certainly. After all, the calls were made on the State Department’s cell phones. Moreover, according to Stahl, State Department officials interviewed the CIA responders as soon as they landed at the Ramstein air base after being evacuated from Libya.

In fact, on the morning of September 12, Beth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East, said in an email that the attacks were terrorism. Presumably, she relied at least in part on what was related by the terrorists on the Department’s phones. Yet Secretary Clinton was still talking up the video when the bodies of the Americans killed in Benghazi were brought home to the U.S.

By the way, Clinton’s vaunted Accountability Review Board never interviewed Stahl. But then, it never interviewed Clinton either.

Baier and Rosen also report that Stahl told them “given his crew’s alert status and location, they could have reached Benghazi in time to have played a role in rescuing the victims of the assault, and ferrying them to safety in Germany, had they been asked to do so.” Stahl added:

You would’ve thought that we would have had a little bit more of an alert posture on 9/11. A hurried-up timeline probably would take us [an] hour-and-a-half to get off the ground and three hours and fifteen minutes to get down there. So we could’ve gone down there and gotten them easily.

Is this assessment, which seems to contradict previous ones, realistic? That’s another good question for Trey Gowdy and his committee to explore.