What the military did while Benghazi post burned
By CONNIE CASS 6 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — One by one, behind closed doors, military officers explained what they did and didn't do the night the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, burned.
Together their 30 hours of testimony to congressional investigators gives the fullest account yet of the military's response to the surprise attacks that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans the night of Sept. 11, 2012, and early the next morning.
Transcripts of the interviews, with some names and classified information blacked out, were released Wednesday
WAS A FOUR-MAN TEAM HEADED FOR BENGHAZI ORDERED TO STAND DOWN?
Technically, no, the team was not ordered, as some have asserted, to stand by as militants attacked Americans 600 miles away. But they were told not to go to Benghazi and instead to stay and protect personnel in Tripoli. In hindsight, the attacks were over by then, anyway.
The special operations officer leading that team and the commander who gave him the order both told investigators that it was the right decision.
The team, led by Gibson, was in Tripoli to help train Libyan special forces. When the Benghazi attack began, Gibson's first duty was to protect the embassy in Tripoli amid fears that it also would be targeted. He helped evacuate the staff to a classified, more-secure location. Once he felt they were safe on the morning of Sept. 12, Gibson was ready to rush to Benghazi to help.
One Libyan plane carrying a six-man U.S. security team already had taken off. Gibson wanted his group on the second chartered flight. He called the special operations command center for Africa to say they were heading to the airport.
He was told, "Don't go. Don't get on that plane."
"Initially, I was angry," he recalled. "Because 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 going on. Maybe I'm needed here for something else."
Rear Adm. Brian Losey, who gave the order, said he needed Gibson's team in Tripoli in case trouble started there.
Although some Republican lawmakers have suggested the team might have helped repel attackers in Benghazi, their flight would have arrived after the final assault that killed two CIA contractors.
Losey dismissed the notion that the foursome could have been much help in Benghazi, where Americans already were moving to the airfield for evacuation with the aid of Libyan forces and the U.S. security team from the first plane. Losey noted that Gibson's group consisted of a communications specialist, a medic and a weapons operator with his foot in a cast.
"That's not a security team," Losey said. Sending them in "didn't make a lot of sense."
Gibson said if his group had flown to Benghazi, their flight would have crossed paths with the first plane as it returned bearing wounded Americans. Because they stayed, his medic was there to meet two seriously injured people at the Tripoli airport. The medic is credited with saving one's life.
RIGHT OR WRONG, WASN'T THAT AN ORDER TO "STAND DOWN"?
Not according to Losey and Gibson.
Civilians might say that Losey ordered Gibson to stand down from his race to the scene. But Losey and Gibson say in their military parlance, standing down means ceasing operations.
"It was not a stand-down order," Gibson said. "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.'"
"It was never an order to stand down," Losey said. "It was an order to remain in place and continue to provide your security role in Tripoli."