Report: Obama never convened counterterrorism task force during Benghazi attack

This piece is as noteworthy for its sourcing as it is for its substance. The dam’s starting to break.

“The [Counterterrorism Security Group] is the one group that’s supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies,” a high-ranking government official told CBS News. “They were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon.”…

Counterterrorism sources and internal emails reviewed by CBS News express frustration that key responders were ready to deploy, but were not called upon to help in the attack

Another senior counter terrorism official says a hostage rescue team was alternately asked to get ready and then stand down throughout the night, as officials seemed unable to make up their minds.

A third potential responder from a counter-terror force stationed in Europe says components of AFICOM — the military’s Africa Command based in Stuttgart, Germany — were working on course of action during the assault. But no plan was put to use…

“The response process was isolated at the most senior level,” says an official referring to top officials in the executive branch. “My fellow counterterrorism professionals and I (were) not consulted.”

Inexplicably, they also didn’t call on their rapid-reaction counterterrorism coordination squad, the Foreign Emergency Support Team, even though the consulate attack was, um, (a) foreign and (b) an emergency that (c) required support. So confused was the administration response, in fact, that CBS claims the FBI got a call from someone in Hillary’s office during the attack asking that agents be sent in, even though the compound hadn’t been secured yet and nothing by way of coordination with Defense and State had been arranged. And before you ask: No, I don’t know either why State would have thought to call the FBI while CSG and FEST were standing by waiting to be consulted. Logically, you’d ask for the FBI only after the attack was over, to go in and find out what happened. In a situation where the ambassador’s under fire and out of contact, your top priority should be rescue. Why wasn’t it? They couldn’t have known for sure until much later in the attack what had happened to Stevens and the other Americans at the consulate. Why weren’t troops deployed to retake the compound, search for survivors, and clear the way for FEST? Doherty and Woods, at least, might have been saved.

Read the rest of the CBS piece to find out how counterterror officials knew the attack was terrorism from the beginning, not some “spontaneous” assault put together by amateurs in a rage. Amateurs typically don’t know how to dial in with mortars and hit a target on the roof of a nearby building. Then go read David Ignatius on the new timeline that the AP released tonight of the attack and its aftermath. Says Ignatius, “While there were multiple errors that led to the final tragedy, there’s no evidence that the White House or CIA leadership deliberately delayed or impeded rescue efforts.” I have no idea how he knows that based on the limited details given; the CBS piece quoted above explicitly says that a hostage rescue team was asked to get ready and then stand down. And we already knew that the CIA deployed a small team to try to take back the compound; Doherty and Woods were part of it. The question raised by last week’s Fox News bombshell is whether the CIA team on the scene had requested military support during the second wave of the attack and whether it was denied. Here’s all Ignatius has to say about that:

●5:15 a.m.: A new Libyan assault begins, this time with mortars. Two rounds miss and the next three hit the roof. The rooftop defenders never “laser the mortars,” as has been reported. They don’t know the weapons are in place until the indirect fire begins, nor are they observed by the drone overhead. The defenders have focused their laser sights earlier on several Libyan attackers, as warnings not to fire. At 5:26 the attack is over. Woods and Doherty are dead and two others are wounded.

Okay, got it — no lasering of the mortars. What about the request for a Spectre gunship? What about the Special Ops teams in Italy who were on stand by all night but were never told to go? Why did the CIA bother sending in a team as small as Doherty’s and Woods’s against 150 jihadis if the White House wasn’t prepared to send reinforcements to support them? Might have been nice to have input from the Counterterrorism Security Group through all of this, huh?