On the night of Sept. 11, 2012 -- before former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed by a terrorist mortar strike -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a public statement linking the attack against the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, with an anti-Muslim video, which she referred to as "inflammatory material posted on the Internet."
Clinton's statement, still posted on State's website, is dated Sept. 11, 2012, and headlined: "Statement on the Attack in Benghazi."
The statement first notes that a State Department officer had been killed in Benghazi -- an apparent reference to Information Management Officer Sean Smith, whose body had been recovered at the U.S. mission in Benghazi by U.S. security officers by about 5:30 p.m. Washington, D.C., time on Sept. 11 -- or 11:30 p.m. Benghazi time.
The statement then talks about Clinton's communications that night with Libya's president and refers to what Clinton calls "inflammatory material posted on the Internet."
"I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today," Clinton said in the statement. "As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.
"This evening, I called Libyan President Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya," Clinton continued. "President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government's full cooperation.
"Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet," Clinton said. "The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."
"In light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide," Clinton's statement concluded.
On Jan. 8, I contacted the State Department press office three times by telephone and once by email to ask when exactly on Sept. 11, 2012, the department released this statement by Clinton.
"I just want to know at what time on Sept. 11, 2012, this statement was released," I asked in an email that I sent at 2:20 p.m. Eastern time after my second phone inquiry.
I was later told that a group that answers questions on Benghazi for the State Department was working on an answer for me.
However, the Associated Press first published a story quoting Clinton's statement at 10:58 p.m. Eastern time on Sept. 11.
The AP released a story that night datelined Cairo, written by Maggie Michael and Sarah El Deeb, and carrying the headline, "American killed in Libya protest over film." The story noted that Clinton had confirmed that "one State Department officer had been killed in the protest at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi." It also quoted directly from Clinton's statement: "Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet."
The Associated Press' Media Relations office confirmed to me that the AP first published its version of this story quoting Clinton's statement at 10:58 p.m. Eastern time on Sept. 11.
A CIA timeline of the Benghazi events provided by a senior U.S. intelligence official, the Senate Homeland Security Committee's report on Benghazi and the State Department's own Accountability Review Board Report all indicate that Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed at the U.S. "Annex" in Benghazi sometime between about 5:14 a.m. and 5:26 a.m. Benghazi time on Sept. 12. That would be between 11:14 p.m. and 11:26 p.m. on Sept. 11 in Washington, D.C. -- or at least 16 minutes after the AP reported Clinton's statement.
The CIA timeline indicates that a security team sent to the rescue by the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli got to the Benghazi Annex about 5:15 a.m. Benghazi time. "They arrive with Libyan support at the Annex by 5:15 a.m., just before the mortar rounds begin to hit the Annex," says this timeline. "The two security officers (Woods and Doherty) were killed when they took direct mortar fire as they engaged the enemy. That attack lasted only 11 minutes then also dissipated."
The State Department ARB report provided additional details, but also set the time of the attack that killed Woods and Doherty at approximately 5:15 a.m. Benghazi time.
"The seven-person response team from Embassy Tripoli arrived in Benghazi to lend support," said the ARB report. "It arrived at the Annex about 0500 local. Less than 15 minutes later, the Annex came under mortar and RPG attack, with five mortar rounds impacting close together in under 90 seconds. Three rounds hit the roof of an Annex building, killing security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty."
On Dec. 31, Senate Homeland Security Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, published their own report on Benghazi. This report confirmed both that Woods and Doherty were killed between 5:14 a.m. and 5:26 a.m. Benghazi time on Sept. 12 and that Benghazi was six hours ahead of Washington, D.C.
"American government officials outside of Benghazi learned of the attack shortly after it started at 3:40 p.m. EST (9:40 p.m. Benghazi time)," said the Lieberman-Collins report. "DS (diplomatic security) agents, in addition to notifying personnel at the Annex, immediately alerted officials at the U.S Embassy in Tripoli and the Department of State Headquarters in Washington, D.C."
"The team from Tripoli finally cleared the airport and arrived at the Annex at approximately 5:04 a.m., about 10 minutes before a new assault by the terrorist began, involving mortar rounds fired at the Annex," said the report. "The attack concluded at approximately 5:26 a.m., leaving Annex security team members Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty dead and two others wounded."