TEL AVIV – Murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens had originally planned to arrive in Benghazi with Pentagon assistance and attempted to coordinate with the Defense Department in order to be housed on a protected coalition naval vessel for a period of time.
However, the Obama Administration’s “no boots on the ground” policy directly precluded such protection, which would have required Stevens to stay overnight with the military at sea and take a boat to land when he was required to be on the ground in the chaotic country of Libya.
Instead, Stevens traveled to Benghazi, Libya via a Greek cargo ship on April 5, 2011 in the midst of the civil war there.
It has been revealed that instead of being housed on a naval vessel, Stevens originally stayed at a hotel that was so dangerous that there were routinely “explosions occurring near and around” the facility.
At one point, Stevens and the Swedish Consul were in the hotel’s dining room when a small-caliber round penetrated the walls while the two were dining, according to a member of Stevens’ security team.
These shocking details were contained in the final report of the House Republicans Select Committee on Benghazi, released last Tuesday and reviewed in full by Breitbart Jerusalem.
Separately, Hillary Clinton’s publicly released emails, previously reviewed by this reporter, take on renewed significance in light of this newly released information about Stevens’ hotel stay. The emails show Clinton was updated about the status of Stevens’ travels during the period in question, including threats to Benghazi hotels.
Firstly, the Republican report report documents Stevens traveled to Benghazi from Malta “by Greek cargo ship with $60,000 in currency and an eight-member Diplomatic Security protective detail.”
Also in the group was a junior reporting officer tasked with conducting political reporting, and two members of the Disaster Assistance Response Team from the United States Agency for International Development.
This unusual method was not how Stevens intended to arrive in Benghazi. The report relates the Obama administration’s “no boots on the ground” decision prevented Stevens from being backed up by the military during his initial stay.
The Republican report reveals that weeks before his departure to Benghazi, Stevens traveled to Stuttgart, Germany to meet with General Carter F. Ham, commander of the United States Africa Command [AFRICOM], to “discuss the trip into Libya, including any potential rescue operations.”
Stevens discussed with Hamm and other top Pentagon officials an original plan to travel to Benghazi with the military:
Stevens discussed travelling to Benghazi on a “helicopter to a coalition naval vessel that can go close to shore,” and then “zodiac transport from ship to shore” for “day trips only, returning to the naval vessel to RON [rest overnight].”
That section of the report was quoting from minutes contained in a State Department email from Patrick F. Kennedy, an Under-Secretary of State, obtained by the House Benghazi Committee.
The report continued:
While Stevens was still in Europe coordinating his entry, the National Security Council ordered him to deploy “as soon as possible.”
The next week, the State Department and AFRICOM engaged in extensive planning to enter Benghazi using the military to augment the State Department Diplomatic Security Agents.
After weeks of planning, the military assistance was nixed because of the administration’s decision against putting “boots on the ground,” the correspondence cited in the Benghazi report divulges:
After weeks of planning, the Administration’s no boots on the ground policy kept military assistance from accompanying Stevens to Benghazi.
On March 30, 2011, Kennedy informed other senior State Department leaders: “After over a week of joint planning … [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael] Mullen has decided that the ‘no boots on the ground in Libya’ policy precludes DOD assisting us in getting Stevens into Libya.”
Specifically, Admiral Mullen deemed the use of military assets—even in civilian dress—to be in violation of the President’s directive, and therefore forbade their use to get Stevens into Benghazi and assist in his protection there. With no military assets to assist, Stevens “found a way to get himself there on a Greek cargo ship, just like a 19th-century American envoy.”
The report makes clear the “no boots on the ground” policy prevented adequate security throughout the existence of the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, which was attacked on September 11, 2012.
From the beginning, senior Obama Administration officials were divided about what degree of commitment to make in Libya. A principal objective was to limit military engagement: the administration’s “no boots on the ground” policy prevailed throughout the Benghazi Mission’s existence in Libya.
Lacking military support, the report relates Stevens initial decision to stay at the Tibesti Hotel in Benghazi.
The lead Diplomatic Security Agent who traveled with Stevens into Benghazi testified:
The Tibesti Hotel had limited setback and “rudimentary barriers to control access.”
“[T]here was [also] an attempt to provide perimeter security, but it wasn’t very robust.”
The Diplomatic Security Agents on the ground protecting Stevens testified about the hotel’s “high-risk security environment,” including nearby explosions and a bullet round that made its way into the dining room while Stevens was present.
The Agents spoke of explosions occurring near and around the Tibesti Hotel. They described constant gunfire, including “a small-caliber round [that] came through the dining room where [Stevens] and the Swedish Consul were having dinner” and “a round that went through the window of our command post room in the hotel.”
One Diplomatic Security Agent testified the car bomb explosions “reminded me of what I experienced in Kabul or Iraq.…” Unlike Kabul or Iraq, however, there was no U.S. military presence in Libya.
Eventually, Stevens was forced to relocate due to a “credible threat” to the Tibesti hotel, the report states.
In May 2015, this reporter documented emails which passed through Hillary Clinton’s private server that contained the whereabouts of Stevens, including threats to his hotel.
I reported at the time:
On April 24, 2011, Clinton’s senior aide, Huma Abedin, forwarded to Clinton’s personal email an internal State email from that same day written by Timmy Davis and sent to Abedin, as well as to the State email addresses of other employees, including Clinton’s then-foreign policy aide, Jacob Sullivan.
The email cited a local report stating hotels in Benghazi were being targeted.
The email, which ran through Clinton’s personal server, stated the interim Libyan government “conducted a raid on a house/storage facility and found and arrested an Egyptian cell reportedly there for the purpose of attacking hotels.”
Despite the threat, the email revealed Stevens “still feels comfortable in the hotel,” meaning the email exposed that the ambassador would continue to stay there.
In March, I further reported on other emails from the same time period that updated the State Department about Stevens whereabouts and were forwarded to Clinton:
One email in question was written Sunday, April 10, 2011 by State employee Timmy Davis and sent to the State email addresses of other employees, including Clinton’s then-foreign policy aide, Jacob Sullivan and Clinton’s senior aide.
Abedin forwarded the message to Clinton. At the time, Stevens was the U.S. envoy to the Libyan rebels.
The dispatch read:
The situation in Ajdabiyah has worsened to the point where Stevens is considering departure from Benghazi. The envoy’s delegation is currently doing a phased checkout (paying the hotel bills, moving some comms to the boat, etc.). He will monitor the situation to see if it deteriorates further, but no decision has been made on departure. He will wait 2-3 more hours, then revisit the decision on departure.
The email is one of several giving away Stevens’ location and movements.
A March 27, 2011 email released last year was titled, “Chris Stevens mission.” It divulged: “The current game plan is for Mr. Stevens to move no later than Wednesday from Malta to Benghazi. He will stage offshore initially for a one day visit during which he will have meetings with TNC interlocutors and get a sense of the situation on the ground. The goal of this one day trip is for him to lay the groundwork for a stay of up to 30 days.”
An April 8, 2011 email was forwarded to Clinton revealing the “security situation in Benghazi remains quiet. Chris Stevens & team are in the hotel, moving only for meetings as required.”
An April 22, 2011 email revealed Stevens was on the road: “I want to let you know about a temporary rotation in Benghazi. TNC Envoy Chris Stevens has been on the road since March 13, when he began his outreach mission, and has been in Benghazi since April 5.”
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.
With research by Joshua Klein.