How much of an unexpected surprise was the Benghazi attack? According to the men who were there, it wasn’t a surprise at all.
Green Beret Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wood, was one of the top American security officials in Libya. Based in Tripoli, he met with Amb. Stevens every day.
The last time he went to Benghazi was in June, just three months before the attack. While he was there, al Qaeda tried to assassinate the British ambassador. Wood says, to him, it came as no surprise because al Qaeda — using a familiar tactic — had stated their intent in an online posting, saying they would attack the Red Cross, the British and then the Americans in Benghazi.
Andy Wood: As they did each one of those.
Lara Logan: –attacked the Red Cross and the British mission. And the only ones left–
Andy Wood: Were us. They made good on two out of the three promises. It was a matter of time till they captured the third one.
Lara Logan: And Washington was aware of that?
Andy Wood: They knew we monitored it. We included that in our reports to both State Department and DOD.
Andy Wood told us he raised his concerns directly with Amb. Stevens three months before the U.S. compound was overrun.
Andy Wood: I made it known in a country team meeting, “You are gonna get attacked. You are gonna get attacked in Benghazi. It’s gonna happen.”
Andy Wood: –“Shut down operations. Move out temporarily. Ch– or change locations within the city. Do something to break up the profile because you are being targeted. They are– they are– they are watching you. The attack cycle is such that they’re in the final planning stages.”
Lara Logan: Wait a minute, you said, “They’re in the final planning stages of an attack on the American mission in Benghazi”?
Andy Wood: It was apparent to me that that was the case. Reading, reading all these other, ah, attacks that were occurring, I could see what they were staging up to, it was, it was obvious.
So the attack was the least surprising thing of all. As we’ve already known, top security officials knew it was coming. They relayed the warning up the chain of command.
And then… nothing.
About 30 minutes into the attack, a quick reaction force from the CIA Annex ignored orders to wait and raced to the compound, at times running and shooting their way through the streets just to get there. Inside the compound, they repelled a force of as many as 60 armed terrorists and managed to save five American lives and recover the body of Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith. They were forced to fight their way out before they could find the ambassador.
But what difference does it make?