Benghazi Security Team Member: We Were Told to ‘Stand Down’

Members of a brigade loyal to General Khalifa Haftar hold up their guns in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on December 17, 2014

TEL AVIV – A member of the security team stationed at the CIA Annex in Benghazi testified that his chief of base directed him to “stand down” while the nearby U.S. Special Mission came under attack the night of September 11, 2012.

A second security team member said he did not directly hear the words “stand down” from the chief of base, but that those words were relayed to him by another security team member.

Other members said they were told to wait and did not hear anything about a “stand down” order.

The chief of base at the CIA Annex in Benghazi for his part testified that he did not use the term “stand down,” but confirmed that he told his security team to wait and not to deploy yet while he tried to obtain reinforcements from local Libyan security forces. The alleged orders to wait were also described by other witnesses.

The conflicting testimony was provided to the House Select Committee on Benghazi and contained in a 339-page House Democrat report on Benghazi released on Monday and reviewed in full by Breitbart Jerusalem. The report was issued prior to the release on Tuesday of the Benghazi Committee’s final report.

The House Democrat report documented that the committee investigated reports that the CIA security team in Benghazi was told by the CIA Chief of Base to “stand down” instead of immediately responding to the attack at the U.S. Special Mission about a mile away.

The report found that one security team member said he heard the order to “stand down.”

The Select Committee interviewed all of the members of the security team, and only one reported that the Chief of Base directed him to “stand down,” using those exact words. The Chief of Base denied using the term “stand down,” but explained that he told the security team to wait while he tried to obtain additional help from local security forces. …

When this individual was interviewed previously by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), he did not make this statement.

Although witnesses disagreed about whether the specific words “stand down” were uttered, they agreed that the team was told to wait while the senior CIA officials requested additional security assistance from local Libyan forces.  The witnesses generally agreed that it was appropriate to try to obtain additional security assistance, but they disagreed about how quickly they should depart.

The one security team member who said that he had been told to “stand down” described what he said was an exchange with superiors in testimony to the Select Committee:

We’re probably sitting there a good 15 minutes, and I get out of the car.  I have the Chief of Base, the Deputy Chief of Base, and [the Security Team Leader] on the front porch. They’re all three on the phone doing something.  And I just say:  Hey, you know, we’ve got to get over there.  We’re losing the initiative.  [The Chief of Base] looks at me, he says:  Stand down, you need to wait.  You need to come up with a plan.

That same individual did not mention any “stand down” order in previous testimony to the Committee.

Asked why he omitted the claim in previous testimony, the individual stated:

At the time, because a lot of it was that no—I mean, I didn’t know why the stand down order was given.  I mean, I guess [Redacted] got told to wait, you know, that’s what he says.  I just know when we got told to stand down and when [the Security Team Leader] kind of gave the brief of kind of like why we’re told to stand down, it was kind of understandable, you know.  But, yes, it shouldn’t take you 23 minutes or 50 minutes to link up with the QRF, because even after we left there was still no link up.  There was no communication between us and the 17 Feb. that I knew of.  Because when we rolled in, we didn’t know who we were going to be meeting.

Q: Right.  You said when [the Security Team Leader] gave the brief, it was understandable.  What are you talking about?

A:  When he was saying, well, they were trying to get on the phone, they were trying to get local militias.  And he’s like, if there was a stand down or a wait, you know, it was just because we were trying to get it to where we would link up.  We wouldn’t have—

Q:  When did [the Security Team Leader] say that to you?

A: That was during the hearing.

Meanwhile, the House report documented a second security team member who “told the Select Committee that he did not hear the words ‘stand down’ directly, but was told about them by the other security team member on the night of the attacks while they were waiting.”

Continued the report:

This second team member also did not share this conversation with HPSCI when he was previously interviewed, explaining that he was not asked about it.  That individual described to both HPSCI and the Select Committee that he personally had been told to “wait.”

A third security team member stated:  “I don’t recall hearing ‘stand down.’  I do recall hearing ‘wait.’”

The fourth security team member did not recall having any communications with the Chief of Base, Deputy Chief of Base or Team Leader.

The CIA Chief of Base in Benghazi for his part stated:

I never said “stand down.”  “Stand down” to me means that you’re not going to go, and I was working—and I didn’t say “stand down.”  And I was working very closely with [the Security Team Leader] to try to get them out the door.

The chief made the same point several times:

[T]here was never any stand down order.  I guess I’m repeating myself.  There was never any stand down order, nor any effort other than to provide the team what they needed to accomplish the mission to go down and save our colleagues at the State Department compound.

Then Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell explained that he worked with top Pentagon officials to investigate the claim that the CIA Benghazi base chief gave a “stand down” order, and no evidence could be found that it happened.

I personally spoke to our Director of Security who had spoken to all of her security officers, and she told us, she told Director Petraeus and I that there was no stand down order.  I personally asked our Director of Support to talk to the Chief of Security, and I asked one of the senior members of the operational side of the agency to talk to the Chief of Base, and they reported back to me essentially the same story, no stand down order. Director Petraeus, in the aftermath of Benghazi, took a trip to Libya, to Tripoli, where he met with the folks who were still there and had a conversation about this and came back and said, as far as my conversations went, no stand down order.  So I just wanted to add that to all the evidence that’s out there suggesting that there was not.

With research by Joshua Klein.

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.


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