Clinton confirms CIA presence in Benghazi at the time of 9/11 attack
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”.
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.
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.
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.”
- C-Span.org: Sec. of State Clinton Testifies on U.S. Consulate Attack in Benghazi
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Hillary Clinton’s testimony on the Benghazi attack before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript of Senate hearing Q&A: Clinton describes her response to Benghazi consulate attack on Sept. 11-12
- WhatTheFolly.com: List of American casualties & injuries in the attacks against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya
- WhatTheFolly.com: Summary of the State Department’s Accountability Review Board findings on the Benghazi consulate attack
- WhatTheFolly.com: Accountability Review Board blames inadequate security at Benghazi consulate on “systemic failures” and “management deficiencies” at the State Department
- State Department: Accountability Review Board’s report on the Benghazi consulate attack – December 2012 (PDF)
- State Department: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s letter to Congress on the Accountability Review Board’s report on the Benghazi consulate attack – December 2012 (PDF)
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Deputy Secretary William Burns’s remarks on the ARB’s report on the Benghazi consulate attack
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Ambassador Tom Pickering’s remarks on the ARB’s report on the Benghazi consulate attack
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Admiral Mike Mullen’s remarks on the ARB’s report on the Benghazi consulate attack
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript of press briefing Q&A on the Accountability Review Board’s findings on the Benghazi consulate attack
- WhatTheFolly.com: U.S. Embassy in Tripoli denied repeated requests for additional security prior to Benghazi attack
- WhatTheFolly.com: Timeline of the deteriorating security condition in Benghazi prior to consulate attack
- WhatTheFolly.com: UPDATED: Timeline of the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya
- WhatTheFolly.com: U.S. Ambassador & 3 Americans killed in Libya attack
- Wall Street Journal: CIA Takes Heat for Role in Libya
- New York Times: Deadly Attack in Libya Was Major Blow to C.I.A. Efforts
- New York Times: C.I.A. Played Major Role Fighting Militants in Libya Attack