Esam Omran Al-Fetori/ReutersAs the spotlight shines on ex-CIA Director David Petraeus' biographer-turned-mistress Paula Broadwell, journalists have uncovered a speech in which she may have revealed classified information about the attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Broadwell told a Denver audience in October: "Now I don't know if a lot of you heard this, but the CIA annex [to the consulate] had taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back. "
A source of Fox News, however, corroborated Broadwell's claim today.
If there were ever a motive to attack Americans, it would be the disappearance of friends.
But it's important to note that the CIA operation was unknown to anyone else until it was exposed on the night of the attack and publicly acknowledged in congressional hearings on October 10. The consulate, on the other hand, was the official front for local CIA operations . If there were an original target to strike Americans, it would be the consulate, rather than the safe house.
Broadwell also said in her speech that intelligence shows "the militia members in Libya were watching the demonstration in Cairo and it did sort of galvanize their effort. "
The following timeline is according to the CIA:
Once the fired up Libyans attacked the consulate at 9:40 p.m., the lives of Stevens and his colleagues were in immediate danger because the ostensibly pro-American police force, the February 17th Brigade militia, disappeared during the attack.
CIA "security" at the annex received reports of the attack and were "in the car revving the engine,” waiting for permission to go as the CIA base chief tried to reach the February 17th Brigade to get " heavy weapons and other assistance"—a l ogical attempt to get outside support if the aim is to protect knowledge of the annex and the CIA operations.
Twenty minutes later, with time running out and no better options, the lightly-armed security personnel got the order and left to confront attackers at the consulate with the hopes of saving whomever they could. They eventually arrived at 10:20 (after trying to get heavy weapons from other militiamen) and at 11:15 they left Ambassador Christopher Stevens for dead and shuffled remaining State Department personnel—including the body of information management officer Sean Smith— into the vehicles and left, but not alone.
According to NPR, they soon got lost in the streets and militia members shot at their tires as they made it back to the annex.
It wasn't until the CIA personnel blew their cover when they led the attackers back to the hidden annex that the focus of the fighting turned to the annex, which was attacked by rockets and small arms from around midnight to 1:00 a.m. before a lull in the fighting.
CIA backup, including former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, arrived at about 5:15 a.m. Soon after that the attackers began shooting mortars at the annex—one of which killed Doherty and former SEAL Tyrone Woods. At 6 a.m. Libyan forces from the military intelligence service arrived and subsequently took 30 Americans—mostly CIA—to the airport.
The critical question remaining is what the highly secretive U.S. mission in Benghazi was all about (besides being a detention and interrogation center). One theory we've discussed before is that both Stevens and CIA personnel may have been were involved in transporting heavy weapons from Benghazi to Syrian rebels.
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