Mystery of Benghazi mess deepens

Published: Thursday, Nov. 1 2012 11:59 p.m. MDT

Tyrone Woods, one of the former Navy SEALS killed in the battle, "used a ground laser designator to illuminate an enemy mortar team," noted Tom Cotton, a Harvard law graduate, Iraq war veteran and now a GOP congressional candidate.

"For all those veterans out there, you know that infrared discipline in combat is just as important as light and noise discipline," Cotton said on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. "You don’t use an infrared illuminator until you’re ready for fire support," he added, arguing that Woods "would not have illuminated that mortar team unless he expected air fire immediately as soon as he did so.”

“I strongly suspect there was an armed drone, or even a Specter gunship overhead that did not fire, even though Tyrone Woods expected it to," Cotton concluded.

Stand down

Were two former Navy SEALS and current CIA operatives prevented from going to the rescue of the diplomatic team at the consulate?

Griffin reported last Friday that two of the men at the CIA annex, a mile distant from the consulate, sought to respond as the attack began but were twice told to “stand down.” According to Griffin’s sources, the two finally decided to directly disobey those orders and attempted a rescue.

Ignatius appears to contradict Griffin in his account: “There was a brief, initial delay — two people said it was about 20 minutes — before Woods was allowed to leave.” The CIA seems to deny this report. “No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need,” the statement read.

Some were struck by the careful phrasing. As William McGurn observed in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, “in Beltwayspeak this means: The buck stopped somewhere between the Pentagon and the White House," not at the CIA.

Later in the conflict, the official State Department narrative reports, eight CIA operatives arrived at the Benghazi airport and were rushed to the scene in time for one of them to die in the struggle.

And John Hudson at The Atlantic Wire noted that "for now, the CIA isn't saying no one was ever prevented from assisting the U.S. compound but it is vowing that the agency itself never played a role in denying those requests."

One of the few reporters given access to President Obama lately tried and failed to get him to say whether requests for help were denied. A local Denver television reporter who, Tapper related, twice pressed President Obama without success "to answer questions as to whether the Americans under siege in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, were denied requests for help."

Whose call?

Additional questions center on whether special forces could and should have been scrambled from southern Italy, whether those troops were prepared to move, and, if so, who decided not to deploy them.

"You don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on, without having some real-time information about what's taking place," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last week at a Pentagon press conference, according to CBS News.

Investor Business Daily, among others, has speculated that fears of a “Black Hawk Down” incident drove the caution, a reference to the 1993 disaster in which 19 U.S. soldiers were killed in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Panetta said that "senior officers, including Gen. Carter Ham, the U.S. commander for Africa, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all opposed military intervention. 'Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.'"

But there is some question whether Gen. Ham did agree. On Oct. 28, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz said on Fox News that he met with Ham and directly asked him whether U.S. forces were prepared to intervene.

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