Clinton confirms CIA presence in Benghazi at the time of 9/11 attack

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies on the attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, LIbya. She appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 23, 2013. SOURCE: State.gov

In her testimony before the Senate and House foreign relations committees today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed the presence of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Benghazi at the time of the consulate attack on Sept. 11, 2012. 

Clinton’s comments at the hearings also shed light on the security-sharing arrangements between the Benghazi consulate and the nearby Annex, which has been disclosed as a CIA “safe house”.

Read more: List of American casualties & injuries in the attacks against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya

Several U.S. news publications have reported – citing unnamed government sources – that the CIA was present in Benghazi at the time of the attack and that the Benghazi consulate’s main purpose was to provide a “diplomatic cover” for the agency’s intelligence gathering operations on militants and extremists in Eastern Libya.

Read more: Transcript of Senate hearing Q&A: Clinton describes her response to Benghazi consulate attack on Sept. 11-12

During the Senate committee hearing, Clinton confirmed the CIA’s presence in Benghazi when she recounted the actions she took on Sept. 11th and 12th. Clinton revealed that then-CIA Director David Petraeus was among the first people she contacted shortly after receiving news about the attack against the U.S. consulate compound.

“I spoke with former CIA Director Petraeus to confer and coordinate, given the presence of his facility, which of course was not well-known but was something that we knew and wanted to make sure we were closely latched up together,” said Clinton.

Clinton’s remarks during the House committee hearing also confirmed the shared security arrangements between the CIA-run Annex and the Benghazi consulate.

“We had a security presence that was mutually-reinforced with the Annex,” she said.

Prior news reports have indicated that the CIA would provide additional security for the consulate and suggested that arrangement was ostensibly one of the reasons why the State Department decided not to grant the consulate’s request for more security.

“The number of diplomatic security personnel requested in the cables was 5. There were 5 there that night with [Ambassador Chris Stevens], plus there was a mutual understanding with the Annex that had a much more heavily armed presence because of the work that they were doing in the region,” said Clinton.

Read more: UPDATED: Timeline of the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya

Ambassador Stevens and Foreign Service Information Officer Sean Smith died from apparent smoke inhalation after armed militants stormed the consulate compound and set the buildings on fire. The men lost contact with their accompanying Regional Security Officer (RSO) while trying to evacuate the smoke-filled building. Smith’s body was recovered by diplomatic security agents, who searched the building numerous times.

The RSOs were forced to evacuate the consulate compound without Stevens after the building’s ceiling collapsed from the fire damage and U.S. security forces and reinforcements were unable to hold off the swarm of armed intruders. Stevens was found unconscious by LIbyan good samaritans and taken to the local hospital where doctors tried to revive him without success.

Hours later, the CIA Annex, where the consulate personnel retreated, came under hostile fire. A mortar attack killed security personnel and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty and “severely” injured a RSO and an Annex security personnel.

Responding a question on how many troops or security forces it would have taken to “create a totally secure environment” for Ambassador Stevens on Sept. 10th and 11th, Clinton pointed out that the “heavily fortified” CIA Annex also suffered casualties.

“It’s really difficult to – in retrospect – really anticipate what might have been,” said Clinton. “At the Annex – which was much more heavily fortified, had much more heavy military equipment – we lost two of our best and had one of our diplomatic security officers badly injured…So even the Annex, which had more assets in the face of the attack, was suffering losses that night.”

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One Comment on “Clinton confirms CIA presence in Benghazi at the time of 9/11 attack

  1. Pingback: Analysis: Clinton hinted CIA cover was reason why State Department didn't withdraw from Benghazi | What The Folly?!

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