Early reports suggested the gates might have been blown open. But none of the gates show any evidence of this. The back and side gates bear no damage at all, and the black wrought-iron gate at the front sports only two small-caliber bullet holes. The yellow-painted walls around the front gate bear only four ricochet marks made by heavier weaponry, presumably AK-47s.

So maybe the militants scaled the compound’s walls, instead. The four-building consulate property backs onto Benghazi’s busy Venice Road and fronts onto a quiet residential side street of large villas. On three sides, the compound is surrounded by high, breeze-block walls ranging from eight to nine feet, depending on the level of the ground. The walls are topped off by concertina wire. But the fourth wall is lower, more of a fence, and could easily have been vaulted that night without the four armed Libyan or five American diplomatic security guards noticing until the assailants had moved through the orchards of fruit trees. U.S. State Department briefers say the diplomatic security agent manning the CCTV monitors raised the alarm when he saw armed men already pouring through the compound…

In the dimly-lit street, he told his men the Americans would sit inside the pick-ups and they would all have to climb up on the flatbeds. It was about 4 a.m. As they did so, a small-caliber single shot rang out. Febrayir froze; so did his men. Within seconds there was a whooshing sound of several rocket-propelled grenades being fired. Then a mortar hit the annex roof with startling accuracy, killing former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. The accuracy of the mortar round points to an experienced hand. “But then we have many fighters nowadays who fought in the rebellion and who are experienced with mortars,” Febrayir says.

“Before we even showed up they were there waiting,” Febrayir says. He remains convinced that the security for the rescue was compromised and that attackers were not only eavesdropping on radio chatter but were fed by someone from inside the operations room. He never found out who was exactly in the Chevys. They sped off—as did the two Libyan Shield cars. He never saw them again.