Washington Post, 1 November 2012
The CIA rushed security operatives to an American diplomatic compound in Libya within 25 minutes after it had come under attack and played a more central role in the effort to fend off a night-long siege than has been publicly acknowledged, U.S. intelligence officials said Thursday.
The agency mobilized the evacuation effort, took control of an unarmed U.S. military drone to map possible escape routes, dispatched an emergency security team from Tripoli, the capital, and chartered aircraft that ultimately carried surviving U.S. personnel to safety on Sept. 12, U.S. officials said.
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Instead, U.S. intelligence officials insisted that CIA operatives in Benghazi and Tripoli made decisions rapidly throughout the assault with no interference from Washington, even while acknowledging that CIA security forces were badly outmatched and largely unable to mobilize Libyan security teams until it was too late.
Among the new disclosures is that the CIA station chief in Tripoli sent an emergency security force, with about a half-dozen agency operatives as well as two U.S. military personnel, to Benghazi aboard a hastily chartered aircraft while the attack was underway.
Phi Beta Iota: This is a helpful addition to what is now known, and fully credible. Flying time from Tripoli to Benghazi not counting taxi time, is roughly one hour. CIA being delayed at the Benghazi airport is clear sign that CIA does not have the basic support network in place — when properly established, CIA should be able to move anything in, out, or across a country without delay. Miles Copeland, Without Cloak or Dagger: The Truth About the New Espionage (Simon & Schuster, 1974) remains one of the best available overviews of what a working CIA Station should be able to do in any given country including countries that are severely unstable. Had the US military dispatched fighters from Aviano (flying time two hours but one hour pre-launch of KC-135 aerial refueler needed for a total of three hours to time on target), some remediation may have been possible, but not saving the life of the Ambassador. That falls squarely on the Department of State for not having a properly equipped safe room with self contained ventilation, for not having a strip alert helicopter for immediate evacuation, and for being blase about the persistent warnings coming from the field. General Ham’s side of the story will be known within days–we wish him well.