Nineteenth in an old-but-suddenly-revived series about Fox News’s Oct. 26 story on Benghazi, Libya.
Fox News played an enterprising role in introducing the public to the term “stand down” in relation to the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic installation in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. In a famous investigative piece published Oct. 26, Fox News’s Jennifer Griffin reported that a crew of security operators hanging out in a CIA annex were twice told to “stand down” instead of jumping to the assistance of U.S. personnel under attack at the compound, which was located about a mile away.
Then, last week, Fox News’s Adam Housley reported in a special three-part series on Benghazi that a crew of security officials may well have defied orders in taking off from Tripoli to furnish assistance in Benghazi. Here’s how Housley stated things:
[Fox News’s source] also says that as the attack began, there were at least 15 special forces and highly skilled state department security staff available in the capital Tripoli who were not dispatched, even though they were trained as a quick response force. Meantime, a group of American reinforcements also in Tripoli, which included the CIA’s global response agent, Glen Doherty, and about seven others took matters into their own hands, a little known fact which also contradicts the version of events in the State Department report. The team commandeered a small jet and flew to Benghazi to help try and secure the CIA annex still under fire.
Now there’s more material in this vein. As reported extensively on Fox News, a trio of whistleblowers has come forth and will testify before Congress on Wednesday about the U.S. response to Benghazi. One of them is Gregory Hicks, the State Department’s deputy chief of mission in Libya. As noted on CBS.com, Hicks has given an interview to Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. One of the key revelations is that a team of U.S. special forces was ready to get on a flight from Tripoli to Benghazi but was told by Special Operations Command Africa not to go. Here’s how CBS News’s Sharyl Attkisson phrases the matter:
The account from Gregory Hicks is in stark contrast to assertions from the Obama administration, which insisted that nobody was ever told to stand down and that all available resources were utilized.
Hicks told congressional investigators in plain English how this pull-back played out:
So Lieutenant Colonel Gibson, who is the SOCAFRICA commander, his team, you know, they were on their way to the vehicles to go to the airport to get on the C-130 when he got a phone call from SOCAFRICA which said, you can’t go now, you don’t have authority to go now. And so they missed the flight.
That flight left Tripoli between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. Benghazi time on Sept. 12. So the forces wouldn’t have arrived in Benghazi in time to repel the second attack of the night, which occurred at 5:15 a.m. at the CIA annex. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) insists that the order not to send special forces was made before that attack took place. What if the attacks hadn’t stopped?
The whistleblowers have, in effect, rebooted Fox News’s coverage of Benghazi. The network aggressively covered the efforts of lawyer Victoria Toensing to get the necessary clearances to represent clients in this Benghazi hearing. And over the weekend, Fox News’s Chris Wallace hosted an outstanding discussion with Chaffetz and Rep Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) on what the hearing would reveal. As I write this, Fox News’s Neil Cavuto is listening as contributor John Bolton is hammering the Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi.
If you combine Fox News’s reporting with Hicks’s testimony, you get incompetence and paralysis: “Stand down” orders issued just after the first attack, with security operators ignoring those orders and rushing to the compound; then security officials in Tripoli “took matters into their own hands” and “commandeered” a jet to Benghazi, apparently in violation of orders; and finally, a small group of special forces were ordered not to board a plane to Benghazi.
U.S. government officials have said that no one was ever held back from helping in Benghazi on that night. Various accounts, indeed, have cast doubt on whether those first “stand down” orders were ever issued.
Accordingly, the Erik Wemple Blog calls upon members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: Please ask those whistleblowers to outline any and all “stand down” orders.