The NY Post story outlines what I have been hearing this morning from former CIA operatives and former intelligence officers. There were assets available that could have been deployed to help those under siege in the Benghazi consulate. The Obama administration knew virtually immediately what was happening but chose to do nothing. Instead, they sat back, made some popcorn and watched.
The United States had an unmanned Predator drone over its consulate in Benghazi during the attack that slaughtered four Americans — which should have led to a quicker military response, it was revealed yesterday.
“They stood, and they watched, and our people died,” former CIA commander Gary Berntsen told CBS News.
The network reported that the drone and other reconnaissance aircraft observed the final hours of the hours-long siege on Sept. 11 — obtaining information that should have spurred swift action.
But as Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three colleagues were killed by terrorists armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, Defense Department officials were too slow to send in the troops, Berntsen said.
“They made zero adjustments in this. You find a way to make this happen,” he fumed.
“There isn’t a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments.”
The Pentagon said it moved a team of special operators from Central Europe to Sigonella, Italy — about an hour flight from Libya — but gave no other details.
Fighter jets and Specter AC-130 gunships — which could have been used to help disperse the bloodthirsty mob — were also stationed at three nearby bases, sources told the network.
When the attack began, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “looked at available options, and the ones we exercised had our military forces arrive in less than 24 hours, well ahead of timelines laid out in established policies,” a White House official told the network.
Even as the administration continues to vow that the perpetrators will be brought to justice, the man identified by witnesses as a ringleader in the attack continues to walk the streets of Libya without fear of arrest.
Ahmad Abu Khattala has admitted being at the consulate during the horrific attack but has yet to be questioned by any Libyan authorities.
Abu Khattala spoke to a New York Times reporter Thursday from a hotel patio as he sipped a strawberry frappe and mocked the US and Libyan governments.
“These reports say that no one knows where I am and that I am hiding,” he boasted. “But here I am in the open, sitting in a hotel with you. I’m even going to pick up my sister’s kids from school soon.”
Lax security at the consulate was an open secret.
Ambassador Chris Stevens repeatedly requested increased security and was ignored, most likely because of politics.
One signed by Stevens and titled “LIBYA’S FRAGILE SECURITY DETERIORIATES AS TRIBAL RIVALRIES, POWER PLAYS AND EXTREMISM INTENSIFY,” dated June 25, 2012, assess the increase in violence. ”From April to June, Libya also witnesses an increase in attacks targeting international organizations and foreign interests,” Stevens wrote, describing attacks on a United Nations official in Benghazi, International Committee for the Red Cross buildings in Benghazi and Misrata, and IED at the mission in Benghazi, and RPG fired at the British Ambassador’s convoy, and an attack on the consulate of Tunisia.
A Libyan government national security official told Stevens “that the attacks were the work of extremists who are opposed to western influence in Libya. A number of local contacts agreed, noting that Islamic extremism appears to be on the rise in eastern Libya and that the Al-Qaeda flag has been spotted several times flying over government buildings and training facilities in Derna,” a village to the east in Benghazi. Other contacts disagreed with that assessment, however.
Another cable from Stevens, titled “The Guns of August; security in eastern Libya” and dated August 8, 2012, states “Since the eve of the (July) elections, Benghazi has moved from trepidation to euphoria and back as a series of violent incidents has dominated the political landscape during the
Ramadan holiday.” Stevens describes the incidents as “organized, but this is not an organized campaign.” The Supreme Security Council, the interim security force, he says, “has not coalesced into a stabilizing force and provides little deterrence.”
Stevens wrote that the people of Benghazi want a security apparatus but “inherently fear abuse by the same authorities. This debate, playing out daily in Benghazi, has created the security vacuum that a diverse group of independent actors are exploiting for their own purposes.”
A cable signed by Stevens on the day of his murder, September 11, described a meeting with the Acting Principal Officer of the Supreme Security Council in Benghazi, commander Fawzi Younis, who “expressed growing frustration with police and security forces (who were too weak to keep the country secure)…”
The documents also included an “ACTION MEMO” for Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy dated December 27, 2011, and written by US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman. With the subject line: “Future of Operations in Benghazi, Libya,” the memo states: “With the full complement of five Special Agents, our permanent presence would include eight U.S. direct hire employees.”
This would seem to suggest that Undersecretary Kennedy had approved a plan for five permanent security agents in Benghazi, but that never happened. It should be noted that there were ultimately a total of five Diplomatic Security Agents in Benghazi that night since there were two stationed at the Benghazi compound, and three escorted Ambassador Chris Stevens to the compound.
It is utterly appalling and Obama has some explaining to do. Thus far, all he's done is lie.
As a side note, I find it rather amusing that John Kerry takes exception to the release of these cables and emails:
Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) criticized House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R- Calif.) for releasing 166 pages of “sensitive but unclassified” State Department cables that contained the names of Libyans working within the United States.
“This is irresponsible and inexcusable, and perhaps worst of all it was entirely avoidable,” Kerry said. “It is profoundly against America's interests in a difficult region.”
The Obama administration has also criticized Issa for leaking the documents, which relate to the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and four others.
Administration officials told Foreign Policy magazine the leak, along with Issa's failure to redact the names of Libyan civilians and local leaders mentioned in the cables, could have “unintended consequences.”
“This does damage to the individuals because they are named, danger to security cooperation because these are militias and groups that we work with and that is now well known, and danger to the investigation, because these people could help us down the road,” an administration official said.
It's difficult to understand Kerry's outrage given the bang-up job the Obama administration did to secure the site in the aftermath of the attacks:
More than three weeks after attacks in this city killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, sensitive documents remained only loosely secured in the remains of the U.S. mission here on Wednesday, offering visitors easy access to delicate details about American operations in Libya.
Documents detailing weapons collection efforts, emergency evacuation protocols, the full internal itinerary of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’s trip and the personnel records of Libyans who were contracted to secure the mission were among the items scattered across the floors of the looted compound when a Washington Post reporter and a translator visited Wednesday.
Why is Kerry upset that Americans might learn as much as Al Qaida already knows?
It must be of great comfort to the families of those lost in Benghazi that Valerie Jarrett has better security on vacation than those in the Benghazi consulate had under fire.