What Really Happened in Consulate Benghazi? The Truths Are Out There, Lots of Them …

Updated 9/25

Patricia Kushlis of WhirledView has her own questions here.

One more question: What role did social media played in this attack?  I am told that Ambassador Stevens was scheduled to open the “American Space” in Benghazi, that’s why he was there. A day before the attack, the Embassy tweeted this:

In late August, Ambassador Stevens opened the Consular Section in Tripoli.  If bad guys were monitoring the embassy’s media digs, one could easily guess that the Amb or someone higher up in the Embassy would be the official to open the new American Center in Benghazi. In fact, the Public Affairs Officer and the Economic Officer were both scheduled to be there with him for the opening. So all the bad guys would have needed was to stay ready and watch for an opportunity to attack. –DS

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In the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack, UK’s The Independent reports that sensitive documents have gone missing from the consulate in Benghazi and the supposedly secret location of the “safe house” in the city, where the staff had retreated, came under sustained mortar attack.

An Angry Crowd and Security People Run Away

It also reported that the Benghazi compound perimeter was breached within 15 minutes of an angry crowd starting to attack it at around 10pm on Tuesday night. There was, according to witnesses, little defence put up by the 30 or more local guards meant to protect the staff.

Ali Fetori, a 59-year-old accountant who lives near the compound said: “The security people just all ran away and the people in charge were the young men with guns and bombs.”

Wissam Buhmeid, the commander of the Tripoli government-sanctioned Libya’s Shield Brigade, effectively a police force for Benghazi, maintained that it was anger over the Mohamed video which made the guards abandon their post:  “There were definitely people from the security forces who let the attack happen because they were themselves offended by the film; they would absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate. The deaths are all nothing compared to insulting the Prophet.”

Or There Wasn’t a Single Ant and Then There were 125 Armed Men

A Libyan guard at the Consulate in Benghazi (apparently one who did not run away) interviewed by McClatchy News in the hospital where he was being treated for five shrapnel wounds in one leg and two bullet wounds in the other, said that the consulate area was quiet – “there wasn’t a single ant outside,” he said – until about 9:35 p.m., when as many as 125 armed men descended on the compound from all directions.

Mohammad al Bishari who had leased the compound to the USG also said in the same McClatchy report that the attack began with assailants carrying assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and the black flag of Ansar al Shariah moving from two directions against the compound.

How did he know that? Was he an eyewitness?

Ambassador Rice on Spontaneous

On September 16, Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos: “What this began as was a spontaneous, not a premeditated response to what happened in Cairo.”

Really now. This was five days after the attack. Surely Ambassador Rice, said to be in the short list as the next Secretary of State if there is an Obama II term could have waited a while longer. The State Department had already announced that the FBI is investigating; five days after the attack with no official presence on the ground, with the consulate compound not even secured by US or Libyan Forces to protect forensic evidence, how do we know that this attack was spontaneous or premeditated?   (The FBI arrived in Libya on September 18). I wonder what do you gain by going on teevee and saying this when the investigation is ongoing?

Blue Mountain Contracted Guards at Consulate Benghazi

On September 17, Danger Room reported that four months before the Benghazi attack, the State Department signed a contract for ** “security guards and patrol services” at a cost of $387,413.68. An extension option brought the tab for protecting the consulate to $783,284.79. The contract which is for the Local Guard Program lists only “foreign security awardees” as its recipient. But Danger Room has confirmed that the contract recipient was Blue Mountain, a British company that provides “close protection; maritime security; surveillance and investigative services; and high risk static guarding and asset protection.” (** Go to the Federal Procurement Data System and search of Benghazi to view contracts, site does not have permalink)

Libyan Officials on Warnings, Preplanned Attacks

In any case, on September 19, CNN’s Arwa Damon reported that Libyan military officials told her, that just three days before the attacks, the Libyans had a meeting with senior employees from the consulate where they were talking about this rising threat against western interests.  Supposedly , the Libyan officials said the meeting highlighted the point that the Libyan government could not control militias.

As if somehow that was news to the Americans whose compound was previously attacked in June and where one car was almost carjacked in Tripoli just a month ago.

Then on September 20, WaPo reports that Libyan President Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf said in an interview on CBS’s “Face The Nation:”

“The way these perpetrators acted, and moved … and they’re choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration, I think we have no, this leaves us with no doubt that this was preplanned, determined…predetermined.”

GOP Intel Chair on Non-Protest in Benghazi

On September 23, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union: “I have seen no information that shows that there was a protest going on as you have seen around any other embassy at the time.[…] It was clearly designed to be an attack.”

But what did he see? Are they colored?

So of course, there are lots of questions

The office in Benghazi is not an American Presence Post (APP), and not a Consulate, Consulate General or Consular Agency.  It’s called the U.S. Office Benghazi and is not listed in the Key Officers of Foreign Service Posts, or in the State Department list of US embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions. And yet, there were roughly 30 personnel reportedly evacuated from the compound following the attack.  Who was in charged of the office? Other Government Agency?

Who knew about the location of the “safe house” in Benghazi? Who leaked the supposedly secret location?

What happened to the US contracted guards? Did they really run away? What were the nationalities of the US contracted guards? Were they Libyans, UK nationals, third country nationals, what? Who was or who were Ambassador Stevens’ closed in guards? Did he have a US direct hire RSO as one of his closed in guards or not? (WSJ reports that five armed State Department diplomatic security officers were at the consulate during the attack).

What happened to the Libyan guards who were responsible for the outer perimeter? Did they let the attack happen because they “absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate?” If they did not let the attack happen, how long before the Libyan forces reinforcement get to the compound?

How could the Libyan guard interviewed at a hospital tell that there were as many as 125 men attacking the compound? Did he count them while he was down?  Why was he shoot on the legs and not at any other part of his body? Were the militants firing at the ground?

Unidentified Libyan military officials tell CNN that they highlighted the “rising threat against western interests” during a meeting with consulate officials three days before the attack. Why? The rising threat is not a secret if you’re following Libyan news. Is this a CYA line of — we told them, we told them, and they did not do anything? Which consulate officials did they met?

Are people’s recollection of events generally reliable in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic incident like this, or are they generally reliable much later after they have thought about it some more?

Why would someone say there was an angry crowd and that guards put up little defense or ran away if that did not happen?

Why would  the reported commander of Benghazi Police force say that there were some people from the security forces who let the attack happen if that was not true? Did he not realized saying that sounds bad on the news, and makes Libyan forces look bad?

On the night he was killed, Sean Smith AKA Vile Rat was online with his friend The Mittani and wrote this:

(12:54:09 PM) vile_rat: assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures

If the consulate compound was so quiet that “there wasn’t a single ant outside” — why would one of the Libyan police guarding the compound be taking pictures? That would have been quite a boring picture, wouldn’t it?

And if there was already a shooting war with as many as 125 militants descending on the compound, and one of the Libyan police guarding the compound was taking pictures, was he no more than a spectator instead of doing his job of actually protecting the diplomatic compound?

Ansar al-Sharia, a hard-line Islamist militia has been linked to the attack on Benghazi; the group denied it. The Libyan President al-Magarief told Al Jazeera that he think this was Al Qaeda. Of course, his own Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al_Sharif also claimed during a news conference that those who attacked the U.S. consulate were Gaddafi loyalists.

Were the attackers Qaddafi loyalists? Were they Al Qaeda affiliates? If they are the latter, when was the last time an Al Qaeda group or subgroup passed up on a chance to gloat over dead Americans? Like never.  Are members of  Ansar al-Sharia the perpetrators of this horrific attack or are they the scapegoat for a collective national guilt?

I hope that the Accountability Review Board be convened quickly so they can start their work and provide answers to these questions and many more questions surrounding this attack.

Sean Smith died that night. He had no reason to spin what happened either way. But others sure have good enough reasons.

If this was a spontaneous attack, precipitated by the anti-Islam video clip, who gains?

If this was a premeditated, terrorist attack, who gains?

The truth is out there. The Libyan Government’s truth. The Libyan people’s truth. The American Government’s truth. The Dem’s truth, the GOP’s truth, this is an election year after all, so versions of truths is unsurprisingly de rigueur.

And somewhere in the middle of all that is the real truth.  I hope we get there. We owe it to our dead and their loved ones to find it.

Related articles

Outrage! Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others killed in Benghazi, Libya

I posted about the mob attack at the US Office/Consulate in Benghazi around midnight last night (see US Embassy Libya: Protesters storm the US Office in Benghazi, kill one American officer, wound others).  I understand then from my State Department source that Ambassador Stevens and two other senior embassy officials were in Benghazi for the opening of the American Center there but that they were in a safe haven during the attack.  I went to bed hoping the insanity had flamed out during the night only to wake up with the news that Ambassador Stevens and three other staff had been killed.  Ambassador Stevens is the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979 1995.

Correction: US Ambassador to Afghanistan Spike Dubs was killed in 1979 in an exchange of fire after a kidnapping attempt. But in 1988, we also lost Ambassador Arnie Raphel who was killed in along with Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq and Brigadier General Herbert M. Wassom when their plane mysteriously crashed shortly after takeoff from Bahawalpur.  Then in 1995, the first US Ambassador to Estonia Robert Frasure was killed in an automobile accident on the Igman mountain near Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina while on a mission to negotiate a U.S. proposal to end the conflict in Bosnia. WaPo has a list of ambassadors killed in the line of duty here, but the list does not include Ambassador Frasure. (Thanks Jeff Z!)

Photo via Senator McCain’s tweet – http://lockerz.com/s/223075753

I don’t know if there is anyone out there who is not outrage by these attacks. Ambassador Stevens was our man in Benghazi during the Libyan revolution. He helped save that city and he was happy to be back in Libya. Then they killed him.

The AP is reporting that the Libyan doctor who treated Ambassador  Stevens at the Benghazi Medical Center says that he tried for 90 minutes to revive him but that our top diplomat in Libya died of severe asphyxiation.

Ziad Abu Zeid told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Stevens was brought to the Benghazi Medical Center by Libyans the night before, with no other Americans and that initially no one realized he was the ambassador.

Abu Zeid said Stevens had “severe asphyxia,” apparently from smoke inhalation, causing stomach bleeding, but had no other injuries.

There are hard to look photos here reportedly of Ambassador Stevens body being “dragged” from the “embassy.”  But the smoke on this attack has yet to clear. Elsewhere it is reported that he was in a car hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.  I cannot tell from just looking at these photos if he was indeed dragged from the diplomatic compound by militants or, if true that he was attack in a car, if this is him dragged out of a car.

Libyan officials condemned the attack on a US consulate in Libya yesterday, with interim President Mohamed el Megarif calling the attack “cowardly” and apologizing to the US, vowing to apprehend the killers.

“We extend our apology to America, the American people and the whole world.”

But CSM reports that Libya’s deputy interior minister, Wanis al-Sharif, said in a press conference aired on Al Jazeera that the killings were carried out not by an Islamist group but by members of the former regime of Muammar Qaddafi. And he implied that the US consulate was at fault for not taking adequate security measures.

“They are to blame simply for not withdrawing their personnel from the premises, despite the fact that there was a similar incident when [Al-Qaeda second-in-command and Libyan citizen] Abu Yahya al-Libi was killed. It was necessary that they take precautions. It was their fault that they did not take the necessary precautions,” said Mr. Sharif, according to Al Jazeera.

A shocking and an outrageous response no less.  What is clear here is that the Libyan Government utterly failed in its duty to protect our diplomats in that country.  I would not be surprise if other countries would now scale down, even  withdraw their diplomatic staff from Libya. If they cannot protect US diplomats, how can anyone expect them to protect other diplomats? Our government protects Libyan diplomats in the United States, how is it that some Libyan official washes his hand from his country’s responsibility?

While I sure would like to see Libya apprehend the culprit/s and take them to court, how do you find the killers out of a mob? How can we even tell that whoever is trotted out in front of cameras is the trigger happy nut?

And while the USG is clear in making its distinction that “this was an attack by a small and savage group – not the people or Government of Libya” one cannot ignore the fact that this attack was perpetuated in Libyan soil. Secretary Clinton’s statement makes it sound as if this act was not done by Libyans.  Are we now going to drag the Al Qaeda carcass out as perpetrators?

I hope that an Accountability Review Board is convened as soon as possible with its report released to the public at its conclusion.

Here is President Obama via PBS NewsHour

Click here to read Secretary Clinton’s statement.  President Obama also has a statement here.

The only other American casualty identified so far is Sean Smith, an Air Force veteran who spent the last 10 years as an information management officer in the State Department.  He left behind a wife and two young children.  He also is known as Vile Rat in a gaming community. Below is an excerpt from The Mittani:

So: Vile Rat, Sean Smith, my friend for over six years, both in real life and in internet spaceships, was the “State Department Official” killed in Benghazi by a mob of religious lunatics, who had been incited to violence on this September 11th by a movie that was apparently made sometime in July. Obviously, given the combined attacks in Egypt and in Libya, this was a coordinated act designed for maximum media exposure; rile up a mob, point them at an embassy or consulate on 9/11 in particular, aim for the press. Many were injured in these pointless, reprehensible acts, and one of my closest friends was killed as a result.

(12:54:09 PM) vile_rat: assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures

We knew that Vile Rat was in Benghazi; he told us. He commented on how they use guns to celebrate weddings and how there was a constant susurrus of weaponry in the background. He was in situ to provide IT services for the consulate, which meant he was on the net all the time, hanging out with us on Jabber as usual and talking about internet spaceship games.
[…]
He was on jabber when it happened, that’s the most fucked up thing. In Baghdad the same kind of thing happened – incoming sirens, he’d vanish, we’d freak out and he’d come back ok after a bit. This time he said ‘FUCK’ and ‘GUNFIRE’ and then disconnected and never returned.

There are more tributes online here.

The Guardian has a live blog of the attack with extensive links to sources elsewhere.