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Tango Mike Mike: the cold reality of the Benghazi timeline

They came under the cover of darkness. Killers hiding behind the warped veil of religion, murderers claiming twisted offense at American ways, they were – are – no more than butchers and assassins committing heinous acts out of a perverse love of terror and death. At 9:40pm on September 11, 2012, approximately 150 heavily armed terrorists, many under the banner of the Islamist militia group (read: terrorists) Ansar al-Sharia, stormed the United States diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. The barrage to follow would last for eight hours, injuring many and murdering four Americans: former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, former USAF and current IT Foreign Service Operator Sean Smith, and US Ambassador Chris Stevens. In the aftermath, the White House (WH) and its representatives did their level best to place blame for the carefully orchestrated attack on the Youtube release of a trailer for a movie called Innocence of Muslims. They labeled the onslaught “spontaneous” and claimed Libya is simply awash with firearms, an over-abundance of weaponry that led to an Innocence of Muslims protest gone awry. Meanwhile, families mourned the deaths of their loved ones, men left to their demise in an act that can only be chalked up in one of two ways: willful nescience or wretched intelligence.

Former SEAL Glen Doherty was killed in Benghazi in 2012
Photo by: Anonymous/DohertyFamily

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." Dante Alighieri, Canto III, line 9 (A sequence of events)
(All times noted in the timeline are Benghazi local time unless otherwise listed.)

The Benghazi diplomatic post, also known as the Special Mission Compound, or SMC, was a walled area approximately 300 yards long and 100 yards wide. There were four buildings inside the walls surrounded by gardens and open space: a guard house which was also “friendly” Libyan militia quarters, located by the main gate; the main building, including Ambassador Stevens’ personal quarters and a safe room; the U.S. security officer quarters, located to the side of the main building; and the Tactical Operations Command, or TOC, building, located just behind the U.S. security officer quarters. The second compound, or annex, where the CIA was housed, appears to have been meant to be hidden from public knowledge. The CIA “annex” was a short distance from the SMC and consisted of four small buildings surrounded on all sides by walls.

Immediately prior to 7am the day of the attack, a Libyan police officer slated to guard the SMC was seen on a neighboring rooftop videotaping the SMC. When challenged by personnel, he ran away and was not seen again. Just hours later, an unmarked car slowly circled the post’s outer walls for some time before driving away.

Across from the SMC was an upscale restaurant called the Venezia, and at 9:30pm that night, diners had ringside seats for the coming assault. Venezia patrons reported seeing heavily armed men arrive in militia jeeps, at least one of which bore the emblem of Ansar al-Sharia. Many wore the tunics seemingly favored by Islamic militants, and some had covered their faces, while others wore flak jackets. Their weapons for the initial attack included RPG’s (rocket-propelled grenades), hand grenades, and an assortment of rifles, including AK-47’s and FN F2000 NATO AR’s. A group of men drinking coffee at a café watched a pair of trucks filled to overflowing with armed militants head for the SMC. Other witnesses saw militants in 4x4’s block off roads leading to and from the compound. Several of the trucks bore the Ansar al-Sharia emblem or were decorated with flags marking them as members of the terrorist group.

While the attackers at the rear gate stood and waited, their cohorts tossed grenades over the wall near the main gate. One witness told media he saw a Libyan guard simply open the rear gate after the first booms resonated through the SMC, and claims the armed militants outside yelled at the guard to get back inside and shut the gate. Just moments later, the terrorists opened fire.

At the front of the SMC, militants gained entrance simply by pointing their firearms at the unarmed Blue Mountain guards manning the main gate. Faced with loaded weapons and a clearly violent group of men, the hapless guards felt they had no choice but to let them in, but did raise an alarm. In other spots, militants simply scaled the walls. Regardless of their method, one thing was sure: by 9:42pm, local time, they were in.

There were five men from the diplomatic security service (DSS) present that night, as well as three armed “friendly” militiamen from the 17th February Brigade and five unarmed Libyan guards from Blue Mountain Group. Of the five DSS agents, four were with Ambassador Stevens in the main building. However, of those four, three had left their rifles and body armor back in what was known as the accommodation block. That left one armed DSS agent to lead Ambassador Stevens and FSO Smith into the main building’s safe room while the other three agents sprinted across the compound to retrieve their weapons and gear. But by the time those three retrieved their gear the heavily armed intruders were effectively blocking their path back to the main building. Forced with no other options but to return to the barracks and TOC, they retreated, leaving lone DSS agent Scott Strickland to attempt to save Ambassador Stevens and FSO Smith on his own. The original plan in case of the walls being breached involved a strategic defense of the main building’s perimeter, backing into the supposed “safe” room if need be. Now, down to only Strickland, such a defense was simply impossible to mount. Meanwhile, as Strickland, Stevens, and Smith sought refuge in the main building, Stevens sent a plea for help to Gregory Hicks, the American deputy ambassador in Tripoli: “We’re under attack.” FSO Smith had sent out a message in real time to an online gaming friend: “Fuck. Gunfire.” In addition, a security officer had sent a frantic message to the CIA post he knew was just one mile away and housed former elite forces men: “We’re under attack. Please send help now.” These messages, and countless others, were sent within minutes of the first shots being fired by the invaders.

"Pride, envy, and avarice are the three sparks that have set these hearts on fire." Dante Alighieri, Canto VI, lines 74-75

Then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was informed the SMC was under siege and in serious danger immediately after the assault began, which was right before 4pm Washington, D.C., time.

Alerts of the attack were sent throughout the upper echelons of government and the intelligence community. Among those alerted were the office of Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, and the White House Situation Room. During former President George W. Bush’s time in office, he spent a significant amount of time in the situation room staying abreast of events. Former President Bill Clinton spent remarkable time in the room as well during his presidency.

The U.S. military decided to send an unarmed drone to collect real-time information, which could, in turn, be relayed to the CIA post near the SMC. In fact, the real-time footage recorded by the first drone and the subsequent drone sent to replace the first, purportedly due to fuel needs, was capable of being transmitted literally everywhere it could possibly need to go, both in the military and the government. No air support was ever sent.

According to Cross Border Authority, or CBA, only an order from the President of the United States of America can initiate a military operation on foreign ground such as Benghazi. The President would need to give the order for help to be sent to the embattled Benghazi diplomatic post. The lives of every American at the Benghazi post and the nearby CIA post were in the hands of Barack Obama. The military buck quite literally stopped, started, and gained all life and breath, from him.

“Assuming we don’t die tonight.” (FSO Sean Smith to an online friend when the attack began.) The deaths of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and FSO Sean Smith

The intruders gained entry into the main building quite simply with the assistance of a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) blasting into the lintel above the front doors. Strickland was forced into the safe room almost immediately by the invading militants, leading Ambassador Stevens and FSO Sean Smith in his wake. When the militants realized they were not going to easily gain entrance into the safe haven, they did not do what agents had earlier hoped for – attempt to blast their way inside. Instead, they began to drag furniture outside and dump it into the pool while also going directly to the generators – which were not actually working at the time – and retrieving jerry cans of fuel. The attackers poured fuel on the carpets, sloshing it on the walls and creating an eye-searing, throat-clogging rush of diesel fumes even before the moment they set the area right outside the safe room ablaze.

The main building’s safe room did not have a solid steel door. Instead, it was enclosed by a barred metal gate, held fast with two locks. The rapidly spreading fire created thick, oily clouds of pitch black smoke, and those tendrils easily found their way into the safe haven, filling the room to intolerable with impressive speed. Diesel fumes are one hundred times more toxic than gasoline fumes and begin to cause brain damage immediately. Studies have shown that less than thirty minutes of exposure to fumes alone, let alone the increased output from the steady burn of a fire created by diesel, creates significant damage to the brain that is visible on an EEG (electroencephalogram). The only way out for the three men trapped in the so-called safe haven was through a window.

Asphyxiation by fire is a horrific way to die. Fire thrives on oxygen, including the air in human lungs, so for Ambassador Stevens and FSO Smith, the very air they breathed, thick with smoke and flames, began to leach the life from their lungs. Toxic diesel fumes filled their reality like a cloying, deadly cloak, and the heavy smoke slowly replaced the oxygen their lungs struggled to inhale. As black smoke filled their lungs to capacity, their hearts began to beat harder and faster in an attempt to pump oxygen-rich blood through their bodies. Simultaneously, carbon dioxide built up as their lungs could no longer expel the deadly molecules. At first, the men would have begun to cough, fighting for air. Next was shortness of breath and dizziness, possibly accompanied by vomiting as toxicity overcame their systems. Needles of pain would have rushed through them, and their faces and extremities would be both ice cold from oxygen deprivation and burning up from the heat of the blaze – it is not a painless death. The process of asphyxiating in a fire can take anywhere from thirty seconds to several minutes of endless torture. Anyone who claims Ambassador Stevens and FSO Smith did not die horribly does not know that of which they speak.

DSS agent Strickland knew they would perish within the strictures of the safe haven, with thick fingers of diesel smoke reaching between the bars of the door. First he led the others to a bathroom at the rear of the safe house, directing them to lie on the floor. Finally, seeing no other option, he broke through the emergency hatch that led onto a patio, and, from there, onto the roof. He crawled low to the ground in an attempt to stay under the smoke, but there was truly no escaping it. But despite his attempts to have the two men follow him, neither did. When he realized he was alone, he re-entered the smoke-filled room, hoping to locate Stevens and Smith. Strickland moved back and forth, taking enemy fire when he exited the room for fresh lungfuls of air and inhaling quantities of deadly smoke as he attempted to rescue the two men who were somewhere inside. At some point, he radioed for help from the roof of the safe haven, and the DSS agents who had retreated to the safe room of the barracks realized they needed to leave their own haven.

When the other DSS agents were finally able to cross the SMC grounds and reach the main building, they found Strickland, vomiting and suffering from severe smoke inhalation, trying to rescue Stevens and Smith. The men took turns entering the safe room until all of them were suffering the ill effects of smoke inhalation and toxic fumes. Smith’s lifeless form was finally pulled from the structure when a few more men arrived on the scene (see below), but they were unable to find Stevens.

There are multiple conflicting reports surrounding the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens. In the events that followed, his body was not found, and the survivors of the attack were moved to what the media has called a nearby annex. What is known is found in the footage of a video taken by a local man, time-stamped at a quarter after midnight. It is now September 12, 2012.

In the video, Stevens is shown on the floor of the safe room in the main building, clad in a short-sleeved tee shirt and slacks. He is either unconscious or dead, and his lips are stained pitch black from the diesel smoke. Cries of “Allahu Akbar” rise from the crowd of men and boys, and they can be heard saying Stevens is still alive. After some discussion, they decide to move him to the hospital. Photographs taken by cell phones show Stevens, pants buckled, shirt sliding up, being carried over an unidentified man’s shoulder to a private car. Bystanders took Stevens, along with an injured Libyan guard – the same man who left the infamous bloodied handprint on the gate – to Benghazi Medical Centre. According to the hospital director, Dr. Fathi al-Jerami, he and his staff were shocked to see Stevens arrive with a group of locals, and not a single American in sight. The guard insisted repeatedly that the unconscious (or dead) American was the U.S. Ambassador, and hospital staff spent ninety minutes attempting to resuscitate him. Sadly, they failed, bringing the tally of dead Americans to two. FSO Sean Smith and U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens were dead.

Ready to Lead, Ready to Follow, Never Quit – U.S. Navy SEALs

Just 1.2 short miles from the SMC, the CIA had a well-hidden station. The four-building compound has been referred to endlessly as an “annex” in the mainstream media, but that is an inaccurate description. An annex is a something added to something larger and more important than itself. The CIA post was not only entirely separate from the SMC but housed a team of dozens of men compared to the SMC’s small handful of regular staff. They were, at the time, a little-known entity in many sectors. Locals told press it was common knowledge in Benghazi a large group of Americans had taken up residence in the compound, and certain locals claimed they also knew who and what they were. Regardless of the reason for their existence, they were close enough to hear the resonance of grenades and the constant susurrus of firearms when the SMC was attacked on September 11, 2012.

Within 25 minutes of the initial attack, a small quick reaction force (QRF) of either three, four, or six, men, according to conflicting reports (most likely, three total), had been mustered at the CIA station. Leading the QRF was former SEAL Tyrone Woods. Woods was a member of the CIA post’s Global Response Staff (GRS), a team made up of former elite services members. He served on SEAL Team Three and as medical corpsman for Teams One, Three, and Five, and spent two decades serving honorably in the Navy. He also spent two years as part of the Navy's Leap Frog team. During his service, he was awarded a Bronze Star with a V Device, and his known actions include 12 direct action raids and 10 reconnaissance missions as well as multiple tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Central America. When he retired in 2010 as a senior chief petty officer, he worked as a registered nurse and certified paramedic before joining the CIA’s GRS. On that night in Libya, when Woods heard the opening volleys of the attack on the SMC, he immediately approached the powers-that-be at the CIA post. He was flatly ordered to “stand down.” Minutes later, he was again ordered to stand down, but he wasn’t listening. He would never leave men in need of help to stand alone when he was able to do something about it.

Woods and his men loaded up on weapons, ammunition, and NVG (night vision goggles), then climbed into armored Toyota Land Cruisers and headed for the SMC. They came under fire almost immediately, identifiable as a QRF by their vehicles, if nothing else. The attackers had set up roadblocks using trucks and jeeps, but despite attempts made to slow them, the men made it to the SMC. With them were approximately forty members of the so-called friendly 17th February Brigade, a Libyan militia. But when it came down to it, the 17th February men did next to nothing to help, claiming they could not hold the perimeter and were not powerful enough to fight back.

With the arrival of Woods’ QRF, the day appeared to have been saved, in a way. For ninety minutes, the QRF fought to force back the attackers. Sean Smith’s body was loaded into an armored vehicle and the survivors piled in, heading to the CIA post en masse. The now-combined forces of DSS agents and the GRS QRF were small but tough, and fought their way back to the other compound, which they hoped would be safe. All along the way they took small-arms fire and fought through road blocks. According to multiple accounts, at least two tires on one armored vehicle were blown out by hand grenades along the way, and yet they continued on. Ambassador Stevens body had not been found by any of the men, despite their attempts, leading to some of the conflicting reports about his whereabouts and the moments leading to his death.

Tango Mike Mike

When the men reached the CIA post, they were taking fire from RPG’s and small arms. There was no real gap in the assault; it simply followed the evacuees to the secondary location. Fighting continued for about an hour before appearing to come to an unexplainable halt.

At precisely the same time the fighting came to a pause, a flight arrived from Tripoli with CIA reinforcements. Seven men were on the flight, including former SEAL Glen Doherty, a GRS officer, and three other GRS officers, a CIA case officer and two U.S. military personnel. According to reliable sources, Glen Doherty and the other men paid USD $30,000, cash, to bribe a commercial jet to fly them to Benghazi. The men were delayed until 4:30am local time due to Libyan officials arguing with them about their being allowed to leave the airport, securing transportation, and putting together a mission plan. Coincidentally, while they argued their way out of the airport, there was a lull in fighting that just happened to last from the time they landed to just after they finally arrived at the CIA post in Benghazi. The small group of men reached the CIA post at 5:04am local time.
Glen Doherty became a SEAL in 1995. He trained in 18 Delta Special Forces Combat Medical School and the SEAL sniper course, serving for nine years in combat zones, including Iraq. He was a nationally certified paramedic and an accomplished pilot. Doherty was part of the team that responded to the USS Cole in 2000, and after years of service he needed a knee reconstruction. But then September 11, 2001, happened, and he stayed in. Through two tours during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he proved he had heart and courage time and again. And it was that heart that led him to join fellow former SEAL Tyrone Woods on the rooftop of one of the CIA post building in the early morning hours – around 5:15am - of September 12, 2012.

There was no hesitation for Doherty or Woods. Fighting against much larger weaponry than the small arms that made up the majority of weapons at the first SMC attack, the two SEALs – for that is what they were, and will always be – fought side-by-side. The Islamic militants had assorted rifles and grenades, RPG’s, heavy machine guns, mortars, and even more heavy artillery mounted on their trucks. The two SEALs-now-CIA-assets had Mark 48 Mod O lightweight machine guns – the CIA post had both Mk48’s and Mk46’s, but sources point to the Mk48 Mod O as Woods’ and Doherty’s weapons - equipped with both visible and passive lasers. And despite reports to the contrary, they also had Ground Laser Designators (GLD), which are markers used to pinpoint aerial strikes when – if - air support arrives. GLD was used by both men to mark targets for the air strikes they repeatedly called to request; help was never authorized by the White House, and according to Cross Border Authority, the president has to authorize assistance. He did not.

"But the stars that marked our start fall away. We must go deeper into great pain, for it is not permitted that we stay." Dante Alighieri, Canto VII, line 97-99

On the rooftop of the CIA post building, Doherty and Woods fought valiantly. Numerous accounts of their final moments have spread, and one detail is in constant agreement: their actions were heroic. The numbers given vary from dozens to sixty to one hundred, but there is, at least, no doubt they took out a staggering number of the militants assaulting their position. Both men were wounded, bleeding, and in pain. And yet they continued to fight. When the mortars began to fall, and there was no sign of help being authorized by the President of the United States, it is a logical assumption to make that they were well aware they were likely to be killed.

Tyrone Woods made one final plea for support. There were AC-130H Spectre gunships waiting for authorization to lend support, but the go-ahead never came. A Special Forces team standing by in Tripoli, waiting to be given the green light to rush to the rescue in Benghazi, did just that: stood by. Just one hour’s flight time from Benghazi, the U.S. Souda Bay Naval Base awaited a signal to move that never came. And the list of those waiting goes on. And on.

Within minutes of the fighting’s resurgence at 5:15am, the mortars fell. The first one fell short, and, being seasoned combat operatives, Woods and Doherty must have known what was to come. Reports say the next mortar struck Woods, and as Glen Doherty rushed to attempt to save his friend’s life, another mortar removed him from this reality.

More than seven hours had passed since the assaults began and the White House was informed of the urgency of the situation. Two CIA assets, former Navy SEALs, were dead. Killed battling against a swelling force of obviously organized militants, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty made the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow men. US Ambassador Chris Stevens and FSO Sean Smith were also dead, murdered by the horrific, gasping method of smoke asphyxia.

Back in Washington, D.C., the president slept. As the morning light dawned in the nation’s capital, he boarded a flight to Las Vegas, Nevada, for a fundraiser. And a world away in Benghazi, our fallen grew cold, requests for help denied.

"Here, pity only lives when it is good and dead." Virgil, Dante Alighieri, Canto XX, line 28

What went wrong in Benghazi? The questions are endless. Where was Obama during the eight-hour-total attack? What was he doing that night? Why was Obama not attending security briefings or visiting the Situation Room? Why was the U.S. the ‘last flag” in Benghazi? Why did the Obama Administration immediately cover-up the cause of the attack? Why were requests for additional security ignored in the days and weeks preceding the attack? Why was Stevens in Benghazi on the anniversary of 9-11? Why was the CIA in Benghazi? What is the talking-points email, and is it truly a smoking gun?

Author's Note: Follow all of Katherine's work by liking her public Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/KatherineAinsworthWriter?ref=tn_tnmn

Coming up next: An explanation of the events immediately following the Benghazi attacks, from the White House’s attempts to blame it on an internet video trailer to the lack of sending help to the embattled U.S. posts. The goal of the timeline above is to explain the deadly night’s events for the uninformed in order to grant greater understanding of the Benghazi-related pieces to come.

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Remembering our fallen:

Former SEAL SCPO Tyrone Snowden Woods, 41: posthumous Congressional Gold Medal

Former SEAL PO1 Glen Anthony Doherty, 42: posthumous Congressional Gold Medal

Former USAF SSgt Sean Smith: posthumous Thomas Jefferson Star for Foreign Service

US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens

Sources:

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[Democrats Refuse to Hear Testimony from Parents of Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods, Who Died in Benghazi]
The Gateway Pundit Democrats Refuse to Hear Testimony from Parents of Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods, Who Died in Benghazi In-text: (The Gateway Pundit, 2013) Bibliography: The Gateway Pundit, (2013). Democrats Refuse to Hear Testimony from Parents of Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods, Who Died in Benghazi. [online] Available at: http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2013/09/democrats-refuse-to-hear-testimo... [Accessed 13 May. 2014].

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Whitehouse.govRemarks by the President on the Deaths of U.S. Embassy Staff in Libya | The White House In-text: (Whitehouse.gov, 2012) Bibliography: Whitehouse.gov, (2012). Remarks by the President on the Deaths of U.S. Embassy Staff in Libya | The White House. [online] Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/09/12/remarks-president-... [Accessed 13 May. 2014].

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[2012 Benghazi attack]
Wikipedia 2012 Benghazi attack In-text: (Wikipedia, 2014) Bibliography: Wikipedia, (2014). 2012 Benghazi attack. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Benghazi_attack [Accessed 13 May. 2014].