The Unanswered Questions Hillary Clinton Will Answer For on Benghazi ...
By Jennifer Griffin, Adam Housley
Posted on 01/23/13 | News Source Fox News |
DELAY IN MILITARY RESPONSE
Fox News has learned that U.S. Marines who were part of a FAST (Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team) responding to Libya were told by the State Department to deplane, change out of their U.S. military uniforms and put on civilian clothes before flying to Tripoli -- a decision that delayed them from launching by approximately 90 minutes, according to senior military officials who briefed Congress. The FAST team, which was made up of about 50 Marines, was ordered by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to launch from Rota, Spain, the night of the attack on the Benghazi diplomatic mission.
Members of the Special Operations teams sent from Fort Bragg, N.C. and the Commander’s In Extremis Force in nearby Croatia say they were never given permission to enter Libya, even though some were just a short flight away in Europe.
The Accountability Review Board appointed by Clinton and overseen by Adm. Mike Mullen and former Ambassador Thomas Pickering concluded: “The Board members believe every possible effort was made to rescue and recover Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith. The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.”
Why was it necessary for those Marines to change into civilian clothing when it was apparent that U.S. government officials were in imminent danger?
Did the State Department ever secure permission from Libya and Italy to fly armed units and flights to Libya the night of the attack?
U.S. military planes based at both Sigonella and Aviano, Italy, must have permission from the Italian government on a case-by-case basis to take off armed. According to former U.S. military commanders, this is an issue that can stymie rescue efforts, if the State Department does not manage to secure the appropriate permissions from the host government -- Italy, in this case. If those permissions were not secured, is it safe to assume the State Department was reluctant to ask the U.S. military to help in Libya before, during or after the Sept. 11 attack?
Were they concerned about a Black Hawk Down-type situation, losing military assets trying to help with a rescue?
Defense Department spokesman George Little says that the FAST team would not have been in Libya in time to save any lives, and any delays to change out of military uniforms likely did not make a difference since all surviving State Department personnel left the consulate for the CIA Annex about an hour and 45 minutes after the attack began at 9:42 p.m. Libyan time.
However, even according the ARB timeline, Ambassador Chris Stevens’ body was not returned to the Benghazi airport until 8:25 a.m. on Sept. 12.
He remained missing for nearly 11 hours.
Should more have been done to try to retrieve his body from the Benghazi hospital?
DISCREPANCIES IN OFFICIAL DOD TIMELINE
The official Defense Department timeline and the independent Accountability Review Board state that the European Commander in Extremis Force that AFRICOM commander Gen. Carter Ham ordered to Sigonella from a training mission in Europe arrived at 7:57 p.m. on Sept. 12 (nearly 22 hours after the attack began). Fox News has reported it was training in nearby Croatia, a short flight away.
Fox News has learned that a 12-member alert force from the CIF team who were staged to Sigonella from Croatia arrived at the staging base in southern Italy within several hours of being alerted of the attack -- but they were not given permission to move into Libya.
Fox News has also learned that the team of Tier One special operators who took off from the United States landed in Sigonella air base in southern Italy at about 7:30 a.m. local time – an hour before Stevens’ body was retrieved.
And yet the official Defense Department timeline says that this National Mission Force team did not arrive in Sigonella until 9:28 p.m. Libyan time on Sept. 12 (nearly 24 hours after the attack began).
Why the discrepancy in the official Defense Department timeline and the time that those special operators say they landed in Sigonella from the United States?
“FAST MOVERS” WERE PROMISED
The quick reaction force that was mobilized from the Libyan capital was made up of five Americans -- including Glen Doherty, who was on contract with the CIA’s Global Response Staff (or GRS), and two Delta Force special operators who were in Libya on a separate assignment. That was all the hastily rented plane could hold, according to the State Department Review Board. Stevens used the cellphone of Regional Security Officer 1, who is currently recovering at Walter Reed. Stevens was speaking with the Embassy in Tripoli at 9:50 p.m. from the safe room where he and RSO1 had retreated for safety.
When the reaction team left Tripoli for Benghazi several hours after the attack began, they were told by one of the senior U.S. security officials at the Embassy that there would be “fast movers above Benghazi” when they arrived. “Fast movers” is a reference to military jets used to fly over a combat situation. It was a reference to F-18s, F-15s or F-16s that would have been flown in from Europe.
The team that left for Benghazi assumed they would have air cover when they landed. Instead, they got held up at the Benghazi airport without transportation and did not arrive at the CIA Annex to help with the evacuation until 5 a.m. local time on Sept. 12 (more than seven hours after the attack had begun.) Air support never came.
Doherty, a former Navy SEAL, was a part of that team and was killed by a mortar while he and Tyrone Woods manned defensive positions on the roof. Woods did not die immediately from the mortar attack. He bled out over several hours, according to one eyewitness who was there that night.
Fox News has also learned that some of Stevens’ in-country security detail did not accompany him to Benghazi on Sept 11.
Photo Caption: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify today before House and Senate committees on the Libya terror attack. As she prepares to deliver her months-in-the-waiting account, a string of unanswered questions continues to hang over her department and the entire national security team.
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