A long report out of the New York Times uses several anonymous interviews and months of reporting to paint a more detailed picture of the attacks that occurred in Benghazi last year.
On Sept. 11, 2012, Libyan militias attacked the U.S. Diplomatic Mission and a secret CIA Annex in Benghazi, killing four Americans. The attack came following a streak of violent protests spurred by a anti-Islam video which portrayed the Prophet Muhammed in a negative light.
The report also shows a few false assumptions by the State Department that increased its vulnerability to attack.
These assumptions were:
1. That locals would give warning before potential attacks
From The Times:
“We thought we were sufficiently close to them,” said one Western diplomat who was in Benghazi not long before the attack. “We all thought that if anything threatening was happening, that they would tip us off.”
A State Department review later found “a tendency on the part of policy, security and other U.S. government officials to rely heavily on the probability of warning intelligence.”
It’s possible no warning occurred because the attacks weren’t as planned as some people believe. Still, no concrete indication has surfaced which would indicate the level of planning behind the attacks.
2. That the CIA would definitely help during a security breach
Much talk has revolved around who was responsible for additional security at the mission in the event of an attack. Apparently, State thought it would be reinforced by the CIA Annex, whereas the Agency didn’t seem to be on the same page.
“State Department officials believed that responsibility was set to be shouldered in part by CIA personnel in the city through a series of secret agreements that even some officials in Washington didn’t know about,” the WSJ reported at the time.
From The Times:
The Americans had another reason to feel secure: the team of at least 20 people from the Central Intelligence Agency operating out of an unmarked Benghazi compound known as “the Annex” that was about a half-mile southeast of the mission.
Some were highly skilled commandos. “I knew the backup guys at the Annex, who were quite heavily trained and equipped,” said an Obama administration official who visited in the months before the attack.
3. That the militias were predictable
The American security posture in the area assumed a depth of knowledge about the local militias that was far too confident. Not the same thing as an expectation of warning, rather this assumption was an expectation of predictability.
Many of these militias were very recently formed, and that they’d settle into alliance with the West was a fatal assumption.
From The Times:
Despite [Ambassador Christopher Stevens’] expertise and the C.I.A.’s presence, though, “there was little understanding of militias in Benghazi and the threat they posed to U.S. interests,” a State Department investigation into the mission attack later concluded.
Finally, sources in the special operations community tell Business Insider that, unbeknownst to the CIA, Joint Special Operations troops were targeting militia members in Benghazi who also doubled as CIA assets.
So while CIA and JSOC may not have been communicating, it’s likely that local militia leaders viewed these kill or capture missions as American aggression.
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