Eyewitness accounts of the Benghazi attack—broadcast by Fox News over the weekend—have now publicly and directly contradicted the official account as shaped by the State Department, the White House and even the House Intelligence Committee.
During a Fox News special that aired over the weekend, three CIA security staffers posted to Benghazi told reporter Bret Baier they were ready to respond within five minutes after distress calls came in from the U.S. consulate less than a mile away. Under attack from well-armed terrorists on that fateful night two years ago were U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and his small diplomatic staff.
Thursday, Sept. 11, marks the second anniversary of the Benghazi attack, which killed Stevens, communications specialist Sean Smith and Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. It has taken this long for eyewitnesses to come forward, as these three men have now done on Fox and also in a new book “13 Hours in Benghazi” with Boston University journalism professor Mitchell Zuckoff.
The three CIA security contractors—Kris “Tanto” Paronto, Mark “Oz” Geist, and John “Tig” Tiegen previously provided their account to the House Intelligence Committee, which unbelievably issued a report stating that no stand down order was given in Benghazi. “Five minutes, we’re ready,” said Paronto, a former Army Ranger. “It was thumbs up, thumbs up, we’re ready to go.” According to the security operators, the top CIA officer in Benghazi, whom they refer to only as “Bob,” told them to wait.
“It had probably been 15 minutes I think, and … I just said, ‘Hey, you know, we gotta– we need to get over there, we’re losing the initiative,’” said Tiegen. “And Bob just looks straight at me and said, ‘Stand down, you need to wait.’” The three asserted said they were told three times to wait by “Bob.” Finally, after 30 minutes, they took off, asking their superiors to ask for armed air support, which never materialized.
Why did “Bob” give the order to stand down, and who told him to do it? The State Department was in charge of security in Benghazi and had left the facility woefully undefended—particularly for the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Did the orders come from State? All this remains to be ferretted out by the House Benghazi Select Committee, which is now back in session after August recess.
The precise meaning of “stand down order” may be the semantic stumbling block here, but it is now clear that help was critically delayed to the beleaguered Benghazi consulate as the CIA security staff was told to stay put. That’s the bottom line.