A retired senior military official said he has been told by “sources” that President Barack Obama was at the White House watching in real time as the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, took place September 11. If true, surveillance of the attack as it unfolded would have come from a pair of unarmed drones that were dispatched to the scene and recorded the tail end of the attack, which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, including two former Navy SEALs.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, who served as a senior operations officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency in Afghanistan in 2003, told Fox News that the attack unfolded during the “middle of the business day in Washington, so everybody at the White House, CIA, Pentagon, everybody was watching this go down. According to my sources [Obama] was one of those in the White House Situation Room in real-time watching this.”
According to another Fox News report, urgent requests from CIA operators in the area were repeatedly denied as the attack was underway, and later as the CIA annex came under attack, with an order coming down twice from the CIA chain of command for the CIA operatives to “stand down” shortly after they heard shots fired at the consulate at 9:40 p.m. September 11.
Shaffer said pressure is mounting on Obama to explain what he knew — and what he could have done to possibly save lives as the attack was underway. “He, only he, could issue a directive to Secretary of Defense Panetta to do something,” Shaffer said. “That’s the only place it could be done.” Panetta has insisted that the White House did not intervene because it lacked information on what exactly was happening on the ground at the consulate.
Fox reported that former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, one of four Americans killed in the attack, was part of the CIA team at an annex about a mile from the U.S. consulate where Stevens and his team were under attack. When Woods and other CIA operatives “heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out,” reported Fox. “They were told to 'stand down,' according to sources familiar with the exchange. Soon after, they were again told to 'stand down.' ”
Woods and others from the CIA annex disobeyed the orders and made their way to the consulate, where they came under fire as they evacuated those who were trapped, and recovered the remains of one of those killed in the attack. They were not able to locate Ambassador Stevens, who was also killed, and returned around midnight to the CIA annex, where they again came under fire. Their requests for support were denied, although the CIA team “was in constant radio contact with their headquarters,” reported Fox. The report added that “fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours — enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive.” U.S. forces specializing in counterterrorism rescues were also stationed within two hours of Benghazi, but were never deployed.
Fox reported that the two drones directed to Benghazi shortly after the attack began were both “capable of sending real time visuals back to U.S. officials in Washington, D.C. Any U.S. official or agency with the proper clearance, including the White House Situation Room, State Department, CIA, Pentagon and others, could call up that video in real time on their computers.”
Seven hours after he had made his way to the consulate and helped to rescue the remaining staff, Woods, along with fellow former SEAL Glen Doherty, was killed by a mortar attack on the CIA annex. Those seven hours, said military observers, provided plenty of opportunity for forces to come to the aid of those on the ground in Benghazi.
Additionally, reported Fox News, sources on the ground during the attack said that a “special operator on the roof of the CIA annex had visual contact and a laser pointing at the Libyan mortar team that was targeting the CIA annex. The operators were calling in coordinates of where the Libyan forces were firing from.” Although the operator repeatedly requested for a Spectre gunship to respond and take out the mortar, no help ever arrived.
Shaffer told Fox News' Heather Childers that the evidence against the Obama administration is “very damning.” He recalled that when President Reagan was briefed on a threat against U.S. students in Grenada in 1983, “it took six hours to plan the invasion of a country. Six hours.... So you're telling me we can plan and execute an invasion of a country in six hours but we can't send support to protect our embassy and the staff within six hours? Are you kidding me? ” He added that the United States “did have what we call fast teams available in Italy, and there were other capabilities which were local. All these things could and should have been implemented.”
On October 27, President Obama insisted in an interview on WUSA-TV that as soon as he became aware of the attack on the consulate, he gave a directive to “make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to” to make sure American personnel were safe.
As for such a directive, Francis “Bing” West, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, told Greta Van Susteren of Fox News that if Obama made that order there will be a “paper trail” to prove it. “Now that’s really big,” he said, “because that means those who were turning down Ty Woods when he was asking for the help were going against the orders of the President of the United States.”
West explained that “a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff doesn’t take an order from the President when he says ‘do everything’ and not put that in writing and send it out to the chain of command. If that actually happened the way President Obama … said it happened, there’s a paper trail and I think people reasonably enough can say, ‘well, can we see the order?’ because hundreds of others supposedly saw this order. But if there is no order, then people have to ask some very basic questions. 'What the heck happened?’ ”
No one wants answers to those “basic questions” more than Tyrone Woods' father, Charles Woods, who said that whoever was responsible for refusing to help his son and the others on the ground in Benghazi are guilty of murder. “They refused to pull the trigger,” Woods told Fox News. “Those people who made the decision and who knew about the decision and lied about it are murderers of my son.”
As for his son's courageous actions the night of the attack on the consulate and CIA annex, the elder Woods said he was not surprised, but added: “I wish that the leadership in the White House had the same level of moral courage and heroism that my son displayed.”
Photo: In this Sept. 14, 2012 file photo, Libyan military guards check one of the burnt out buildings at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya: AP Images