Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

CIA Acted Fastin Libya, Say U.S. Officials; Timeline Recounts Immediate Response despite No Help from Libyan Government

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

CIA Acted Fastin Libya, Say U.S. Officials; Timeline Recounts Immediate Response despite No Help from Libyan Government

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON CIA security officers went to the aid of State Department staff less than 25 minutes after they got the first call for help during the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. intelligence officials said Thursday, as they laid out a detailed timeline of the CIAs immediate response to the attack from its annex less than a mile from the diplomatic mission.

The attack on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 by what is now suspected to be a group of al-Qaida-linked militants killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

The timeline was offered just days before the presidential election in a clear effort to refute recent news reports that said the CIA told its personnel to stand down rather than go to the consulate to help repel the attackers. Fox News reported that when CIA officers at the annex called higher-ups to tell them the consulate was under fire, they were twice told to stand down. The CIA publicly denied the report.

The intelligence officials said Thursday that when the CIA annex received a call about the assault, about half a dozen members of a CIA security team tried to get heavy weapons and other assistance from the Libyans. But when the Libyans failed to respond, the security team, which routinely carries small arms, went ahead with the rescue attempt. The officials said that at no point was the team told to wait.

Instead, they said, the outmanned and outgunned team members made all the key decisions on the ground, with no second-guessing from senior officials monitoring the situation from afar.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to provide information publicly.

The consulate attack has become a political issue in Washington, with Republicans questioning the security at the consulate, the intelligence on militant groups in North Africa and the response by the administration of President Barack Obama in the days after the attack. Republicans also have questioned whether enough military and other support was requested and received. And presidential candidate Mitt Romney has used the attack as a sign of what he says is Obamas weak leadership overseas. …

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