Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the Republican Select Committee on Benghazi answered this question on June 28th (watch him), the day the Report was released:
REPORTER: There are bumper stickers and t-shirts all over this country that say “Hillary Clinton lied. People died.” Maybe Mister (unintelligible) will answer that. Is that true?
A Brief History of the Benghazi Attacks
Who was where before the attack on 9/11, 2012 in Benghazi:
At the State Dept’s Mission compound:
- Ambassador Stevens and assistant Sean Smith
- Wickland and four other armed Diplomatic Security (DS) agents
At the CIA’s Annex: the CIA base a mile from the Mission compound
- Chief of base, “Bob,” and the Team Leader
- Six CIA operators hired from a private security firm
- Tiegen and Geist — Spoke at Convention
- Tanto, D.B., Jack, and Rone
What was happening at the Mission Compound:
[Ambassador Stevens was avoiding] making himself a tempting target … on the anniversary of 9/ 11. (p.74)
[A Libyan guard’s report of someone photographing the Mission] sent the American DS agents into high alert. … A DS agent also informed officials at the CIA Annex of the suspicious incident, as part of their longstanding arrangement to share security information in the event that the GRS operators needed to be called in as a Quick Reaction Force. (p. 74)
Stevens … wrote a final, uneasy diary line for the day: “Never ending security threats…” (p.83)
Smith [wrote an online message] with what now seemed seemed like an anxious prophecy: “assuming we don’t die tonight. (p.157).
[9:42pm Benghazi time:] Several dozen men, chanting in Arabic and firing AK-47s into the air, swarmed through the pedestrian entrance at the Compound’s main gate. Eventually their numbers swelled to more than sixty. Who opened the gate wasn’t clear, but responsibility for the entrance rested with the Blue Mountain [unarmed] Libyan guards. … They had left the gate unlatched before. …
Further complicating matters, the camera monitor in the guard booth at the front gate was broken, and new surveillance cameras shipped to the Compound had yet to be installed. (p.84)
[The DS agents let several dozen men waltz through the front gate after dark on 9/11, after a “high alert” due to an unexplained surveillance photographer and after the well known attack that morning on the US embassy in Cairo. That would seem like a serious breach of responsibility by the five well-armed DS agents at the Mission, not like a failure in Washington.]
Meanwhile at the CIA Annex:
A notice had been posted: “Be advised, we have reports from locals that a Western facility or US Embassy/ Consulate/ Government target will be attacked in the next week.” As a precaution, the operators moved their body armor, long guns, ammunition, night-vision goggles, and other tactical gear into their bedrooms, so they could more quickly ‘jock up.’ … When Tanto saw that everyone on the team had initialed the cable, he shredded it. The date was September 11, 2012. (p. 51)
Geist and a female case officer, who had grown friendly with a Libyan couple through work contacts, left the CIA Annex around 6:00 pm. They stopped at an Internet café for coffee, then drove by the beach on their way to their hosts’ upscale home. (p. 68) [As a consequence, Geist never made it to the Mission compound.]
[9:49pm] Within five minutes of Alec Henderson’s first mayday call from the Compound, Tanto, D.B., Rone, Tiegen, and Jack were jocked up and assembled outside Building C [of the CIA Annex]. (p. 95).
Rone got behind the wheel of the BMW, Jack rode shotgun, and Tiegen slid into the backseat, armed with a grenade launcher in addition to a lightweight machine gun. Tanto and D.B. jumped into the front seat of the Mercedes. Several of the operators demanded to know what they were waiting for.
The Team Leader pulled away from his phone: “We need to come up with a plan,” he said, referring to how they’d coordinate with the 17 February militia. … They likely could have reached the Compound on foot in the time they’d been waiting. (p. 95)
Standing outside the Mercedes, Tiegen called out, “Hey, we gotta go now! We’re losing the initiative!” “No, stand down, you need to wait,” Bob the base chief yelled back. “We need to come up with a plan,” the Team Leader repeated. “It’s too fucking late to come up with a plan,” Tiegen yelled. “We need to get in the fucking area and then come up with a plan.”
Tanto felt as though the chief was looking right through him. “No,” Bob said, “hold up. We’re going to have the local militia handle it.”
Tanto couldn’t believe his ears. He turned to the Team Leader: “Hey, we need to go.”
“No,” the Team Leader said, “we need to wait. The chief [Bob] is trying to coordinate with 17 Feb and let them handle it.”
What do you mean, “Let them handle it?” Tanto demanded. He had little confidence in the 17 February militia, whose members he and several other operators considered as liable to turn on them as to serve alongside them. …
“I’ve been through this before,” Tanto told the Team Leader, “when the chief didn’t let us go when our own guys were in trouble. Go ask Tyrone. He’s right over there. He was one of the guys out there when the chief said to have 17 Feb handle it and held us back.” “Tanto, I know,” the T.L. said. “I’m working on it.”
Tanto returned to the Mercedes SUV and told D.B.: “This is a bunch of fucking bullshit.” D.B. was incredulous. His head slumped forward in frustration. (p. 98)
From their idling vehicles, the operators could vaguely see the orange flames rising from the Compound. (p. 99)
As minutes ticked by and the operators waited for clearance to leave, the air in the vehicles grew thick with tension. The operators imagined bloody scenes of what was happening to their countrymen less than a mile away. And the longer they sat idle, the more likely the same fate awaited them. (p. 100)
The author’s explanation of why “Bob” held up the Quick Reaction force:
If the operators’ Quick Reaction Force remained at the Annex, the CIA wouldn’t be forced to reveal or explain its presence in Benghazi. On the other hand, if American clandestine operators and contract security employees went into combat against radical Islamists, the battle would be guaranteed to attract global attention and massive scrutiny. Especially on September 11. During his previous trips to Benghazi, Tiegen had experienced multiple instances where Bob the base chief had told the operators to “stand down,” even when Americans were potentially in danger, apparently to avoid the risk of exposing the CIA presence. (pp. 110-111).
Base-chief Bob never did give permission. They just left anyway
“If you guys do not get here, we’re going to die!”
That was all it took. Roughly twenty minutes, possibly more, had elapsed since the operators had first mustered at Building C. …
‘We need to go,’ Tanto told the Team Leader. It wasn’t a question. The four other operators felt the same. Tanto told the Team Leader: “Get in the fucking car.”
The Team Leader ended his phone call and got in. They still lacked clearance (p. 111). … “Informal notes” obtained from the CIA indicated that the security team left for the Compound without approval from the base chief, Bob. (p. 297).
[Just returning from their dinner engagement,] Geist and the case officer turned onto Annex Road and pulled through the gate. The BMW and the Mercedes [the Quick Reaction Force] were already gone. (p. 114).
[After 10:14pm] Shortly after the two Quick Reaction Force vehicles left the Annex, a DS agent from the Compound came onto the radio again. This time he made no effort to disguise the panic in his voice. By then Scott Wickland had told his fellow DS agents Alec Henderson and David Ubben that Villa C was on fire and the ambassador and Sean Smith were missing. (pp. 118-119).
[This is a key passage, as is shows that Bob delayed the Quick Reaction Force by about 25 minutes (from 9:49 when they were ready to go), and that consequently Stevens and Smith were already dead when they left for the Mission. This is evident from that fact, noted below in the Republican Benghazi Report, that Wickland phoned in that information at 10:14, and that he had already concluded they were dead and had abandoned his search for them.]
Previously, back at the Mission compound:
Wickland [Stevens’ DS “body man”] quickly rounded up Stevens and Sean Smith in the semi-darkened villa. Shouts and chants and pops of gunfire echoed outside. Wickland instructed the ambassador and the communications expert to don their body armor as he locked all three of them behind the gate in the villa’s safe-haven area. (p. 87)
Instead of trying to blow open the gate and enter the safe haven, the attackers moved back. They hauled in the jerry cans of diesel fuel that they’d found near the Compound’s new generator. … The attackers doused diesel on the overstuffed chairs, pillows, and couches, drenched the Persian rugs, and … As the intruders left, they set the villa ablaze. (p. 104).
[We turn now to the June 28, 2016, Republican Benghazi Report, pages I-39 and I-40.]
[Wickland] attempted to lead them to the bathroom in the safe haven. Once in the bathroom he realized Stevens and Smith had not followed him. Due to the thick toxic smoke, he was unable to see them and did not hear a response from them when he called out. [He] became weak and overcome with smoke and heat. He left the bathroom and crawled to his bedroom where he eventually escaped through a window. After catching his breath, over and over again he crawled back through the bedroom window of Villa C to search for Stevens and Smith.”
[Then the Report includes direct testimony from Wickland.]
“The last time I went out, you know, I decided that if I went back into the building that I wasn’t going to come back out. The smoke and the heat were way too powerful, and way too strong, … so I decided to climb up the ladder to the roof. I climbed up the ladder, and pulled up the ladder behind me and that’s the moment that I knew the Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith were probably dead.”
The “Quick” Reaction Force arrives at the State Dept Mission
[With the main facts now established, from here on I will no longer be quoting sources except when I indicate this with quote marks and page numbers.]
A few minutes after leaving the Annex, the Rapid Reaction Force met the (friendly) 17 February militia at an intersection 400 yards (about a quarter mile) from the front gate of the Mission. The five CIA operators, and five Libyan militiamen went forward on foot. More Libyans joined in after they entered the compound. The militiamen engaged in the fire fights, which occurred before they entered the Mission compound and as they were leaving. Several militiamen were injured by gunfire and one by a grenade. No CIA operators or DS agents were injured by the attackers.
On approaching the compound Tiegen used his grenade launcher to clear out a group of attackers in front of the compound, but once inside they found no remaining attackers. About an hour later, as they were about to leave, they were attacked from the back gate of the compound by rifle and with a grenade launcher. Tiegen shot the man holding the grenade launcher, which silenced those attackers.
All head back to the CIA Annex
All of the Americans left for the CIA base by about 11:30. On the way back, Wickland took a wrong turn and ended up running a gauntlet of attackers. “Immediately the men along the roadway leveled their guns and opened fire. Bullets pounded against the sides of the Land Cruiser. Attackers rolled two grenades under the vehicle. The explosions rocked the SUV and blew out two tires.” (pp. 189-190).
Fortunately the armored Land Cruiser with run-flat tires protected all its occupants and they made it safely to the CIA Annex. The second SUV, with the remaining Americans, arrived soon after.
Before 12:45 the CIA Annex was attacked, but they won that fight handily within 10 minutes.
“Sitting on the roof, Tanto thought back to the amount of time they’d lost at the beginning of the battle, waiting for the OK to respond to the Compound. His anger at Bob the Annex chief flared. “Why did he keep telling us to stand down?” Tanto asked rhetorically, then launched into a profanity-laced attack on Bob. He added sarcastically: ‘He’s probably trying to get 17 Feb to come save us right now, too.’ D.B. felt the same way. He believed that Sean Smith wouldn’t be dead and Chris Stevens wouldn’t be missing, if only they’d rushed to the Compound when they first jocked up.” (p. 223).
Around 3:15 am there was another attack which was more intense. But again it was won by the CIA with 10 minutes.
Reinforcements and then mortars at the CIA Annex
At 5:05 a.m., reinforcements from Tripoli arrived at Annex (I-131). Now that CIA base which normally had only six CIA operators defending it, has 10 such operators and seven State Dept security agents.
Some were preparing to evacuate the Annex in the convoy that had brought the men from Tripoli when the Annex was attacked by mortars at about 5:30 a.m. Then the convoy unexpectedly left. The third of five mortars killed Rone. The fourth killed Glen, a CIA operator from Tripoli, and badly broke Geist’s left arm. The fifth tore him up with shrapnel. Dave Ubben, a Benghazi DS agent, was also badly injured.
At this point, for some unknown reason, the attackers stopped firing. However, according to the Republican Report a member of the Tripoli Team testified: “We decided that the situation we had was untenable to stay at the compound. We didn’t have enough shooters and there were too many wounded.” And another operator stated, “There was no security vehicle, no gun trucks that would help us get to the airport. And we determined we could probably not make it.” (I-143)
“Officer A” calls in a rescue
Unknown to the CIA operators a mysterious CIA “Officer A” at the Annex had “spent a lot of time that night trying to secure help.” Shortly after midnight the 17 February militia had turned him down and given him the phone number of the the National Police, who Officer A considered “next to helpless.” But “after some convincing by Officer A (I-145),” the police officer referred him to a colonel in Libyan Military Intelligence. He had never before spoken to this individual, nor was he even aware of Libyan Military Intelligence.
It was now 4:30 am and the colonel said he would need some time to put a force together. At 6:16, not long after the devastating mortar attack, 50 heavily-armed security vehicles arrived at the Annex prepared to provide protection and to transport all the Americans at the Annex to the Benghazi airport, which they did.
The “extraordinary efforts of Officer A” and the Libyan Military Intelligence likely saved “over two dozen” American lives (I-144).
CIA bungling is nothing new. But knowing nothing of the largest, most organized military force in town might set some kind of record. Especially when it only took a few phone calls to discover it.
And on 9/11, after a warning posted on their own wall, riots at the Egyptian embassy, and a spy photographing the State Dept Mission, the CIA sent one of their six-man Quick Reaction Force (Geist) far off base for a four-hour-long lark and dinner engagement.
But the book and movie are right. The worst offense was holding back the Quick Reaction Force for 25 minutes. Bob let Smith and Stevens die to avoid blowing his CIA cover. That’s the story of 13 Hours, and it’s true.
To sell Trump’s lie, Tiegen and Geist just omit one little detail in their 22-minute talk — the CIA. They never mention it.
Without the CIA in the picture, they can imply a different backstory: Hillary was the evil puppet-master controlling this fiasco. What nonsense. Let me state the obvious so that even Trump and his followers can understand.
Geist and Tiegen were CIA. Bob was CIA. On a CIA base. With no State Dept people.
The State Department was never in charge of the CIA.
Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State