The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

July 11, 2014

Officers say no 'stand-down order' for Benghazi

WASHINGTON (AP) — Military officers testified that there was no "stand-down order" that held back military assets that could have saved the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed at a diplomatic outpost and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya. Their testimony undercut the contention of Republican lawmakers.

The "stand-down" theory centers on a Special Operations team — a detachment leader, a medic, a communications expert and a weapons operator with his foot in a cast — that was stopped from flying from Tripoli to Benghazi after the attacks of Sept. 11-12, 2012, had ended. Instead, it was instructed to help protect and care for those being evacuated from Benghazi and from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

The senior military officer who issued the instruction to "remain in place" and the detachment leader who received it said it was the right decision and has been widely mischaracterized. The order was to remain in Tripoli and protect some three dozen embassy personnel rather than fly to Benghazi some 600 miles away after all Americans there would have been evacuated. And the medic is credited with saving the life of an evacuee from the attacks.

Transcripts of hours of closed-door interviews with nine military leaders by the House Armed Services and Oversight and Government Reform committees were made public for the first time on Wednesday.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the oversight panel, has suggested that Hillary Rodham Clinton gave the order, though as secretary of state at the time, she was not in the military chain of command.

Despite lingering public confusion over many events that night, the testimony shows military leaders largely in agreement over how they responded to the attacks.

The initial, Sept. 11 assault on the diplomatic post, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and another American, prompted immediate action both in Benghazi and in Tripoli. Though not under any known further threat, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, was evacuated early in the morning of Sept. 12, its sensitive information and computer hard drives destroyed. Diplomats and military officials left in armored vehicles for a classified U.S. site several miles away. Upon arrival there, the head of a small detachment entrusted with training Libyan special forces told his higher-ups he wanted to take his four-member team to Benghazi.

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