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September 05, 2014

Benghazi Book Has New Details Of Old News

You will see a lot of hype today about a new book being released from members of the security team working at the CIA Annex facility in Benghazi.

The book and the coverage of the book contain some new details of the Benghazi events from people who were actually there. The major detail being spread (by the NYTimes, of all people!) is that the CIA chief of base issued a "stand down" order to the team at the Benghazi Annex. Of course, we already knew that the CIA chief of base delayed the response to assess the situation and attempt to obtain help from militias; it was in the Senate report (PDF).

As Ed writes, a short delay (in this case, of 20 minutes) doesn't seem totally unreasonable.

Presumably “Bob” didn’t want to leave the CIA post undefended in order to avoid what ended up happening anyway, when the attack turned toward their compound. That decision sounds rather craven in retrospect, given what we know now about the loyalties of the militias (and what the CIA, of all organizations, should have known then), but not irrational in the broader sense of protecting the security apparatus.

Keep in mind that the team at the Mission facility, which was under attack, didn't fire a single shot at their attackers during this period. The Annex members who are now writing suggest that if they'd been allowed to respond without the delay, they might have saved Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith. Maybe, but hindsight admits of more hope than despair.

Notably, and I'm including this simply because the conspiracy theories about Benghazi won't seem to die, there wasn't time anywhere during this Annex delay for higher-ups at DOD or State or the White House to order a "stand down." The attack began at 9:42pm (Benghazi time). The Annex team responded around 10:05pm. The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs didn't know about it until 10:30pm. The President wasn't briefed until 11:00pm.

Also, as Ed notes, these new details concern the alleged "stand down" order at the CIA Annex. Keep in mind the supposed military-issued stand down order for the Tripoli rescue team has already long been debunked. The Tripoli team testified repeatedly that they were never stood down. Indeed, the Tripoli team (which included Glen Doherty) arrived at the Benghazi Annex in time to take mortar fire, which ultimately killed Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

One final thing: there are still many questions about Benghazi. But not about what occurred that night. The questions that remain unanswered involve what came before the 9/11 attack and what happened after. Why were our forces deployed in that manner and who is responsible for that? Why was the American public lied to for two weeks about the attack and who is responsible for that? Those are the questions that still need definitive answering.

Updated: Commenter sunny-dee asks: "I thought Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods defied orders, and that's why they were the only two responders?"

I'm not sure where that particular factoid got started, but at no time were Doherty and Woods the only responders. The Annex reaction team, which included Woods, had several members (I haven't seen an exact number, but five of them helped write the book that's being hyped today, plus Woods, makes at least six). The Tripoli rescue team, which included Doherty, had seven members.

Updated (again): Commenter PeeteySDee asks: "When did GEN Carter Ham discover the Embassy was under attack, and what was his response?"

Gen. Ham testified at length about when he heard, what he did, and why he did it. I have the PDFs of his declassified testimony, as well as the testimony of other folks, some of whom were in Libya for the attack, but can't seem to find where they are posted online (they were emailed to me by staff at House Armed Services). Here's a news report on Ham's testimony from when the declassified version was released, though.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 09:40 AM

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