Gowdy: Witnesses are telling us of a stand-down order during Benghazi attack

posted at 10:01 am on January 15, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

The film 13 Hours depicts the brutal attack and sacking of our consulate in Benghazi from the perspective of the men who fought and died to defend it. The Michael Bay film depicts a unit of responders being given a “stand down” order, which critics claim perpetuates a debunked allegation that investigators have long since retired. Not so says Trey Gowdy, the chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, who wonders why people have reached conclusions before all the witnesses have had a chance to testify. In fact, some first-person witnesses insist to this day that such an order was given:

Rep.Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said Wednesday that a number of witnesses had confirmed a stand-down order was given to military assets in proximity to Benghazi the night of the 2012 terror attack, while others said no one issued such an order.

“The best I can do is tell you what the witnesses say, and then you can decide who you think is more credible,” Gowdy said during an interview with Boston Herald Radio. …

“I don’t know why the mainstream media doesn’t understand that you have to talk to everyone before you draw conclusions,” Gowdy said, noting the committee has roughly 12 witnesses left to interview before winding down its investigation.

Politico reported last night on the controversy, fueled by a former Special Ops commando who fought in Benghazi. Kris Paronto insists he was given a stand-down order, and tells Rachel Bade that he’s not going to stay quiet to save someone’s political career:

With Michael Bay’s “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” set to premiere Thursday, the five surviving members of the six-man Benghazi security team have blitzed the airwaves to promote the film and renew their assertion that a top CIA officer delayed them from immediately answering State Department distress calls. Three even testified to the same before the House Select Committee on Benghazi last spring, several sources have confirmed to POLITICO.

“There is no sensationalism in that: We were told to ‘stand down,’” said former Special Forces Officer Kris Paronto, one of the CIA contractors who fought that night, in an interview with Politico. “Those words were used verbatim — 100 percent. … If the truth of it affects someone’s political career? Well, I’m sorry. It happens.” …

Lawmakers have grappled with the question of a stand-down order before, and several bipartisan reports on the attacks have found no evidence of such a command being passed down the chain. Moreover, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the CIA and the Defense Department have long dismissed the idea that anyone would have held back help.

But the renewed allegations have forced lawmakers to wrestle with the issue again, and Republicans in particular may find themselves in an awkward spot. If GOP members of the Benghazi panel dispute Paronto’s assertion, they could look like they’re disparaging Americans who fought and died in service of the country. But if they side with Paronto, investigators would directly contradict some big-name intelligence officials, including former CIA Director David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who say no one was ordered to stand down.

Yeah, well, finding out that Hillary Clinton and James Clapper might not have told the whole truth won’t be as big of a surprise as Bade surmises, nor as “awkward” for Republicans either. Republicans don’t have any reason to defend or attack Panetta, but Petraeus might be a little different for them. Nevertheless, much of that calculation depends on who and where that order might have originated; one or more of them might not have been in the command chain for such an order.

This puts the issue in the wrong direction, though. Isn’t it a little more awkward to call the men who fought to rescue Americans liars compared to assuming that politicians in Washington might have something to hide? What motivation does Paronto have to keep pressing this point? The motives for Hillary Clinton, James Clapper, and others in the chain of command to obfuscate this point — if true — are rather obvious.

Later this evening, I’ll finally get a chance to see 13 Hours. I hope to have a review up this weekend for it. In the meantime, Michael Bay may give Trey Gowdy an opening to reset the narrative.


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