CIA personnel led by ex-Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, who later lost his life in the attack during the September 11 Ansar al Sharia attack on U.S. installations in Benghazi, disobeyed orders to "stand down." Defying orders, Woods and other CIA personnel braved enemy fire to return to the consulate to rescue Ambassador Chris Stevens and information officer Sean Smith. Hours later, as the battle continued at the CIA annex one mile from the consulate, requests for laser-targeted fire from a Specter gunship, and additional support from special forces in Signonella, Italy, were repeatedly denied by unknown U.S. Defense and State Department officials.
This new information, as first reported by Fox News, may clarify the motivation for the lengthy time period during which Obama administration officials insisted that the incident was a spontaneous riot of local people objecting to the controversial Innocence of Muslims film.
According to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, "There's a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on here ... the basic principle here ... is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on."
CIA personnel at the embattled annex, which was under fire for approximately 8 hours, were in constant radio contact with their headquarters. Additional reports indicate that two unmanned drones were also sending real-time video images to Defense and State Department officials in Washington.
The reinforcements that did arrive were 8 special-ops personnel from Tripoli, who reached the CIA annex approximately 4 hours after the initial consulate attack. The Tripoli team included ex-Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, who along with Tyrone Woods was killed by one of four mortar shells fired at the annex at 4 a.m., approximately 7 hours after the battle began.
Woods, Doherty, and others who were part of the CIA's response team, were not stationed in Libya to protect the U.S. consulate or the embassy in Tripoli. Prior to the attack, their mission had been to locate and collect more than 20,000 shoulder-held missiles known as MANPADS, which had gone missing after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
Parents of those killed in the incident have demanded information about why their children died without help or reinforcements. Charles Woods, father of Tyrone Woods, has said that shaking hands with the president after his son died was "like shaking hands with a dead fish." Pat Smith, mother of slain information officer Sean Smith, has said "Some of the people [from the government] looked me right in the eye and lied to me."
In the final Benghazi irony on the day of the attack, Ambassador Stevens had attended the opening of an English-language school founded by a Libyan farmer who had saved the life of an American pilot who had been shot down by pro-Gaddafi forces last year.
Reinforcements did arrive to support the embattled annex, but not Americans. Dozens of armed vehicles from the February 17 Brigade, a Libyan militia, joined the battle approximately one hour before the deaths of Woods and Doherty. This fact was reported on September 12 by Libyans on their Facebook feed. I read their information at the time, still believing the incident was a "spontaneous riot" over the Innocence of Muslims film. On September 12, I thought the incident was a street riot during the daytime, not an all-night battle covering a 1 mile area, two separate buildings, and threatening hundreds of Libyan and dozens of American lives.