Adding yet another layer of mystery to killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, a just-released Obama administration email states a phone call from a local Libyan hospital reported Stevens was at the medical center and was “alive and well” in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attacks.
The email entirely contradicts the State Department’s Accountability Review Board investigation into the attack, which states the caller at the hospital said a man matching Stevens’ description was brought to the medical center and was “unresponsive.”
Stevens was said to have died of asphyxiation from smoke inhalation.
The email in question was from Eric Pelofsky, senior adviser to United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. It was contained in the 112 pages of documents released to Judicial Watch as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
On Sept. 11, 2012, at 8:51 p.m. Eastern, or 2:51 a.m. in Libya, Pelofsky sent an email to Rice and other administration officials about a call purportedly received from a cell phone that was with Stevens.
The email was sent after the initial assault at the U.S. special mission and just prior to the second assault at the nearby CIA annex, according to administration timelines.
The email says: “Post received a call from a person using a RSO phone that Chris was given saying that the caller was with a person matching Chris’s description at a hospital and that he was alive and well.”
RSO is a Regional Security Officer, who was part of Stevens security detail.
Pelofsky added: “Of course, if he were alive and well one could ask why he didn’t make the call himself.”
The caller’s description of Stevens as “alive and well” in Pelofsky’s email stands in contradistinction to State’s ARB report.
The relevant section of the ARB states: “At approximately 0200 local, Embassy Tripoli received a phone call from ARSO 1’s cell phone, which he had given to the Ambassador while they were sheltered in the safe area. A male, Arabic speaking caller said an unresponsive male who matched the physical description of the Ambassador was at a hospital.”
The hospital was later determined to have been the Benghazi Medical Center, where the al-Qaida-linked Ansar al-Shariah yielded influence.
The hospital was said to have been so dangerous for Americans that a decision was made not to send any U.S. personnel to retrieve Stevens’ body.
The State Department declared Ansar al Shariah a terrorist organization for its reported central role in the Benghazi attacks.
Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Libya, was the second-in-command in the country after Stevens. Hicks told lawmakers during testimony last year the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, was told Stevens was taken to a hospital controlled by Ansar Al-Shariah.
Stated Hicks: “We began to hear also that the ambassador has been taken to a hospital. We don’t know initially which hospital it is, but we – through David’s reports we learned that it is in a hospital which is controlled by Ansar Sharia, the group that Twitter feeds had identified as leading the attack on the consulate.”
Hicks was referring to David McFarland, the political section chief at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.
Hicks said he received a call from the Libyan prime minister informing him of Stevens’ death.
Prior to the phone call, he said, the embassy received “several” other calls from a cell phone that had been with the ambassador, claiming to have Stevens’ body.
Hicks repeated the assertion that Stevens was being held in a hospital controlled by Ansar al-Shariah.
“Before I got the call from the prime minister, we’d received several phone calls on the phone that had been with the ambassador saying that we know where the ambassador is, please, you can come get him,” stated Hicks.
“And our local staff engaged on those phone calls admirably, asking very, very good, outstanding, even open-ended questions about where was he, trying to discern whether he was alive, whether they even had the ambassador, whether that person was with the ambassador, send a picture, could we talk to the ambassador?”
He continued: “Because we knew separately from David that the ambassador was in a hospital that we believe was under Ansar Shariah’s call, we – we suspected that we were being baited into a trap, and so we did not want to go send our people into an ambush. And we didn’t.”
The ARB claims transportation of Stevens’ body from the medical center was coordinated by “Libyan contacts.”
With additional research by Joshua Klein.