Reason given for stand down orders in Benghazi
The Fox “stand down” story prompted a strong rebuttal from the CIA: “We can say with confidence that the agency reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi. Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.”
So what did happen in Benghazi on the night of Sept. 11, when Woods, Ambassador Christopher Stevens and two others Americans were killed? The best way to establish the facts would be a detailed, unclassified timeline of events; officials say they are preparing one, and that it may be released later this week. That’s a must, even in the volatile final week of the campaign. In the meantime, here’s a summary of some of the basic issues that need to be clarified.
First, on the question of whether Woods and others were made to wait when they asked permission to move out immediately to try to rescue those at the consulate. The answer seems to be yes, but not for very long. There was a brief, initial delay — two people said it was about 20 minutes — before Woods was allowed to leave. One official said Woods and at least one other CIA colleague were “in the car revving the engine,” waiting for permission to go. Woods died about six hours later, after he returned to the annex.
The main reason for the delay, several sources said, was that CIA officials were making urgent contact with a Libyan militia, known as the February 17 Brigade, which was the closest thing to an organized security force in Benghazi. The United States depends on local security to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities everywhere, and officials wanted to coordinate any response to the consulate attack. After this delay, Woods and his colleague proceeded to the consulate.
Here’s my question: Was it wise to depend on a Libyan militia that clearly wasn’t up to the job? Could it have made a difference for those under attack at the consulate if Woods had moved out as soon as he was, in one official’s words, “saddled and ready”?Ignatius also raises questions about why armed drones were not sent to watch over the Americans in Benghazi. This appears to be the first push back from someone associated with the Washington Post. Clearly relying on the local militia was a mistake. That we continued to rely on them hours after the initial attack appears reckless. I still see no reason why they could not have sent Spectre Gunships and fighter jets with precision ammo to support those under seige at the CIA annex.
The stand down order was also a costly mistake that may have cost the ambassador's life.