BENGHAZI: THE TERRORIST ATTACK OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2012
This report examines the most significant events that occurred before, during, and after the September 11, 2012 Islamic terrorist attacks against an American special mission (and a nearby CIA annex) in Benghazi, Libya.
In March 2011, American diplomat Christopher Stevens was stationed in Benghazi as the American liaison to Libya's “opposition” rebels—among whom were many al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists—who were fighting to topple the longstanding regime of President Muammar Qaddafi. Ambassador Stevens' task was to help coordinate covert U.S. assistance to these rebels.
Following Qaddafi's fall from power in the summer of 2011, Ambassador Stevens was tasked with finding and securing the vast caches of powerful armaments which the Libyan dictator had amassed during his long reign. In turn, Stevens facilitated the transfer of these arms to the “opposition” rebels in Syria who were trying to topple yet another Arab dictator—Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. As in Libya, the rebels in Syria were likewise known to include al Qaeda and other Shariah-supremacist groups. In addition to facilitating arms transfers, Stevens' duties also included the recruitment of Islamic jihadists from Libya and elsewhere in North Africa who were willing to personally go into combat against the Assad regime in Syria. The U.S. mission in Benghazi served as a headquarters from which all the aforementioned activities could be coordinated with officials and diplomats from such countries as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
Throughout 2012, violent jihadist activity became increasingly commonplace in Benghazi and elsewhere throughout Libya and North Africa. At or near the U.S. mission in Benghazi, for instance, there were many acts of terrorism featuring the use of guns, improvised explosive devices, hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, and car-bombs, along with explicit threats against Americans issued by known terrorists like al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. As a result of such developments, Ambassador Stevens and others at the U.S. mission in Benghazi repeatedly asked the Obama administration for increased security provisions during 2012, but these requests were denied or ignored.
Then, on the night of September 11, 2012, the U.S. mission in Benghazi was attacked by a large group of heavily armed terrorists. Over the ensuing 7 hours, Americans stationed at the mission and at the nearby CIA annex issued 3 urgent requests for military back-up, all of which were denied by the Obama administration. By the time the violence was over, 4 Americans were dead: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and two former Navy SEALS, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, who fought to drive away the attackers.
The Obama administration immediately and persistently characterized what had occurred in Benghazi not as an act of terrorism, but as a spontaneous, unplanned uprising that happened, coincidentally, to take place on the anniversary of 9/11. Moreover, the administration portrayed the attack as an event that had evolved from what began as a low-level protest against an obscure YouTube video that disparaged Muslims and their faith. In reality, however, within a few hours following the attack, U.S. intelligence agencies had already gained more than enough evidence to conclude unequivocally that the attack on the mission in Benghazi was a planned terrorist incident, not a spontaneous act carried out in reaction to a video. Indeed, the video had nothing whatsoever to do with the attack.
Given these realities, it is likely that the Obama administration's post-September 11 actions were aimed at drawing public attention away from a number of highly important facts:
the U.S. mission in Benghazi had never adopted adequate security measures;
the administration had ignored dozens of warning signs about growing Islamic extremism and jihadism in the region over a period of more than 6 months;
the administration, for political reasons, had ignored or denied repeated requests for extra security by American diplomats stationed in Benghazi;
the administration had failed to beef up security even for the anniversary of 9/11, a date of obvious significance to terrorists;
the administration, fully cognizant of what was happening on the ground during the September 11 attacks in Benghazi, nonetheless denied multiple calls for help by Americans who were stationed there;
the administration had been lying when, throughout the presidential election season, it relentlessly advanced the notion that "al Qaeda is on the run" and Islamic terrorism was in decline thanks to President Obama's policies;
the administration had hired members of the February 17th Martyrs' Brigade, a Libyan militia group with clear al Qaeda sympathies, to provide security at the U.S. mission in Benghazi; and
throughout 2011 and 2012 the administration had been lending its assistance to jihadists affiliated with al Qaeda, supposedly the organization that represented the prime focus of Obama's anti-terrorism efforts; moreover, some of those same jihadists had personally fought against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This section of Discover The Networks explores the significance of the events in Benghazi and of the Obama administration's response to those events.
BENGHAZI: THE TERRORIST ATTACK OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2012
What Exactly Was the U.S. “Consulate” in Benghazi, Libya?
Though the media have often referred to the Benghazi-based U.S. facility which was attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2012 as a “consulate,” it should rightfully be called a “special mission.” For an explanation of this, click here.
Lack of Security at the U.S. Mission in Benghazi
The U.S. Department of State website emphasizes the great importance of implementing adequate security measures at all American missions around the world:
“With terrorist organizations and coalitions operating across international borders, the threat of terrorism against U.S. interests remains great. Therefore, any U.S. mission overseas can be a target even if identified as being in a low-threat environment. As a result, [Diplomatic Security] is more dedicated than ever to its mission of … implementing security programs that shield U.S. missions and residences overseas from physical and technical attack.”
But security at the American mission in Benghazi lacked the multiple layers of security that are typically present at such posts—i.e., it was not protected by a contingent of U.S. Marines, nor did it have bulletproof glass, reinforced ballistic doors, a “safe room,” three-meter-high barriers surrounding the facility, or a 100-foot setback from the building to those barriers. In order to operate a mission with such low levels of security in place, a waiver from Washington would have been required.
There was also an inadequate number of security personnel at the mission in Benghazi. According to Eric Nordstrom, former Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, security at the Benghazi facility was “inappropriately low.” Nordstrom reports that there were never, at any time, more than three direct-hire U.S. security agents assigned to the compound, and he has testified that “in deference to sensitivity to Libyan practice, the guards at Benghazi were unarmed.”
Sometimes only a single guard was stationed at the U.S. mission in Benghazi. On such occasions, the lone agent depended upon support from members of the February 17 Martyrs Brigade (F17MB) who lived in the compound. F17MB is a Libyan militia led by Fawzi Bukatef, who has known ties to both the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda, as well as other Islamist fighters. Notably, numerous
entries on F17MB's Facebook
pages openly professed sympathy for the Islamist extremist group
Ansar al-Sharia. The banner, or “cover photo” of one such page
showed an Islamic fighter, or mujahid, holding a portable rocket
launcher on his shoulder. To the man's right, attached to the vehicle
in which he was riding, was the distinctive black flag of al Qaeda.
Moreover, the mujahid wore a headband based on the design of that
U.S. personnel in Benghazi did not have confidence in the ability of F17MB to provide adequate security for them, as evidenced by the following exchange -- during a House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform hearing on May 8, 2013 -- between Rep. Patrick Meehan and Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom:
MEEHAN: Did you have confidence in the ability of the locals in
the country who were purportedly designed to provide security for
you? Did you have confidence in their ability to provide
NORDSTROM: I think, to put it succinctly, it was the best
bad plan. It was the only thing we had.
MEEHAN: … Did you have
confidence in that?
MEEHAN: Did you report
that, at any point in time, to officials in Washington,
NORDSTROM: We did. We did note the training deficiencies in
particular. That was something that was always there. Certainly we
had also raised the issue of doing some sort of counter-intelliogence
vetting of the people that worked for us. Ultimately that was turned
down, even though we wanted it ... (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
At the same House Committee hearing, Rep. Blake Farenthold and Mr. Nordstrom had the following exchange regarding F17MB:
Nordstrom, can you tell me what the role was of the February 17th
Martyrs' Brigade in protecting the consulate in Benghazi?
Certainly. That was the unit, for lack of a better term, that was
provided to us by the Libyan government.
FARENTHOLD: Were you
aware of any ties of that militia to Islamic extremists?
Absolutely. We had that discussion on a number of occasions, the last
of which was when there was a Facebook posting of a threat that named
Ambassador Stevens and Senator McCain, who was coming out for the
elections. That was in the July time frame. I met with some of my
agents and also with some annex personnel. We discussed
that. (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform
For additional security in Benghazi, the State Department hired the little-known British company Blue Mountain Group instead of one of the large firms it has traditionally used in overseas danger zones; Blue Mountain employed local Libyans to serve as guards who patrolled the compound with only flashlights and batons rather than firearms.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-California), citing the testimony of witnesses and the content of key documents, explains one reason why the security at the Benghazi mission was so woefully inadequate:
“[T]he [Obama] administration made a policy decision to place Libya into a 'normalized' country status as quickly as possible. The normalization process, which began in November 2011, appeared to have been aimed at conveying the impression that the situation in Libya was getting better, not worse. The administration's decision to normalize was the basis for systematically withdrawing security personnel and equipment—including a much-needed DC aircraft—without taking into account the reality on the ground.”
At a later time (May 8, 2013), Eric Nordstrom (Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya) and Gregory Hicks (Deputy Chief of Mission/Chargé d’Affairs in Libya) both offered their assessments of what was meant by“normalization,” and why the U.S. was pursuing it:
I'm not sure. I mean, sarcastically we saw it [normalization] as, 'Do more with
less.' ... It struck
me as being part of some sort of script. Just like the reason we
didn't close the facility in Benghazi despite the risks. There was
already a political decision that said, 'We're gonna keep that
open.' That's fine, but no one's ever come out and said that … we
made that decision and then take responsibility for it." (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
HICKS: "'Normalization' to us was moving towards being like a normal
embassy instead of being, in a sense, under seige or in a hostile
environment, or surrounded by potential threats. And we wanted to
move toward normal life, and that also meant a withdrawal of extra DS
[Diplomatic Security] personnel, and then a movement towards our diplomatic security
managing more of a program that included the recruitment of Libyans
to provide the security that we needed. (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
Some Democrats have claimed that security at the mission in Benghazi was inadequate because of budgetary contraints, but that claim is false. Indeed, the State Department was in possession of some $2.2 billion that could have been spent on upgrading security at U.S. embassies, consulates, and missions around the world, but the Obama administration elected not to do so. State Department official Charlene Lamb would eventually confirm, in her testimony before the House Oversight And Government Reform Committee on October 10, 2012, that budgetary considerations had nothing whatsoever to do with the inadequate security in Benghazi.
At a subsequent House Oversight And Government Reform Committee hearing (in May 2013), Representatives Doug Collins and Rob Woodall asked RSO Eric Nordstrom to testify regarding how the State Department had repeatedly denied Nordstrom's requests for funding to pay for additional security at the mission in Benghazi. Below are key portions of the exchanges they had:
1) COLLINS & NORDSTROM:
COLLINS: [Regarding a March 28, 2012 cable from Nordstrom, requesting more
security for the Benghazi mission]: Did you expect Secretary Clinton
to either have read or be briefed about that cable?
Absolutely. I certainly expected, given that she had an involvement
in the security process. If I could take a step back: By virtue of
having the SST teams [Site Security Teams] there, because they were a Department of Defense
asset, the process required for that is something called an exec sec.
That exec sec is literally a request from one Cabinet head to
another, in this case, State to DOD [Department of Defense]. That request must be signed by
the Cabinet head, Secretary Clinton. She would have done the initial
deployment request, plus an extension in the fall, and a second
extension in February. She also came out to post, toured our
facilities … and saw the lack of security there.... She was briefed
by the country team as she visited the site. We also saw, later,
there was the attacks against the facility. Certainly there's a
reasonable expectation that her staff would have briefed her on those
2) WOODALL & NORDSTROM:
WOODALL: Thinking back to early
July 2012. Do you recall your back-and-forth with [Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State] Charlene Lamb
WOODALL: What did you think
of that decision-making process? Were those decisions that Ms. Lamb
was making, or were those decisions that were being kicked up to a
NORDSTROM: It was unclear. I think largely DASS [Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State] Lamb. But one thing that struck me throughout the
entire that I
was in Libya was a strange decision-making process.... Certainly I
felt that anything that DASS Lamb was deciding certainly had
been run by Undersecretary Kennedy [Patrick F. Kennedy, the U.S. State Department's Under Secretary of State for Management].
WOODALL: … Did you receive
an explanation for why that request [for additional scurity] was
denied, that satisfied you?
NORDSTROM: I didn't.... I perceived
that it was some sort of – explained to me that it would be somehow
embarrassing or politically difficult for State Department to
continue to rely on DOD, and there was an element of that. That was
never fully verbalized. But that was certainly the feeling that I
got, going away from those conversations.
WOODALL: … What was
the nature of your conversation with the ambassador [Christopher Stevens], that
this was such a serious issue, that rather than leaving it with a
“No” on back channels, he wanted to elevate that?
That's exactly what it is. In fact, I recall all the way back to our
first meeting with Congressman Chaffetz and the chairman, that was
the question that I think they posed to me: “If you knew she was
gonna keep saying no, why did you keep asking?” Well, because it
was the right thing to do, and it was the resources that were needed.
And if people, also, on the other side, felt that that was the right
thing to do, to say no to that, they could at least have the courtesy
to put that in the official record.
WOODALL: And did you receive
any feedback back from Washington, whether a direct response to that
cable, or a back-channel response to the fact that you elevated it to
this front-channel process?
NORDSTROM: By the time that we sent
the one in July , no, we did not receive a response. In fact, that
cable, as I understand, was never responded to, which is something
that is relatively unheard of in the State Department. When you send
a request cable for anything, whether it's copiers or manpower, they
get back to you. Prior discussions – back-channel ones – yes, I
had a number of conversations with my regional director and also DASS
Lamb, where it was discouraging, to put it mildly, that, “Why
do you keep raising these issues? Why do you keep putting this
WOODALL: And if you can characterize it, then, between
a non-response or a disagreement, when it comes to issues of security
for American personnel on the ground in Libya, were you rceiving a
non-response from Washington, or was there disagreement in Washington
with your assessment of levels of need on the ground?
I'd largely get a non-response. The responses that I did get were:
“You don't have specific targeting. You don't have specific threats
against you. The long and short of it is, you're not dealing with
suicide bombers, incoming artillery, and vehicle bombs like they are
in Iraq and Afghanistan, so basically stop complaining.”
Investor's Business Dailyreports that: "The decision to place U.S. personnel in Benghazi with substandard security was made at the highest levels of the State Department"
Ambassador Christopher Stevens' Role in the Obama Administration's Support of Libyan Jihadists Tied to Al Qaeda
In March 2011 President Obama signs a secret order, or presidential “finding,” that authorizes covert operations to aid the “opposition” rebels in Libya who are fighting to topple the 42-year dictatorial rule of President Muammar Qaddafi. As The New York Timesreports, “The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments [originating in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates] to Libyan rebels.” Moreover, President Obama says the U.S. has not ruled out providing military hardware directly to those rebels: “It's fair to say that if we wanted to get weapons into Libya, we probably could. We're looking at all our options at this point.”
Among the Libyan rebels are many al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists. Indeed, the rebels' top military commander, Abdelhakim Belhadj, is the leader of an al Qaeda franchise known as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Another opposition leader, Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, confirms that a substantial number of the Libyan rebels are al Qaeda fighters who previously battled U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And former CIA officer Bruce Riedel tells the Hindustan Times: “There is no question that al-Qaeda’s Libyan franchise, [the] Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, is a part of the opposition. It has always been [Qaddafi's] biggest enemy, and its stronghold is Benghazi.”
Also in March 2011, 52-year-old American diplomat John Christopher Stevens (a.k.a. Christopher Stevens)—formerly the number two official at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli—is designated as the American liaison to the Libyan rebels. Stevens' task is to help coordinate U.S. assistance to these rebels, who are now engaged against Qaddafi. Abdelhakim Belhadj is almost certainly one of Stevens' most important contacts for this initiative. According to investigative journalist Aaron Klein, “During the Libyan revolution against [Muammar Qaddafi’s] regime, the U.S. admitted to directly arming the rebel groups.” Journalist Clare Lopez puts these facts in perspective:
“During the 2011 Libyan revolt against Muammar Qaddafi, reckless U.S. policy flung American forces and money into the conflict on the side of the rebels, who were known at the time to include Al-Qaeda elements.… That means that Stevens was authorized by the U.S. Department of State and the Obama administration to aid and abet individuals and groups that were, at a minimum, allied ideologically with Al-Qaeda, the jihadist terrorist organization that attacked the homeland on the first 9/11, the one that’s not supposed to exist anymore after the killing of its leader, Osama bin Laden, on May 2, 2011.”
Summer 2011 to Early 2012:
Christopher Stevens' Role in Post-Qaddafi Libya: Funneling Libyan Weapons and Jihadists to Syria, to Help Al Qaeda-Affiliated Rebels Fight the Assad Regime
Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, writes that after Muammar Qaddafi's fall from power in the summer of 2011, “[Christopher] Stevens [is] appointed ambassador to the new Libya run by [Abdelhakim] Belhadj [leader of the al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group] and his friends.” At this point, Stevens is tasked with finding and securing “the immense amount of armaments that had been cached by the dictator around the country and systematically looted during and after the revolution.” Stevens' mission is to help transfer “arms recovered from the former regime’s stocks to the 'opposition' in Syria,” where, “as in Libya, the insurgents are known to include al Qaeda and other Shariah-supremacist groups, including none other than Abdelhakim Belhadj.” These Syrian insurgents, organized under the banner of the “Free Syrian Army,” are fighting to topple the rule of their nation's president, Bashar al-Assad. Benghazi is a logical place in which to station Stevens for this task, since, as Gaffney notes, it is “one of the places in Libya most awash with such weapons in the most dangerous of hands.”
Stevens' duties include not only the transfer of arms, but also the recruitment of fighters willing to personally go into combat against the Assad regime in Syria. Aaron Klein writes that according to Middle Eastern security officials: “The U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi ... actually serve[s] as a meeting place to coordinate aid for the rebel-led insurgencies in the Middle East.” Specifically, the building serves as a forum for U.S. collaboration with Arab countries—particularly the Turkish, Saudi and Qatari governments—on how to best support the
Mideast's various insurgencies, especially the rebels opposing Assad in
Syria. Many of the fighters who are recruited are jihadists hailing from Libya and elsewhere in North Africa, and they are dispatched to Syria via Turkey (the lead coordinator of aid to the Free Syrian Army) with the help of CIA operatives stationed along the border shared by those two countries. One of the most noteworthy jihadists making his way to Syria is Abdelhakim Belhadj, former leader of the al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group that brought down Qaddafi in Libya before subsequently disbanding.
This type of covert activity “may help explain why there was no major public security presence at what has been described as a 'consulate,'” says Aaron Klein. “Such a presence would draw attention to the shabby, nondescript building that was allegedly used for such sensitive purposes.”
* November 2011: Abdelhakim Belhadj—former leader of the al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group—meets with Free Syrian Army leaders in Istanbul and on the Turkish-Syrian border. This is part of an effort by the new, post-Qaddafi Libyan government to provide money and weapons to the growing Islamist insurgency in Syria.
* Early 2012: President Obama signs an intelligence finding that formally authorizes U.S. support for the Syrian rebels, among whom are many heavily-armed, al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Gen. Martin Dempsey (chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and then-CIA director David Petraeus uniformly support a plan to arm the Syrian rebels. (Nonetheless, the Obama administration would later claim to have decided against arming the rebels.)
* Early 2012: The CIA begins working with Arab governments and Turkey to
sharply increase the supply of arms shipments to Syrian rebels. (Source: The New York Times (March 25, 2013)
February 2012 to September 2012:
Growing Danger at the U.S. Mission in Benghazi and Elsewhere in Libya
* February 2012: Eric Nordstrom, the Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, urges that American security measures in Libya be expanded, citing dozens of security incidents by “Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb …”
* April 6, 2012: An IED [improvised explosive device] is thrown over the fence of the U.S. mission compound fence in Benghazi by two Libyans employed at the mission as contract guards. The suspects are arrested but not prosecuted.
* April 10, 2012: An IED is thrown at a convoy carrying the United Nations Special Envoy to Libya. No one is arrested.
* April 11, 2012: A gun battle breaks out 4 kilometers from the U.S. mission in Benghazi.
* April 19, 2012: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signs a cable proposing a plan to decrease security assets for the U.S. missions in Libya, including Benghazi.
* April 25, 2012: A U.S. embassy guard in Tripoli is detained at a militia checkpoint.
* April 26, 2012: A fistfight escalates into a gunfight at a Benghazi medical university, and a U.S. Foreign Service Officer in attendance is evacuated.
* April 27, 2012: Two South African contractors in Benghazi are kidnapped, questioned and released. After this incident, Eric Nordstrom, former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, states: “It is increasingly likely that our direct-hire employees will face the same challenges in the future.”
* May 1, 2012: The deputy commander of the local guard force in Tripoli is carjacked and beaten.
* May 3, 2012: The State Department declines a request from personnel concerned about security at the U.S. embassy in Libya for a DC-3 plane to transport them around the country.
* May 15, 2012: An unknown attacker throws a hand grenade at the Military Police headquarters in Benghazi.
* May 22, 2012: Two RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] rounds are fired at the Red Cross outpost in Benghazi, which is located 1 kilometer from the U.S. mission. A pro-al Qaeda group claims credit for the attack. In a Facebook posting that same day, the group says, “now we are preparing a message for the Americans for disturbing the skies over Derma” (a port city in eastern Libya).
* June 2012: A pro-Qaddafi Facebook page posts photos of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens making his morning run in Tripoli and issues a threat against him.
* June 6, 2012: An IED is left at the gate of the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Six minutes later, it explodes. An al Qaeda-affiliated group claims credit for the incident. After this bombing, U.S. officials observe that local (unarmed) guard forces working for the Benghazi compound are now “afraid to work.” Assistant Regional Security Officer David Oliveira, who is stationed in Benghazi at the time, says that these guard forces view the U.S. as “a target” and “[don't] want to work overnight.”
* June 10, 2012: On or about this date, al Qaeda holds a rally in Benghazi. The event features fighters from Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and Mali parading through the streets bearing weapons and black Salafist flags.
* June 11, 2012: An RPG is fired at a convoy carrying the British Ambassador in broad daylight as he nears the British consulate in Benghazi, which is located 2 kilometers from the U.S. mission in that city. No one is killed, but the British close their consulate soon thereafter. No suspects are identified.
* June 13, 2012: An aide to a former internal security officer is killed in a car-bomb assassination in Benghazi.
* June 21, 2012: A former Libyan military prosecutor is assassinated by gunfire in Benghazi.
* June 22, 2012: Ambassador Christopher Stevens sends a cable to the State Department, noting the continued presence in Libya of Islamist extremist groups “which warrant ongoing monitoring.”
* Late June, 2012: Another attack targets the Red Cross outpost in Benghazi, this one in daylight. The Red Cross promptly pulls out, making the U.S. mission the last Western outpost in the city.
* Soon After the June 2012 Al Qaeda Attacks on the British Ambassador and the Red Cross:
Green Beret Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wood -- one of the top
American security officials in Libya -- is based in Tripol and has been meeting with
Ambassador Stevens every day. Noting that al Qaeda has already
announced, in an online posting, its intent to attack the the British, the Red Cross, and the Americans in
Benghazi, Woods tells a U.S. country team meeting, “You are gonna get
attacked. You are gonna get attacked in Benghazi. It’s gonna happen.... Shut down operations. Move out temporarily, or change
locations within the city. Do something to break up the profile because
you are being targeted. They are -- they are -- they are watching you. The
attack cycle is such that they’re in the final planning stages.” (In an interview conducted at a later date, Wood recalls: "It was apparent to me that that was the case. Reading, reading
all these other, ah, attacks that were occurring, I could see what they
were staging up to, it was, it was obvious.") (Source: Lara Logan's October 27, 2013 interview with Andy Wood, for CBS's "60 Minutes")
* June 25, 2012: Ambassador Stevens issues a cable entitled, “Libya's Fragile Security Deteriorates as Tribal Rivalries, Power Plays and Extremism Intensify.” In this cable, he indicates that the leaders of an al Qaeda-affiliated group have explicitly stated that they are “target[ing] the Christians supervising the management of the [U.S.] consulate.” Stevens adds that a “[Government of Libya] national security official shared his private opinion that the [recent] attacks were the work of extremists who are opposed to western influence in Libya.” Moreover, writes Stevens, “[A] number of local contacts [note] that Islamic extremism appears to be on the rise in eastern Liya and that the Al-Qaeda flag has been spotted several times flying over government buildings and training facilities in Derna.” According to Stevens, “the proliferation of militias and the absence of effective security and intelligence services” has diminished the Libyan government's ability to respond to the escalating violence.
* July 1, 2012: Between 100 and 200 demonstrators storm and ransack the office of the High National Electoral Commission in Benghazi.
* July 4, 2012: A border-control department officer is assassinated in a drive-by shooting in Benghazi. No suspects are arrested.
* July 6, 2012: A Libyan Air Force helicopter is struck by gunfire from an anti-aircraft weapon and is forced to land at Benghazi’s Benina Airport. One staff member of Libya's High National Election Commission is killed in the attack, and one is wounded. No suspects are arrested.
* July 21, 2012: In a memorandum to the State Department, Eric Nordstrom, former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, warns: “[T]he risk of U.S. mission personnel, private U.S. citizens, and businesspersons encountering an isolating event as a result of militia or political violence is HIGH. The Government of Libya does not yet have the ability to effectively respond to and manage the rising criminal and militia related violence, which could result in an isolating event.”
* July 31, 2012: Gregory Hicks arrives in Tripoli to begin serving there as deputy chief of mission.
* August 2012: Ambassador Stevens reports that the security situation in Benghazi is deteriorating. He informs the State Department of a “security vacuum” that is being exploited by independent extremists. Nonetheless, the 16-man Site Security Team of Special Forces assigned to Libya is ordered out of the country, contrary to the stated wishes of Stevens.
* August 6, 2012: An attempted carjacking of a vehicle with U.S. diplomatic plates is carried out in Tripoli.
* August 15, 2012: An emergency meeting is convened at the U.S. mission in Benghazi to discuss the threat posed by the area's 10 active Islamist militias, including al Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia.
* August 15, 2012: The U.S. Mission in Benghazi sends a cable (marked “SECRET” and signed by Ambassador Stevens) to “The Office of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” The cable says that the State Department’s senior security officer, also known as the RSO, does not believe the mission can be protected against a “coordinated attack.”
* Early September 2012: Unarmed Libyan guards (employed by British contractor Blue Mountain Group) at the U.S. mission in Benghazi are warned by their family members to quit their jobs because of rumors of an “impending attack.”
* September 6, 2012: Al-Entisar, a Libyan-flagged ship, docks in the Turkish port of Iskenderun. Its 400 tons of cargo includes Russian-designed, shoulder-launched missiles known as MANPADS, rocket-propelled grenades, and surface-to-air missiles—precisely the types of weapons that had previously made their way into Libya when Qaddafi acquired many thousands of them from the former Eastern Bloc countries, and precisely the types of weapons the Syrian rebels have been using in their military campaign against Syrian President Assad. Al-Entisar's cargo ultimately ends up in the possession of those same Syrian rebels. The main organizer of this shipment of weapons is the al Qaeda-linked Abdelhakim Belhadj, who previously worked directly with Ambassador Stevens during the Libyan revolution against Qaddafi. As journalist Clare Lopez explains, these facts confirm “the multilateral U.S.-Libya-Turkey agreement to get weapons into the hands of Syrian rebels—which were known to be dominated by Al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood elements—by working with and through Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist figures like [Abdelhakim] Belhadj.”
* September 8, 2012: A local security officer in Benghazi warns American officials that security in the area is rapidly deteriorating, and that violent unrest is a distinct possibility.
*September 8, 2012: A member of the February 17th Martyrs Brigade (F17MB) warns Alec
Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the State Department compound in Benghazi,
that the militia will no longer protect the movements of Americans
diplomats in the city. Specifically, F17MB cites its dissatisfaction with working hours and pay (from the State Department). The RSO asks specifically if the militia would be willing to provide additional
support for Ambassador Stevens' pending visit, slated for September 10, and is told no.
*September 9, 2012: Alec
Henderson relays the F17MB warning to John Martinec, the RSO in Tripoli.
* September 9, 2012: The U.S. State Department now has credible information that American missions in the Middle East may be targeted by terrorists, but diplomats are not instructed to go on high alert or “lockdown.”
* September 10, 2012: Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri—vowing to avenge the death of Abu Yahya al-Libi, a high-ranking al Qaeda official killed by an American drone attack three months earlier—issues direct threats against Americans in Libya. Notwithstanding these threats, the Obama administration deploys no U.S. Marines to guard the mission in Benghazi.
* Summation: As a result of the foregoing incidents, the U.S. mission in Benghazi made repeated requests for increased security prior to September 11, 2012, but these requests were denied by the Obama administration. One U.S. security officer, Eric Nordstrom, twice asked his State Department superiors for more security at the Benghazi mission but received no response. In making his requests, Nordstrom cited a chronology of more than 200 security incidents that had occurred in Libya between June 2011 and July 2012. Forty-eight of those incidents were in Benghazi.
Timeline of the September 11, 2012 Terrorist Attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi
* 9:43 a.m. Benghazi time: Ambassador Stevens sends cables to Washington, including a Benghazi weekly report of security incidents that reflect Libyans' “growing frustration with police and security forces who were too weak to keep the country secure.”
* Morning of September 11: News outlets begin to report that there is growing anger in Egypt over a YouTube video, titled Innocence of Muslims, which was produced in the United States and is critical of the Prophet Muhammad. The video in question is just 14 minutes long and was first posted on the Internet fully two months earlier—i.e., it is not anything new. Moreover, the video is extremely obscure and, from an artistic standpoint, of very low quality.
“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims—as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”
* Approximately 4:15 p.m. Cairo time: Crowds begin to form near the U.S. embassy compound in Cairo. Then, over a three-hour period, hundreds of Muslim protesters storm that facility, where they destroy the American flag and replace it with a black Salafist flag that reads, “There is one God, Allah, and Mohammad is his prophet.”
* Approximately 8:30 to 9:00 p.m. Benghazi time: Ambassador Stevens concludes his meeting with Turkish Ambassador Ali Kemal Aydin, his final meeting of the day, and retires to his room in Building C of the U.S. mission compound in Benghazi. At this time, there are no signs of any unrest in the vicinity of the compound. Five State Department Diplomatic Security agents (DS) are on site—three of whom are based in Benghazi, and two of whom are travelng with Stevens.
* Approximately 9:40 p.m. Benghazi time: American personnel at the Benghazi mission suddenly hear gunfire and an explosion. Via an electronic security monitor in the compound's Tactical Operations Center, an agent sees dozens of armed people flooding through a pedestrian gate at the main entrance of the compound. From this point onward, State Department Diplomatic Security agents follow events in real time on a listen-only, audio-only feed.
* Shortly after 9:40 p.m. Benghazi time: The attackers are inside the compound and begin firing into the main building, setting it ablaze. At this time, there are three people inside the building: Ambassador Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and Scott Wickland (Ambassador Stevens’ personal escort for that night).
* Shortly After 9:40 p.m.: State Department employees at the Benghazi compound know that they under attack and in danger of losing their lives. They issue a series of frantic radio distress calls to the CIA annex approximately a mile away, "pleading" for their lives.
* After 9:40 p.m. Benghazi time: When the mission in Benghazi issues 3 urgent requests for military back-up, the requests are denied. CIA Operators stationed at an annex approximately a mile away are told to “stand down” (i.e., not respond) rather than to try to defend the mission. Disobeying that order, former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, along with at least one other individual from the CIA annex, make their way toward the mission in an attempt to defend the people therein.
It is possible that as many as 35 Americans are on the ground in the
U.S. annex (which is run by the CIA) in Benghazi at the time of the
initial attack. It is unknown how many of these are CIA agents. (Source: CNN, August 1, 2013)
"[A]t 9:45 p.m. ... the RSO John Martinec ran into my villa yelling, 'Greg! Greg! The consulate's under attack.' And I stood up and reached
for my phone because I had an inkling or thought that perhaps the
ambassador [Stevens] had tried to call me to relay the same message. And I found
two missed calls on the phone, one from the ambassador's phone and one
from a phone number I didn't recognize. And I punched the phone number I
didn't recognize, and I got the ambassador on the other end. And he
said, 'Greg, we're under attack.' And I was walking out of the villa, on
my way to the Tactical Operations Center, because I knew we would all
have to gather there to mobilize or try to mobilize a response.
"When I got to the Tactical Operations Center ... John Martinec was on the phone with Alec Henderson
in Benghazi, the RSO there.... I asked -- when John Martinec got off the
telephone, I asked him what was going on. And he said that the
consulate had been breached, and there were at least 20 hostile
individuals armed in the -- in the compound at the time. So I next
called the annex chief to ask him if he was in touch with the Benghazi
annex to activate our emergency response plan.... And he said that he
had been in touch with the annex in Benghazi, and they said they were
mobilizing a response team there to go to the -- to our facility and
provide reinforcements and to repel the attack."(Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
"I called the operations center at the State
Department, approximately 10 p.m. to report the attack and what we were
doing to respond to it. The next thing I did was to begin calling the
senior officials in the government of Libya that I knew at the time. And
so, I dialed first the [Libyan] President Magariaf's chief of staff and reported
the attack and asked for immediate assistance from the government of
Libya to assist our folks in Benghazi.
"I followed that up with a call to the prime minister's chief of staff
to make the same request and then to the MFA, America's director. MFA is
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The defense attache was, at the same time,
calling the leadership of Libya's military with the same purpose, to
ask them for assistance.
"Once that was done, I called again to Washington to report that these
actions had been commenced. Over the night we -- over that night, that
is basically how our team operated. I was talking to the government of
-- of Libya, reporting to the State -- State Department through the
operations center, and also staying in touch with the annex chief about
what was going on.
"... I also discussed
with the annex chief about mobilizing a Tripoli response team, and we
agreed that we would move forward with ... chartering a plane from
Tripoli to fly a response team to Benghazi to provide additional
reinforcements. The defense attache was also reporting through his
chain of command, back to AFRICOM and to the joint staff ... in
Washington about what was going on in the country. David McFarland, our
political section chief, had just returned from Benghazi, where he had
been our principal officer for the previous 10 days. And so, he jumped
into this picture by reaching out to his contacts in -- in Benghazi and
trying to get them, at the local level there, to respond to the attack. And he also was in touch with our local employee there, as well ..." (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* Night of September 11, 2012 (Information from an exchange
between Gregory Hicks and Rep. Blake Farenthold, regarding the role
which the February 17th Martyrs' Brigades may have played in facilitating the
FARENTHOLD: Mr. Hicks,... do you believe the February 17th
militia played a role in those [September 11, 2012] attacks, was
complacent [sic] in those attacks?
HICKS: Certainly elements of
that militia were complicit in the attacks. The attackers had to make
a long approach march through multiple checkpoints that were manned
by February 17 militia.
(Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Mark Thompson before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* Night of September 11, 2012 (Information from a September 22, 2012 statement by Fawzi Bukatef, leader
of the February 17 Martyrs Brigades): Bukatef says that the Obama administration
took no action during the attacks on the mission in Benghazi, and that
“We [the Brigade] had to coordinate everything.” Bukatef's account is
entirely consistent with Libyan Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif's
earlier assertion that Libyan security forces had essentially handed the U.S. mission personnel over to the attackers.
* Night of September 11, 2012: It would later be reported that the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi played a role in setting the 9/11/12 attacks in motion. This possibility first came to light on June 26, 2013 (nine-and-a-half months after the attacks), when news outlets across the Arab world began reporting about an internal Libyan government memo that documented the confessions given by six Egyptians in Libyan custody (all were affiliated with the Islamic terror group Ansar al-Sharia). Specifically, the confessors stated that Morsi and the Brotherhood had been involved in the funding, support, planning, and execution of the attacks. Moreover, in a video which was made on the night of the attacks, a number of jihadists declared that they had been sent personally by "Dr. Morsi."
* 10 p.m. Benghazi time: The U.S. military redeploys two unmanned surveillance drones that are already airborne in the region, positioning them above Benghazi in order to provide real-time intelligence to the CIA team on the ground. The drones will take approximately an hour to arrive at their destination.
* 10:05 p.m. Benghazi time: The State Department Operations Center issues an alert to several government and intelligence agencies, including the White House Situation Room, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI. The alert reads: “US Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack—approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well. Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM (Chief of Mission/embassy) personnel are in the compound safe haven.” This alert is circulated widely inside the U.S. government,
including at the highest levels.
* 10:25 p.m. Benghazi time: A six-man team of Americans (including Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty) from the CIA annex in Benghazi arrives at the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Team members begin to work on evacuating those who remain at the mission; they also remove the body of Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, who was killed early in initial attack. And they search, without success, for Ambassador Stevens.
"[T]he consulate was invaded, the -- Villa C
where the ambassador [Stevens] and Sean Smith and Scott Wickland [Ambassador Stevens’ personal escort for that night] were hiding in
the safe area was set on fire. The attackers also went into another
building. They were unable to enter the tactical operations center in
Benghazi, because of improvements to that facility that had been made.
"They -- Scott [Wickland] attempted to lead the ambassador and Sean Smith out of
the burning building. He managed to make it out. He tried repeatedly to
go back in to try to rescue Sean and the ambassador but had to stop due
to exposure to smoke.
"The response team from from the annex in Benghazi, six individuals,
drove the attackers out of our compound, and secured it temporarily.
There have been estimates as high as 60 attackers were in the compound
at one particular time. There were repeated attempts by all of the RSOs
and by the response team from the annex to go into the burning building
and recover -- try to save Sean and the ambassador. They found Sean's
body and pulled it out but he was no longer responsive. They did not
find the ambassador.... (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
"At about 10:45 or 11:00 we confer, and I asked the defense attache who had been talking about AFRICOM and with
the joint staff, 'Is anything coming? Will they be sending us any
help? Is there something out there?' And he answered that the nearest
help was in Aviano [Italy], the nearest -- where there were fighter planes. He
said that it would take two to three hours for them to get onsite, but
that there also were no tankers available for them to refuel. And I
said, 'Thank you very much,' and we went on with our work." (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* Between 11 p.m. and midnight Benghazi time: Members of the February 17 Martyrs Brigade realize that they cannot possibly defend the compound, and they withdraw.
* Between 11 p.m. and midnight Benghazi time: DS agents are unable
to find Ambassador Stevens anywhere in the mission compound. Under heavy assault (as a second wave of attackers came upon the facility), the DS agents are forced to leave the compound with the CIA team
(which includes Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty) in an armored vehicle
that takes them to the annex about a mile away.
night that I was involved in this incident, I was at my desk at the
end of the day when the first reports came in that indicated that we
had an attack going on at our diplomatic facility in Benghazi. In
that facility, we knew we had our ambassador and we had his security
personnel. Later, when I heard that the situation had evolved to them
going to a safe haven, and then the fact that we could not find the
ambassador, I alerted my leadership, indicating that we needed to go
forward and consider the deployment of the Foreign Emergency Support
Team [FEST].... I notified the White House of my idea. They indicated
that meetings had already taken place that evening, that had taken
FEST out of the menu of options. I called the office within the State
Department, that had been represented there [at the White House
meeting], asking them why it had been taken off the table and was
told that it was not the right time [because it might be too unsafe],
and it was not the team that needed to go right then....
"The other thing that I
pointed out is that with the tyranny of distance – at least 8 or 9
hours to get to the middle of the Mediterranean – we needed to act
now and not wait. There is sometimes the hesitancy to not deploy
[sic] because we don't know what's going on. One definition of a
crisis is, you don't know what's going to happen in two hours, so you
need to help develop that situation early....
"We live by a code. That code says you go
after people when they're in peril, when they're in the service of
their country. We did not have the benefit of hindsight in the early
hours, and those people who are in peril in the future need to know
that we will go get 'em, and we will do everything we can to get them
out of harm's way. That night unfolded in ways that no one culd have
predited when it first started. And it is my strong belief, then as
it is now, that we needed to demonstrate that resolve even if we'd
still had the same outcome."
(Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Mark Thompson before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
MEADOWS: Mr. Thompson, you had talked earlier
about the deployment of the FEST team, and you said that you thought
it was important to do that. Were there any other agencies, other
than you, that thought that was important?
THOMPSON: Yes, the
Federal Bureau of Investigation and DOD specifically … People who
are a normal part of that team that deploy with us were shocked and
amazed that they were not being called on their cell phones, beepers,
etc. to go....
(Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Mark Thompson before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* Between 11 p.m. and midnight Benghazi time: As evidenced by State Department emails, within two hours after the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, the State Department is fully aware that the Libyan militant group Ansar al-Sharia has already taken credit for the attack and has called for additional terrorist acts. As former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton would later explain, “What the emails show beyond any doubt is that the State Department was fully possessed of the information in real time.”
* Approximately midnight Benghazi time, September 12, 2012:
Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty arrive back at the CIA annex, which then
comes under heavy attack from Islamic terrorists for the next several
hours. The security team returns fire and tries to defend the annex.
* Approximately 12:00 or 12:30 a.m. Benghazi time: The six-man American Quick Reaction Force (i.e., response team) from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli departs via airplane for Benghazi, where it will arrive sometime between 1:30 and 2:00 a.m.
"The second phase commences after the teams have returned to the
annex, and they suffer for about an hour and a half probing attacks
from terrorists. They are able to repulse them and then they [the terrorists] desist at
about 1:30 in the morning." (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* 12:07 a.m. Benghazi time, September 12, 2012: The State Department Operations Center issues an alert relaying information that the U.S. embassy in Tripoli has reported: “Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibilty for Benghazi Attack ... on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”
"About 12:30 -- at the same time that we see the Twitter feeds that are
asserting that Ansar Sharia is responsible for the attack -- we also see a
call for an attack on the embassy in Tripoli. And so we begin to - we
-- we had always thought that we were in -- under threat, that we now
have to take care of ourselves and we began planning to evacuate our
facility. When I say our facility, I mean the State Department
residential compound in Tripoli, and to consolidate all of our personnel
in -- at the annex in Tripoli. We have about 55 diplomatic personnel in the two annexes."(Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* Midnight to 2 a.m. Benghazi time: Defense Secretary Panetta holds a series of meetings and issues three orders: (a) He orders two Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team platoons stationed in Rota, Spain, to prepare to deploy to the U.S. mission in Benghazi and the U.S. embassy in Tripoli; (b) he orders a special operations team in Europe to move to Sigonella, Sicily—less than one hour's flight (480 miles) from Benghazi; and (c) he orders a U.S.-based special operations team to deploy to Sigonella as well.
* 1:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Benghazi time, September 12, 2012: The Quick Reaction Force from Tripoli lands in Benghazi airport and learns that Ambassador Stevens is missing. The team is delayed for 45 minutes at the airport because its members cannot at first get ground transportation to the American CIA annex, allegedly due to confusion among Libyan militias who were supposed to escort them to the annex.
"During the night, I am in touch with Washington, keeping them posted of
what's happening in Tripoli and to the best of my knowledge what I am
being told in Benghazi. I think at about ... 2 a.m.... the Secretary
of State Clinton called me along with her senior staff were all on the
phone, and she asked me what was going on. And I briefed her on developments.
"Most of the conversation was about the search for Ambassador Stevens. It was also about what we were going to do with our personnel in
Benghazi, and I told her that we would need to evacuate, and that was --
she said that was the right thing to do." (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
DESANTOS: When you spoke
with Secretary Clinton at 2 a.m., did she express support for giving
military assistance to those folks in Benghazi; i.e., did she say
that she would request such support from either the Secretary of
Defense or the President of the United States?
HICKS: We actually
didn't discuss that issue. At the time, we were focused on trying to
find and hopefully rescue Ambassador Stevens. That was the primary
purpose of our discussion. [The] secondary purpose was to talk about
what we were going to do in Tripoli, in order to enhance our security
there.... The first two attacks [in Benghazi] had been completed, and
there was a lull in Benghazi at the time.... We knew the situation
was in flux.(Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
ISSA: Mr. Hicks, 2 in the morning, the
Secretary of State calls you personally.... Did she ask you about the
cause of the attack? Did she ask about videos? Did she ask about
anything at all that would have allowed you to answer the question of
how Benghazi came to be attacked, as far as you knew.
don't recall that being part of the conversation.
ISSA: So she
wasn't interested in the cause of the attack, and this was the only
time where you talked directly to the Secretary, where you could have
told her or not told her about the cause of the attack.
Yes, that was the only time when I could have. But, again, I had
already reported that the attack had commenced and that Twitter feeds
were asserting that Ansar Sharia was responsible for the
ISSA: You didn't have that discussion with her only
because it was assumed that since you'd already reported that the
cause of the attack was essentially Islamic extremists, some of them
linked to al Qaeda.
HICKS: Yes. (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
"At about 3 a.m., I received a call from the prime minister of Libya. I
think it is the saddest phone call I have ever had in my life. He told
me that Ambassador Stevens had passed away. I immediately telephoned
Washington that news afterwards, and began accelerating our effort to
withdraw from the Villas compound and move to the annex...." (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* Approximately 4 a.m. to 5:15 a.m. Benghazi time: Former U.S. Navy SEALS Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods are killed by direct mortar fire as they try to engage the attackers at the CIA annex in Benghazi. Their deaths come about 7 hours after the start of the violence. Soon thereafter, the attacks wind down. All told, 4 Americans are dead: Doherty, Woods, Ambassador Stevens, and Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith.
"We [seven rescue-team members, including two U.S. military
personnel] arrived [via a C-130 airplane] at the [Benghazi] annex, at least my group, I
think at about 4:45 perhaps, maybe 5 a.m.... Shortly after we arrived at the annex the
mortars came in. The first was long. It landed actually among the
Libyans that escorted our people. They took casualties for us that
night. The next was short, the next three landed on the roof killing
Glen and Tyrone, and severely wounded David.... The
accuracy was terribly precise.... Two of the guys from team Tripoli
climbed up on the roof and carried Glen's body and Tyrone's body down. One guy, Mark Si, full combat gear, climbed up there, strapped David, a
large man, to his back, carried him down a ladder and saved him. (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* Shortly after 4:45 or 5:00 a.m. Benghazi time: The C-130 returns to Tripoli.
* 6 a.m. Benghazi time, September 12, 2012: A team of U.S. Special Forces in Tripoli, preparing to board a C-130 to Benghazi in order to respond to the attack, is ordered to "stand down" by U.S. Special Forces Command Africa. That is, the commander of the Special Forces in Tripoli, Lt. Col. Gibson, was told he did not have the authority to send his team to Benghazi. Gibson later tells Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of mission for the U.S. in Libya: “I have never been so embarrassed in my life that a State Department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military.”
"In Tripoli, we had -- the defense attache had persuaded the Libyans to
fly their C-130 to Benghazi and wanted to airlift -- we had -- since we
had consolidated at the annex, and the Libyan government had now
provided us with external security around our facilities, we wanted to
send further reinforcements to Benghazi.
"We determined that Lieutenant Gibson and his team of special forces
troops should go. The people in Benghazi had been fighting all night.
They were tired. They were exhausted.
We wanted to make sure the airport was secure for their withdrawal. As
Colonel Gibson and his three personnel were -- were getting in the
cars, he stopped. And he called them off and said -- told me that he
had not been authorized to go. The vehicles had to go because the
flight needed to go to Tripoli -- I mean, to Benghazi. Lieutenant
Colonel Gibson was furious." (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* 6 a.m. Benghazi time (Information from an exchange between Gregory Hicks and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, regarding the "stand-down" order):
Hicks, I want to go back to that first plane from Tripoli [which]
included 7 rescue-team members, including two U.S. military
personnel. That plane then returns to Tripoli. And the first rescue
team that is there is now really engaged in the attack. You have no
idea, is my understanding, as to when the attack is going to end. So
the second rescue team [which included 4 U.S. military special-forces
personnel] is preparing to go.... And yet these military personnel do
not operate under your authority, and your permission is not enough
for them to go. Explain to me again exactly what happened.
Again, we determined that we needed to send a second team from
Tripoli to secure the airport for the withdrawal of our personnel
CHAFFETZ: But were any of these U.S. military
personnel not permitted to travel on a rescue mission from Tripoli to
HICKS: They were not authorized to travel.
What happened with those personnel?
HICKS: They remained in
Tripoli with us. The medic went with the nurse to the hospital to
lend his skills to the treatment of our wounded.
CHAFFETZ: How did
the personnel react to being told to stand down?
HICKS: They were
furious.... I will quote Lt. Col. Gibson. He said, “This is the
first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than somebody
in the military.”
CHAFFETZ: … Where did the stand-down order
HICKS: I believe it came from either AFRICOM [United
States Africa Command] or SOCAFRICA [Special Operations Command
6 a.m. Benghazi time: According to Admiral Mike Mullen (who would later serve on the Benghazi Accountability Review Board), technically no “stand down” order was sent to Lt. Col. Gibson and the special forces team on the morning of September 12. But the unit was nonetheless ordered to “hold in place,” says Mullen, which amounts to exactly the same degree of inaction. (Source: September 20, 2013 testimony of Mike Mullen before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
* Morning of September 12, 2012: The Obama administration immediately characterizes the murderous violence in Benghazi as a spontaneous, unplanned uprising that not only evolved from a low-level protest against Innocence of Muslims -- an obscure, anti-Muslim video that had been posted on YouTube two months earlier -- but also took place, coincidentally, on the anniversary of 9/11. In reality, however, by this time U.S. intelligence agencies have already gained enough evidence to conclude unequivocally that the attack on the mission in Benghazi was a terrorist incident, not a spontaneous event growing out of a low-level protest over the obscure YouTube video. In fact, there was never any low-level protest against that video in Benghazi.
GOWDY: [Just hours after the attack] the president of Libya …
labeled it an attack by Islamic extremists, possibly with terror
HICKS: Yes sir....
GOWDY: Did the president of
Libya ever mention a spontaneous protest related to a video?
GOWDY: When Ambassador Stevens talked to you perhaps
minutes before he died, as a dying declaration, what precisely did he
say to you?
HICKS: He said, “Greg, we're under attack.”
Would a highly decorated career diplomat have told you or Washington,
had there been a demonstration outside his facility that day?
Yes sir, he would have.
GOWDY: Did he mention one word about a
protest or a demonstration?
HICKS: No sir, he did not. (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* Morning of September 12, 2012: In a morning speech delivered in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama says, “Make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.” In his remarks, the president makes reference to the role that the anti-Muslim YouTube video allegedly played in triggering the violence: “Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None.” He also makes a passing reference to “acts of terror” generally, right after he has referred to “troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan,” and to “our wounded warriors at Walter Reed [Hospital].” But he never actually characterizes the Benghazi attack as a terrorist act.
*Morning of September 12, 2012: After his Rose Garden speech, Obama tapes an interview for 60 Minutes, where he explains that he refrains from using the word “terrorism” in the speech because “it’s too early to know exactly how this came about.” (For unknown reasons, CBS does not release this clip until just two days before Election Day, and it attracts little notice at the time because Superstorm Sandy is dominating the pre-Election Day news.)
* Afternoon of September 12, 2012: Just a few hours after having delivered his remarks in the Rose Garden, President Obama flies to Las Vegas for a campaign fundraiser where he likens the heroism of the dead Americans in Libya to that of his own campaign volunteers: “The sacrifices that our troops and our diplomats make are obviously very different from the challenges that we face here domestically, but like them, you guys are Americans who sense that we can do better than we’re doing…. I’m just really proud of you.”
*Afternoon of September 12, 2012: Senior administration officials hold a briefing with reporters to answer questions about the attack. Twice the officials characterize the perpetrators of the attack as “extremists.”
* September 12, 2012 (Information from an exchange between Gregory Hicks and Rep. Trey Gowdy, regarding the State Department's initial account of the events in Benghazi):
Mr. Hicks, who is Beth Jones?
HICKS: Beth Jones is the acting
assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the State
GOWDY: I want to read an excerpt from an email she
sent [on September 12], and you were copied on it.... This is from
Miss Jones to you [Hicks], to counsel for Hillary Clinton, to
[State Department spokeswoman] Victoria Nuland, to Mr. Kennedy [U.S. State Department's Under
Secretary of State for Management, Patrick F. Kennedy]. Near as I can
tell, to almost everyone in the State Department. And I'm going to
read from it: "I spoke to the Libyan ambassador and emphasized the
importance of Libyan leaders continuing to make strong statements.
When he said his government suspected that former Qadhafi regime
elements carried out the attacks, I told him that the group that
conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic
terrorists." (Source: May 8, 2013 hearing before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* September 12, 2012: The CIA station chief
in Libya sends a cable reporting that eyewitnesses have confirmed the participation of
Islamic militants in what was clearly a terrorist attack in Benghazi.
* September 12, 2012: Within 24 hours after the attack,
the U.S. government intercepts communications between two al
Qaeda-linked jihadists discussing the attacks in Benghazi. In one of those communications, one of
the two jihadists, a member of Ansar al Sharia, boasts that he participated in the violence against the U.S. diplomatic post.
Later that same day, the CIA
station chief in Libya sends a memo to Washington, reporting
that eyewitnesses to the attack identified the participants as known
jihadists with ties to al Qaeda.
*Afternoon of September 12, 2012: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell asks an administration official to comment on news reports indicating that the events in Benghazi have been “linked to a terror attack, an organized terror attack,” possibly al Qaeda. The official refers to it as a “complex attack” and says it is “too early to say who they were” and with whom they were affiliated.
* September 12, 2012 (Information from an exchange between Gregory Hicks and Rep. Patrick McHenry, regarding whether Hicks initially believed that the violence of the previous day was a terrorist attack or a spontaneous outgrowth of a protest against the YouTube video):
there any evidence when you were there, in Libya, on that day
[September 12], that this was a protest?
HICKS: No, there was
none, and I'm confident that Ambassador Stevens would have reported a
protest immediately if one appeared on his door....
there anything in connection to a YouTube video? Was there any
awareness that the events occurred because of a YouTube video?
The YouTube video was a non-event in Libya.
MCHENRY: And did you
know about that within a couple of days, or the day of?
MCHENRY: And so, did you report to anyone in Washington,
within the first couple of days, that there was a protest in
connection to a YouTube video?
HICKS: No, the only report that our
mission made through every channel was that there had been an attack
on our consulate.
MCHENRY: Not a protest.
protest. (Source: May 8, 2013 hearing before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
*4:09 p.m., September 12, 2012: At a press briefing en route to Las Vegas, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is asked, “Does the White House believe that the attack in Benghazi was planned and premeditated?” He replies, “It’s too early for us to make that judgment. I think—I know that this is being investigated, and we’re working with the Libyan government to investigate the incident. So I would not want to speculate on that at this time.”
* 10:08 p.m., September 12, 2012: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton releases a public statement linking the attack against the U.S. mission in Benghazi to the YouTube video, which she describes as “inflammatory material posted on the Internet.” “I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today,” says Mrs. Clinton, adding: “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear — there is no justification for this, none.”
* September 12, 2012: When the CIA personnel hear the Obama administration's initial explanation that an anti-Islam video and a demonstration gone awry are to blame for the attacks, they seethe with anger because all the evidence on the ground shows clearly that it was a premeditated attack.
* Approximately September 12-15, 2012: Gregory Hicks receives high praise from both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Hicks gave details about this praise on May 8, 2013, when he testified before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform:
"In the days immediately after the Benghazi attack,
the President and Secretary of State praised my performance over the
telephone. President Obama wrote Libyan President Magariaf expressing
confidence in my abilities. Deputy Secretary Burns and General Ham
told me how much they appreciated how I handled the night of the
assault and its aftermath. I
received written notes of commendation from Undersecretary Wendy
Sherman and from Executive Secretary Stephen Mull. Incoming charge
Larry Pope told me personally that my performance was near
* September 13, 2012: The Obama administration sends Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deliver a televised statement denouncing not only the violence in Benghazi but also the “disgusting and reprehensible” video allegedly responsible for it, and stating “very clearly” that “the United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video.” “We absolutely reject its content and message,” says Mrs. Clinton, emphasizing America’s great “respect for people of faith.”
* September 13, 2012: Hillary Clinton meets with Ali Suleiman Aujali—the Libyan ambassador to the U.S.—at a State Department event to mark the end of Ramadan. Ambassador Aujali apologizes to Mrs. Clinton for what he describes as “this terrorist attack which took place against the American consulate in Libya.” Mrs. Clinton, in her remarks, does not characterize it as terrorism. Rather, she says there is “never any justification for violent acts of this kind.” She also condemns the anti-Muslim video,.
* September 13, 2012: White House press secretary Jay Carney condemns the YouTube video at a news conference.
* September 13, 2012: At a daily press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland is asked whether the Benghazi attack was “purely spontaneous or was premeditated by militants.” Declining to answer, she says that the administration does not want to “jump to conclusions.”
* September 13, 2012: In a meeting with Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani, Hillary Clinton denounces the “disgusting and reprehensible” anti-Muslim video and the violence that it purportedly sparked.
* Morning of September 14, 2012: After
CIA director David Petraeus briefs members of Congress on Capitol Hill, Democratic Rep.
Dutch Ruppersburger, the ranking member of the House Intelligence
Committee, asks the intelligence community to provide guidance
on what members of Congress could say in their public comments regarding the September 11
* 11:15 a.m. EDT on September 14, 2012:
The CIA’s Office of Terrorism Analysis distributes internally (for
comment) the first
draft of a response to Ruppersburger. This initial CIA draft states
U.S. government “know[s] that Islamic extremists with ties to al
Qaeda participated in the attack”; that press
reports have “linked the attack to Ansar al Sharia," which seeks to
spread sharia law in Libya
and “emphasizes the need for jihad”; that Ansar al Sharia "has since
released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks,
but did not deny that some of its members were involved”; and that the
mission compound in Benghazi has been the subject of jihadist
surveillance during the past six months, during which there have been
“at least five other attacks against foreign
interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June
attack against the British Ambassador’s convoy.”
* Afternoon of September 14, 2012: After the
internal distribution, CIA officials amend that initial draft to include
additional discussion about jihadism in both Egypt and Libya. For example: (a)
“On 10 September we warned of social media reports calling for a
demonstration in front of the [Cairo] Embassy and that jihadists were
threatening to break into the Embassy.” And (b): “The Agency has produced numerous pieces on
the threat of extremists linked to al Qaeda in Benghazi and Libya.” The reference to “Islamic
extremists” remains in the revised draft, but it no longer specifies “Islamic extremists with ties to
al Qaeda.” Moreover, the initial reference to “attacks” in Benghazi is changed to “demonstrations.”
* 6:52 p.m. on September 14, 2012: The revised CIA talking points are
first distributed to top Obama administration officials via the interagency vetting process. All told, the revised talking points include more than a half-dozen references to such enemies of America as al Qaeda,
Ansar al Sharia, jihadists, and Islamic extremists.
* 7:39 p.m. on September 14, 2012: In
an email to officials at the White House, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland raises “serious concerns”
about the talking-points draft as it is currently constituted. Specifically, she objects to the following paragraph which was part of the CIA's talking points:
“The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the
threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern
Libya. These noted that, since April, there have been at least
five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by
unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the
British Ambassador’s convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has
previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the
efficacy of the attacks.”
Describing herself as "concerned," Nuland suggests that the foregoing information should be removed from the talking points because it “could be abused by members
[of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying
attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either?”
* 9:24 p.m. on September 14, 2012: In a follow-up email, Nuland writes that the
edited draft remains problematic and that her superiors—whom she does not name—are unhappy with it. Noting that “[t]hese changes don't resolve all
my issues or those of my building leadership,” Nuland indicates that State Department
leadership will be contacting National Security Council officials
* 9:34 p.m. on September 14, 2012: White House official Ben
Rhodes sends an email advising the group
of White House officials that the issues raised by Nuland will be resolved the following morning in a meeting of the National Security
Council’s Deputies Committee, consisting of high-ranking officials at the State Department, the Defense Department,
and the CIA — as well as senior White House national security
staffers. Says Rhodes: “We
must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities,
including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to
undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the
talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.”
* September 14, 2012: Press secretary Carney says: “We were not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent.”
* September 14, 2012: President Obama again blames the YouTube video for having sparked the violence.
* September 14, 2012: CNN journalists find Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ diary amid the rubble of the mission in Benghazi where he was killed three days earlier. The diary reveals that Stevens had been worried for some time about constant security threats, the rise in Islamic extremism, and the fact that his name was on an al Qaeda hit list.
* September 14, 2012: At the receiving ceremony where the bodies of the 4 Americans who were killed in Benghazi are returned to the United States, Hillary Clinton addresses grieving family members. In the course of her remarks, she says: "We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing to do with." According to the father of the slain Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, Mrs. Clinton “came over … she talked with me. I gave her a hug and shook her hand and she did not appear to be one bit sincere at all and she mentioned about, ‘We’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video.’ That was the first time I even heard about anything like that.”
* September 14, 2012: Also at the receiving ceremony, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice each tell Pat Smith -- the mother of slain Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith -- that the cause of the violence that killed her son was the YouTube video. (Source: The O'Reilly Factor: Interview with Pat Smith on May 9, 2013).
* September 14, 2012: At a press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says that her department will no longer answer
any questions about the attack in Benghazi: “It is now something that
you need to talk to the FBI about, not to us about, because it’s their
* September 15, 2012: The Deputies Committee convenes in the morning to discuss the Benghazi talking points. Some participants meet in person, while others
join via a Secure Video Teleconference System (SVTS). Soon after the meeting, a U.S. official sends an
email to Ambassador Susan Rice indicating that several people who attended the meeting were -- like Victoria Nuland, who did not participate
deliberations -- concerned that the CIA’s talking points might lead members of Congress to
criticize the State Department for having ignored the CIA’s warning
about a possible attack. Further, the email says that CIA deputy director Mike Morell
and a small group of individuals from the intelligence
community will work with Jake Sullivan -- deputy chief of staff to
Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and the State Department’s director of policy
planning -- to edit and finalize the talking points before sending
them on to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,
which had originated the request for talking points.
* September 15, 2012: Jake Sullivan, deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton, sends an email to
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland indicating that he has spoken with
President Obama’s top spokesman at the National Security Council, Tommy
Vietor: “I spoke with Tommy. We’ll work through this in the
morning and get comments back.” In
a separate email, Sullivan writes: “Talked to Tommy. We can make edits.”
* September 15, 2012:
After the Deputies Committee meeting, deputy CIA director Mike Morell
makes extensive changes to the six-paragraph draft of the talking
points, cutting all or parts of four
paragraphs of—148 of its 248 words. Most notably, he removes the
references to: “Islamic
extremists”; CIA warnings about al Qaeda in
Libya; “jihadists” in Cairo; terrorists' possible surveillance of the
mission compound in Benghazi; and “at least five other attacks against
interests in Benghazi.” What remains is
mostly boilerplate about ongoing investigations conducted in
cooperation with the
Libyan government. The reference to “attacks” has been changed to
“violent demonstrations” that supposedly arose spontaneously in reaction to
protests in Egypt and may have included
* September 15, 2012:
CIA director David Petraeus receives an email of the revised talking points from which all references
to al Qaeda,
Ansar al Sharia, jihadists, and Islamic extremists have been scrubbed.
The only remaining allusion to such forces indicates that “extremists”
might have participated in “violent demonstrations.” “Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this,” Petraeus writes to a
legislative affairs staffer, but he does not try to persuade the Obama administration to revert to the original CIA assessment of the September 11 attacks. * 2:44 p.m. on September 15, 2012: In an email to Chip Walter, head of the CIA’s legislative
affairs office, CIA director David Petraeus expresses frustration that the
talking points have been stripped of much of the
information which the CIA had initially provided. Resigned to the fact that the administration is seeking to
promote an alternative narrative, Petraeus acknowledges to Walter that
the national security staff, and not the CIA, will make the final
decisions about what to tell the
* September 14-15, 2012: All told, there have been 12 different versions
of the talking points about Benghazi; these evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA, to the
final version distributed to Congress and to Susan Rice prior to her September 16th appearances
on five television talk shows. The edits were made with
extensive input from the State Department.
* September 15, 2012: In his weekly address, President Obama discusses the Benghazi attack but makes no mention of terrorism or terrorists. He does mention, however, the anti-Muslim video and “every angry mob” that it inspired in the Middle East.
* September 16, 2012: President Obama's Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, appears on five separate Sunday television news programs where she claims, falsely, that according to the “best information at present,” the deadly attack in Benghazi was not a premeditated assault but rather a “spontaneous reaction” to “a hateful and offensive video that was widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world.” For example, she tells Bob Schieffer on CBS's Face the Nation:
“We'll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions. But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy ... sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that—in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.... We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.”
* September 16, 2012: Rice's assertion is quickly contradicted by Libyan security officials who say that American diplomats were warned as early as September 8th about potential violent unrest in Benghazi.
* September 16, 2012: Libya’s interim president, Mohammed el-Magariaf, says the attack on the U.S. mission was planned and coordinated by an Islamist group with ties to al Qaeda. Says Magariaf: “The way these perpetrators acted and moved ... this leaves us with no doubt that this was preplanned, determined—predetermined ... It was planned—definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who ... entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act … since their arrival."
* September 16, 2012: In an interview with NPR, President Magariaf says: “The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous. We firmly believe that this was a precalculated, preplanned attack that was carried out specifically to attack the U.S. consulate.”
* September 16, 2012 (Information from an exchange between Gregory Hicks and Rep. Trey Gowdy, regarding Susan Rice's account of the events in Benghazi):
So fast-forward, Mr. Hicks, to the [September 16, 2012] Sunday talk
shows and Ambassador Susan Rice. She blamed this attack on a video.
In fact, she did it five different times. What was your eaction to
HICKS: I was stunned. My jaw dropped. And I was
GOWDY: Did she talk to you before she went on the
five Sunday talk shows?
HICKS: No sir.
GOWDY: You were the
highest-ranking official in Libya at the time, correct?
GOWDY: And she did not bother to have a conversation with you
before she went on national television.
HICKS: No sir.
So Ambassador Rice directly contradicts the evidence on the ground in
Libya, she directly contradicts the president of Libya, she directly
contradicts the last statement uttered by Ambassador Stevens. (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* September 16, 2012
(Information from an exchange between Gregory Hicks and Rep. Patrick McHenry, regarding Susan Rice's characterization of the September 11th violence as a spontaneous outgrowth of a protest against the
MCHENRY: … Would you have said the things that
Ambassador Rice said?
HICKS: Not after hearing what President
Mugariaf said, especially considering the fact that he had gone to
Benghazi himself, at great personal and political risk. And for him
to appear on world television and say this was a planned attack by
terrorists is phenomenal. I was jumping up and down when he said
that. It was a gift for us, from a policy perspective, from my
perspective, sitting in Tripoli.
MCHENRY: And did that occur
before September 16th?
He said that on the same talk shows with Ambassador Rice.
(Source: May 8, 2013 hearing before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* September 16 through early October 2012 (Information from an exchange between Gregory Hicks and Rep. Trey Gowdy, regarding the serious repercussions of Susan Rice's false account of the events in Benghazi):
GOWDY: Mr. Hicks, what
impact did [Susan Rice's demonstrably false narrative] have on the ground, in Benghazi -- the fact that she
contradicted the president of Libya?
HICKS: ... [A]t the time, we were
trying to get the FBI to Benghazi to begin its investigation. And
that talk show actually provided an opportunity to make that happen.
Afterwards, we encountered bureaucratic resistance for a long period
from the Libyans.... It took us an additional 18 days, maybe, to get
the FBI team to Benghazi....
(Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* September 16 through early October 2012 (Information from an exchange between Gregory Hicks and Rep. Paul Gosar, regarding the
serious repercussions of Susan Rice's false account of the events in Benghazi):
Magariaf was insulted in front of his own people, in front of the
world. His credibility was reduced. His ability to lead his own
country was damaged. He was angry. A friend of mine who ate dinner
with him in New York during the UN season told me that he was still
steamed about the talk shows two weeks later. And I definitely
believe that it definitely affected our ability to get the FBI team
quickly to Benghazi.... It was a long slog of 17 days to get the FBI
team to Benghazi, working with various ministries to get, ultimately,
agreement to support that visit.... But at the highest levels of the
[Libyan] government, there was never really positive approval.
… Was the crime scene secured during that time [the 17
HICKS: No, it was not. We repeatedly asked the government of
Libya to secure the crime scene and prevent interlopers, but they
were unable to do so.(Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* September 16 through mid-October 2012 (Information from an exchange between Gregory Hicks and Rep. Paul Gosar, regarding how Hicks was mistreated after he questioned Rice's false account of the events in Benghazi):
HICKS: When Assistant
Secretary Jones called me after the talk show [the shows on which
Susan Rice had appeared on September 16], I asked her why she [Rice]
had said there was a demonstration, when we had reported that there
was an attack.
GOSAR: … And her reaction was?
reaction, again, was “I don't know,” and it was very clear from
the tone that I should not proceed with [this line of questioning]
GOSAR: Did you receive any negative feedback based on
HICKS: Over the next month, I began to receive
counseling from Assistant Secretary Jones about my management style,
things that I basically was already doing on the ground but
nevertheless I implemented everything that she asked me to do.
JORDAN: All that [praise and support
you received from the Obama administration] seems to change [after] the phone call
you got from Beth Jones [after Susan Rice went on the five Sunday
talk shows] ... because you asked Beth Jones what?
HICKS: I asked
her why the ambassador had said there was a demonstration, when the
embassay had reported only an attack.
JORDAN: And again, what kind
of response did you get from Beth Jones when you asked that
HICKS: She said, “I don't know.” … The sense I got
was that I needed to stop the line of questioning. (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
after the attack, and before the attack, you had [received] all kinds
of praise for your leadership. You got a call from Secretary Clinton.
You got a call from the president, praising you for your service and
how you handled things. Was there a seminal moment, in your mind, to
when all this praise and appreciation turned into something
HICKS: In hindsight, I think it began when I asked a
question about Ambassador Rice's statement on the TV shows.... I was
angry with the way I'd been criticized. I thought it was unfounded. I
felt like I'd been tried and convicted in absentia, but I decided I
was going to go back and try to redeem myself.
is your job right now?
HICKS: I am a foreign-affairs officer in
the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs.
DESJARLAIS: A far
cry from where you were and your level of capabilities.
sir.... I accepted an officer of what's called a “no-fault
curtailment.” That means that there would be no criticiam of my
departure of Post, no negative repercussions … The job now is
a ... demotion. “Foreign-affairs officer” is a
designation that is given to our civil service colleagues who are
desk officers. So I've been effectively demoted from deputy chief of
mission to desk officer.
(Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* September 17, 2012: State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland refuses to characterize the Benghazi attacks as terrorism. During the daily briefing at the State
Department, Nuland also defends Susan Rice’s televised performances of the previous day. Says Nuland: “... Ambassador Rice, in her
comments on every network over the weekend, was very clear, very
precise, about what our initial assessment of what happened is. And this
was not just her assessment, it was also an assessment you’ve heard in
comments coming from the intelligence community, in comments coming from
the White House.”
* September 18, 2012: White House press secretary Jay Carney is asked about Libyan President Magariaf’s assertion that the YouTube video had nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi. Replying that President Obama “would rather wait” for the investigation to be completed before issuing an opinion on the matter, Carney says: “But at this time, as Ambassador Rice said and as I said, our understanding and our belief based on the information we have is it was the video that caused the unrest in Cairo, and the video and the unrest in Cairo that helped—that precipitated some of the unrest in Benghazi and elsewhere. What other factors were involved is a matter of investigation.”
* September 18, 2012: Reporters ask Hillary Clinton if Libyan President Magariaf is “wrong” in saying that “this attack was planned for months.” Mrs. Clinton replies: “The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said we had no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent.” She does not say whether she thinks Magariaf is right or wrong.
* September 18, 2012: President Obama appears on television with late-night comedian David Letterman. He tells Letterman that “Extremists and terrorists used this [anti-Muslim video] as an excuse to attack a variety of our embassies, including the consulate in Libya.”
* September 19, 2012: President Obama appears at the 40/40 Club in Manhattan, where entertainers Jay Z and Beyonce host a $40,000-per-person fundraiser for him.
* September 19, 2012: Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, tells a Congressional Committee that the Obama administration is continuing to view the Benghazi incident as an “opportunistic” assault rather than a planned one, though he acknowledges that it could rightfully be classified as terrorism. This marks the first time that anyone in the Obama administration has used the term “terrorism” specifically in connection with the Benghazi attack.
* September 19, 2012: At a press briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney says: “Based on the information we had at the time—we have now, we do not yet have indication that it was preplanned or premeditated. There’s an active investigation. If that active investigation produces facts that lead to a different conclusion, we will make clear that that’s where the investigation has led.”
* September 19, 2012: Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Andrew McCarthy, who led the investigations into both attacks on the World Trade Center (1993 and 2001), says the Obama administration’s account of the Libyan attacks on the U.S. consulate is “flat-out fantasy.”
* September 19, 2012: Jim Carafano, the Heritage Foundation's deputy director and a leading expert on defense and homeland security, says the Obama administration’s contention that the attack on Ambassador Stevens and his staff in Libya was not premeditated cannot be reconciled with reports from the State Department and the Libyan government.
* September 20, 2012: White House press secretary Jay Carney completely reverses his earlier position, now calling it “self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.” Carney continues to maintain, however, that the administration received no early warnings about it.
* September 20, 2012: President Obama, citing insufficient information, still refuses to characterize the Benghazi attack as terrorism. He also makes reference, yet again, to the purported role of the YouTube video:
“Well, we’re still doing an investigation, and there are going to be different circumstances in different countries. And so I don’t want to speak to something until we have all the information. What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests.”
* September 20, 2012: The State Department spends $70,000 in taxpayer funds to purchase public-relations advertisements on seven different Pakistani television stations. The ads, intended to underscore the fact that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the YouTube video's content or production, show film clips of speeches where Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama have previously disavowed the film Innocence of Muslims.
* September 21, 2012: Secretary of State Clinton says, “What happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.”
* September 22, 2012: Fawzi Bukatef, leader of the February 17 Martyrs Brigades, says that the Obama administration took no action during the attacks on the mission in Benghazi, and that “We [the Brigade] had to coordinate everything.” Bukatef's account is entirely consistent with Libyan Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif's earlier assertion that Libyan security forces had essentially handed the U.S. mission personnel over to the attackers.
* September 24, 2012: Taping an appearance on ABC television's The View (which would air the folowing day), Obama says it is still impossible to determine whether the Benghazi attack was an act of terrorism: “[W]e don’t have all of the information yet, so we are still gathering.”
* September 25, 2012: In a speech to the UN Assembly, Obama, continuing to emphasize the notion that the YouTube video triggered the violence in Benghazi, states that “a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.” He goes on to say, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.”
* Scholar Barry Rubin offers an assessment of why Obama was reluctant to classify the Benghazi attacks as terrorism (Source: "As Benghazi Scandal Builds, Libya Falls Apart," by Barry Rubin, May 13, 2013):
that from the beginning on September 11, 2012, the U.S. government
announced that the U.S. facility was under attack by a militia group
linked to al-Qaeda: it would have had to explain why it had hired
members of that militia group to guard the facility, a scandal in
itself. We know, 100 percent, that this is true ...
there might have been a rescue attempt and a firefight between
American forces and that militia group in which casualties would have
occurred on both sides. … the United States would then have been in
a military conflict with that militia. It would have to demand that
the Libyan government take action and cooperate with U.S. efforts to
* September 26, 2012: Libyan president Mohamed al-Magariaf reiterates that the September 11 attack in Benghazi “was a preplanned act of terrorism directed against American citizens.” He states unequivocally that the YouTube video Innocence of Muslims “had nothing to do with this attack.”
* September 26, 2012: At a UN Security Council meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, completely reversing her original story, concedes that there was an explicit link between al Qaeda's North African network and the deadly attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi 15 days earlier.
* September 27, 2012, filmmaker Mark Basseley Youseff (a.k.a. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula), who produced Innocence of Muslims, is arrested for “probation violation” and is denied bail.
* September 28, 2012: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which is
controlled by the President of the United States, issues a statement
that seems designed to quell the growing controversy over the
administration’s obviously false assertions that the attacks of 9/11
grew out of spontaneous demonstrations:
“In the immediate
aftermath [of the attack], there was information that led us to assess that the attack
began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy
in Cairo. We provided that initial assessment to Executive Branch
officials and members of Congress, who used that information to discuss
the attack publicly and provide updates as they became available. As we learned more about the attack, we
revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating
that it was a deliberate and organized attack carried out by extremists.
It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and
control of the attack, and if extremist group leaders directed their
members to participate. However, we do assess that some of those
involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al
Journalist Stephen Hayes writes: “The statement [above] strongly implies that the information about al
Qaeda-linked terrorists was new, a revision of the initial assessment.
But it wasn’t. Indeed, the original assessment stated, without
qualification, 'we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda
participated in the attack.'”
Hayes also suggests that ODNI tried to give political cover to its director, James Clapper, by not having him personally issue the statement above. Writes Hayes: "The statement from the ODNI came not from James Clapper ... but from his spokesman, Shawn Turner. When the
statement was released, current and former intelligence officials [said] that they found the statement itself odd and the
fact that it didn’t come from Clapper stranger still. Clapper was
traveling when he was first shown a draft of the statement to go out
under his name. It is not an accident that it didn’t."
* October 2, 2012: White House press secretary Jay Carney declines to comment on reports claiming that U.S. diplomats in Libya asked for additional security during the weeks preceding September 11, 2012.
* October 3, 2012: It is revealed that sensitive documents remain only loosely secured in the wreckage of the U.S. mission, meaning that vital information about American operations in Libya is accessible to looters and curiosity-seekers. Among the items scattered throughout the looted compound are documents detailing America's weapons-collection efforts and emergency-evacuation protocols, Ambassador Stevens' travel itinerary, and the personnel records of Libyans who were contracted to secure the mission.
* October 4, 2012: After weeks of waiting for security concerns to be addressed, an FBI team finally gains access to the ransacked U.S. mission compound in Benghazi. The team leaves the site after just 12 hours. According to a New York Timesreport: “Already looters, curiosity seekers and reporters have been through the site, which is only protected by two private security guards hired by the compound’s Libyan owner … It appears that the FBI spent little or no time interviewing residents in Benghazi. Typically they would spend weeks, rather than hours, at a crime scene as important to national security as this site.” U.S. officials say the hunt for those possibly connected to the September 11 attack has narrowed to just one or two people in an extremist group.
* Early October 2012 (Information from an exchange between Gregory Hicks and Rep. Jim Jordan, regarding Congressman Jason Chaffetz's October 6, 2013 visit to Libya):
[A]s I read the transcript, it seems to me that it [tension between
Hicks and his superiors in the Obama administration] came to a head
in phone calls you were on with lawyers from the Department of State
prior to Congressman [Jason] Chaffetz [a member of the House Oversight
and Government Reform Committee] coming to visit in Libya [on October 6, to get an
on-the-ground assessment of the attack]. Is that
HICKS: Yes sir.
JORDAN: And tell me about those
conversations, what those lawyers instructed you to do on Mr.
Chaffetz's visit to Libya.
HICKS: I was instructed not to allow
the RSO, the acting deputy chief of mission, and myself to be
personally interviewed by Congressman Chaffetz.
JORDAN: So the
people at State told you, don't talk to the guy who's coming to
HICKS: Yes sir.
JORDAN: … You’ve
had [dozens and dozens of] congressional delegations come to various
places you’ve been around the world. Has that ever happened …
Have you ever had anyone tell you don’t talk with the people from
Congress coming to find out what took place?
… And isn't it true that one of those lawyers on the phone call
accompanied the folks in the delegation and tried to be in every
single meeting you had with Mr. Chaffetz and the delegation from this
HICKS: Yes sir, that's true.
JORDAN: Tell me what
happened when you got a classified briefing with Mr. Chaffetz. What
happened in the phone call that happened after that?
lawyer was excluded from the meeting because his clearance was not
high enough, and the delegation had insisted that the briefing not be
limited by –
Did the lawyer try and get into that briefing?
HICKS: He tried,
yes, but the annex chief would not allow it, because the briefing
needed to be at the appropriate level of clearance.
had a subsequent conversation after this classified briefing that the
lawyer was not allowed to be in, with you and Mr. Chaffetz and others
in that delegation, and you had another conversation on the phone
with Cheryl Mills [counselor for the Department of State and chief of
staff to Secretary Clinton].... She is as close as you can get to
Secretary Clinton. Is that accurate?
HICKS: Yes sir.
And tell me about that phone call you had with Cheryl
HICKS: She demanded a report on the visit –
Was she upset by the fact that tis lawyer, this babysitter, this spy,
whatever you want to call him, was not allowed to be in that
HICKS: She was very upset.
this goes right to the person next to Secretary Clinton. Is that
HICKS: Yes sir. (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* Early October 2012
(Information from an exchange between Gregory Hicks and Rep. Scott Desjarlais, offering additional insight into
how Hicks was mistreated by the Obama administration after he questioned Susan Rice's false account of the September 11th attacks):
After Congressman Chaffetz's visit, did you feel any kind of shift in
the way you were treated?
HICKS: Yes, again, I did.... Prior to
[Chaffetz's] visit, Assistant Secretary Jones had visited, and she
pulled me aside and, again, said I needed to improve my management
style and indicated that people were upset. I had had no indication
that my staff was upset at all, other than with the conditions that
we were facing. Following my return to the United States, I attended
Chris's [Stevens'] funeral in San Francisco and then I came back to
Washington. Assistant Secretary Jones summoned me to her office and
she delivered a blistering critique of my management style. And she
even exclaimed, “I don't know why Larry Pope would want you to come
back.” And she said she didn't even understand why anyone in
Tripoli would want me to come back. (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* October 9, 2012: The State Department acknowledges that, contrary to the Obama administration's initial reports, the attack on the mission in Benghazi did not begin as a low-level protest that suddenly and unexpectedly spiraled out of control. The State Department now concedes that there were no protests at all in Benghazi before the deadly assault.
* October 10, 2012: In a heated congressional hearing, Eric Nordstrom recalls talking to a regional director and asking for twelve security agents:
“His response to that was, ‘You are asking for the sun, moon and the stars.’ And my response to him – his name was Jim – ‘Jim, you know what makes most frustrating about this assignment? It is not the hardships, it is not the gunfire, it is not the threats. It is dealing and fighting against the people, programs and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me. And I added (sic) it by saying, ‘For me the Taliban is on the inside of the building.’”
* October 10, 2012: In the same congressional hearing, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, the commander of a Security Support Team (SST) that was sent home in August 2012 (against his wishes and those of Ambassador Stevens), says: “We were fighting a losing battle. We couldn’t even keep what we had.” Nordstrom agrees, saying: “[I]t was abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident. And the question that we would ask is again, ‘How thin does the ice need to get until someone falls through?’” Nordstrom states that on one occasion, he was “specifically told, 'You can’t request an SST extension.'” “How I interpreted that,” says Nordstrom, “was there was going to be too much political cost.”
* October 10, 2012: The State Department claims that it has never believed, even for a moment, that the attack in Benghazi was carried out in reaction to a YouTube video. The Associated Press reports:
“Department officials were asked about the administration’s initial—and since retracted—explanation linking the violence to protests over an American-made anti-Muslim video circulating on the Internet. One official responded, ‘That was not our conclusion.’ He called it a question for ‘others’ to answer, without specifying.”
* October 11, 2012: When the subject of the Benghazi attacks is raised during his vice-presidential debate against Paul Ryan, Vice President Joe Biden says, “We weren’t told they wanted more security there.” In light of the obvious falsity of that statement, White House spokesman Jay Carney subsequently explains that Biden's “We” referred only to Biden himself, President Obama, and the White House.
* October 14, 2012:
Pat Smith, the mother of Sean Smith (the foreign service
information-management officer who was killed in the Benghazi terrorist
attack), tells CNN that the Obama administration told her that the incident was caused entirely by the YouTube video:
"... [The] things that they've told me are just outright lies. That
Susan Rice, what—she talked to me personally and she said, she said,
this is the way it was. It was—it was because of this film that came
out.... Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. In fact all of them did. All of them
did. Leon Panetta actually took my face in his hands like this and he
says, trust me. I will tell you what happened. And so far, he’s told me
nothing. Nothing at all. And I want to know.
"I told them , if it’s such a secret thing, fine, take me in another room, whisper
in my ear what happened so that I know, and we’ll go from there. But
no. No, they—you know, they treat me like—at first I was so proud
because they were treating me so nice when I went to that reception.
They all came up to me and talked to me and everything. I cried on
Obama’s shoulder. And he — then he’d kind of looked off into the
distance. So that was worthless to me. I want to know, for God’s sakes."
* October 15, 2012: In a CNN interview, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes the blame for what happened in Benghazi. “I take responsibility. I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals.” “I want to avoid some kind of political gotcha,” she adds, noting that “we're very close to an election.”
* October 16, 2012:
During the second presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt
Romney, President Obama says
that he immediately told the American people that the September 11th
killing of Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi
“was an act of
terror.” Seven months later, on May 13, 2013, the Washington Post published its own in-depth analysis of how Obama characterized the events of 9/11/12 in the days and weeks that followed. Said The Post:
after the attack, the president three times used the phrase “act of
terror” in public statements:
acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation,
alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we
stand for.” — Obama,
Rose Garden, Sept. 12
want to send a message all around the world — anybody who would do
us harm: No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we
proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will
shake the resolve of the United States of America.” — Obama,
campaign event in Las Vegas, Sept. 13
want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us
harm, no act of terror will go unpunished. It will not dim the light
of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world. No
act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America.” — Obama,
campaign event in Golden, Colo., Sept. 13
that in all three cases, the language is not as strong as Obama
asserted in the debate. Obama declared that he said “that this was
an act of terror.” But actually the president spoke in vague terms,
usually wrapped in a patriotic fervor. One could presume he was
speaking of the incident in Libya, but he did not affirmatively state
that the American ambassador died because of an “act of terror.”
… [S]uch nuances of phrasing are often very important. A president
does not simply utter virtually the same phrase three times in two
days about a major international incident without careful thought
about the implications of each word. [...]
the reason, when given repeated opportunities to forthrightly declare
this was an “act of terrorism,” the president ducked the
question. For instance, on Sept. 12, immediately after the Rose
Garden statement the day after the attack, Obama sat down with Steve
Kroft of 60 Minutes and acknowledged he purposely avoided the using
the word “terrorism:”
“Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the
use of the word ‘terrorism’ in connection with the Libya attack.”
“Do you believe that this was a terrorist attack?”
“Well, it’s too early to know exactly how this came about, what
group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans. And
we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure
that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other.” (For
unknown reasons, CBS did not release this clip until just two days before the elections, and it attracted little notice at the time because Superstorm Sandy
dominated the news.)
days later, on Sept. 20, Obama was asked at a Univision town hall
whether Benghazi was a terrorist attack related to al-Qaeda, after
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that “it is
self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.”
“We have reports that the White House said today that the attacks
in Libya were a terrorist attack. Do you have information indicating
that it was Iran, or al-Qaeda was behind organizing the protests?”
“Well, we’re still doing an investigation, and there are going to
be different circumstances in different countries. And so I don’t
want to speak to something until we have all the information. What we
do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the
outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if
they can also directly harm U.S. interests.”
during an interview on ABC’s The View on Sept. 25, Obama
appeared to refuse to say it was a terrorist attack:
“It was reported that people just went crazy and wild because of
this anti-Muslim movie -- or anti-Muhammad, I guess, movie. But then
I heard Hillary Clinton say that it was an act of terrorism. Is it?
What do you say?”
“We are still doing an investigation. There is no doubt that the
kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn’t
just a mob action. Now, we don’t have all the information yet so we
are still gathering.”
given three opportunities to affirmatively agree that the Benghazi
attack was a terrorist attack, the president obfuscated or ducked the
question. In fact, as far as we can tell from combing through
databases, [May 13, 2013] was the first time the president
himself referred to Benghazi as an “act of terrorism.”
officials repeatedly have insisted that this is a distinction without
much difference. “There was an issue about the definition of
terrorism,” Carney said
on October 10.
“This is by definition an act of terror, as the President made
the campaign, the president could just get away with claiming he said
“act of terror,” since he did use those words — though not in
the way he often claimed. It seemed like a bit of after-the-fact
spin, but those were his actual words — to the surprise of Mitt
Romney in the debate. But the president’s claim [in May 2013] that he said “act
of terrorism” is taking revisionist history too far, given that he
repeatedly refused to commit to that phrase when asked directly by
reporters in the weeks after the attack. He appears to have gone out
of his way to avoid saying it was a terrorist attack, so he has
little standing to make that claim now.
unedited talking points
did not call it an act of terrorism. Instead of pretending the right
words were uttered, it would be far better to acknowledge that he was
echoing what the intelligence community believed at the time--and
that the administration’s phrasing could have been clearer and more
forthright from the start.
Pinocchios. [This was the Washington Post's rating of Obama's lack of
honesty vis a vis whether he had referred to the Benghazi attacks as
"terrorism" in their immediate aftermath. This rating signifies that
Obama was wholly dishonest about the matter.]
* October 18, 2012: On Comedy Central's The Daily Show, host Jon Stewartasks Obama: “Is part of the investigation helping the communication between these divisions? Not just what happened in Benghazi, but what happened within. Because I would say, even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page.” To this, Obama responds: “Here's what I’ll say. If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.”
* October 19, 2012: House Government Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa writes a letter to President Obama, questioning why he has “not been straightforward with the American people in the aftermath of the attack.”
* October 25, 2012: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the U.S. military did not intervene when the mission in Benghazi was under assault because military leaders had no “real-time information” about what was happening on the ground.
* October 26, 2012: CIA director David Petraeus emphatically denies that he or anyone else at the CIA refused assistance to the former Navy SEALs who requested help while under assault on the night of September 11, 2012. According to The Weekly Standard and ABC News, Petraeus's denial strongly suggests that the refusal to assist was a presidential decision made by Obama himself.
* October 26, 2012: A CIA spokesman issues this statement: “No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need [at the Benghazi mission]; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.”
* October 26, 2012: At a press briefing in Washington, the State Department shuts down down reporters' questions about Benghazi. The administration appears determined to say as little as possible about the September 11 attack until after the November 6 elections.
* October 26, 2012: President Obama says: “What happened in Benghazi is a tragedy.... [M]y biggest priority now is bringing those folks [the perpetrators] to justice, and I think the American people have seen that’s a commitment I'll always keep.”
* October 26, 2012: President Obama discusses the situation in Libya during a satellite interview with local Denver, Colorado TV reporter Kyle Clark. The following key exchange occurs:
CLARK: "Were the Americans under attack at the consulate in Benghazi, Libya denied requests for help during that attack? And is it fair to tell Americans that what happened is under investigation and we'll all find out after the election?"
OBAMA: "Well, the election has nothing to do with four brave Americans getting killed and us wanting to find out exactly what happened. These are folks who served under me who I had sent to some very dangerous places. 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."
CLARK: "Were they denied requests for help during the attack?"
OBAMA: "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."
* October 30, 2012: Senator John McCain characterizes the Benghazi affair as either a “massive cover up” or “massive incompetence.”
* October 31, 2012: Michael Scheuer, who headed the CIA’s Osama bin Laden tracking unit in the late 1990s and has worked for the Agency for more than 20 years, says that what occurred in Benghazi was not incompetence but rather a “callous political decision to let Americans die”:
“It’s hard to claim incompetence when you have the information in a real-time manner as the White House did. They were watching or listening to the attack on our people there in Benghazi for about seven hours. This, clearly, is a case of deciding not to help those people and now trying, in the waning days of the election campaign, to prevent Americans from learning what a cowardly and arrogant policy Obama picked in order to protect his election chances. Had we sent people to try to help the people who were being attacked, we may have been too late, it may have taken too long to get there, we may have run into a bigger battle and lost more people but the key element here is there is no evidence, from day one until today, that the Obama administration did anything at all to help those people. Nothing was put in train. Nothing was tried. At the end of the day, we abandoned those four people on the orders of the president.”
* November 1, 2012: Pat Smith, the mother of Sean Smith (the foreign service
information-management officer who was killed in the Benghazi terrorist
attack), complains that the Obama administration has provided no substantive information about how her son died. Said Mrs. Smith, “Until I find out anything, Obama killed my son, my only child, the one who was going to take care of me when I’m old.”
* November 4, 2012: A car bomb explodes in front of a Benghazi police station and injures three officers.
* November 8, 2012: Mark Basseley Youseff, the filmmaker who produced the YouTube video Innocence of Muslims, is sentenced to a year in jail for an “unrelated” offense.
* November 9, 2012: CIA director David Petraeus admits to having had an extramarital affair and resigns from his post at the CIA.
* November 16, 2012: In testimony before the House and Senate intelligence panels, General Petraeus states that the CIA sought to make clear from the outset that an al Qaeda affiliate was involved in the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Petraeus also says that references to “Al Qaeda involvement” were stripped from his agency's original talking points, but he does not know by whom. Following Petraeus's testimony, Republican Representative Peter King confirms that according to Petraeus, “the original [CIA] talking points were much more specific about Al Qaeda involvement. And yet the final ones just said [there were] indications of extremists.”
* November 16, 2012: Twelve Democratic congresswomen accuse Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham of “clear sexism and racism” because, in condemning Ambassador Susan Rice for her misleading narrative about the root causes of the Benghazi attack, they have described Rice as “unqualified” and “not very bright.”
* November 17, 2012: Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, makes reference to the Obama administration's alleged funneling of weapons, by way of Libya, to Syrian rebels and jihadists seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad:
“If it is the case that the Obama administration, was in fact, in the person of Christopher Stevens and the CIA operation in Benghazi, taking arms that had been bought from people who had liberated them from Gaddafi’s weapons caches and sending some of those to people [in Syria] who we know include Islamists of the most radical stripe, which include al-Qaida, that is a scandal that will make Iran-Contra look like a day at the beach…”
* December 8, 2012: Mohammed Abu Jamal Ahmed, a suspect in the September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, is arrested in Cairo, Egypt.
* December 13, 2012: After months of criticism over her blatant misrepresentations of the September 11 events in Benghazi, Ambassador Susan Rice withdraws her name from consideration as a candidate for Secretary of State (succeeding the outgoing Hillary Clinton). President Obama accepts Rice's decision, saying: “While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first…. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.”
* December 15, 2012: State Department officials notify the press that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “while suffering from a stomach virus ... became dehydrated and fainted, sustaining a concussion.” Clinton’s office states that she will be unable to participate in the House Foreign Affairs Committee's hearing on Benghazi scheduled for December 20 on Capitol Hill.
* December 18, 2012: An independent report issued by the Accountability Review Board (ARB) led by Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mike Mullen, blames State Department leadership for “systemic failures” leading up to the Benghazi attack, and asserts that U.S. officials relied too heavily on Libyan guards at the mission, where security was “grossly inadequate.” The report does not blame Secretary Clinton personally, however. Rather, it singles out the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near East Affairs for a “lack of proactive leadership and management ability in their responses to security concerns.” But despite the failures of those two Bureaus, the ARB states that no individual officials ignored or violated their duties, and thus it recommends no disciplinary action.
* December 19, 2012: In response to the ARB report, Bureau of Diplomatic Security chief Eric Boswell and his deputy Charlene Lamb both resign, along with an unidentified official in the Bureau of Near East Affairs. It is soon learned, however, that these resignees are merely on administrative leave; they remain on the State
Department payroll and will all be back to work soon.
* December 20, 2012: William J. Burns (deputy secretary of state) and Thomas R. Nides (deputy secretary of state for management and resources) both testify in place of Hillary Clinton in the House Foreign Affairs Committee's hearing on Benghazi.
* December 20, 2012: The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, headed by Senator John Kerry, issues a report entitled, “Benghazi: The Attack and the Lessons Learned.”
* December 22, 2012: After months of trying to get access, FBI agents question the only known suspect in the September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. He is Ali al-Harzi, a 26-year-old Tunisian who was detained in Turkey and extradited to Tunisia in October 2012.
* December 30, 2012: Senators Joe Leiberman (I/D-Connecticut) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) release a report entitled Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi, which states that on September 11, the terrorists essentially walked into the Benghazi mission compound unimpeded and set it ablaze, while State Department personnel in Washington ignored or responded inadequately to repeated pleas for more security from those on the ground in Libya.
* December 30, 2012: In an interview with NBC’s David Gregory, President Obama says: “Some individuals have been held accountable inside of the State Department and what I’ve said is that we are going to fix this to make sure that this does not happen again, because these are folks that I send into the field. We understand that there are dangers involved but, you know, when you read the report and it confirms what we had already seen, you know, based on some of our internal reviews; there was just some sloppiness, not intentional, in terms of how we secure embassies in areas where you essentially don’t have governments that have a lot of capacity to protect those embassies.”
* Late December 2012 to early January 2013: Although Ahmed Boukhtala, a member of an Islamic terrorist group, is the main suspect in the September 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, he continues to live freely in that city. Libyan authorities are reluctant to become entangled in cases like his, which involve terror-group affiliations. In an interview with a Libyan newspaper, Boukhtala neither admits nor denies his role in the September 11 attack. In response to a direct question regarding the incident, he says:
“Let’s first ask about the reason for their presence in Benghazi in this suspicious and secret way. The other thing is: what is the nature of work they were doing in Benghazi? What was the role that the consulate was playing, and who gave it permission to violate Libya’s sovereignty and intervene in Libyan politics?”
* January 3, 2013: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is released from the hospital following a bout with the flu, a concussion, and a blood clot. It is reported that she will soon testify in front of a Congressional committee about the terrorist attack on the American mission in Benghazi.
* January 6, 2013: Reports say that Libya's investigation into the deadly September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi has been hampered by widespread fear that Islamic extremists will retaliate with violence against witnesses who testify.
* January 9, 2013: Tunisian authorities release Ali al-Harzi, the only man held so far in connection with the September 11 attacks in Benghazi—an indication that the Libyan-led investigation into those attacks is foundering. According to the Benghazi-based analyst and political science professor Khaled al-Marmimi: “Investigators are afraid to keep probing the case because they are concerned extremists will kidnap them at any moment.”
* January 10, 2013: Despite President Obama's September 12, 2012 vow to “work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people,” Libyan authorities now say the investigation is stalled, if not entirely dead, with witnesses too fearful to talk and key police officers targeted for violent retribution. According to Mohamed Buisier, a political activist in Benghazi: “There is no Libyan investigation. No, no, no. There is not even a will to investigate anything. Even for us civilians, it is very dangerous if you talk about this subject.”
* January 17, 2013: FBI director Robert Mueller goes to Libya to meet with senior officials, including the prime minister, justice minister, and intelligence chief, to discuss what occurred in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.
Hillary Clinton's Testimony
* January 23, 2013: Fully 134 days after the September 11 attack in Benghazi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before Congress.
During the course of her testimony, Clinton states that she was unaware of Ambassador Stevens' August 15, 2012 cable saying that "we can't defend this place."
Clinton also testifies: "I want to make clear that no one in the State
Department, the intelligence community, any other agency, ever
recommended that we close Benghazi. We were clear-eyed about the threats
and the dangers as they were developing in eastern Libya and in
(This testimony was later contradicted, however, by Lt. Col.
Andrew Wood, who headed the U.S. military’s efforts to improve
diplomatic security in Libya. Wood testified
that he personally had recommended that the Benghazi mission be closed, in light of the fact that more than 200 attacks -- including approximately 50 in Benghazi -- had been carried out against American interests in Libya.)
The most dramatic moment in the proceedings occurs when Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson asks Mrs. Clinton to explain why the State Department spent so long characterizing the attack as an unplanned, unforseeable escalation of an impromptu protest over an obscure anti-Muslim YouTube video, rather than a pre-planned, carefully orchestrated act of terrorism led by an al Qaeda-affiliated group. Clinton yells back: “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”
Also during the question-and-answer session, Clinton says: “I did not say ... that it was about the video for Libya.” This was a lie, as evidenced by the following facts:
On September 12, 2012, Clinton released a public statement linking the attack against the U.S. mission in Benghazi to the YouTube video, which she described as “inflammatory material posted on the Internet.” “I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today,” said Clinton, adding: “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.”
On September 13, 2012, Clinton delivered a televised statement denouncing not only the violence in Benghazi but also the “disgusting and reprehensible” video allegedly responsible for it, and stating “very clearly” that “the United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video.” “We absolutely reject its content and message,” said Clinton, emphasizing America’s great “respect for people of faith.”
At the September 14 receiving ceremony where the bodies of the four dead Americans were returned to the United States, Clinton spoke to the grieving families of the deceased. In the course of her remarks, she referenced an “awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.” Afterward, she told the father of Tyrone Woods, the former Navy SEAL who had been killed in the attack, “We will make sure the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted.”
Also at the September 14 receiving ceremony, Clinton told Pat Smith -- the mother of slain Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith -- that the cause of the violence that had killed her son was the YouTube video. (Source: The O'Reilly Factor: Interview with Pat Smith on May 9, 2013).
Another important moment in the January 23 proceedings occurs when Republican Senator Rand Paul directs the following pointed remarks at Mrs. Clinton:
"One of the things about the original 9/11 is that no one was fired. We spent trillions of dollars, but there were a lot of human errors, judgement errors and the people who make judgement errors need to be replaced, fired and no longer in a position to make these judgement calls.
"So we have a Review Board. The Review Board finds 64 different things we can change. A lot of them are common sense and can be done, but the question is, it’s a failure of leadership that they weren’t done in advance and 4 American lives were lost because of this. I’m glad that you are accepting responsibility. I think that ultimately with you leaving, you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11, and I really mean that. Had I been President at the time, and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it is inexcusable.
"The thing is, that we can understand you are not reading every cable. I can understand that maybe you are not aware of the cable from the Ambassador in Vienna that asks for $100,000 for an electrical charging station. I can understand that maybe you are not aware that your Department spent $100,000 on 3 comedians who went to India on a promotional tour called Make Chi, Not War, but I think you might be able to understand that you should be aware of the $80 million spent on a consulate in Mahshahr al-Sharif that will never be built.
"I think it’s inexcusable that you did not know about this [the growing danger in Benghazi] and that you did not read these cables. I think by anybody’s estimation, Libya has to be one of the hottest of hot spots around the world. Not to know of the requests for securities, really I think cost these people their lives. Their lives could have been saved had someone been more available, had someone been aware of these things, more on top of the job, and the thing is, I don’t suspect you of bad motives. The Review Board said, well these people weren’t willfully negligent. I don’t think you were willfully…I don’t suspect your motives for wanting to serve your country, but it was a failure of leadership not to be involved. It was a failure of leadership not to know these things, and so I think it is good that you are accepting responsibility, because no one else is. There is a certain amount of culpability to the worst tragedy since 9/11, and I’m glad you are accepting this."
Senator Paul then has the following exchange with Mrs. Clinton:
PAUL: "Is the United States involved with an procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?"
CLINTON: "To Turkey? I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody’s ever raised that with me."
PAUL: "It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that they may have weapons, and what I would like to know is, the annex that was close by—were they involved with procuring, buying, selling weapons, and are these weapons being transfered to other countries? Any countries, Turkey included?"
CLINTON: "Well, Senator, you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the Annex. I will see what information is available…"
PAUL: "You’re saying you don’t know?"
CLINTON: "I do not know. I have no information on that."
Responses to Hillary Clinton's Testimony
* Information from an exchange between Eric Nordstrom, Gregory Hicks, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, regarding Hillary Clinton's testimony about who made security decisions in Benghazi:
I saw Secretary Clinton four and a half months after the attack in
Benghazi, testify before the United States Congress that she didn't
make the security decisions, [that] you made the security decisions, Mr.
Nordstrom. You're the regional security officer on the ground. You
were the chief security person. You're the ones that made the
security decisions. True of false?
NORDSTROM: The response I got
from the regional director, when I raised the issue that we were
short of our standards for physical security was that my quote,
“tone,” was not helpful.
CHAFFETZ: Is it true or false: The
security decisions on the ground in Libya were made by
NORDSTROM: I would have liked to have thought, but apparently
CHAFFETZ: Mr. Hicks, when you heard and saw that, did you have
a reaction to it? What's your personal opinion?
HICKS: When I was
there, I was very frustrated by the situation – at times, even
frightened by the threat scenario that we were looking at, relative
to the resources that we had to try to mitigate that threat
scenario. (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* Mrs. Clinton's testimony was also later contradicted by Eric Nordstrom's testimony before the House Committee on Oversight &
Government Reform, when he had the following exchange with Rep. Jim
JORDAN: Mr. Nordstrom you testified in October
 there were 200 and some security incidents in Libya [during]
the 13 months prior to the attack. Is that correct?
JORDAN: Repeated attempts to breach the facility
there. You repeatedly asked for additional security personnel and it
was denied. Correct?
NORDSTROM: That's correct.
only denied, but it was reduced. Correct?
JORDAN: And then four and a half months after it all
happens, the Secretary of State says you were responsible for the
security situation in Libya. (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
Testimony of Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey
* February 7, 2013: Leon Panetta (Defense Secretary) and General Martin Dempsey (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee as to what they know about the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi.
Senator Kelly Ayotte asks Panetta if President Obama ever contacted him subsequent to their 5 p.m. pre-scheduled meeting on September 11 (at which time they were already aware of the attack in Benghazi), and he replies, “No.”
Ayotte asks Panetta if anyone else from the White House called him after 5 p.m. on September 11, or if he contacted the White House after 5pm, and he replies “No” to both questions.
Ayotte asks Panetta if the President ever asked him, “Why weren’t we able to, in light of the second attack that occurred seven hours later, [send] armed assets there in order to help those who were left and attacked in the Annex?” Panetta replies, “The President has made very clear to both myself and General Dempsey that with regards to future threats, we have got to be able to deploy forces in a position where we can more rapidly respond.”
Ayotte asks Panetta: “Did he [Obama] ask you how long it would take to deploy assets, including armed aviation, to the area?” He replies, “No.”
Ayotte asks Panetta: “He [Obama] didn’t ask you what ability you had in the area and what we could do?” Panetta again replies, “No. I mean, he relied on both myself and Gen. Dempsey’s capabilities. He knows generally what we have deployed to the region; we’ve presented that to him in other briefings.”
Ayotte asks Panetta, “But just to be clear, that night he [Obama] didn’t ask you what assets we had available and how quickly they could respond and what we could do to help those individuals?” Panetta replies, “I think the biggest problem that night, Senator, was that nobody knew really what was going on there.”
Ayotte's final question is, “And there was no follow up in the night, at least from the White House directly?” Panetta replies, “No. No there wasn’t.”
* February 7, 2013: Key testimony by General Dempsey (exchange with Senator John McCain):
MCCAIN: “Did you ever get the [August 15, 2012] message that said they could not withstand a sustained on the Consulate?”
DEMPSEY: “I was tracking that intelligence. I was tracking through General Ham…”
MCCAIN: “Did you receive that information?”
DEMPSEY: “I did and I saw it…”
MCCAIN: “So it didn’t bother you?”
DEMPSEY: “It bothered me a great deal.”
MCCAIN: “Then why didn’t you put forces in place to be ready to respond?”
DEMPSEY: “We never received the request to do so, number one and number two, we—”
MCCAIN: “You never heard of the Ambassador Steven’s repeated warnings about the last [inaudible because of cross talk]”
DEMPSEY: “I had, through General Ham. But we never received a request for support from the State Department which would have allowed us to put forces ... [inaudible b/c of cross talk]”
* February 7, 2013: Key testimony by Panetta and Dempsey together (exchange with Senator Ted Cruz):
CRUZ: “In between 9:42 pm Benghazi time, when the first attacks started, and 5:15 am, when Mr. Doherty and Mr. Woods lost their lives, what conversations did either of you have with Secretary Clinton?”
PANETTA: “We did… We did not have any conversations with Secretary Clinton.”
CRUZ: “So, and General Dempsey, the same is true, true for you?”
DEMPSEY: [He nods his head in the affirmative.]
Panetta says that President Obama told him and General Dempsey to “do whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there,” though when it came to specifics the president “left it up to us.”
This is highly significant, because, as radio host Mark Levin explains, only the President of the United States is authorized to order American troops to take any action requiring them to cross the border of a sovereign nation where they are not already stationed. In other words, the only assets that Panetta and Dempsey had at their disposal—absent such an order—were those few that were already stationed in Libya. Other U.S. assets in the region, such as a carrier group and fast-reaction forces based in the region (but outside Libya's borders). Says Levin:
"Only the President of the United States can authorize a cross-border operation, the sending of military forces into another nation. Bin Laden is a case in point. So only the President had the authority to order a military operation in Libya, in Benghazi. He didn't do it.
"A U.S. Navy carrier group was 300 miles off Libya's shore. Three hundred miles, that's all. Fast-moving jets could have easily been there in a little over an hour. They weren't sent.
"Livorno, Italy—where fast-reaction forces were located and alerted—is the same distance from Benghazi as Tripoli. They could have been there in less than two hours, from alert to boots-on-the-ground. Less than two hours. But they weren't ordered by the President of the United States.
"It's obvious from today's testimony by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ... that Obama did not authorize the cross-border military operation, meaning Obama lied to that local reporter [Kyle Clark, in Denver, on October 26, 2012]. The only asset Panetta and Dempsey had left to send was the seven-man Reaction Force from Tripoli."
After the Panetta/Dempsey Testimony
* February 14, 2013: In a letter to Congress, the White House acknowledges that President Obama made no phone calls on the night of the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.
* February 20, 2013: Contradicting the February 14th White House letter, White House press secretary Jay Carney says, “At about 10 pm [on 9/11/12], the President called Secretary Clinton to get an
update on the situation.”
* March 25, 2013: The New York Times -- citing air traffic data, interviews with officials in a number of countries, and the accounts of rebel commanders -- reports that, contrary to previous denials by the Obama administration, the CIA in recent months has been working with Arab governments and Turkey to sharply increase the supply of arms shipments to Syrian rebels. Says the Times:
With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries, and the accounts of rebel commanders.
The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.
As it evolved, the airlift correlated with shifts in the war within Syria, as rebels drove Syria’s army from territory by the middle of last year. And even as the Obama administration has publicly refused to give more than “nonlethal” aid to the rebels, the involvement of the C.I.A. in the arms shipments — albeit mostly in a consultative role, American officials say — has shown that the United States is more willing to help its Arab allies support the lethal side of the civil war.
From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. The C.I.A. declined to comment on the shipments or its role in them....
Most of the cargo flights have occurred since November, after the presidential election in the United States and as the Turkish and Arab governments grew more frustrated by the rebels’ slow progress against Mr. Assad’s well-equipped military. The flights also became more frequent as the humanitarian crisis inside Syria deepened in the winter and cascades of refugees crossed into neighboring countries.
The Turkish government has had oversight over much of the program, down to affixing transponders to trucks ferrying the military goods through Turkey so it might monitor shipments as they move by land into Syria, officials said. The scale of shipments was very large, according to officials familiar with the pipeline and to an arms-trafficking investigator who assembled data on the cargo planes involved.
“A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment,” said Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, who monitors illicit arms transfers.
“The intensity and frequency of these flights,” he added, are “suggestive of a well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation.”
Although rebel commanders and the data indicate that Qatar and Saudi Arabia had been shipping military materials via Turkey to the opposition since early and late 2012, respectively, a major hurdle was removed late last fall after the Turkish government agreed to allow the pace of air shipments to accelerate, officials said....
The airlift to Syrian rebels began slowly. On Jan. 3, 2012, months after the crackdown by the Alawite-led government against antigovernment demonstrators had morphed into a military campaign, a pair of Qatar Emiri Air Force C-130 transport aircraft touched down in Istanbul, according to air traffic data.
They were a vanguard.
Weeks later, the Syrian Army besieged Homs, Syria’s third largest city. Artillery and tanks pounded neighborhoods. Ground forces moved in.
Across the country, the army and loyalist militias were trying to stamp out the rebellion with force — further infuriating Syria’s Sunni Arab majority, which was severely outgunned. The rebels called for international help, and more weapons.
By late midspring the first stream of cargo flights from an Arab state began, according to air traffic data and information from plane spotters.
On a string of nights from April 26 through May 4, a Qatari Air Force C-17 — a huge American-made cargo plane — made six landings in Turkey, at Esenboga Airport. By Aug. 8 the Qataris had made 14 more cargo flights. All came from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, a hub for American military logistics in the Middle East....
The former American official said David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director until November, had been instrumental in helping to get this aviation network moving and had prodded various countries to work together on it....
The American government became involved, the former American official said, in part because there was a sense that other states would arm the rebels anyhow. The C.I.A. role in facilitating the shipments, he said, gave the United States a degree of influence over the process, including trying to steer weapons away from Islamist groups and persuading donors to withhold portable antiaircraft missiles that might be used in future terrorist attacks on civilian aircraft.
* April 2013:
Pat Smith, the mother of Sean Smith (the foreign service
information-management officer who was killed in the Benghazi terrorist
attack), reveals more about the Obama administration's failure to provide her with any substantive information about how and why her son died:
"My son himself told me that he warned them…. He said: ‘I told them, I sent messages’…. He was on the tele-type of whatever it is… he was on there telling them, just before it happened, and that the guy out there was taking pictures of the place. He was telling them that. He was a communications guy and he was communicating that.
"They [the Obama administration] don’t tell me much. They want me to shut up…. I was told, and I really would rather not say by who, [though] I can if you need it, but I was told that I’m causing a lot of problems and to shut up…. I told them ‘I will not! I will not shut up until I find out what really happened!’
"The President? I cried on his shoulder. And I was crying there and he’s patting me on the back and looking around to who he’s gonna talk to next. So I didn’t feel any comfort there. Hillary? I cried on her shoulder also, but she paid a little attention to me then walked off.
"That’s the reason I keep opening my mouth about it. I want someone to admit it so that it won’t happen again. So that there’s safety there."
* April 9, 2013: WorldNetDaily (WND) reports that more than 700 special operations veterans (belonging to a group called Special Operations Speaks) "are demanding that the House of Representatives convene a special committee to uncover the answers to lingering questions about the Benghazi terrorist attacks." “I don’t anything significant has been learned except that what is to be learned is of sufficient importance that the administration is pulling out all the stops to hide it,” says retired U.S. Navy captain and SEAL Larry Bailey, co-founder of Special Operations Speaks. Adds Bailey:
“The greatest indicator of culpability is the fact that the commander in chief, after having seen his troops under fire from a drone-mounted camera, after 30 minutes of being in the White House Situation Room, he excused himself and was never heard from since. He went to bed that night and got up the next morning and flew to Las Vegas for a fundraiser and never once – and this is according to [former Defense Secretary Leon] Panetta and Hillary Clinton – never once called back to check and see how things were going. The guilt issue comes when the culpability is covered up, and that’s where we’re coming from. We know the culpability is there, but we have not begun to get our claws into the guilt issue, but we will....
“It was so easy to get people to sign the petition [for a special committee]. We got 700 names right away, all the way from four-star generals down to guys who were privates in the Army and didn’t do a career in the Army, but they were special operations and they’re part of our brotherhood. It just breaks your heart to hear about those two guys living for seven hours and fighting for seven hours and knowing they could have been rescued at any time during that time. Knowing that there were aircraft somewhere in the area, and knowing that there were ships not too far away and knowing that there were rescue teams within a reasonable distance, they could have been rescued. They went to the sound of the guns. They were saving people, but they couldn’t be saved themselves because of the ineptitude or the political chicanery of an administration that doesn’t even care about the military.”
Bailey also complains that the survivors of the 9/11/12 attack have been forced to sign nondisclosure agreements.
Benghazigate Congressional Report: Obama Administration Lied About Video; Hillary Clinton Knew About Inadequate Security
• "Reductions of security levels prior to the attacks in Benghazi were approved at the highest levels of the State Department, up to and including Secretary Clinton. This fact contradicts her [Mrs. Clinton's] testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on January 23, 2013."
• "In the days following the attacks, White House and senior State Department officials altered accurate talking points drafted by the Intelligence Community in order to protect the State Department."
• "Contrary to Administration rhetoric, the talking points were not edited to protect classified information. Concern for classified information is never mentioned in email traffic among senior Administrationofficials."
The report makes a clear case that Hillary Clinton knew the situation in Benghazi and chose to weaken security while far larger sums of money were being spent elsewhere by the State Department:
• "Repeated requests for additional security were denied at the highest levels of the State Department. For example, an April 2012 State Department cable bearing Secretary Hillary Clinton’s signature acknowledged then-Ambassador Cretz’s formal request for additional security assets but ordered the withdrawal of security elements to proceed as planned."
• "The attacks were not the result of a failure by the Intelligence Community (IC) to recognize or communicate the threat. The IC collected considerable information about the threats in the region, and disseminated regular assessments to senior U.S. officials warning of the deteriorating security environment in Benghazi, which included threats to American interests, facilities, and personnel."
• "In addition, the April 2012 cable from Secretary Clinton recommended that the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the U.S. Mission in Libya conduct a 'joint reassessment of the number of DS agents requested for Benghazi.' This prompted one frustrated Embassy Tripoli employee to remark to her colleagues that it 'looks like no movement on the full complement of [five DS] personnel for Benghazi, but rather a reassessment to bring the numbers lower.'"
Furthermore, the report points to a lack of preparation by the White House and its centralized national security framework:
• "The President, as Commander-in-Chief, failed to proactively anticipate the significance of September 11 and provide the Department of Defense with the authority to launch offensive operations beyond self-defense. Defense Department assets were correctly positioned for the general threat across the region, but the assets were not authorized at an alert posture to launch offensive operations beyond self-defense, and were provided no notice to defend diplomatic facilities."
The report addresses the fumbled cover-up and incompetent response in the aftermath of the attacks:
• "The Administration willfully perpetuated a deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative that the attacks evolved from a political demonstration caused by a YouTube video. U.S. officials on the ground reported – and video evidence confirms – that demonstrations outside the Benghazi Mission did not occur and that the incident began with an armed attack on the facility. Senior Administration officials knowingly minimized the role played by al-Qa’ida-affiliated entities and other associated groups in the attacks, and decided to exclude from the discussion the previous attempts by extremists to attack U.S. persons or facilities in Libya."
• "Administration officials crafted and continued to rely on incomplete and misleading talking points. Specifically, after a White House Deputies Meeting on Saturday, September 15, 2012, the Administration altered the talking points to remove references to the likely participation of Islamic extremists in the attacks. The Administration also removed references to the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya, including information about at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi."
• "Senior State Department officials requested – and the White House approved – that the details of the threats, specifics of the previous attacks, and previous warnings be removed to insulate the Department from criticism that it ignored the threat environment in Benghazi."
• "Evidence rebuts Administration claims that the talking points were modified to protect classified information or to protect an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Email exchanges during the interagency process do not reveal any concern with protecting classified information. Additionally, the Bureau itself approved a version of the talking points with significantly more information about the attacks and previous threats than the version that the State Department requested. Thus, the claim that the State Department’s edits were made solely to protect that investigation is not credible."
• "The Administration’s decision to respond to the Benghazi attacks with an FBI investigation, rather than military or other intelligence resources, contributed to the government’s lack of candor about the nature of the attack."
• "Responding to the attacks with an FBI investigation significantly delayed U.S. access to key witnesses and evidence and undermined the government’s ability to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice in a timely manner."
The report includes a timeline of events and of the administration’s narrative and slams Obama’s determination to treat the attacks as criminal attacks, rather than acts of war:
• "Without significant progress in finding and questioning suspects, it appears that the decision to proceed with an FBI investigation – presumably with the intention of obtaining a criminal indictment in
U.S. courts – was ill-advised. For instance, the United States responded to the attacks against U.S. embassies in Africa in the 1990s and against the U.S.S. Cole in 2000 with criminal investigations. On their own, those investigations failed to bring many of those responsible to justice and likely encouraged further terrorist activity. This approach is not the most effective method of responding to terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in foreign countries."
• "It was only after the September 11, 2001 attacks, when the United States responded to terrorism with military force, that the government successfully brought some of the perpetrators of those attacks and the previous attacks to justice. The Department of Defense offered to provide a U.S. military security team to accompany the FBI team. This option was not pursued. Terrorists are not deterred by criminal investigations. Because members of terrorist organizations that attack U.S. interests around the world are conducting more than a crime, they must be responded to accordingly to be thwarted."
After the Benghazigate Congressional Report
* May 4, 2013: Three career State Department officials—describing themselves as Benghazi "whistleblowers"—say they will testify the following week in a congressional hearing (conducted by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by California Republican Darrell Issa) examining the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks. Those who will testify include:
Gregory N. Hicks, a foreign service officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission/Chargé d’Affairs in Libya
Former Marine Mark I. Thompson, acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism for the State Department
Diplomatic security officer Eric Nordstrom, former Regional Security Officer in Libya.
Hicks and Thompson have not yet spoken publicly about the Benghazi attacks. Nordstrom previously testified before the committee in October 2012, when he spoke about the series of requests that he, along with Ambassador Stevens and others, had made seeking enhanced security at the Benghazi mission. Noting that the State Department had refused most of their requests, Nordstrom said, angrily: "[F]or me, the Taliban is on the inside of the [State Department] building."
* Early May 2013: Former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing (a former chief counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee) announce that they are representing, pro bono, two career State Department "whistleblowers" who claim that their accounts about the Benghazi attacks were disregarded by the Accountability Review board convened by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Moreover, DiGenova and Toensing claim that their clients have faced threats from superior officers. “I'm not talking generally, I'm talking specifically about Benghazi — that people have been threatened,” Toensing said. “And not just the State Department; people have been threatened at the CIA…. It's frightening…. They're taking career people and making them well aware that their careers will be over.”
Testimony at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Hearing
* May 8, 2013: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing on the events of Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. The witnesses are: (a) Gregory Hicks, foreign service officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, who was stationed at the State Department residential compound in Tripoli on 9/11/12; he is also a Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primary, and then for Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 general elections; (b) Mark Thompson, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counter-terrorism; and (c) Eric Nordstrom, diplomatic security officer.
To read key excerpts of the testimony that was presented during the May 8, 2013 hearing, click here. (NOTE: These excerpts have also been inserted in the various places where they belong in the timeline above, on this page.)
Benghazi Survivors Forced to Sign Non-Disclosure Agreements
* May 21, 2013: At
a CIA ceremony honoring the Agency officials killed in the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi,
several CIA officers who survived those attacks are asked to sign non-disclosure
the fact that they are: (a) leaving government service,
and (b) still bound by previous NDAs which they signed. Both
before and after the May 21st NDAs, intelligence
officials adamantly deny that anyone affiliated with the CIA has
been asked to sign nondisclosure agreements regarding the events in Benghazi.
* July 18, 2013 (Thursday): Congressman Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia, speaks on the House floor and reports that survivors of the Benghazi terror attack have
been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements:
"On Tuesday I raised the question of why none of the Benghazi
survivors, whether State Department, CIA, or private security contract
employees have testified publicly before Congress.
"According to trusted sources that have contacted my office, many if
not all of the survivors of the Benghazi attacks along with others at
the Department of Defense, the CIA have been asked or directed to sign
additional non-disclosure agreements about their involvement in the
Benghazi attacks. Some of these new NDAs, as they call them, I have been
told were signed as recently as this summer.
"It is worth noting that the Marine Corps Times
yesterday reported that the Marine colonel whose task force was
responsible for special operations in northern and western Africa at the
time of the attack is still on active duty despite claims that he
retired. And therefore could not be forced to testify before Congress.
"If these reports are accurate, this would be a stunning revelation
to any member of Congress, any member of Congress that finds this out
and also more importantly to the American people. It also raises serious
concerns about the priority of the administration's efforts to silence
those with knowledge of the Benghazi attack in response.
"So today I ask, how many federal employees, military personnel, or
contractors have been asked to sign additional non-disclosure agreements
by each agency? And do these non-disclosure agreements apply to those
undercover or have non-covert State Department and Defense Department
"I do not expect the Obama administration to be
forthcoming with answers, but if this Congress, if this Congress does
not ask for the information and compel its delivery, the American people
will never learn the truth. Any federal employer employee or contractor
who has been coerced and is silenced through a non-disclosure agreement
should expect that Congress [will] ask to speak out on their behalf and
compel their voice to be heard. That's why I, along with 159 of my
colleagues, support a Select Committee to hold public hearings to learn
the truth about what happened that night in Benghazi."
Selective Release of Photos of the Attack Scene
* June 2013: In response to two Freedom Of
Information Act (FOIA) requests by the conservative watchdog group Judicial
Watch, the State Department releases seven photos that were taken of the besieged diplomatic mission in Benghazi shortly after the attacks of 9/11/12. (In December 2012, and again in February 2013, Judicial Watch requested that the State Department turn over all the photos and
videos it possessed of the besieged diplomatic mission.) It would later be discovered, in November 2013, that the State Department actually had many additional photos of the attack scene in its possession, but failed to make them available to Judicial Watch.)
Report: Dozens of CIA Operatives Were on the Ground in Benghazi on 9/11/12, and Seven Were Badly Wounded
* August 1, 2013: CNN's Jake Tapper issues an explosive report indicating that approximately 35 CIA operatives were on the ground in Benghazi when terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate on September 11, 2012. Some excerpts:
... Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.
CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency's Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.
Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency's missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency's workings. The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress.
It is being described as pure intimidation, with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career....
"Agency employees typically are polygraphed every three to four years. Never more than that," said former CIA operative and CNN analyst Robert Baer.... "If somebody is being polygraphed every month, or every two months it's called an issue polygraph, and that means that the polygraph division suspects something, or they're looking for something, or they're on a fishing expedition. But it's absolutely not routine at all to be polygraphed monthly, or bi-monthly," said Baer....
Among the many secrets still yet to be told about the Benghazi mission, is just how many Americans were there the night of the attack. A source now tells CNN that number was 35, with as many as seven wounded, some seriously. While it is still not known how many of them were CIA, a source tells CNN that 21 Americans were working in the building known as the annex, believed to be run by the agency....
Speculation on Capitol Hill has included the possibility the U.S. agencies operating in Benghazi were secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.
Fox News reports that seven of the CIA operatives who survived the Benghazi attacks were injured badly enough to warrant hospitalization; that one of them reportedly underwent a partial leg amputation; and that another suffered smoke inhalation and a possible brain injury.
* August 1, 2013: Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina) states that the Obama Administration has been: (a) "not letting us talk with people who have the most amount of information" about the Benghazi attacks, and (b)
"dispersing them around the country and changing their names."
* Summer 2013: Florida Rep. Bill Young speaks for 90 minutes with David Ubben, a U.S. diplomatic security agent who was severely injured in the Benghazi attack of 9/11/12. Ubben tells Young that the attackers were very well organized and obviously had inside information about the U.S. compound, as they were thoroughly familiar with its physical layout. Says Young:
"He [Ubben] confirmed this -- that it was a very well orchestrated, and well organized, almost a military operation, using military weapons and using military signals.... He emphasized the fact that it was a very, very military type of operation, they had knowledge of almost everything in the compound. They knew where the gasoline was, they knew where the generators were, they knew where the safe room was, they knew more than they should have about that compound....
"It was pretty well figured out, where everything was, where the doors were located, where the safe room was -- the whole thing.... He [Ubben] said that when the attack started, the Libyan security folks who were supposed to secure the compound, they ran. So, they were at the mercy of their own capabilities."
CIA Director John Brennan Deceives Congress Regarding Benghazi Survivors and the Non-Disclosure Letters
* September 3, 2013: In a letter
to House Permanent Select Committee on
Intelligence chairman Mike Rogers, CIA director John Brennan responds
to several specific questions that Rogers previously posed (in a
letter dated August 2, 2013) regarding whether or not the CIA
officers who survived the Benghazi attacks were subsequently
subjected to polygraphs or required to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). Posing and answering
several questions as a means of responding to Rogers' queries, Brennan writes:
Has any officer, either staff of contractor, been forced to undergo
any polygraph because of their presence or their participation in any
activity related to Benghazi attacks?
Has any officer, either staff of contractor, been required to sign
any non-disclosure agreement because of their presence at Benghazi or
their participation in any activity related to the Benghazi attacks?
The Government's Betrayal of the Families of Those Killed in Benghazi
* September 15, 2013: Charles Woods -- the father of Tyrone Woods, one of the Navy SEALS who disobeyed orders and heroically rushed to the rescue of the Benghazi mission personnel and was abandoned without support on September 11, 2012 -- is asked by an interviewer to speak about President Obama's handling of the crisis. He replied:
"It’s a little late for that. I wish he [Obama] had taken the time the night of September 11, not to go to bed, not to go prepare to collect money in Las Vegas, but I wish he had taken time then to watch more of the video of the live time ambush attack and that I wish that he had sent the troops that everybody knows were available to rescue those people…
"In this case, there was no rescue attempt, no planes sent. In fact, Ty’s body was left on the tarmac for three hours and there wasn’t even an American plane sent to rescue or even take his body home. They had to commandeer a Libyan plane and didn’t even know where they would be taken in order to remove his body from the tarmac. Is that the way to treat an American hero?"
September 19, 2013: Parents of two of the Americans who were killed in Benghazi on 9/11/12 testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Patricia Smith, mother of slain U.S. Foreign Service information officer Sean Smith, testifies that she met with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the day the four Americans’ bodies were returned to the U.S. She also says that all three (Obama, Biden, and Clinton) -- as well as other senior administration officials -- lied to her about the cause of the attack:
“I was told a few things, and they were all lies. Obama, and Hillary, and Panetta, and Biden, and Susan [Rice] all came up to me at the casket ceremony. Every one of them came up to, gave me a big hug. And I asked them ‘What happened? Please tell me.’ And every one of them says, ‘It was the video.’ And we all know that it wasn’t the video. Even at at time they knew it wasn’t the video. So they all lied to me.”
Smith also says that all of the officials promised that they would “check up” on what happened and get back in touch with her. But that has not happened. “I don’t count,” Smith says, “the people of America don’t count. The only thing that counts is their own selves, and their own jobs.”
Charles Woods, father of slain Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, also testifies. Among his remarks are the following:
“It’s been over a year since four brave Americans were tragically killed in Benghazi. And after one year we know very few answers. We’ve been asking for the last year. We don’t know much more than we did a year ago. Two of my heroes while growing up were John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Reverend King made the statement, that ‘Justice delayed is justice denied.’ It’s been over a year. We have no justice. We have very few truthful answers that have been provided.”
* November 18-20, 2013: The State Department belatedly releases dozens of never-before-published photographs of the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi terrorist attack, after weeks of inquiries by The Washington Times about the authenticity of photographs it received from a Welsh security contractor that had been assigned to the doomed U.S. mission.
The State Department photos show buildings and vehicles ablaze during the attack, ransacked offices, burned-out cars, and Arabic graffiti scrawled on walls.
“The new photos reveal a level of total devastation thoroughly belying Obama’s original cover story that the carnage was perpetrated by a bunch of random malcontents upset over an unpleasant video,” says Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton on November 20.