A just-released U.S. government email reveals a top Obama administration official was immediately concerned the Benghazi attack was a concerted effort to kidnap U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The night of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, Eric Pelofsky, senior adviser to United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, sent an email to Rice in which he expressed concern about a possible kidnap plot. The message was contained in the 112 pages of documents released to Judicial Watch as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
“Yes – I’m very worried. In particular, that he is either dead or this was a concerted effort to kidnap him,” wrote Pelofsky at 9:06 p.m. Eastern the night of the attack.
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.
Pelofsky wrote the email even after an email chain shows he was in receipt of information that a call was made from a cell phone belonging to Stevens at a local hospital. The caller claimed he was with the ambassador.
Moments before he sent the email about the kidnap concerns, Pelofsky wrote: “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 contradicts State’s ARB report, which claims an “Arabic speaking caller said an unresponsive male who matched the physical description of the Ambassador was at a hospital.”
Benghazi investigator won’t deny kidnap plot
Has the Obama administration been suppressing evidence of a kidnapping or attempted kidnapping of Stevens?
As WND reported, the State Department’s lead Benghazi investigator, Thomas Pickering, refused to deny there was a plan to kidnap Stevens.
Pickering was the author of the 39-page report by the State Department’s Accountability Review Board, or ARB, which largely absolved then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top State officials of wrongdoing regarding the Benghazi attack.
At a House Oversight and Government Reform committee hearing on Benghazi in August, Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wy., asked Pickering about a potential kidnap plot.
She asked, “Is it true that they were planning to kidnap the ambassador and it went wrong?”
“I can’t comment on that,” Pickering replied, followed by a long pause.
Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., stepped in and changed the subject.
Later in the hearing, Pickering further commented on the kidnap issue.
He stated: “Kidnapping seemed to me to be far-fetched. Because in effect in the testimony that was given and the public report, they did not make a serious attempt to go into the closed area of the villa. It is not even sure in my view that they knew the ambassador was there. So I would say, while I said I didn’t want to touch that, I would say in retrospect it doesn’t seem highly likely. It could be. but I don’t think so.”
Botched kidnapping morphed into slaughter?
Last June, Abdallah Dhu-al-Bajadin, who was identified by U.S. officials speaking to the Washington Free Beacon as a known weapons experts for al-Qaida, wrote on a jihadi website that Stevens was killed by lethal injection after plans to kidnap him during the Benghazi assault went awry.
A detail provided in testimony by Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Libya, may require further investigation in light on the claim.
Hicks, a Benghazi whistleblower, said the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, was told Stevens was taken to a hospital controlled by Ansar Al-Sharia, the group originally believed to have been behind the Benghazi attack.
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 U.S. Tripoli embassy’s political section chief.
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-Sharia.
“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 Sharia’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.”
Stevens reportedly was pronounced dead in the Benghazi Medical Center. The center fell into the hands of the rebels during the U.S. and NATO-supported revolution that overthrew the regime of Muammar Gadhafi.
The jihadist rebels reportedly routinely received treatment at the hospital.
The Free Beacon reported al-Bajadin’s kidnap claim was not immediately being rejected by U.S. law enforcement officials probing the death of Stevens.
In the March 14 posting on the Ansar al-Mujahideen Network, an al Qaida-linked jihadi website, al-Bajadin claimed Stevens was given a lethal injection that was overlooked during the medical autopsy on his body.
Al-Bajadin wrote “the plan was based on abduction and exchange of high-level prisoners.”
“However, the operation took another turn, for a reason God only knows, when one of the members of the jihadist cell improvised and followed Plan B,” he wrote.
Al-Bajadin explained that a lethal injection is given in “more than one place in the human body that autopsy doctors ignore when they see that the symptoms are similar to another specific and common illness.”
“Anyone who studied the art of silent assassination that spies applied during the Cold War would easily identify these parts of the body,” he said.
The terrorist wrote that he waited until now to reveal the botched kidnapping and lethal injection because “the cell” behind “the infiltrative and secret operation is now completely safe from intelligence bureaus.”
With additional research by Joshua Klein.