This report examines the most significant events that occurred before, during, and after the September 11, 2012 Islamic terrorist attacks against an American special mission (and a nearby CIA annex) in Benghazi, Libya.
In March 2011, American diplomat Christopher Stevens was stationed in Benghazi as the American liaison to Libya’s “opposition” rebels—among whom were many al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists—who were fighting to topple the longstanding regime of President Muammar Qaddafi. Ambassador Stevens’ task was to help coordinate covert U.S. assistance to these rebels.
Following Qaddafi’s fall from power in the summer of 2011, Ambassador Stevens was tasked with finding and securing the vast caches of powerful armaments which the Libyan dictator had amassed during his long reign. In turn, Stevens facilitated the transfer of these arms to the “opposition” rebels in Syria who were trying to topple yet another Arab dictator—Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. As in Libya, the rebels in Syria were likewise known to include al Qaeda and other Shariah-supremacist groups. In addition to facilitating arms transfers, Stevens’ duties also included the recruitment of Islamic jihadists from Libya and elsewhere in North Africa who were willing to personally go into combat against the Assad regime in Syria. The U.S. mission in Benghazi served as a headquarters from which all the aforementioned activities could be coordinated with officials and diplomats from such countries as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
Throughout 2012, violent jihadist activity became increasingly commonplace in Benghazi and elsewhere throughout Libya and North Africa. At or near the U.S. mission in Benghazi, for instance, there were many acts of terrorism featuring the use of guns, improvised explosive devices, hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, and car-bombs, along with explicit threats against Americans issued by known terrorists like al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. As a result of such developments, Ambassador Stevens and others at the U.S. mission in Benghazi repeatedly asked the Obama administration for increased security provisions during 2012, but these requests were denied or ignored.
Then, on the night of September 11, 2012, the U.S. mission in Benghazi was attacked by a large group of heavily armed terrorists. Over the ensuing 7 hours, Americans stationed at the mission and at the nearby CIA annex issued 3 urgent requests for military back-up, all of which were denied by the Obama administration. By the time the violence was over, 4 Americans were dead: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and two former Navy SEALS, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, who fought to drive away the attackers.
The Obama administration immediately and persistently characterized what had occurred in Benghazi not as an act of terrorism, but as a spontaneous, unplanned uprising that happened, coincidentally, to take place on the anniversary of 9/11. Moreover, the administration portrayed the attack as an event that had evolved from what began as a low-level protest against an obscure YouTube video that disparaged Muslims and their faith. In reality, however, within a few hours following the attack, U.S. intelligence agencies had already gained more than enough evidence to conclude unequivocally that the attack on the mission in Benghazi was a planned terrorist incident, not a spontaneous act carried out in reaction to a video. Indeed, the video had nothing whatsoever to do with the attack.
Given these realities, it is likely that the Obama administration’s post-September 11 actions were aimed at drawing public attention away from a number of highly important facts:
- the U.S. mission in Benghazi had never adopted adequate security measures;
- the administration had ignored dozens of warning signs about growing Islamic extremism and jihadism in the region over a period of more than 6 months;
- the administration, for political reasons, had ignored or denied repeated requests for extra security by American diplomats stationed in Benghazi;
- the administration had failed to beef up security even for the anniversary of 9/11, a date of obvious significance to terrorists;
- the administration, fully cognizant of what was happening on the ground during the September 11 attacks in Benghazi, nonetheless denied multiple calls for help by Americans who were stationed there;
- the administration had been lying when, throughout the presidential election season, it relentlessly advanced the notion that “al Qaeda is on the run” and Islamic terrorism was in decline thanks to President Obama’s policies;
- the administration had hired members of the February 17th Martyrs’ Brigade, a Libyan militia group with clear al Qaeda sympathies, to provide security at the U.S. mission in Benghazi; and
- throughout 2011 and 2012 the administration had been lending its assistance to jihadists affiliated with al Qaeda, supposedly the organization that represented the prime focus of Obama’s anti-terrorism efforts; moreover, some of those same jihadists had personally fought against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This section of Discover The Networks explores the significance of the events in Benghazi and of the Obama administration’s response to those events.