Retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen believes help could have come much sooner. "They stood and they watched and our people died.”
The idea that the American air power which destroyed Gaddafi's regime could have intervened in the Benghazi attack had been ridiculed in the past, but now we learn that there was a Predator drone in the area.
CBS News has been told that, hours after the attack began, an unmanned Predator drone was sent over the U.S. mission in Benghazi, and that the drone and other reconnaissance aircraft apparently observed the final hours of the protracted battle.
It's unclear which Predator model this was, but the Predators can carry a weapons package and a Hellfire missile could have done wonders for dissuading Ansar Al-Sharia from further attacks on the compound.
Retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen believes help could have come much sooner. He commanded CIA counter-terrorism missions targeting Osama bin Laden and led the team that responded after bombings of the U.S. Embassy in East Africa.
“You find a way to make this happen,” Berntsen says. “There isn’t a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments. They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died.”
It's unknown if the Predator drone was carrying weapons. The Libyan government claims to have denied permission for the US to fly armed Predators over Libya after the attack. But it's possible that the drone dispatched during the attack was armed. Even so, it would have needed permission to fire and we know the problem with that.
US forces in Afghanistan have been denied air support anywhere near a village. The same Rules of Engagement that left American soldiers obscenely exposed would never have allowed using a hellfire missile inside the city of an "ally".
Here is how Lt. Col Buzz Patterson described the process for authorizing an attack on Bin Laden in a ticking clock situation.
Pilots were in the cockpits, waiting to launch, targets were identified, everything was in place, all [Berger] needed was the go-ahead.”
Berger ambled down the stairwell and entered the Sit[uation] Room. He picked up the phone at one of the busy controller consoles and called the president. Amazingly, President Clinton was not available. Berger tried again and again. Bin Laden was within striking distance. The window of opportunity was closing fast. The plan of attack was set and the Tomahawk [missile] crews were ready. For about an hour Berger couldn’t get the commander in chief on the line. Though the president was always accompanied by military aides and the Secret Service, he was somehow unavailable. Berger stalked the Sit Room, anxious and impatient.
Finally, the president accepted Berger’s call. There was discussion, there were pauses – and no decision. The president wanted to talk with his secretaries of Defense and State. He wanted to study the issue further. Berger was forced to wait. The clock was ticking. The president eventually called back. He was still indecisive. He wanted more discussion. Berger alternated between phone calls and watching the clock.
This was how bad things were under Bill Clinton. You can only imagine how bad they were under Obama. Getting authorization to open fire within a very limited timetable would have been mission impossible.
The Predator drone was there for surveillance, but the only thing that its operator was authorized to do was stand there and watch while the people died.