Breaking: Fox News reports CIA command refused to help Benghazi consulate during attack

posted at 12:01 pm on October 26, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, Leon Panetta told reporters that the US military didn’t intervene to assist our consulate in Benghazi during the attack because of a lack of real-time intelligence.  Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin now reports that the CIA got at least three requests for support from the annex in the city to help fend off the attack — and that the chain of command not only refused the requests, but ordered its personnel to “stand down.”  Two of the Americans killed in the terrorist attack disobeyed orders and attempted to rescue their fellow Americans:

Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that three urgent requests from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. Consulate and subsequent attack nearly seven hours later were denied by officials in the CIA chain of command — who also told the CIA operators to “stand down” rather than help the ambassador’s team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

Former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were part of a small team who were at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. Consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When they heard the shots fired, they radioed to inform their higher-ups to tell them what they were hearing. They were told to “stand down,” according to sources familiar with the exchange. An hour later, they called again to headquarters and were again told to “stand down.”

Woods, Doherty and at least two others ignored those orders and made their way to the Consulate which at that point was on fire. Shots were exchanged. The quick reaction force from the CIA annex evacuated those who remained at the Consulate and Sean Smith, who had been killed in the initial attack. They could not find the ambassador and returned to the CIA annex at about midnight.

At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied. There were no communications problems at the annex, according those present at the compound. The team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters. In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound. The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Specter gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights. The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours — enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.

It’s not as if there was no resources to respond, either:

A Special Operations team, or CIF which stands for Commanders in Extremis Force, operating in Central Europe had been moved to Sigonella, Italy, but they too were told to stand down. A second force that specializes in counterterrorism rescues was on hand at Sigonella, according to senior military and intelligence sources. According to those sources, they could have flown to Benghazi in less than two hours. They were the same distance to Benghazi as those that were sent from Tripoli. Specter gunships are commonly used by the Special Operations community to provide close air support.

Griffin’s sources tell her that the annex had painted a laser target at a terrorist mortar position and had called for an air strike.  I’m not sure what that looks like in Panetta’s world, but it at least sounds like real-time intelligence on the attack, as well as a clear target, if this report is correct.

Saxby Chambliss is right — this gets uglier every day.

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