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:
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:
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 flag.
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:
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, DC?
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)
NORDSTROM: 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?
NORDSTROM: 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
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:
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)
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:
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?
NORDSTROM: 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 points.
WOODALL: Thinking back to early July 2012. Do you recall your back-and-forth with [Deputy Assistant Secretary of State] Charlene Lamb particularly?
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 higher level?
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?
NORDSTROM: 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 forward?”
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?
NORDSTROM: 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.”
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 Times reports, “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 importantcontacts 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:
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' 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.”
* October 18, 2011: Hillary Clinton visits Benghazi, and she has the Defense Department pre-position assets off the coast of Libya, in case she encounters danger and needs rescue.
* 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
* 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. (NOTE: But when Mrs. Clinton herself visited Benghazi six months earlier, onOctober 18, 2011, she had the Defense Department pre-position assets off the coast of Libya, in case she encountered danger and needed rescue.)
* 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: A courthouse in Benghazi is hit by three IEDs.
* 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.
* 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 cargoultimately ends up in the possession of those same Syrian rebels. The mainorganizer 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 jihadistfigures 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 Henderson, the 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 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.
* 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.
* 1:17 p.m. Cairo time (6:17 am U.S. Eastern Time): The U.S. embassy in Cairo releases a statement condemning Innocence of Muslims:
* 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 9:42 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 9:42 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 9:42 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 9:42 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 SEALsTyrone 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)
* 9:45 p.m. Benghazi time (Information from the testimony of Gregory Hicks):
"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)
Key officers, along with several channels of command throughout the Pentagon and its combatants commands, are equally quick to label the assault a terrorist attack.
"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)
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: 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.
* Between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Benghazi time: An unarmed drone arrives over the battlefield in Benghazi.
* 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.
* 10:25 p.m. Benghazi time (Information from the testimony of Gregory Hicks):
"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)
* Approximately 10:45 or 11:00 p.m. Benghazi time (Information from the testimony of Greg Hicks):
* 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.
* Between 11 p.m. and midnight Benghazi time (Information from the testimony of Mark Thompson):
"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)
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)
* September 11-12, 2012: According to the former head of U.S. forces in Africa, General Carter Ham: “It became apparent to all of us quickly that this was not a demonstration, this was a violent attack.” (Source: Quote by General Ham, as reported on July 23, 2013)
September 12, 2012
* 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.
* Midnight to 1:30 a.m (Information from the testimony of Gregory Hicks):
* 12:30 a.m. Benghazi time (Information from the testimony of Gregory Hicks):
* 2:00 a.m. Benghazi time (Information from the testimony of Gregory Hicks):
"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)
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)
HICKS: I 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.
HICKS: 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 attacks.
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)
* 4:45 to 5:00 a.m. Benghazi time (Information from the testimony of Gregory Hicks):
* 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.”
* 6 a.m. Benghazi time (Information from the testimony of Gregory Hicks):
"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)
HICKS: Again, we determined that we needed to send a second team from Tripoli to secure the airport for the withdrawal of our personnel from Benghazi.
CHAFFETZ: But were any of these U.S. military personnel not permitted to travel on a rescue mission from Tripoli to Benghazi?
HICKS: They were not authorized to travel.
CHAFFETZ: 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 come from?
HICKS: I believe it came from either AFRICOM [United States Africa Command] or SOCAFRICA [Special Operations Command Africa]....
* 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.
* Morning of September 12, 2012 (Information from an exchange between Gregory Hicks and Rep. Trey Gowdy):
HICKS: Yes sir....
GOWDY: Did the president of Libya ever mention a spontaneous protest related to a video?
HICKS: No sir.
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.”
GOWDY: Would a highly decorated career diplomat have told you or Washington, had there been a demonstration outside his facility that day?
HICKS: 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: 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 campaignfundraiser 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):
HICKS: Beth Jones is the acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department.
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: 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):
HICKS: No, there was none, and I'm confident that Ambassador Stevens would have reported a protest immediately if one appeared on his door....
MCHENRY: Was there anything in connection to a YouTube video? Was there any awareness that the events occurred because of a YouTube video?
HICKS: 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.
HICKS: No protest. (Source: May 8, 2013 hearing before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
* 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:
* 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 briefsmembers 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 attacks.
* 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 that the 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:
* Shortly after 7:39 p.m. on September 14, 2012: In an effort to address Nuland's concerns, CIA officials remove all references to Ansar al Sharia and make some minor changes as well.
* 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 directly.
* Shortly after 9:24 p.m. on September 14, 2012: White House officials respond by stating that the State Department’s concerns will be taken into account.
* 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: 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 investigation.”
* 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 in the 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 foreign 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 generic “extremists.”
* 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 American people.
* 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: 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):
HICKS: I was stunned. My jaw dropped. And I was embarrassed.
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?
HICKS: Yes sir.
GOWDY: And she did not bother to have a conversation with you before she went on national television.
HICKS: No sir.
GOWDY: 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)
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?
HICKS: He said that on the same talk shows with Ambassador Rice. (Source: May 8, 2013 hearing before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
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)
GOSAR: … Was the crime scene secured during that time [the 17 days]?
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)
GOSAR: … And her reaction was?
HICKS: Her 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] any further.
GOSAR: Did you receive any negative feedback based on this conversation?
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.
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 question?
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)
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.
DESJARLAIS: What 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.
HICKS: Yes 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 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, Carneysays: “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:
* 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):
"Next, 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 punish it."
* 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:
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 commenton 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: Longtime U.S. Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering is appointed chairman of a federal investigation into the Benghazi massacre. Pickering has ties to the pro-Iran Islamist front group known as the National Iranian American Council, which has ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). He is also co-chairman of the board of the George Soros-funded International Crisis Group.
* 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 Times report: “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 narrowedto 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):
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 investigate?
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?
JORDAN: … 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 committee?
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?
HICKS: The 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 –
JORDAN: 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.
JORDAN: You 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.
JORDAN: And tell me about that phone call you had with Cheryl Mills....
HICKS: She demanded a report on the visit –
JORDAN: 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 [classified briefing]?
HICKS: She was very upset.
JORDAN: So this goes right to the person next to Secretary Clinton. Is that accurate?
HICKS: Yes sir. (Source: May 8, 2013 testimony of Gregory Hicks before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
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 10, 2012: In a heated congressional hearing, Eric Nordstrom recalls talking to a regional director and asking for twelve security agents:
* 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:
"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 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:
(1) “No 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
(2) “We 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
(3) “I 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
... Note 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. [...]
Whatever 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:”
KROFT: “Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word ‘terrorism’ in connection with the Libya attack.”
KROFT: “Do you believe that this was a terrorist attack?”
OBAMA: “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.)
Eight 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.”
QUESTION: “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?”
OBAMA: “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.”
Finally, during an interview on ABC’s The View on Sept. 25, Obama appeared to refuse to say it was a terrorist attack:
QUESTION: “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?”
OBAMA: “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.”
So, 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.”
Administration 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 clear.”
During 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.
Indeed, the initial 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.
Four 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 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 discusses the situation in Libya during a satellite interview with local Denver, Colorado TV reporter Kyle Clark. The following key exchange occurs:
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 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”:
* 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 intelligencepanels, 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:
* 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 questionthe 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:
* 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 Benghazi."
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:
"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."
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
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 you.
NORDSTROM: I would have liked to have thought, but apparently no.
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)
NORDSTROM: That's 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.
JORDAN: Not only denied, but it was reduced. Correct?
NORDSTROM: That's 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)
* 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.
* February 7, 2013: Key testimony by Panetta:
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):
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.]
"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."
* 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:
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.
"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 23, 2013: A Congressional Interim Progress Report on the events surroundng the 9/11/12 attacks in Benghazi is released. Among the report'shighlights:
• "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 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.'"
• "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."
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."
* 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:
* 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 agreements (NDAs)—despite 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.
"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 employees?
"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."
* 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:
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.
* 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:
"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."
* 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:
2. 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?
"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?"
Charles Woods, father of slain Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, also testifies. Among his remarks are the following:
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.
Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Benghazi
* January 13, 2014: A comprehensive report by the Senate Intelligence Committee definitively declares that individuals tied to Al Qaeda groups were involved in the 9/11/12 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. While the report does not implicate Al Qaeda “core” -- whose leadership is believed to be in the Pakistan region -- it does implicate some of Al Qaeda's most influential branches, including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). “Individuals affiliated with terrorist groups, including AQIM, Ansar al-Sharia, AQAP, and the Mohammad Jamal Network, participated in the September 11, 2012, attacks,” the report says.
The report contends that the attack was not “highly coordinated,” but rather “opportunistic” -- possibly organized in “short order” after protests over an anti-Islam film elsewhere in the Middle East. The report acknowledges, however, that there was no such protest (against the film) in Benghazi before the attack.
The Senate report also concludes that the attack was “preventable,” and that the Obama administration -- particularly the State and Defense departments -- failed to respond to “ample strategic warning[s]” by the intelligence community about the growing danger in Benghazi prior to September 11, 2012.
Further, the report cites the failure of the Obama administration to "bring the attackers to justice."
Newly Declassified Documents Give Insight into Benghazi Attacks
The 450 pages of newly declassified transcripts detail testimony from secret, closed hearings last year before Congress. They provide fresh insight into the military's decision-making that night from the very commanders who staged the rescue efforts, including the top commander in Africa at the time Gen. Carter Ham.
Among other details, they reveal gaps in the military's positioning of assets around the world.
For example, no attack aircraft were placed on high alert on Sept. 11, and the closest F-16 fighter planes to any of the trouble spots in North Africa were in Aviano, Italy. None were armed, and the closest air refuellers were positioned 10 hours away at a base in Great Britain.
No Defense Department AC-130 gunships were within a 10-hour flight to Libya, according to committee members who heard commanders' testimony over the past 15 months. And the commander's in-extremis force, which included a unit of 23 special operators who are used at the commander's discretion, were training in Croatia that day. They did not make it to a staging base in Sigonella, Italy, for another 19 hours after the attack began, according to committee members.
[T]he commander of AFRICOM's Joint Special Operations Task Force for the Trans Sahara region, Col. George Bristol, admitted to the subcommittee on July 31 of last year that he believed there was an increased threat on Sept. 11 and was not comfortable with the military's force posture in North Africa. He expressed those concerns with members of his team in Libya. The transcript reads as follows:
BRISTOL: "Sir, I -- yes, and that wasn't the only country that I was worried about that."
A White House press release on the eve of the Benghazi attack stated unequivocally: Brennan "convened numerous meetings," and the president and his national security principals discussed "steps taken to protect U.S. persons and facilities abroad." But according to Ham, whose area of operation came under attack, he was not asked what forces he had pre-positioned in the event of an attack and whether they were they sufficient.
HAM: "Not personally with me. I did have a discussion with General Dempsey. ... I did not have a personal discussion with anyone at the national security staff."