BENGHAZI: THE TERRORIST ATTACK OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2012
This report examines the most significant events that occurred before, during, and after the September 11, 2012 Islamic terrorist attacks against an American diplomatic mission (and a nearby CIA annex) in Benghazi, Libya. The compound that housed the diplomatic mission possessed none of the security features usually found in such a facility: e.g., bulletproof glass, reinforced ballistic doors, a “safe room,” and high concrete barriers surrounding the buildings. It also lacked an adequate supply of trained security personnel. According to Congressman Darrell Issa, the Obama administration intentionally withdrew security personnel and equipment from the mission in Benghazi for political reasons, so as to “conve[y] the impression that the situation in Libya was getting better [i.e., safer], not worse.”
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. In short, the Obama administration elected to aid and abet individuals and groups that were allied ideologically and tactically with al Qaeda.
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. So once again, the Obama administration was willfully helping the cause of al Qaeda and its affiliates. 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. diplomatic 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.
As 2012 progressed, 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, to say nothing of the 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 invariably 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 diplomatic 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 valiantly (but unsuccessfully) to drive away the attackers.
In the wake of the violence, 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 just 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, by this time 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:
- the U.S. mission in Benghazi had never adopted adequate security measures;
- the administration had ignored dozens of warning signs about growing Islamic extremism and jihadism in the region over a period of more than 6 months;
- the administration, for political reasons, had ignored or denied repeated requests for extra security by American diplomats stationed in Benghazi;
- the administration had failed to beef up security even for the anniversary of 9/11, a date of obvious significance to terrorists;
- the administration, fully cognizant of what was happening on the ground during the September 11 attacks in Benghazi, nonetheless denied multiple calls for help by Americans who were stationed there;
- the administration had been lying when, throughout the presidential election season, it relentlessly advanced the notion that “al Qaeda is on the run” and Islamic terrorism was in decline thanks to President Obama’s policies; and perhaps most significantly,
- throughout 2011 and 2012 the administration had been lending its assistance to jihadists affiliated with al Qaeda, supposedly the organization that represented the prime focus of Obama’s anti-terrorism efforts; moreover, some of those same jihadists had personally fought against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This section of Discover The Networks explores the significance of the events in Benghazi and of the Obama administration’s response to those events
BENGHAZI: THE TERRORIST ATTACK OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2012
What Exactly Was the U.S. “Consulate” in Benghazi, Libya?
Though the media have generally referred to the Benghazi-based U.S. facility attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2012 as a “consulate,” it should rightfully be called a “diplomatic mission.” As investigative journalist Aaron Klein points out:
“A consulate typically refers to the building that officially houses a consul, who is the official representativ[e] of the government of one state in the territory of another…. Consulates at times function as junior embassies, providing services related to visas, passports and citizen information…. The main role of a consulate is to foster trade with the host and care for its own citizens who are traveling or living in the host nation. Diplomatic missions, on the other hand, maintain a more generalized role. A diplomatic mission is simply a group of people from one state or an international inter-governmental organization present in another state to represent matters of the sending state or organization in the receiving state.”
Notably, the U.S. State Department website has no listing of any consulate located in Benghazi. Still more evidence that the facility was a mission rather than a consulate comes from the post-September 11 remarks of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both of whom referred to the post as a “mission.”
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:
“With terrorist organizations and coalitions operating across international borders, the threat of terrorism against U.S. interests remains great. Therefore, any U.S. mission overseas can be a target even if identified as being in a low-threat environment. As a result, [Diplomatic Security] is more dedicated than ever to its mission of … implementing security programs that shield U.S. missions and residences overseas from physical and technical attack.”
But security at the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi lacked the multiple layers of security that are typically present at such posts—i.e., it was not protected by a contingent of U.S. Marines, nor did it have bulletproof glass, reinforced ballistic doors, a “safe room,” three-meter-high barriers surrounding the facility, or a 100-foot setback from the building to those barriers. In order to operate a mission with such low levels of security in place, a waiver from Washington would have been required.
There was also an inadequate amount of security personnel at the mission in Benghazi. According to Eric Nordstrom, former Regional Security Officer 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 (the Islamic supremacist organization that gave rise to al Qaeda and Hamas) and other Islamist fighters.
For additional security in Benghazi, the State Department hired the little-known British company Blue Mountain Group instead of one of the large firms it has traditionally used in overseas danger zones; Blue Mountain employed local Libyans to serve as guards who patrolled the compound with only flashlights and batons rather than firearms.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-California), citing the testimony of witnesses and the content of key documents, explains why the security at the Benghazi mission was so woefully inadequate:
“[T]he [Obama] administration made a policy decision to place Libya into a ‘normalized’ country status as quickly as possible. The normalization process, which began in November 2011, appeared to have been aimed at conveying the impression that the situation in Libya was getting better, not worse. The administration’s decision to normalize was the basis for systematically withdrawing security personnel and equipment—including a much-needed DC aircraft—without taking into account the reality on the ground.”
Noting also that “some have claimed that resources were not provided [for security in Benghazi] because of budgetary contraints,” Issa emphasizes that “this was not the case.” Indeed, the State Department was in possession of some $2.2 billion that could have been spent on upgrading security at U.S. embassies, consulates, and missions around the world, but the Obama administration elected not to do so.
Ambassador Christopher Stephens’ 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 important contacts for this initiative. Journalist Clare Lopez puts these facts in perspective:
“During the 2011 Libyan revolt against Muammar Qaddafi, reckless U.S. policy flung American forces and money into the conflict on the side of the rebels, who were known at the time to include Al-Qaeda elements.… That means that Stevens was authorized by the U.S. Department of State and the Obama administration to aid and abet individuals and groups that were, at a minimum, allied ideologically with Al-Qaeda, the jihadist terrorist organization that attacked the homeland on the first 9/11, the one that’s not supposed to exist anymore after the killing of its leader, Osama bin Laden, on May 2, 2011.”
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’ mission is to help transfer “arms recovered from the former regime’s stocks to the ‘opposition’ in Syria,” where, “as in Libya, the insurgents are known to include al Qaeda and other Shariah-supremacist groups, including none other than Abdelhakim Belhadj.” These Syrian insurgents, organized under the banner of the “Free Syrian Army,” are fighting to topple the rule of their nation’s president, Bashar al-Assad. Benghazi is a logical place in which to station Stevens for this task, since, as Gaffney notes, it is “one of the places in Libya most awash with such weapons in the most dangerous of hands.”
Stevens’ duties also include the recruitment of Islamic jihadists willing to personally go into combat against the Assad regime in Syria. Investigative journalist Aaron Klein writes that according to Middle Eastern security officials: “The U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi … actually served as a meeting place to coordinate aid for the rebel-led insurgencies in the Middle East … Among the tasks performed inside the building was collaborating with Arab countries on the recruitment of fighters—including jihadists—to target Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.” These recruits generally hailed from Libya and elsewhere in North Africa, and were dispatched to Syria via Turkey 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 was Abdelhakim Belhadj, former leader of the al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group that brought down Qaddafi in Libya before subsequently disbanding.
Middle Eastern security officials describe the U.S. mission in Benghazi at this time as essentially a diplomatic meeting place where Stevens and other American officials could confer with the Turkish, Saudi and Qatari governments on how to best support the Mideast’s various insurgencies, especially the rebels opposing Assad in Syria. “[This] 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.”
* 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.
February 2012 to September 2012:
Growing Danger at the U.S. Mission in Benghazi and Elsewhere in Libya
* February 2012: Eric Nordstrom, the Regional Security Officer at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, urges that American security measures in Libya be expanded, citing dozens of security incidents by “Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb …”
* April 6, 2012: An IED [improvised explosive device] is thrown over the fence of the U.S. mission compound fence in Benghazi by two Libyans employed at the mission as contract guards. The suspects are arrested but not prosecuted.
* 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 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 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.”
* 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 16, 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 cargo ultimately ends up in the possession of those same Syrian rebels. The main organizer 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 jihadist figures like [Abdelhakim] Belhadj.”
* September 9, 2012: The U.S. State Department now has credible information that American missions in the Middle East may be targeted by terrorists, but diplomats are not instructed to go on high alert or “lockdown.”
* 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 makes repeated requests for increased security prior to September 11, but these requests are denied by the Obama administration. One U.S. security officer, Eric Nordstrom, twice asks his State Department superiors for more security at the Benghazi mission but receives no response. In making his requests, Nordstrom cites a chronology of more than 200 security incidents that occurred in Libya between June 2011 and July 2012. Forty-eight of those incidents were in Benghazi.
Timeline of the September 11, 2012 Terrorist Attack on the U.S. Mission 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.
“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims—as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”
* Approximately 4:15 p.m. Cairo time: Crowds begin to form near the U.S. embassy compound in Cairo. Then, over a three-hour period, hundreds of Muslim protesters storm that facility, where they destroy the American flag and replace it with a black Salafist flag that reads, “There is one God, Allah, and Mohammad is his prophet.”
* 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 9:40 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 9:40 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, a regional security officer, and Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith.
* After 9:40 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 SEALs Tyrone 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.
* 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.
* 10:05 p.m. Benghazi time: The State Department Operations Center issues an alert to several government and intelligence agencies, including the White House Situation Room, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI. The alert reads: “US Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack—approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well. Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM (Chief of Mission/embassy) personnel are in the compound safe haven.”
* 10:25 p.m. Benghazi time: The small team of Americans (including Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty) from the CIA annex 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. They also search, without success, for Ambassador Stevens.
* Approximately 10:30 p.m. Benghazi time: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his top military adviser learn of the attack in Benghazi.
* Approximately 11 p.m. Benghazi time: President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of Defense Panetta gather with their national security team in the Oval Office for a pre-scheduled meeting. With the unmanned drones now in place, live-feed video of the attack is available to the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the CIA.
* Between 11 p.m. and midnight Benghazi time: Members of the February 17 Martyrs Brigade realize that they cannot possibly defend the compound, and they withdraw.
* Between 11 p.m. and midnight Benghazi time: DS agents are unable to find Ambassador Stevens anywhere in the mission compound. Under heavy assault, they 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: As evidenced by State Department emails, within two hours after the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, the State Department is fully aware that the Libyan militant group Ansar al-Sharia has already taken credit for the attack and has called for additional terrorist acts. As former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton would later explain, “What the emails show beyond any doubt is that the State Department was fully possessed of the information in real time.”
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.
* 12:07 a.m. Benghazi time, September 12, 2012: The State Department Operations Center issues an alert relaying information that the U.S. embassy in Tripoli has reported: “Ansar al-Sharia [an Islamic extremist military group] Claims Responsibilty for Benghazi Attack … on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”
* Midnight to 2 a.m. Benghazi time, September 12, 2012: Defense Secretary Panetta holds a series of meetings and issues three orders: (a) He orders two Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team platoons stationed in Rota, Spain, to prepare to deploy to the U.S. mission in Benghazi and the U.S. embassy in Tripoli; (b) he orders a special operations team in Europe to move to Sigonella, Sicily—less than one hour’s flight (480 miles) from Benghazi; and (c) he orders a U.S.-based special operations team to deploy to Sigonella as well.
* Approximately 12:30 a.m. Benghazi time, September 12, 2012: A six-man security team from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, including two Defense Department personnel, head for for Benghazi.
* 1:30 a.m. Benghazi time, September 12, 2012: The U.S. security team from Embassy Tripoli lands in Benghazi and learns that Ambassador Stevens is missing.
* Approximately 4 a.m. to 5:15 a.m. Benghazi time, September 12, 2012: Former U.S. Navy SEALS Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods are killed by direct mortar fire as they try to engage the attackers at the CIA annex in Benghazi. Their deaths come about 7 hours after the start of the violence. Soon thereafter, the attacks against the U.S. mission wind down. All told, 4 Americans are dead: Doherty, Woods, Ambassador Stevens, and Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith.
The Aftermath: Was It Terrorism or a “Spontaneous” Attack?
* 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, but also just happened, coincidentally, to take place 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: In a morning speech delivered in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama says, “Make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.” In his remarks, the president makes reference to the role that the anti-Muslim YouTube video allegedly played in triggering the violence: “Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None.” He also makes a passing reference to “acts of terror” generally, right after he has referred to “troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan,” and to “our wounded warriors at Walter Reed [Hospital].” But he never actually characterizes the Benghazi attack as a terrorist act.
* Morning of September 12, 2012: After his Rose Garden speech, Obama tapes an interview for 60 Minutes, where he explains that he refrained from using the word “terrorism” in the speech because “it’s too early to know exactly how this came about.”
* 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 campaign fundraiser 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.”
* 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.
* 4:09 p.m., September 12, 2012: At a press briefing en route to Las Vegas, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is asked, “Does the White House believe that the attack in Benghazi was planned and premeditated?” He replies, “It’s too early for us to make that judgment. I think—I know that this is being investigated, and we’re working with the Libyan government to investigate the incident. So I would not want to speculate on that at this time.”
* 10:08 p.m., September 12, 2012: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton releases a public statement linking the attack against the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi to the YouTube video, which she describes as “inflammatory material posted on the Internet.” “I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today,” says Mrs. Clinton, adding: “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 no justification for this, none.”
* September 13, 2012: The Obama administration sends Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deliver a televised statement denouncing not only the violence in Benghazi but also the “disgusting and reprehensible” video allegedly responsible for it, and stating “very clearly” that “the United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video.” “We absolutely reject its content and message,” says Mrs. Clinton, emphasizing America’s great “respect for people of faith.”
* September 13, 2012: Hillary Clinton meets with Ali Suleiman Aujali—the Libyan ambassador to the U.S.—at a State Department event to mark the end of Ramadan. Ambassador Aujali apologizes to Mrs. Clinton for what he describes as “this terrorist attack which took place against the American consulate in Libya.” Mrs. Clinton, in her remarks, does not characterize it as terrorism. Rather, she says there is “never any justification for violent acts of this kind.” She also condemns the anti-Muslim video,.
* 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 Clinto denounces the “disgusting and reprehensible” anti-Muslim video and the violence that it purportedly sparked.
* 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: CNN journalists find Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ diary amid the rubble of the mission in Benghazi where he was killed three days earlier. The diary reveals that Stevens had been worried for some time about constant security threats, the rise in Islamic extremism, and the fact that his name was on an al Qaeda hit list.
* 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. 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: At a press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says 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 14, 2012: Anti-American demonstrations continue near the U.S. embassy in Cairo, and the State Department warns American embassies in Kuwait, Oman, and Jordan to be ready for possible unrest.
* 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: President Obama’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, appears on five separate Sunday television news programs where she claims, falsely, that according to the “best information at present,” the deadly attack in Benghazi was not a premeditated assault but rather a “spontaneous reaction” to “a hateful and offensive video that was widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world.” For example, she tells Bob Schieffer on CBS’s Face the Nation:
“We’ll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions. But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy … sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that—in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent…. We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.”
* September 16, 2012: Rice’s assertion is quickly contradicted by Libyan security officials who say that American diplomats were warned as early as September 8th about potential violent unrest in Benghazi.
* 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 has 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 17, 2012: State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland refuses to characterize the Benghazi attacks as terrorism.
* 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, Carney says: “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:
“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.”
* September 20, 2012: The State Department spends $70,000 in taxpayer funds to purchase public-relations advertisements on seven different Pakistani television stations. The ads, intended to underscore the fact that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the YouTube video’s content or production, show film clips of speeches where Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama have previously disavowed the film Innocence of Muslims.
* 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.”
* September 26, 2012: Libyan president Mohamed al-Magariaf reiterates that the September 11 attack in Benghazi “was a preplanned act of terrorism directed against American citizens.” He states unequivocally that the YouTube video Innocence of Muslims “had nothing to do with this attack.”
* 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.
* October 2, 2012: White House press secretary Jay Carney declines to comment on 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 narrowed to just one or two people in an extremist group.
* October 9, 2012: The State Department acknowledges that, contrary to the Obama administration’s initial reports, the attack on the mission in Benghazi did not begin as a low-level protest that suddenly and unexpectedly spiraled out of control. The State Department now concedes that there were no protests at all in Benghazi before the deadly assault.
* 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: “Department officials were asked about the administration’s initial—and since retracted—explanation linking the violence to protests over an American-made anti-Muslim video circulating on the Internet. One official responded, ‘That was not our conclusion.’ He called it a question for ‘others’ to answer, without specifying.”
* October 11, 2012: When the subject of the Benghazi attacks is raised during his vice-presidential debate against Paul Ryan, Vice President Joe Biden says, “We weren’t told they wanted more security there.” In light of the obvious falsity of that statement, White House spokesman Jay Carney subsequently explains that Biden’s “We” referred only to Biden himself, President Obama, and the White House.
* October 15, 2012: In a CNN interview, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes the blame for what happened in Benghazi. “I take responsibility. I’m in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The president and the vice president wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals.” “I want to avoid some kind of political gotcha,” she adds, noting that “we’re very close to an election.”
* October 18, 2012: On Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart asks Obama: “Is part of the investigation helping the communication between these divisions? Not just what happened in Benghazi, but what happened within. Because I would say, even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page.” To this, Obama responds: “Here’s what I’ll say. If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.”
* October 19, 2012: House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa writes a letter to President Obama, questioning why he has “not been straightforward with the American people in the aftermath of the attack.”
* October 25, 2012: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the U.S. military did not intervene when the U.S. 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 Libya. The administration appears determined to say as little as possible about the Benghazi attack until after the November 6 elections.
* October 26, 2012: President Obama says: “What happened in Benghazi is a tragedy…. [M]y biggest priority now is bringing those folks [the perpetrators] to justice, and I think the American people have seen that’s a commitment I’ll always keep.”
* October 30, 2012: Senator John McCain characterizes the Benghazi affair as either a “massive cover up” or “massive incompetence.”
* 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”:
“It’s hard to claim incompetence when you have the information in a real-time manner as the White House did. They were watching or listening to the attack on our people there in Benghazi for about seven hours. This, clearly, is a case of deciding not to help those people and now trying, in the waning days of the election campaign, to prevent Americans from learning what a cowardly and arrogant policy Obama picked in order to protect his election chances. Had we sent people to try to help the people who were being attacked, we may have been too late, it may have taken too long to get there, we may have run into a bigger battle and lost more people but the key element here is there is no evidence, from day one until today, that the Obama administration did anything at all to help those people. Nothing was put in train. Nothing was tried. At the end of the day, we abandoned those four people on the orders of the president.”
* 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 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 intelligence panels, 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. diplomatic 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:
“If it is the case that the Obama administration, was in fact, in the person of Christopher Stevens and the CIA operation in Benghazi, taking arms that had been bought from people who had liberated them from Gaddafi’s weapons caches and sending some of those to people [in Syria] who we know include Islamists of the most radical stripe, which include al-Qaida, that is a scandal that will make Iran-Contra look like a day at the beach…”
* December 8, 2012: Mohammed Abu Jamal Ahmed, a suspect in the September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, is arrested in Cairo, Egypt.
* 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 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 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.
* 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 22, 2012: After months of trying to get access, FBI agents question the 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 26, 2012: It is revealed that the State Department officials who supposedly resigned on December 19 are merely on administrative leave; they remain on the State Department payroll and will all be back to work soon.
* 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:
“Let’s first ask about the reason for their presence in Benghazi in this suspicious and secret way. The other thing is: what is the nature of work they were doing in Benghazi? What was the role that the consulate was playing, and who gave it permission to violate Libya’s sovereignty and intervene in Libyan politics?”
* January 3, 2013: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is released from the hospital following a bout with the flu, a concussion, and a blood clot. It is reported that she will soon testify in front of a Congressional committee about the terrorist attack on the American mission in Benghazi.
* 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.