No ‘stand down’ order in Benghazi

By From page A9 | July 11, 2014

WASHINGTON — The testimony of nine military officers undermines contentions by Republican lawmakers that a “stand-down order” held back military assets that could have saved the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed at a diplomatic outpost and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya.

The “stand-down” theory centers on a Special Operations team of four — a detachment leader, a medic, a communications expert and a weapons operator with his foot in a cast — who were stopped from flying from Tripoli to Benghazi after the attacks of Sept. 11-12, 2012, had ended. Instead, they were instructed to help protect and care for those being evacuated from Benghazi and from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

The senior military officer who issued the instruction to “remain in place” and the detachment leader who received it said it was the right decision and has been widely mischaracterized. The order was to remain in Tripoli and protect some three dozen embassy personnel rather than fly to Benghazi some 600 miles away after all Americans there would have been evacuated. And the medic is credited with saving the life of an evacuee from the attacks.

Transcripts of hours of closed-door interviews with the military leaders by the House Armed Services and Oversight and Government Reform committees were made public for the first time on Wednesday. The Associated Press had reviewed the material ahead of its release.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the Oversight panel, has suggested Hillary Rodham Clinton gave the order, though as secretary of state at the time, she was not in the military chain of command.

Despite lingering public confusion over many events that night, the testimony shows military leaders largely in agreement over how they responded to the attacks.

The initial Sept. 11 assault on the diplomatic post prompted immediate action both in Benghazi and in Tripoli. Though not under any known further threat, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, was evacuated early in the morning of Sept. 12, its sensitive information and computer hard drives destroyed. Diplomats and military officials left in armored vehicles for a classified U.S. site several miles away. Upon arrival there, the head of a small detachment entrusted with training Libyan special forces told his higher-ups he wanted to take his four-member team to Benghazi.

Military officials differ on when that telephone conversation took place, but they agree that no help could have arrived in Benghazi in time. They put the call somewhere between 5:05 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. local time. It would take about 90 minutes to fly from Tripoli to Benghazi. The next U.S.-chartered plane to make the trip left at 6:49 a.m., meaning it could have arrived shortly before 9 a.m., nearly four hours after the second, 11-minute battle at the CIA facility ended at about 5:25 a.m.

Republicans investigating Benghazi have clashed over whether military superiors, in effect, ordered the team to stand down. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., the Armed Services Committee chairman, has cited previous testimony from military officers that ordering the foursome to stay in Tripoli and protect embassy personnel there didn’t amount to “standing down.”

Others, such as Issa and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, have said a stand down order was given.

“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,” Chaffetz said more than a year ago. “That’s as sickening and depressing and disgusting as anything I have seen. That is not the American way.”

Beyond questions of timing, the testimony of Rear Adm. Brian Losey, who was then Special Operations commander for Africa, also challenged the idea the team had the capacity to bolster security in Benghazi.

Losey said there was “never an order to stand down.” His instruction to the team “was to remain in place and continue to provide security in Tripoli because of the uncertain environment.” Earlier on Sept. 11, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo had been breached as well.

Losey questioned what the four could have done to aid the situation in Benghazi, where American personnel were preparing to evacuate as soon as possible. He said assigning the small team to defend a perimeter wouldn’t have been appropriate, and would have meant the military losing its command operation in Tripoli “for the benefit of four riflemen who weren’t even riflemen.”

“The guy’s command and control, he’s communications, medical,” Losey recounted. “I’ve got one weapons guy with his foot in a cast. Didn’t make a lot of sense.”

The Special Operations detachment leader’s name is omitted from the testimony transcript, but he previously has been identified as Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson. More than a year-and-a-half later, Gibson, who is now a colonel, agreed that staying in Tripoli was the best decision.

“It was not a stand down order,” he testified in March. “It was not, ‘Hey, time for everybody to go to bed.’ It was, you know, ‘Don’t go. Don’t get on that plane. Remain in place.’”

“Initially, I was angry,” Gibson said. “A tactical commander doesn’t like to have those decisions taken away from him. But then once I digested it a little bit, then I realized, OK, maybe there was something else that was going on. Maybe I’m needed here for something else.”

His contingent would indeed prove useful in Tripoli, according to the testimonies.

When the Americans from Benghazi arrived, among the wounded was one person with a unique blood type. Gibson and others credited the medic in the team with saving a life.


The Associated Press

The Associated Press


Discussion | 35 comments

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  • CD BrooksJuly 11, 2014 - 5:55 am

    Well this ought get 'em riled all over again...

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 7:08 am

    CD: Why? As more facts get revealed and the politically-motivated speculation gets squeezed out of this issue, only the most irrational opponents of Obama will refuse to stand down. Or are they the "they" you're talking about?

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  • CD BrooksJuly 11, 2014 - 7:35 am

    rlw895, yes they are.

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 7:11 am

    If even Col. Gibson isn't angry anymore and agrees the order he received was the correct decision, it's hard for anyone to continue that line of argument and not look stupid.

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  • mike kirchubelJuly 11, 2014 - 10:03 am

    RLE, Oh, but they will. Just look at Smith, still holding fast to his Foxist belief system in the light of the evidence to the contrary. You would think there would come a point where a reasonable man would necessarily have to stop, and re-examine his crumbled, jerry-rigged constructs and, perhaps, look around for a more sensible, stable theory. .

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  • PornacJuly 11, 2014 - 7:05 am

    I don't believe the officers. Obama is probably paying them offf.

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 8:42 am

    It just gets curiouser and curiouser, doesn't it?

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 11, 2014 - 9:20 am

    Not really, rlw. What we are seeing here is the military brass closing ranks to protect themselves from looking foolish and/or "holding the bag," now that their civilian bosses might be in the clear. It will never be solved to everyone's satisfaction.

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 11, 2014 - 9:26 am

    I should have added that it appears to boil down now to an argument about and the definition of what, exactly is a "stand down order." As long as that remains arguable, the case goes away and everyone skates.

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 10:28 am

    Mr.S: We can expect the irrational Obama opponents to choose the words they wish, but apparently there is a difference between a "stand down" order and a "stay in place" order. It's not hard for an unbiased person to understand the difference. "Stand down" is like "at ease," while "stay in place" means continue to on alert but don't go anywhere until so ordered. The question is, factually, was a "stand down" order given? The military guys say no. Are you saying they are lying? No, you're saying they are protecting their civilian bosses who are not weakened enough to be turned upon with the truth. At what time does your imagination give your logic a rest?

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 8:20 pm

    *to be on alert...

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 10:22 am

    Mr.S: What you're suggesting is if their civilian bosses weren't "in the clear," the military officers involved would turn on them. You may be right, but I'm going to credit them with more integrity than that.

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 11, 2014 - 11:11 am

    Rlw: It is to your advantage to assume faultless integrity on the parts of those military people involved in this. And I'm not saying they are necessarily lying; merely taking advantage of an opportunity to bog this thing down in confusion and the "fog of war" and thereby get everyone off the hook. No, sir. My theory is plausible on its face, given what we know of the human psyche and its over-riding instinct for self-preservation. And as for Mike: Go Fox yourself!

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 3:11 pm

    Mr.S: I'll have to join Mike on this one, except your source isn't necessarily FOX but Black Bart's breiter brother (as in "brother Darrell and my other brother Darrell"). On the other hand, this theory may even be too wild for one of them.

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 11, 2014 - 3:34 pm

    Rlw: Breitbart was one of my sources for the border fiasco, not the Benghazi fiasco. My source for my latest thoughts on Benghazi is 100% me. If Fox or anyone else is going down a parallel track, they must have picked it up from me here on the DR webpage. When Mike (or you) accuse me or others here of spouting "Foxisms" you are engaging in debate-squelching behavior. That could be construed as totalitarianism. It goes like this: You, Mike, CD and others have a well-established bias here against any and all things Fox. Fine, so far. But then you falsely accuse me and others here of resorting to parroting the Fox viewpoint, aka, "lies" when we present arguments counter to your point of view. Since you have unilaterally pronounced Fox an unworthy source of information, you deny the legitimacy of what we are trying to say and declare the debate over at that point without countering with your own arguments what we are presenting. You win by default (in your own muddled minds). You're like--FOXISM! NEXT!

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  • mike kirchubelJuly 11, 2014 - 3:44 pm

    Mr. S, my thoughts on Benghazi have been published in this paper on more than one occasion. My thoughts today are in keeping with my previous thoughts as events confirm Fox's lies and their audience's continued gullibility.

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 3:54 pm

    Mr.S: So it's "on the other hand" then. I actually figured it was you who made it up, without a shed of evidence.

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 11, 2014 - 4:20 pm

    Thanks, rlw, for giving me credit for one original thought. You will note that I labeled it a "theory" at this point. Hopefully, the evidence will eventually come out.

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  • mike kirchubelJuly 11, 2014 - 4:22 pm

    It's barely a hypothesis.

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 11, 2014 - 4:28 pm

    Mike: Is that better than a Foxism?

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  • mike kirchubelJuly 11, 2014 - 5:32 pm

    Yes! A Foxism is an outright lie, an hypothesis is a working guess, while a theory has had many supporting tests. I'm paraphrasing the official definitions of hypothesis and theory, but a Foxism is nothing but a stinkin' Foxism.

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 8:26 pm

    Mr.S: I was trying to give you an "out" by saying you got your theory from somewhere else. I wouldn't be too proud of what your imagination has hatched. It seems your irrational opposition has no limits to the justifications it demands from your logic.

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 8:18 pm

    Mr.S: "More integrity than that" is not "faultless integrity." You're doing it AGAIN.

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 11, 2014 - 8:37 pm

    Ok, rlw: You did not use the term "faultless integrity." My bad. But I stand by my "hypothesis." It looks like Obama and company are gonna run out the clock on this one anyway. Chalk one up for "the fog of war."

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 8:56 pm

    Mr.S: Or chalk up one for the truth being revealed to the satisfaction of just about everybody. But either way, time to move on.

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  • mike kirchubelJuly 11, 2014 - 8:21 am

    I guess Hilary can assume the presidency now without further objection or delay. So, the lead terrorist says "it was the video" and the military says, "no stand down." I guess it's reasonable too assume we'll get an apology from Fox and witchhunter Issa for wasting so much viewer and Congressional time.

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 8:43 am

    The "lead terrorist" said "it was the video?"

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 11, 2014 - 9:12 am

    Well, I guess we can all relax now. The "lead terrorist" has declared it was "the video." Buwhahahahahaha!! Did he try to sell you a bridge, too, Mike? I heard he also said Elvis was at the "demonstration that got out of hand."

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 10:19 am

    Mr.S: I agree. I wouldn't trust what an accused says necessarily. Plus a recent story has said there were two separate attacks. He was part of the first, more spontaneous one, perhaps, or was just a opportunistic looter.

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  • Dave ShreeveJuly 11, 2014 - 9:49 am

    Wrong, wrong, wrong! This is only about a small unit, not the rest of the military assets in the Med that could have responded. It still does not answer one of the paramount questions of where was Obama and what was he doing while all of this was going down. We know he wasn't in the situation room or we would have been flooded with pictures of it. What was Hilliary doing and where was she at the time of the attack? Who's idea was it to push the phony blame the video lie? Why did the administration stick with the lie for so long afterwards? Why was security not increased prior to the attack as requested numerous times by Ambassador Stevens? Why was the consulate still there in Benghazi long after everyone else had pulled out because they thought it too dangerous? This is far from over.

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  • DanielJuly 11, 2014 - 2:57 pm

    Here are the answers; While the murders were occurring Obama was partying and fund raising in Las Vegas, Hitlery didn't want to be bothered. After it was established that it obviously not a video riot nevertheless Obama had the opposite peddled to the networks and he himself peddled the video riot excuse to the entire U.N. The subject video was obscure, incoherent rambling and had virtually no hits. No one watching it could figure out what it was about other than Obama's manufacturing that it was anti-Islamic, some weeks later Obama had the alleged producer arrested for a staged for TV event where he was allowed to cover up his face and remain annymous. Allegedly the FBI went to Benghazi and did a shabby haphazard job in investigating it. This is just like every other event that Obama is involved in, it stinks to high heaven and the most disappointing is that there are brains hacks willing to look the other way and continue making excuses for the worst President in history as polled.

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 3:16 pm

    You guys are funny, but what I really want to know is, who's on first?

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  • mike kirchubelJuly 11, 2014 - 5:38 pm

    Again, not reporting an abusive comment.. "looking the other way" would be ignoring the evidence as it comes in and sticking to your crumbling and discredited Foxisms. As we all now know, Foxisms, by definition, are lies.

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 8:32 pm

    Let's not quibble over the difference between a "stand down" order and a "stay in place" order. Was the "stay in place" order the right call? As the facts stand, it sure seems like it was. Even is that small team could have done some good in Benghazi, it was the right thing to tell them to stay in Tripoli, which might have been the next target and needed their assistance for sure, not speculatively.

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  • rlw895July 11, 2014 - 8:33 pm

    *if that small team...

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