TEL AVIV – CIA agents on the ground in Benghazi testified to lawmakers they were loaded into vehicles and ready to aid the besieged U.S. special mission on Sept. 11, 2012, but were told by superiors to “wait,” a congressman privy to the testimony has revealed.
Unreported is that the new accounts seem to contradict claims made by the State Department’s Accountability Review Board, or ARB, which states that the response team one mile away in the CIA annex was “not delayed by orders from superiors.”
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., head of the House intelligence subcommittee that interviewed the CIA employees, explained that while there was no “stand-down order,” there was a disagreement at the nearby CIA annex about how quickly to respond.
Westmoreland revealed that some CIA agents wanted to storm the Benghazi compound immediately, but they were told to wait while the agency collected intelligence on the ongoing attack.
“Some CIA security contractors disagreed with their bosses and wanted to move more quickly,” the Associated Press reported, drawing from Westmoreland’s comments.
The AP reported:
Westmoreland said the CIA security contractors loaded into two vehicles, with weapons ready, the moment they heard the radio call for help from the diplomatic building. Some wanted to rush to the U.S. compound roughly a mile away, and their agitation grew as they heard increasing panic when the diplomats reported the militants were setting the compound on fire.
The CIA team leader and the CIA chief at the Benghazi annex told committee members that they were trying to gather Libyan allies and intelligence before racing into the fray, worried that they might be sending their security team into an ambush with little or no backup.
At least one of those security contractors, a former U.S. Army Ranger, was told to “wait” at least twice, and he argued with his security team leader, according to his testimony, related by Westmoreland. Westmoreland declined to share the names of the officers who testified because they are still CIA employees.
The AP reported the CIA agents said a quicker response would not have saved the lives of those killed in the attacks, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. That claim cannot be immediately verified because of the lack of information regarding what happened to Stevens the night of the attacks.
The narrative of “orders to wait” seems to directly contradict Page 23 of the ARB report.
The page states: “Just prior to receiving the TDY RSO’s distress call shortly after 2142 local, the head of Annex security heard multiple explosions coming from the north in the direction of the SMC.
The ARB report said “the Annex response team departed its compound in two vehicles at approximately 2205 local.”
“The departure of the Annex team was not delayed by orders from superiors; the team leader decided on his own to depart the Annex compound once it was apparent, despite a brief delay to permit their continuing efforts, that rapid support from local security elements was not forthcoming.”
In October 2012, CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood denied reports her agency was told to hold off in aiding those in the Benghazi compound. However, her statement only seems to pertain to her own agency and not others trying to help, such as U.S. Special Forces.
“We can say with confidence that the agency reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi,” Youngblood said at the time.
“Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate. In fact, it is important to remember how many lives were saved by courageous Americans who put their own safety at risk that night – and that some of those selfless Americans gave their lives in the effort to rescue their comrades.”
With research by Joshua Klein.