Despite a carefully narrated version of events rolled out late this week by the CIA claiming agents jumped into action as soon as they were notified of calls for help in Benghazi, security officials on the ground say calls for help went out considerably earlier — and signs of an attack were mounting even before that.
The accounts, from foreign and American security officials in and around Benghazi at the time of the attack, indicate there was in fact a significant lag between when the threat started to show itself and help started to arrive.
According to the CIA, the first calls for assistance came at 9:40 p.m. local time from a senior State Department official at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, to the CIA annex about a mile away.
But according to multiple people on the ground that night, the Blue Mountain Security manager, who was in charge of the local force hired to guard the consulate perimeter, made calls on both two-way radios and cell phones to colleagues in Benghazi warning of problems at least an hour earlier. Those calls allegedly went to local security contractors who say that the CIA annex was also notified much earlier than 9:40 p.m. U.S. military intelligence also told Fox News that armed militia was gathering up to three hours before the attack began.
One source said the Blue Mountain Security chief seemed “distraught” and said “the situation here is very serious, we have a problem.” He also said that even without these phone and radio calls, it was clear to everyone in the security community on the ground in Benghazi much earlier than 9:40 p.m. that fighters were gathering in preparation for an attack.
CBS News has learned that during the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, the Obama Administration did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource: the Counterterrorism Security Group, (CSG).
“The CSG is the one group that’s supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies,” a high-ranking government official told CBS News. “They were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon.”
…Counterterrorism sources and internal emails reviewed by CBS News express frustration that key responders were ready to deploy, but were not called upon to help in the attack.
…Absent coordination from Counterterrorism Security Group, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official says the response to the crisis became more confused. The official says the FBI received a call during the attack representing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and requesting agents be deployed. But he and his colleagues agreed the agents “would not make any difference without security and other enablers to get them in the country and synch their efforts with military and diplomatic efforts to maximize their success.”
Another senior counter terrorism official says a hostage rescue team was alternately asked to get ready and then stand down throughout the night, as officials seemed unable to make up their minds.
A third potential responder from a counter-terror force stationed in Europe says components of AFICOM — the military’s Africa Command based in Stuttgart, Germany — were working on course of action during the assault. But no plan was put to use.
“Forces were positioned after the fact but not much good to those that needed it,” the military source told CBS News.
“The response process was isolated at the most senior level,” says an official referring to top officials in the executive branch. “My fellow counterterrorism professionals and I (were) not consulted.”
UPDATE 2: (CNSNews.com) President Barack Obama met with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House on Sept. 11, 2012 at 5:00 PM—just 55 minutes after the State Department notified the White House and the Pentagon that the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi was under attack.
The meeting between Obama, Panetta and Biden had been scheduled before the attack took place, and the Department of Defense is not commenting now on whether the three men were aware when they met that day of the ongoing attack or whether Obama used that meeting to discuss with his defense secretary what should be done to defend the U.S. personnel who at that very moment were fighting for their lives in Benghazi.
“Secretary Panetta met with President Obama, as the White House-provided scheduled indicates,” Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Defense Department spokesman, told CNSNews.com on Tuesday. “However, neither the content nor the subject of discussions between the President and his advisors are appropriate for disclosure.”
The fact that the president had been scheduled to meet with Vice President Biden and Defense Secretary Panetta at 5:00 p.m. on Sept. 11 had been publicized in the Washington Daybook–a planning service to which news organizations subscribe–and included on the official White House schedule posted online by the White House itself.
UPDATE 1: Lt. Col. Tony Schafer told Fox News that sources were telling him that the President was watching the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in real-time. Schafer told Fox that “only the President” could have ordered backup for the Americans who were under siege by terrorists so the President was most certainly informed of the situation as it was unfolding. “I hate to say this,” Schafer said, “according to my sources, yes, [the President]was one of those in the White House situation room in real-time watching this. And the question becomes, ‘What did the President do or not do in the moments he saw this unveiling?’ He — only he — could issue a directive to Secretary of Defense Panetta to do something.”
Fox News’ Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge, broke open the scandal of Benghazi on October 26 with her report on the denial of CIA requests for help during the September 11 attack.
Emails sent during the attack show that, not only was this more than a mere demonstration but that higher ups in the administration were made aware of the situation on the ground in Benghazi as it was happening.
Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama spoke on September 12 citing a video as the means for the intolerable “violence” and a few days later used taxpayer money to inject a television ad into Pakistan basically apologizing for the tone of the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video and that the administration does not agree with it.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, went on five different morning news talk shows on Sunday September 16 and stated that “in fact” it was “spontaneous” and as a result of “the video”.
During the House Oversight Committee hearing on Benghazi held on October 10, State Deputy Assistant, Charlene Lamb, testified that the State Department watched the events unfold “in real time”.
On October 11, during the Vice Presidential debate, Vice President Joe Biden said there was no actionable intelligence and that he and President Obama did not know.
President Obama, during the Town Hall Presidential debate on October 16 stated that as soon as he learned of the attack on the consulate in Benghazi he was “on the phone with his National Security Team”.
Within days after the attack, the maker of “the video” was arrested. According to the father of former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, who died at the Annex during the Benghazi attack, said Clinton told him at the ceremony of the arrival of the dead Americans at Andrews Air Base, that the filmmaker would be arrested.
The longer the current administration refuses to answer the tough questions surrounding the events of Benghazi, the more information comes out against the narratives that were told to the people.
Catherine Herridge, on Fox News’ Huckabee October 28 adds to the scandal narrative – Gen. Patraeus, possible gun running, and that “[t]here is no way the administration can deny that they did not know what was happening in Benghazi, in real time.”