The official government narrative regarding the fate of murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens has some serious unreported discrepancies and leaves out key elements of the chronology of events, a forthcoming book on the Benghazi attacks demonstrates.
The book presents strong evidence to support the case that Stevens or his body was held hostage for a period of time by rebels linked to the Ansar Al Sharia terrorist organization, which has since been implicated in the Benghazi attacks.
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These and other revelations are contained in "The REAL Benghazi Story: What the White House and Hillary Don't Want You to Know," by New York Times bestselling author Aaron Klein.
The book is slated for release Sept. 9, two days before the second anniversary of the Benghazi attack.
A full chapter is dedicated to investigating Stevens' death.
Raising some eyebrows, Thomas Pickering, the State Department's lead Benghazi investigator and author of the State-sponsored Accountability Review Board report, or ARB, refused to deny there was a plan to kidnap Stevens.
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At a House Oversight and Government Reform committee hearing on Benghazi in mid-September 2013, Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wy., asked Pickering directly the alleged 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.
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However, later in the hearing, Pickering further commented on the kidnap issue.
"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," he said.
The kidnapping questions were further fueled by an al-Qaida member's claim last year that Stevens was killed in a botched capture attempt.
Official Stevens account highly unlikely
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Klein starts by reviewing the State Department's ARB version of events surrounding Stevens untimely death, writing one would need to "make several monumental leaps of faith" for the accounting to be accepted as full.
At the beginning, militants were said to enter the complex with cans of diesel fuel, setting the building ablaze and forcing those inside, including Stevens, to seek refuge in the bathroom until he was overcome by smoke.
Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent Scott Strickland jumped out the bathroom window, but Stevens and Information Management Officer Sean Smith did not follow him, the ARB states. Later, Strickland and three other agents returned to the main building to search for survivors, finding Smith's body, but not Stevens.
The ARB details Stevens' guard identified in the State-sanctioned report not as Strickland but as "ARSO 1," located Stevens and Smith, "asked them to don body armor, and led them into the safe area in Villa C, which ARSO 1 secured."
ARSO is the State Department abbreviation for assistant regional security officer.
Klein says that what the ARB claims happened next doesn't make sense in light of other reports. The State document claims, "ARSO 1, who was protecting Ambassador Stevens and IMO Smith in the safe area, heard intruders breaking through the Villa C front door.
"Men armed with AK rifles started to destroy the living room contents and then approached the safe area gate and started banging on it. ARSO 1 did not want to compromise their location in the safe area by engaging the intruders, and he warned the Ambassador and IMO Smith to prepare for the intruders to try to blast the safe area gate locks open. Instead the intruders departed, and the lights in Villa C appeared to dim."
Klein asks why would the intruders simply depart before attempting to blast their way into the safe area? Earlier, the ARB itself noted the intruders appeared to have inside knowledge of the compound.
Yet the ARB contends that just as these knowledgeable, well-coordinated intruders had Stevens cornered, they decided to leave Villa C where the ambassador was holed up without even attempting to gain entry to the safe room.
The story becomes even stranger, writes Klein. The ARB states the intruders smoked up Villa C, likely to make breathing so difficult that anyone inside the safe room would need to come out. And that's just what happened, the ARB states, claiming Stevens and his guards had no choice but to exit the safe room to get fresh air.
Except somehow Stevens and his guards made it from the safe room, where they were being smoked out, into a bathroom in the Villa without any of the intruders noticing? That's what the ARB expects readers to believe, writes Klein.
Stevens' guard was said to have led the ambassador into a bathroom with an exterior window. All three crawled into the bathroom.
"ARSO 1 escaped through a window," according to the ARB, believing Stevens and Smith were following him. He later re-entered the building to search for Stevens and Smith. ARSO-1 made it to the roof of the compound, where he radioed for assistance. The ARB states: "ARSO 1 was rescued by a small team that made it back to the nearby CIA safe house."
From there, the fate of Stevens gets even sketchier in the State report. During the attacks, ARSOs entered Villa C several times to search the building, finding and removing Smith's body, but reportedly finding no sign of Stevens.
There is no mention of the knowledge of Stevens whereabouts until approximately 2 a.m. local time, when the Tripoli embassy was said to have received a phone call from ARSO 1's cell phone, and it was determined to have come from the Benghazi Medical Center.
The ARB claims a "male, Arabic-speaking caller said an unresponsive male who matched the physical description of the Ambassador was at a hospital."
"There was confusion over which hospital this might be, and the caller was unable to provide a picture of the Ambassador or give any other proof that he was with him. There was some concern that the call might be a ruse to lure American personnel into a trap."
The ARB said the Benghazi Medical Center was "believed to be dangerous for American personnel due to the possibility attackers were being treated there." It relates a Libyan contact of the special mission "was dispatched to the BMC and later confirmed the Ambassador's identity and that he was deceased."
The description provokes several major questions, writes Klein. First and foremost: How in the world did Stevens body get from a heavily besieged compound to the Benghazi Medical Center?
The ARB reports Stevens was brought to the emergency room by six civilians, believed to have been "good Samaritans."
This "good Samaritans" claim makes little sense, contends Klein.
The ARB itself documents the security officers fleeing the Benghazi compound to the CIA Annex encountered heavy resistance on the way, including roadblocks set up by militants around the compound.
The U.S. officers, the ARB relates, engaged in heavy-fire clashes to make it past the compound periphery.
Yet readers are to believe "good Samaritans" made it past the roadblocks with the body of the most high-profile American in Libya. And just who are these "good Samaritans" in Benghazi, asks Klein, who risked their lives to make it through these checkpoints all the way to the hospital?
Benghazi Medical Center
The Stevens story gets stranger still, notes Klein. After stating a "Libyan contact" went to the Benghazi Medical Center to confirm the presence of Stevens' body, a hospital the ARB calls "dangerous for American personnel," nothing is mentioned about the American ambassador's corpse until later in the morning when a Libyan Air Force C-130 had been provided to transport the Benghazi victims to Tripoli.
All of a sudden, the ARB relates, CIA annex personnel reached out to "Libyan contacts" to coordinate the transport of the presumed remains of Ambassador Stevens to the airport.
Klein notes there is no explanation of how the "Libyan contacts" managed to get Stevens' body out of the "dangerous" hospital.
A closer look at the hospital makes it seem unlikely the hospital staff simply gave up Stevens' body to the U.S. via Libyan contacts. The hospital, it turns out, was said to have been controlled by Ansar al-Sharia, the very group that was reportedly helping to lead the Benghazi attack. The center reportedly fell into the hands of the rebels during the U.S. and NATO-supported revolution that overthrew the regime of Muammar Gadhafi.
In congressional testimony, Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Libya, the second-in-command in the country after Stevens, said the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli was told Stevens was taken to a hospital controlled by Ansar Al-Sharia, the group originally believed to have been behind the Benghazi attack.
The Associated Press previously interviewed a doctor who treated Stevens at the Benghazi Medical Center. Zeid said Stevens was brought alone to the hospital and that no one at the facility knew who he was.
The doctor told the AP that Stevens was close to death upon arrival at 1 a.m. local time, but "we tried to revive him for an hour and a half but with no success." Zeid said Stevens was bleeding from his stomach due to asphyxiation and did not have other injuries, contradicting Internet claims the ambassador's body was abused.
Adding yet another layer of mystery to the killing of Stevens, an Obama administration email released in May states a phone call from the Benghazi Medical Center reported Stevens was at the hospital and was "alive and well" in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attacks.
The email entirely contradicts the ARB 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."
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 conflicts with 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."
U.S. assumed Stevens kidnapped
Enter the Senate's extensive, 88-page report of the Benghazi attack. The Senate report revealed new details of "negotiations" to transport Stevens' body and how the corpse arrived at the tarmac with the waiting evacuation airplane.
The report states: "After more than three hours of negotiations and communications with Libyan officials who expressed concern about the security situation at the hospital, the Libyan government arranged for the Libyan Shield Militia to provide transportation and an armed escort from the airport.
"After learning that Ambassador Stevens was almost certainly dead and that the security situation at the hospital was uncertain, the team opted to go to the Annex to support the other U.S. personnel. The security team from Tripoli departed the airport for the Annex at approximately 4:30 a.m. Benghazi time.
"Less than an hour later, a heavily-armed Libyan militia unit arrived to help evacuate the Annex of all U.S. personnel to the airport. The Ambassador's body, which had been secured by a local Libyan coordinating with the State Department, was also transported from the Benghazi Medical Center to the airport."
Klein asks: "Secured by a local Libyan? Just who was this 'local Libyan' who secured Stevens' body inside an Ansar al-Sharia-controlled hospital? A medical center that was considered so dangerous , the Senate report relates, that after three hours of negotiations the Libyan officials still didn't send in a militia out of concern for the security situation? Like so many other aspects of the official State Department storyline, the claims about what happened to Stevens simply don't withstand scrutiny."
Book breaks 'real' Benghazi story
Besides the Stevens material, the extensively sourced book breaks news on significant issues related to the Benghazi attack.
A sampling of what the publisher says is contained in the book:
- Everything is covered from the secretive activities transpiring inside the doomed facility to shocking new details about the withholding of critical protection at the U.S. special mission.
- Hillary Clinton's personal role in the Benghazi scandal.
- Answered for the first time is why the State Department hired armed members of the al-Qaida-linked February 17 Martyrs Brigade to "protect" the facility.
- New reasons are revealed for not sending air support or Special Forces during the assault, while extensively probing jihadist groups behind the attack.
- How Benghazi has implications that go beyond the Sept. 11, 2012, attack and may have created major national security threats the country now faces, fueling conflicts from Mali to Syria to Gaza and beyond.
See a trailer: