A controversial report from CBS News' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, claims that a response team from the CIA annex facility that wanted to go to the aid of Americans at the main compound received “orders to wait.” But months ago, that claim was denied by the CIA and debunked by the State Department's independent review of the assault -- facts that went unmentioned during the CBS segment.
CBS' allegation has already been highlighted by congressional investigators, who issued an October 31 letter calling on the State Department, Defense Department, and CIA to address the claim, which they say “again calls into question decision making by government officials in aggressively rescuing American personnel at the Benghazi compound.”
The October 27 report has come under fire from Media Matters and a host of journalism veterans following the revelation that a security contractor presented by CBS News as a witness to the attacks had previously filed a report with his security contractor employer saying that he “could not get anywhere near” the compound the night of the attack. The segment, which also attempted to revive the long-answered “lingering question” about why no U.S. military forces from outside Libya came to the aid of Americans in the compound, was widely praised by conservative media and Republican politicians.
During the segment, correspondent Lara Logan claimed that "[a]bout 30 minutes into the attack" on the diplomatic compound, “a quick reaction force from the CIA Annex ignored orders to wait and raced to the compound, at times running and shooting their way through the streets just to get there.”
That claim was originally reported by Fox News in October 2012, with the network's Jennifer Griffin reporting:
Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later on the annex itself was denied by the CIA chain of command -- who also told the CIA operators twice to “stand down” rather than help the ambassador's team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.
At the time, a CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood flatly denied the claim, Griffin noted:
“We can say with confidence that the Agency reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi,” she said. “Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate. In fact, it is important to remember how many lives were saved by courageous Americans who put their own safety at risk that night-and that some of those selfless Americans gave their lives in the effort to rescue their comrades.”
In December, the Assessment Review Board, an independent panel assembled by the State Department to investigate the attack, also knocked down the claim, finding (emphasis added):
The departure of the Annex team was not delayed by orders from superiors; the team leader decided on his own to depart the Annex compound once it was apparent, despite a brief delay to permit their continuing efforts, that rapid support from local security elements was not forthcoming.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.