The officer in charge of the CIA’s base in Benghazi on the night of the 2012 attack broke his silence in
an interview with The Washington Post, in whichhe denied some of the high-profile claims from “13 Hours,” a new film centering on the attack.
“13 Hours,” an action film directed by Michael Bay and based on a 2014 book by Mitchell Zuckoff, notably revives the claim that security contractors at the Benghazi compound were given an order to “stand down,” delaying their rescue mission — ostensibly with fatal consequences.
But the base chief at the time, now retired but identified by The Post only as “Bob” to maintain his still-active cover, described the issue in no uncertain terms.
“There was never a stand-down order,” Bob said. “At no time did I ever second-guess that the team would depart.”
After he heard gunfire, Bob said he immediately began a security response. He said there was “never any question” that a rescue mission was going to happen, even though security contractors leaving the CIA base to rescue diplomats would leave the base vulnerable.
Bob told the paper that he spent the time immediately following the attack trying to enlist local security teams to back the contractors’ mission, but with no success. The leader of the security personnel then left with the contractors for the mission, with any delay accounted for by preparation time and travel to the building in question, some of which was done on foot.
He also flat-out denied a scene depicting him as wanting to stay behind when personnel were evacuated from the CIA base, supposedly to collect more intelligence.
“That never happened,” he told The Post.
Bob said he chose to speak up because “so much of this information has been wrong.” He has not yet seen the film version of “13 Hours,” but he said he was familiar with the book. He had film scenes described to him by The Post.
Zuckoff claimed in his book that the CIA declined to make Bob available to him during the writing process.
A CIA spokesman called the film “a distortion of the events and people who served in Benghazi that night,” according to The Post.
Claims of a stand-down order have always pervaded around the attack, which occurred in the midst of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and while Hillary Clinton, now the Democratic front-runner for president, was serving as secretary of state.
They gained steam in May 2013, when members of the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee spoke to the media about the testimony of Greg Hicks, the deputy chief of the US mission in Libya during the attack.
Speaking about Hicks’ testimony to Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), now the chair of the committee, said then: “We had proximity, we had capability, we had four individuals in Libya armed, ready to go, dressed about to get into the car to go in the airport to go help their fellow countrymen who were dying and being killed and under attack in Benghazi and they were told to stand down.”
Then-Chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) subsequently dialed back the claim, maintaining that the decision was wrong but noting that the personnel in question “may not have arrived in time to save lives.” Indeed, Hicks’ testimony suggested that those theoretically told to stand down would have left for Benghazi after the after all four Americans killed in the attack had already died.
Further, reports by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, House Armed Services Committee, and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence all found no evidence of an intentional delay or stand-down order.
Zuckoff has stood by his book’s claims that “Bob” was responsible for delaying security contractors, telling The Post that his work was based on first-hand accounts. Zuckoff’s book was co-authored by members of the Annex Security Team — the contractors who, if it existed, would have received such an order.
Former Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta testified last week before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, during which he also denied that a stand-down order was ever made.
But that committee’s chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), maintained this week that there are still witnesses claiming there was such an order, in addition to those who do not. He advised that the public “wait and see” who it believes is more credible.
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