The Associated Press (AP) reported that congressional testimony from CIA officers and contractors who were in Libya the night of the September 11 Benghazi attacks once again revealed that no “stand down” orders were ever given, and that a faster response still could not have saved American lives.
Conservative media have repeatedly pushed the myth that security forces in Libya the night of the attack were ordered to “stand down” rather than rush to the aid of their colleagues in the diplomatic compound. Fox News went so far as to suggest this was a political decision to “sacrifice Americans” by the Obama administration, and pushed the false narrative in at least 85 primetime segments. CBS' botched Benghazi report with Lara Logan and discredited “witness” Dylan Davies also pushed the myth, claiming “a quick reaction force from the CIA Annex ignored orders to wait and raced to the compound.”
On December 14, an AP report explained how the “stand down” hoax developed, destroying the false conservative narrative. According to Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) who heads the House intelligence subcommittee which interviewed the CIA officers, the myth of a “stand down” order derived from the CIA decision to try to “first gather intelligence and round up Libyan militia allies armed with heavy weapons” before rushing into the violent scene, a decision some security contractors initially disagreed with.
The AP report further explained that "None of those who testified would say they believed the ambassador or the others could have been saved had they arrived any faster" (emphasis added):
CIA officers revealed a clash over how quickly they should go help the besieged U.S. ambassador during the 2012 attack on an outpost in Libya, and a standing order for them to avoid violent encounters, according to a congressman and others who heard their private congressional testimony or were briefed on it.
The senior CIA officers in charge in Libya that day told Congress of a chaotic scramble to aid Stevens and others who were in the outpost when it was attacked by militants on the 11th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Those CIA leaders decided they and their security contractor team should wait before rushing from their annex into the violence roughly a mile away. They said they were trying to first gather intelligence and round up Libyan militia allies armed with heavy weapons, according to the testimony by the CIA officers in charge.
Some CIA security contractors disagreed with their bosses and wanted to move more quickly.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who heads a House intelligence subcommittee that interviewed the employees, said he believes this disagreement was the source of allegations that the CIA ordered security personnel to “stand down” and not help the people inside the diplomatic mission, and perhaps was the source of accusations the administration failed to answer a call from the CIA security team for combat aircraft.
A senior intelligence official confirmed that the CIA officers on the ground in Benghazi responded to the diplomats' call for help by trying “to rally local support for the rescue effort and secure heavier weapons.” When it became “clear that this additional support could not be rapidly obtained,” the team moved toward the diplomatic compound.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new ebook by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.