Benghazi Attack and Analysis

U.S. mission and annex map for 2012 Benghazi attack –

Factchecking claim that Hillary Clinton caused the deaths of 4 Americans at the U.S. Diplomatic Post and CIA Annex in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

Key points – All times U.S. Eastern Time

Approximately 3:40 p.m. A security agent at the Benghazi compound hears “loud noises” coming from the front gate and “gunfire and an explosion.” A senior State Department official at the Oct. 9 briefing says that “the camera on the main gate reveals a large number of people – a large number of men, armed men, flowing into the compound.”

About 4 p.m. This is the approximate time of attack that was given to reporters at a Sept. 12 State Department background briefing. An administration official identified only as “senior administration official one” provides an official timeline of events at the consulate, but only from the time of the attack — not prior to the attack. The official says, “The compound where our office is in Benghazi began taking fire from unidentified Libyan extremists.” (Six of the next seven entries in this timeline — through 8:30 p.m. EDT — all come from the Sept. 12 briefing. The exception being the 6:07 p.m. entry, which comes from Reuters.)

About 4:15 p.m. “The attackers gained access to the compound and began firing into the main building, setting it on fire. The Libyan guard force and our mission security personnel responded. At that time, there were three people inside the building: Ambassador Stevens, one of our regional security officers, and Information Management Officer Sean Smith.”

Between 4:15 p.m.-4:45 p.m. Sean Smith is found dead.
[Note: At 4:30 p.m. Pentagon officials informed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about the attack. At 5:41 p.m. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned CIA Director David Petraeus to coordinate. So sometime between 4:30 p.m. and 5:41 p.m. was the timeframe that Clinton became informed about the attack at Benghazi.]

About 4:45 p.m. “U.S. security personnel assigned to the mission annex tried to regain the main building, but that group also took heavy fire and had to return to the mission annex.”

About 5:20 p.m. “U.S. and Libyan security personnel … regain the main building and they were able to secure it.”

Around 6 p.m. “The mission annex then came under fire itself at around 6 o’clock in the evening our time, and that continued for about two hours. It was during that time that two additional U.S. personnel were killed and two more were wounded during that ongoing attack.”

6:07 p.m. The State Department’s Operations Center sends an email to the White House, Pentagon, FBI and other government agencies that said Ansar al-Sharia has claimed credit for the attack on its Facebook and Twitter accounts. (The existence of the email was not disclosed until Reuters reported it on Oct. 24.)

One of the biggest myths about Benghazi is that the US had military assets in range — but refused to deploy them. “Military personnel were ready, willing, and able, and within proximity, but the Pentagon told them they had no authority and to stand down,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz said in 2013.

This is flatly false, as the House Select Committee’s report explains: “The assets ultimately deployed by the Defense Department in response to the Benghazi attacks were not positioned to arrive before the final lethal attack.”

However, we’ve known this for some time. The bipartisan Senate Intelligence report, perhaps the most comprehensive and balanced review of the attack, found that “there were no US military resources in position to intervene in short order in Benghazi to help defend the Temporary Mission Facility and its Annex.”

The unclassified version of an independent 2012 report, headed by Thomas R. Pickering, a former diplomat, concluded that “there simply was not enough time, given the speed of the attacks, for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.”

Despite persistent accusations against President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice, ten investigations — six by Republican-controlled congressional committees — did not find that they or any other high-ranking Obama administration officials had acted improperly. Four career State Department officials were criticized for denying requests for additional security at the facility prior to the attack. Eric J. Boswell, the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, resigned under pressure, while three others were suspended.[28] In her role as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton subsequently took responsibility for the security lapses.


Anyone trying to blame Clinton or any other administration office based in Washington for NOT responding to the Benghazi attack fast enough is simply ignoring the logistics involved.

Panetta was informed at 4:15pm and by 6:00pm, the four men were dead. That is an hour and 45 minutes, simply not enough time to get military units to the Benghazi Diplomatic Post. The nearest units were the Marines at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli (now relocated to Tunis, Tunisia) and that was 630 miles away by road (an 11 hour tirp) and 404 miles by air (a 3 hour trip for a UH-1 helicopter or a 1 hour trip for a KC-130 transport aircraft – I have been unable to find out what aircraft was available in Tripoli at the time of the attack).

Anyone who understands logistics and has participated in military operations would easily understand that if a order had been placed as soon as Panetta was informed, no units could have engaged the attackers within 3 hours! It would take at least an hour to get the U.S. Embassy Marine detachment to the airport (15 min communication between Washington and Tripoli, 10 min for detachment to gear up and load up, 30 min trip to airport and another 5-10 minutes to load up and take off). Let’s say a KC-130 was available so it was a one hour flight. From the Benghazi airport it would take another hour to get into combat (5-10 minutes offloading, 30 minute drive to U.S. Diplomatic Post and at least 10-15 minutes for commanding officers to appraise the situation to come up with a plan).

And remember, that 3 hour timeframe is if EVERYTHING went right which is rarely the situation. So by the time the Marines could have engaged, the four Americans would have been dead. Nothing could have been done from Washington to prevent their deaths from the time of initial attack.

However, the Obama administration was criticized for not increasing security at Benghazi after it was requested. They simply followed long-standing policy on security from previous administrations as this was a Diplomatic Post and not an Embassy or Consulate. Since Benghazi, security has been beefed up at Consulates and Diplomatic Posts. Lesson learned!