U.S. Military was Prepared to Immediately Protect U.S. Diplomats in Benghazi, Email Records Show

December 11, 2015

Submitted by:  Veronica Coffin

Written by:  Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch

Contrary to what the Obama administration has told the American people, the U.S. military was poised and ready to respond immediately and forcefully against terrorists in Benghazi, Libya.

That’s what we have learned from an email exchange from then-Department of Defense Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash to State Department leadership immediately offering “forces that could move to Benghazi” during the terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission Compound in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. In an email sent to top Department of State officials, at 7:19 p.m. ET, only hours after the attack had begun, Bash says, “we have identified the forces that could move to Benghazi. They are spinning up as we speak.” The Obama administration redacted the details of the military forces available, oddly citing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption that allows the withholding of “deliberative process” information.

Bash’s email seems to directly contradict testimony given by then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2013. Defending the Obama administration’s lack of military response to the nearly six-hour-long attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Panetta claimed that “time, distance, the lack of an adequate warning, events that moved very quickly on the ground prevented a more immediate response.”

This latest bombshell your Judicial Watch has released to the public has attracted considerable media attention. Here is how the Washington Examiner reported on these revelations:

While parts of the email were redacted, the message indicates the Pentagon was waiting for approval from the State Department to send the forces in. That help never arrived for the Americans under siege at the Benghazi compound. A spokesman for the House Select Committee on Benghazi said investigators had received the unredacted version of the email, which was obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act and made public Tuesday, last year but had declined to make it public.

Now would be a good time to go back and review the Obama administration’s many prevarications on the Benghazi terrorist attacks. (A significant collection of our history-making work on the Benghazi scandal is available here.)

You may recall that the first assault occurred at the main compound at about 9:40 p.m. local time (3:40 p.m. ET in Washington, DC). The second attack on a CIA annex 1.2 miles away began three hours later, at about 12 a.m. local time the following morning (6 p.m. ET), and ended at approximately 5:15 a.m. local time (11:15 a.m. ET) with a mortar attack that killed security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

The newly released email reads:

From: Bash, Jeremy CIV SD [REDACTED]
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 7:19 PM
To: Sullivan, Jacob J; Sherman, Wendy R; Nides, Thomas R
Cc: Miller, James HON OSD POLICY; Wienefeld, James A ADM JSC VCJCS; Kelly, John LtGen SD; martin, dempsey [REDACTED]

Subject: Libya

State colleagues:

I just tried you on the phone but you were all in with S [apparent reference to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton].

After consulting with General Dempsey, General Ham and the Joint Staff, we have identified the forces that could move to Benghazi. They are spinning up as we speak. They include a [REDACTED].

Assuming Principals agree to deploy these elements, we will ask State to procure the approval from host nation. Please advise how you wish to convey that approval to us [REDACTED].


Jacob Sullivan was Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the time of the terrorist attack at Benghazi. Wendy Sherman was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the fourth-ranking official in the U.S. Department of State. Thomas Nides was the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.

The timing of the Bash email is particularly significant based upon testimony given to members of Congress by Gregory Hicks, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. embassy in Tripoli at the time of the Benghazi terrorist attack. According to Hicks’ 2013 testimony, a show of force by the U.S. military during the siege could have prevented much of the carnage. Said Hicks, “If we had been able to scramble a fighter or aircraft or two over Benghazi as quickly as possible after the attack commenced, I believe there would not have been a mortar attack on the annex in the morning because I believe the Libyans would have split. They would have been scared to death that we would have gotten a laser on them and killed them.”

Ultimately, Special Operations forces on their own initiative traveled from Tripoli to Benghazi to provide support during the attack. Other military assets were only used to recover the dead and wounded, and to evacuate U.S. personnel from Libya. In fact, other documentsreleased in October by Judicial Watch show that only one U.S. plane was available to evacuate Americans from Benghazi to Tripoli and that raises questions about whether a delay of military support led to additional deaths in Benghazi.

As per usual, we only obtained this document after going to federal court. The new email came as a result of a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed on September 4, 2014 seeking:

• Records related to notes, updates, or reports created in response to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. This request includes, but is not limited to, notes taken by then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton or employees of the Office of the Secretary of State during the attack and its immediate aftermath.

The Obama administration and Clinton officials hid this compelling Benghazi email for years. The email makes readily apparent that the military was prepared to launch immediate assistance that could have made a difference, at least at the CIA Annex. The fact that the Obama Administration withheld this email for so long only worsens the scandal of Benghazi.

The Washington Examiner puts it very well:

The newly disclosed email chain casts doubt on previous testimony from high-level officials, several of whom suggested there was never any kind of military unit that could have been in a position to mount a rescue mission during the hours-long attack on Benghazi.

It came out later that day that the House Select Committee on Benghazi had been withholding from the public an unredacted version of the email released by Judicial Watch. Almost immediately upon Judicial Watch’s release of the devastating email, a spokesman for the House Select Committee on Benghazi made a snide, sour-grapes announcement to The Daily Caller attempting to defend the Committee’s decision to keep the email secret for a year by implicitly criticizing Judicial Watch’s supposed “rush to release or comment on every document it uncovers.” Bad enough fighting the lawless secrecy of the Obama administration – so it is disappointing to have the unnecessary spitballs from presumed allies for transparency.

The Democrats on the Select Committee thought they helped their cause of defending the indefensible by releasing a complete version of the email. Hardly. The new details show that the military forces that weren’t deployed, specifically “a SOF [Special Operations Forces] element that was in Croatia (which can fly to Suda Bay, Crete), and a Marine FAST [Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team] team out of Rota, Spain.” The FAST Team arrived well after the attack and the Special Operations Forces never left Croatia. In addition to providing confirming details that forces were ready to go, the Democrats expose the Obama administration’s dishonesty in withholding the information in the first place.

All this goes to underscore the value of Judicial Watch’s independent watchdog activities and our leadership in forcing truth and accountability over the Benghazi scandal.


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