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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Link: CIA Chief disputes movie narrative on Benghazi.

Just in time for political primary season, a new film has been released appropriately titled, "Benghazi".  This film and its supporters make to bones about it; they are convinced that events on the evening of September 11, 2012, show the CIA to be probably culpable in the deaths that occurred that night at the U.S. Consulate and CIA annex.  Its been some time since we've had a good rehashing of this story, and I'd just as soon we didn't.  But this movie is spreading some very seriously allegations, which need to be addressed.  I have no intention of reliving the events of that night in their entirety.  Lets stick to the contentious issues raised by this movie.  On the night of September 11, 2012, both the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and the CIA Annex Building had come under attack by unknown heavily armed militants.  Aside from a few rank-and-file State Department and CIA personnel, the State Department had Diplomatic Security officers on hand, and the CIA had a group of Global Resource Solutions (GRS) operatives.  The movie in question was developed from a book written by four GRS employees who were at the CIA annex that night.  In fact, when they became aware that the Consulate, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and others were located, was under heavy fire.  These four GRS guys claim to have asked the CIA Chief of Station, who was sitting in the same room, for permission to deploy to the Consulate and assist.  According to "the four", the CIA Chief (named "Bob"), got off the phone, and told them to stand down on any order to relieve the Consulate.    We still have no clue who it was that Bob was allegedly speaking with that night.

After twenty minutes or so, the four GRS officers took it upon themselves to disobey a direct order and rush to assist at the Consulate.  Sadly, they arrived too late for Ambassador Stevens and Information Officer Sean Smith.  Later that night, the United States would lose two more heroes, but this movie seems to be mainly focused on what happened in the annex which delayed the GRS deployment.  First, let me remind everyone, that I wasn't on scene that night.  My comments and perceptions are derived exclusively from my experiences and training.  I am very familiar with GRS.  I have worked closely with GRS officers in the past.  You can't find a better-trained, more weapons-knowledgeable group of security personnel.  But I am concerned with their story.  Before we can really take a look at what happened in the annex, we must remind ourselves that CIA or no CIA, the Department of State has primacy on all decisions on U.S. diplomatic facilities, including military and security-related concerns.  I can't imagine why the CIA Chief would have cause to tell the GRS guys to "stand down".  If indeed that was the case, then he was passing on his instructions from a higher authority, and if things work as they are supposed to, at the end of that chain should have been Hillary Clinton.  But Bob claims that he said no such thing, and that his mind was on trying to round up enough local firepower to assist with returning to the Consulate.  I wonder if possibly there was a misunderstanding, given that one person was on the phone and the other four were anxious to go and help their friends. 

In the book, the Agency played its usual role of easy punching bag (its not like the CIA spends much time defending itself, although many of us wish it would).  I've chosen only to address the main allegation because three paragraphs is more than enough for this blog.  I do not believe that Bob (who I do not know) gave the GRS guys any "stand down" order that night, and if he did, I want to know why they chose this particular time to disobey a direct order from a superior.  Do GRS personnel normally ignore the instructions of CIA management?  What if Bob did say "stand down", because someone on the phone had informed him that U.S. personnel had been rescued and that the Consulate was overrun by militiamen.  Then the four GRS guys would be walking into serious shit. You don't disobey a Chief of Station, especially not in that situation.  I don't believe they did.  Because I don't believe Bob ever gave the order to "stand down".  

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