In a saga full of bombshell revelations, yet another big one has dropped. Fox News is reporting that CIA higher-ups nixed three separate, urgent requests for help during the Benghazi 9/11 terrorist attack that claimed the lives of four Americans, including our ambassador. The raid lasted approximately seven hours, yet at every stage, the chain of command explicitly declined to intervene on behalf of the besieged Americans on the ground:
Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. Consulate and subsequent attack several hours later was denied by officials in the CIA chain of command -- who also told the CIA operators twice to "stand down" rather than help the ambassador's team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11. Former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were part of a small team who were at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. Consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When they heard the shots fired, they radioed to inform their higher-ups to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out. They were told to "stand down," according to sources familiar with the exchange. An hour later, they called again to headquarters and were again told to "stand down." Woods, Doherty and at least two others ignored those orders and made their way to the Consulate which at that point was on fire. Shots were exchanged.
The quick reaction force from the CIA annex evacuated those who remained at the Consulate and Sean Smith, who had been killed in the initial attack. They could not find the ambassador and returned to the CIA annex at about midnight. At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied. There were no communications problems at the annex, according those present at the compound. The team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters. In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound. The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Specter gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights. The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours -- enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.
This is heartbreaking and enraging. Timely assistance could have been brought to bear. Lives could have been saved. But for some inexplicable reason, CIA chieftains repeatedly opted to hang our own people out to dry -- including a sitting ambassador. We now know that the State Department and the White House were aware of the fire-fight within minutes of the first shots being fired. They also knew it was a terrorist attack within two hours; after which five more hours of fighting took place. US officials watched the disaster unfold in real time, thanks to an unarmed drone overhead, and the Americans on the ground were in constant radio contact with headquarters. Why the hell were reinforcements actively withheld over and over again? Why? CBS News reports that former intelligence operatives believe even a small US intervention could have saved lives:
Retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen believes help could have come much sooner. He commanded CIA counter-terrorism missions targeting Osama bin Laden and led the team that responded after bombings of the U.S. Embassy in East Africa. "You find a way to make this happen," Berntsen says. "There isn't a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments. They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died." The Pentagon says it did move a team of special operators from central Europe to the large Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Italy, but gave no other details. Sigonella is just an hour's flight from Libya. Other nearby bases include Aviano and Souda Bay. Military sources tell CBS News that resources at the three bases include fighter jets and Specter AC-130 gunships, which the sources say can be extremely effective in flying in and buzzing a crowd to disperse it. Rick Nelson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former Navy pilot who worked in counter-terrorism, says such missions can be very risky. "A lot can go well, right, as we saw with the bin Laden raid. It was a very successful event," he says. "But also, when there are high risk activities like this. a lot can go wrong, as we saw with the Iranian hostage rescue decades ago." Add to the controversy the fact that the last two Americans didn't die until more than six hours into the attack, and the question of U.S. military help becomes very important.
This was not a "fog of war" mishap. Our government had eyes and ears on the situation as it was playing out, minute after excruciating minute. They chose to deny help, just as they did leading up to the massacre. Recall that Amb. Stevens and other American personnel had essentially begged for more security, as Islamist attacks against Western targets (including a previous bombing attempt on the US outpost Benghazi itself) had intensified in recent months. These requests were not only shot down, some of the few competent American security forces on the ground were withdrawn from Libya. Having been abandoned by their government once, our diplomats were again left to twist in the wind, even as their lives were in imminent danger throughout the horrifying 9/11 ambush. After the dust settled and we counted our dead, the US government muddied the water about what happened, obsessing over an irrelevant and obscure YouTube video. Ambassador Stevens and the others were betrayed by their superiors before, during, and after the attack that robbed them of their lives. This is appalling. Will anyone ever he held responsible? As in, actually responsible -- not politicians saying they're responsible, only to make more excuses and pass the buck, with no real consequences.
Parting quotation: "My number one priority is to keep our diplomats safe." That's from the president, who slept through the attack as others in his White House watched it live. When he woke up, he made a brief statement, skipped his security briefing, and flew to Las Vegas for a re-election rally.
UPDATE - The father of one of the former SEALs slain in Benghazi unloads on the Obama adminstration:
KELLY: Charlie, do you feel like you are getting straight answers from the administration on this?
WOODS: This is all a pack of lies. That is one thing...is the father whose son who has been killed, I do not appreciate lies.
Coupled with the televised despair of Sean Smith's mother, Mr. Woods' comments this afternoon are just devastating. Tragic, infuriating, devastating.
UPDATE II - Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President of the United States. I don't even know what to say:
The father of one of the Navy SEALs who was killed in the Libya consulate attack has criticised the White House reaction to his son's death - especially a bizarre and obscene comment Joe Biden made to him. Charles Woods, father of Tyrone Woods, said he thought Barack Obama had 'no remorse' over the attack and felt Hillary Clinton was 'not telling the truth'. And he revealed that at the ceremony for the return of Tyrone's body, the Vice President approached his family and asked, 'Did your son always have balls the size of cue balls?' Mr Woods added that the President seemed cold and distant at the time, saying: 'Shaking hands with him, quite frankly, was like shaking hands with a dead fish.' Mr Woods told Mr Beck that he was disappointed by his meeting with senior officials at the event marking the return of the dead men's bodies. He said that Mr Biden had acted inappropriately, asking the Woods family in a 'loud and boisterous' tone, 'Did your son always have balls the size of cue balls?' Mr Woods asked, 'Are these the words of someone who is sorry?'