The details of the September 11 attack on the Consulate in Benghazi continue to come in, raising even more difficult questions than we had before. Here are the facts as we now know them:
At 9:40 pm on the night of September 11, the Consulate was attacked by heavily armed terrorists. A security agent at the Benghazi compound heard “loud noises” coming from the front gate and “gunfire and an explosion.” The camera on the main gate recorded a large group of armed men, pouring into the Consulate compound. An alarm went out and Washington was alerted.
Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, who had been on an assignment in Benghazi and was at the CIA annex about a mile from the Consulate, heard the gunfire and requested permission to go to their aid. The request was summarily rejected and Woods was told to “stand down”.
Meanwhile, in Washington, a crisis meeting was rapidly convened in the White House. Video was being transmitted from both the Consulate and the drones overhead as the situation unfolded, so the assembled senior personnel were receiving real-time intelligence as the night progressed. Among those in attendance, according to my source, were Leon Panetta (Secretary of Defense), General Martin Dempsey (Head, Joint Chiefs of Staff0, Valerie Jarrett (Senior Advisor to the President), Eric Holder (Attorney General, DOJ), James Clapper (Director, National Intelligence) and David Petraeus (Director, CIA) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The President was reported to have attended by telephone.
At 10:30, as the reports were coming in and the situation at the Consulate was clearly deteriorating rapidly, Woods again requested military support and again was rebuffed and told to stand down. By this time the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of State had all been advised of the situation. Two drones, flying above the compound, were continuing to send back live videos of the attacks, while Ambassador Chris Stevens, trapped in the so-called safety area of the Consulate, was suffocating from the heavy fumes from diesel fuel-fed flames that were engulfing the building.
Woods ignored the second order to stand down and, taking several other men with him, drove to the Consulate which was now in flames. They first searched for Ambassador Stevens, but could not find him. They then evacuated those remaining at the consulate, and also removed the body of Sean Smith, who had been with the Ambassador and was killed in the initial attack. They could not find Stevens and had to give up the search when it became too dangerous to remain.
They returned to the Annex at about midnight. On the way, their car was attacked, and although their tires were blown out and they ended up driving on the metal rims of their wheels, they made it back to the relative safety of the Annex. But at midnight, the Annex itself came under attack, and a third desperate call was made for air support. He specifically requested back-up support from an AC 130 Specter Gunship, commonly used by US Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground when they are involved in intense firefights. According to our sources, the request was denied by Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Woods then went up to the roof of the Annex, armed with a machine gun. He was killed by a mortar shell, as he fired off his final rounds at the terrorists.
On October 25, as the amount of verified information about what really happened began to become significant, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta attributed the denials as necessary because, he said, the military leaders did not have adequate intelligence information. “We felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation” with so little “real-time information about what’s taking place.”
What would it have taken to end the fire fight before four Americans were murdered that night? Lt. General Thomas McInerny, in a FoxNews interview on October 25th, said that even two F-16s flying low over the city of Benghazi would have been enough to scare the attackers into flight and could have saved American lives that night at little risk to themselves. (FoxNews has been a leader in the media in doggedly going after the truth about what happened in Benghazi. Read more here.
Moreover, Woods had put laser beads on the terrorists and they could have been identified by incoming air support, but none ever came.
What Does the White House Say?
The White House is conspicuously silent on nearly everything connected to Benghazi, but the questions remain.
Prior to September 11, why were so many requests for heightened security turned down, despite the clearly deteriorating security situation? (Two recent attacks on the Consulate itself, and summer attacks on the Red Cross and the British Ambassador were on record. The British and the red Cross had left Benghazi, and the America flag was the only foreign delegation flag left flying in the city.)
Why, upon refusing to continue providing security for the Consulate, did the State Department hire a little known Welsh security company who subcontracted to local Libyans armed with only billy clubs and flashlights? (In fact, the ‘leader’ of this team was a former English teacher who had never handled a gun in his life!)
On the night of September 11, why were three desperate requests for military support refused out of hand, even when the life of the Ambassador was clearly at stake?
Why was not even an overflight ordered?
And following the event, why did the administration refuse to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack?
Why was the story of a spontaneous demonstration and a little known video blamed for the violence when it is now clear that everyone at the top knew what really happened? (According to e-mails acquired by one of our sources, the White House not only knew within 2 hours that this was a terrorist attack, they knew that Ansar al-Shariah had carried on the attacks.)
What Was This Really About?
The theories abound, but the most interesting, and the one that makes the most sense, given the newly uncovered information, came across my desk a week ago. I did not publish it then because I was, at the time, unable to corroborate it, although it came from an impeccable source who attributed his information to senior people in several agencies in Washington and elsewhere. At first the story seemed a bizarre explanation for what was then unexplainable – the obvious coverup of the facts of the Benghazi attacks, the apparent inability of the administration to get its story straight, and the failure of the State Department to protect the US mission in Libya. But as more and more facts continue to emerge, this story begins to be the only one that makes sense.
The story is about a plot allegedly hatched by the administration to kidnap Ambassador Stevens and then use the negotiations that would lead to his release to enhance the administration’s image in the US and make the President a hero right before the elections. Crazy, right? Except that as the pieces of the story continue to come out, the pieces seem to fit together and the explanation begins to make sense.
It explains, for example, why the President was so relaxed during the attacks and seemed so sure of the outcome that it was reported that he went to bed early that night.
It explains why the requests for support were turned down, thinking that any interference could spoil the plot. It explains why the administration had to scramble afterward to find a story that could explain the attacks in such a way as to distance themselves from the story.
It explains why there was such a rush to arrest the hapless maker of a low budget, little seen video which insults Mohammed. (He is still languishing in jail, more a political prisoner than an unwitting inspiration to global jihad.)
It explains why this story was maintained by a host of senior administration officials, who paraded the story around for nearly two weeks, even though it is clear that they knew the truth within two hours of the beginning of the assault of the Consulate.
According to this version of what happened that night, the attacks were planned and carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) lead elements of Ansar al Shariah, a group that is also linked to al Qaeda. But jihad makes strange bedfellows, and the alliances between jihadi groups is still largely a mystery to the Western mind, which likes to pigeon-hole things in rigid identities. Relations in the jihadi world are as frequently based on expedience and mutual advantage than they are on ideology.
A connection is therefore being made between the Benghazi attack and Iran’s nuclear ambition. Not so strange. Iran has its fingers in much of the chaos now going on throughout the Middle East.
The plan, as it was reported to us, was that the Ambassador was to be kidnapped and that the Iranians would then arrange for his release in a negotiation that would lead to a new deal with Iran on their nuclear program. A deal would be reached, the Ambassador would be free and none the worse for wear, and the President would be a hero going into the November 6 election.
It all sounds pretty cynical, maybe too cynical to be true? Maybe. But politics is a cynical business and this race is one of the nastiest in American history. Eventually, the real story will come out. I doubt that it will be a pretty one.
Ilana Freedman is Editor of GerardDirect.com She has been an intelligence analyst in the private sector for over twenty five years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org