Benghazi: The Forgotten "September 11th" Attack On The US Consulate In Libya
If you say “September 11” most people automatically think of the attacks on the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. What they probably don’t even remember happened on September 11, were the attacks on the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.
Once the Libyan Revolution began in February 2011, the CIA began placing assets in the region, attempting to make contacts within the region. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, whose name and image would soon become synonymous with the Benghazi attacks, was the first liaison between the United States and the rebels. The task before the American intelligence community at that time was securing arms in the country, most notably shoulder-fired missiles, taken from the Libyan military.
Eastern Libya and Benghazi were the primary focal points of intelligence-gathering in the country. But there was something else at work here: The CIA was using the country as a base to funnel weapons to anti-Assad forces in Syria, as well as their alleged diplomatic mission.
Early Rumblings of Disorder in Benghazi
Trouble started in April 2012. This was when two former security guards of the consulate threw an IED over the fence. No casualties were reported, but another bomb was thrown at a convoy just four days later. Soon after, in May, the office of the International Red Cross in Benghazi was attacked and the local al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility. On August 6, the Red Cross suspended operations in Libya.
This was all part of a troubling escalation of violence in the region. The British Ambassador Dominic Asquith was the victim of an assassination attempt on June 10, 2012. As a result of this and of rocket attacks on convoys, the British withdrew their entire consular staff from Libya in late June of that year.
American military and consular personnel on the scene were increasingly troubled by the situation and communicated their concerns to top brass through official channels. Two security guards in the consulate noticed a Libyan police officer (or at least someone dressed as one) taking pictures of the building, which raised alarms. Indeed, consular officials had been requesting additional security as far back as March.
On June 6, 2012, a large hole was blown in the wall of the consulate gate. It was estimated that 40 men could go through the hole in the wall. In July, the State Department informed officials on the ground that the existing security contract would not be renewed. On August 2, Ambassador Stephens requested additional security detail. The State Department responded by completely removing his security detail three days later. Three days after this, his security detail had left Libya entirely. On August 16, the regional security officer warned then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the security situation in Libya was “dire.”
The Day of the Attack on Benghazi: The Cover-Up Begins
The September 11, 2012 attack was actually two attacks by two separate militias. The first was the attack on the diplomatic mission, the second was a mortar attack on the CIA annex. But the attacks themselves were effectively watched in real time by the White House, thanks to security drones in the region. By 5:10pm ET, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta were watching real-time footage via a drone deployed to the area.