A slew of new reporting this morning debunks Fox News reports claiming that the Obama administration withheld assistance during the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya. With these revelations, the combined conservative narrative as led by Fox News — that the Obama administration failed to respond adequately during the attack and that mainstream media has not covered Benghazi enough — is in further disarray.
The Los Angeles Times’ version of the CIA’s role focuses the most heavily on pushing back on Fox’s spin:
“At every level in the chain of command, from the senior officers in Libya to the most senior officials in Washington, everyone was fully engaged in trying to provide whatever help they could,” a senior intelligence official said in a statement. “There were no orders to anybody to stand down in providing support.”
Fox reporter Jennifer Griffin claimed in an “exclusive” report last week that the CIA denied Tyrone Woods, one of the four Americans killed in the attack, permission to help repel the assault. Griffin’s reporting spun off into a bevy of conspiracy theories on the far right. The Pentagon, White House, and CIA had all previously denied refusing requests for support. The New York Times reports on the Pentagon’s involvement:
[A] senior official also sought to rebut reports that C.I.A. requests for support from the Pentagon that night had gone unheeded.
In fact, the official said, the military diverted a Predator drone from a reconnaissance mission in Darnah, 90 miles away, in time to oversee the mission’s evacuation. The two commandos, based at the embassy in Tripoli, joined the reinforcements. And a military transport plane flew the wounded Americans and Mr. Stevens’s body out of Libya.
The new reports also contain previously unreported details about the CIA’s role in Benghazi. President Obama and Secretary of Defense Panetta did order U.S. forces into the region, but the CIA was the first to respond to the attack, arriving on the scene in under half an hour.
The lack of security at the outpost in Benghazi, far removed from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, has been the subject of inquiry by both Fox News and Congressional Republicans. The Wall Street Journal sheds new light onto why that was the case. The CIA and State Department had entered into a series of secret deals in which the Agency would provide emergency security to the diplomats operating within Libya.
While the State Department primarily relied upon local Libyan militias for day-to-day protection, as well as contracted British private security, the arrangement between it and the CIA explains why the outpost seemed under-protected. The revelation also will prompt a renewed look at the State Department’s decisions to remove Department of Defense-provided security from the Embassy in Tripoli, which were highly scrutinized during Rep. Darrel Issa’s hearings.
The primary role of the CIA was intelligence gathering and covert operations within Benghazi. Agents there operated out of an annex originally reported to be an offshoot of the diplomatic mission, revealed officially — and accidentally — during Issa’s highly politicized hearing into the Benghazi attacks. The Agency’s large presence may also help explain why the diplomatic compound was open to journalists and looters for weeks after the attack, as more vital intelligence documents were collected.
Washington Post’s David Ignatius has gone as far as to produce a detailed minute-by-minute timeline, of the events that night. These reports together give the clearest picture yet of the events in Benghazi. Rather than the Obama Presidency unraveling as the news organization has claimed, it appears to be Fox News’ narrative that is coming undone instead.