Intelligence officials on Thursday offered for the first time a detailed timeline that showed officers on the ground responding within 25 minutes to the Sept. 11 attacks on the mission in Libya.
According to several news reports, including The New York Times, anonymous intelligence officials said that a rescue party of CIA officers was deployed from a secret base within Benghazi and that the agency later sent reinforcements from Tripoli to battle the attack on the mission, which ultimately killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens.
Approximately half-a-dozen officers raced from a base from a mile away and arrived at the mission in about 25 minutes, according to The Times, and were later joined by security agents from the State Department. The officers led a search for Stevens, but his body had apparently already been taken to a local hospital. The group evacuated personnel to the CIA base, or what has been commonly referred to as the "annex."
Four hours passed, and an unarmed drone passed overhead taking what The Times describes as “reassuring” photos indicating that the worst was apparently over. But around dawn, shortly following the arrival of a group of CIA reinforcements from Tripoli, a new mortar attack was launched, which killed two CIA officers.
Also on Thursday, Foreign Policy magazine reported that troubling documents found in the mission following the attack seemed to suggest that a member of the local police had been conducting surveillance of the compound in the hours leading up to the attack.
An unsigned draft letter, addressed to the head of the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reads, in part: “one of our diligent guards made a troubling report. Near our main gate, a member of the police force was seen in the upper level of a building across from our compound. It is reported that this person was photographing the inside of the U.S. special mission and furthermore that this person was part of the police unit sent to protect the mission.”
Last week, Fox News reported that requests from CIA to higher-ups for military backup in Benghazi had been denied and that CIA operatives were twice told to “stand down” rather than help defend the mission. That charge was publicly denied by U.S. officials.