Judicial Watch: New State Documents Show Quick White House Effort to Link Benghazi to Internet Video
OCTOBER 20, 2015
State Department documents detail delays and lack of support in hours after attack
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released new State Department documents that raise more questions about the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission at Benghazi, Libya. The documents show the White House contacted YouTube over an Internet video as one of its first moves after the initial attack.
The documents, from the agency’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, were provided to Judicial Watch in response to a court order in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on October 16, 2014, (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01733)). The lawsuit seeks “any and all logs, reports, or other records” the Washington-based Diplomatic Security Command Center produced between September 10, 2012, and September 13, 2012, relating to the terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.”
The documents detail that only three hours after the initial attack on U.S. personnel in Benghazi, the White House contacted YouTube in an apparent effort to initially blame the assault on an obscure “Pastor John video,” rather than filmmaker Nakoula “Mark” Basseley Nakoula. The administration falsely claimed that Nakoula’s video, “Innocence of Muslims,” provoked the attack. The email also references the involvement of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Judicial Watch, through separate litigation, previously uncovered documents that show Obama White House officials set Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi response):
Sent: September 11, 2012 9:11 PM
To: DSCC_Managment_Team; DSCC_Watch Team
Subject: (S//NF) [REDACTED] Libya
Per Ambassador Mull [Stephen Mull, then Executive Secretary of the State Department] after SVTS [Secure Video Teleconference System] conference:
DOD is looking at various resources.
S [then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] expected to make statements one of which may confirm KIA, notification of next of kin is pending confirmation. DCM The Hague was to call OPS when completed.
White House is reaching out to U-Tube to advise ramifications of posting of the Pastor Jon video.
The documents also include a previously Secret “Attack Timeline,” dated September 12, 2012, which raised additional questions about the Obama administration’s response to the attack. The State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security makes no mention of any spontaneous demonstration or Internet video in describing the Benghazi assault:
At 1549 hrs, DSCC was notified that U.S. Mission Benghazi was under attack. At 1600 hrs, DSCC [Diplomatic Security Command Center] was notified by Regional Security Officer (RSO) Benghazi that armed individuals had entered the compound, and at 1614 hrs RSO Benghazi reported that an armed group had set fire to buildings inside the compound. The US Ambassador was visiting post from Tripoli, and as of 1614 hrs it was suspected that one of the buildings that had been set on fire was the building where the Ambassador was sheltering. [Redacted] Quick Reaction Force (QRF) responded from their off-compound Annex, but was turned back due to heavy hostile fire.
As of 1700 hrs, [REDACTED] QRF and host nation militia (17 February Brigade) have redeployed to the compound. One Assistant RSO (ARSO) suffered injuries from smoke inhalation. This agent was in the Principal Officer’s Residence with U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Information Program Officer (IPO) Sean P. Smith. All three moved to the safe haven when the attack began, but had to relocate to the roof as the building caught on fire. The agent reached the rooftop but lost contact with the other two. The agent reentered the residence and found the IPO killed in action (KIA), and was unable to locate the Ambassador. The agent had given his cell phone to the Ambassador.
The QRF and friendly militia forces were unable to locate the Ambassador, and pull back to the off-compound Annex. All classified material on the compound is secured by RSO [REDACTED] personnel. Embassy Tripoli receives a phone call from the injured ARSO’s cell phone (which had been left with the Ambassador) from a male caller saying he is at the hospital with an unresponsive male who matches a physical description of the Ambassador. [REDACTED MATERIAL]. Tripoli charters an airplane and sends it to Benghazi with six personnel onboard as a response team.
The document also raises questions about whether a delay of personnel sent to Benghazi led to additional deaths:
At 2215 hrs, Benghazi ARSO called DSCC to report that the [REDACTED] response team has been on the ground in Benghazi for approximately 60 minutes, but are waiting for the 17 February Brigade to escort them to [REDACTED]. DS Seniors ask ARSO about the identity of the reported white male in the hospital. [REDACTED MATERIAL] hospital for about two hours. Henderson will call him after this call.
The timeline later details that the team did not leave the airport for another 45 minutes and did not arrive at the Annex until 2313 hrs, nearly two hours after the team first arrived. The timeline then details the second attack, which takes place only 17 minutes after the response team arrives:
- At 2332 hrs, ARSO reports that they are under mortar attack, with 3 to 4 rounds hitting the Annex. There are [REDACTED] injured and [REDACTED] the need for medical evacuation. The response team is on site and either inside or deployed to the roof. The agents are sheltering in place with 45-minutes to sunrise.
- At 2349 hrs, DS Special Agent [REDACTED] was reported hit during the mortar attack, which has since ceased. [REDACTED MATERIAL] All other DS agents are accounted for.
More than six hours after the initial terrorist assault, there remains only one plane available to evacuate injured and other personnel from Benghazi. The timeline details that the plane takes off, leaving some personnel behind, including those killed in action. Those remaining behind initially have to wait for the one plane to return from Tripoli, but are eventually rescued several hours later by a Libyan Air Force C-130 airplane.
The attack timeline also includes a section labeled “Causes and Responsibility,” which is redacted completely.
Other timelines are included in the State Department materials. These documents make no mention of Internet videos or demonstrations, for example one declassified timeline details:
1550 The Diplomatic Security Command Center (DSCC) receives word that US Mission Benghazi is under attack by 15-20 armed hostiles.
1615 RSO Benghazi advises hostile individuals setting fire to buildings on compound, including the one housing Ambassador Stevens, IPO Sean Smith, and ARSO [REDACTED] responds with a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and takes fire from hostiles. QRF returns to Annex to regroup with host militia and redeploys.
The documents also reveal that at the time of the attack, the Department of Defense apparently had two government contractors in Benghazi working on weapons removal without the knowledge of the Department of State.
Judicial Watch has now filed 40 FOIA requests, a Mandatory Declassification Review, and at least 12 lawsuits against the Obama administration relating to the Benghazi terrorist attack. Currently, Judicial Watch is the only non-governmental organization in the nation litigating in federal court to uncover information withheld by the Obama administration about the events that transpired before, during, and following the Benghazi massacre.
“These documents show the Obama White House rushed to tie yet another video to the Benghazi attack, even before Ambassador Stevens was accounted for. The Obama White House, evidently, was confused as to which Internet video to falsely blame for the Benghazi terrorist attack,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These documents show that the Obama White House should have been focused on rescuing our people under fire. These documents detail delays and lack of support that raise questions about whether American lives were needlessly lost and put at risk during the Benghazi attack.”
In April 2014, Judicial Watch forced the release of State Department documents it had obtained, including an internal email showing then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes and other Obama administration public relations officials attempting to orchestrate a campaign to “reinforce” President Obama and to portray the Benghazi consulate terrorist attack as being “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy.” Other documents showed that State Department officials initially described the incident as an “attack” and a possible kidnap attempt. The documents were obtained by Judicial Watch as a result of a June 21, 2013, FOIA lawsuit filed against the Department of State (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:13-cv-00951)). Judicial Watch’s release of the Rhodes email, which had been withheld by the Obama administration from Congress, caused the House of Representatives to approve the Select Committee on Benghazi, which is now led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC).
In June 2013, Judicial Watch released the first seven photos depicting the devastating aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic and CIA facilities in Benghazi. The following November, it obtained 32 new documents from the Department of State, including 13 previously withheld photos depicting the carnage at the American diplomatic compound. The documents were obtained in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed against the State Department on February 25, 2013, (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1-13-cv-00242)).