Re-re-re-debunking the Benghazi ‘stand down’ rumors


Hillary Clinton testifies about the Benghazi attacks in January 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Testimony from closed-door interviews with military leaders who were stationed in Tripoli on the night of September 11, 2012, should lay to rest the rumor that American forces were told to "stand down" instead of traveling to Benghazi to assist in repelling the terror attacks that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other men. But it almost certainly won't lay the rumor to rest, since the testimony was already essentially public.

The Associated Press reported on Thursday that there was an order given "to remain in Tripoli and protect some three dozen embassy personnel rather than fly to Benghazi some 600 miles away after all Americans there would have been evacuated" -- an order that has been mischaracterized, according to the officers involved.

We knew this. In February, the House Armed Services Committee -- chaired by Republican Rep. Buck McKeon -- released a report that made that point clearly.


The testimony reported by the AP appears to have been the same testimony that helped inform the House committee report.

There is an ancillary "stand down" rumor involving CIA officers stationed at the secondary, annex facility in Benghazi when the main compound came under attack. But that has been addressed, too. The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report in January making that point.


In fact, the CIA took the unusual step of rejecting this claim on the record in November of 2012. It released a statement that read, in part: "[N]o one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate." And, to CNN: "There were no orders to anybody to stand down in providing support."

When Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) suggested that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had given such an order, the Post's Glenn Kessler walked through the evidence against the idea, which is lengthy. Issa's claim is nonetheless revelatory: The rumors persist because Benghazi is and will remain a potent political topic until Hillary Clinton is or isn't elected president in November 2016.

And so, even after the AP story was making the rounds, there were tweets like this:

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He previously wrote for The Wire, the news blog of The Atlantic magazine. He has contributed to The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Daily, and the Huffington Post. Philip is based in New York City.
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