Updated November 9, 2013
UPDATE: CBS has withdrawn this story, saying it was given false information by a key source, Morgan Jones.
There were clear warnings that an attack on the U.S. Benghazi mission was in the works, lending legitimacy to questions by Congressional Republicans about who in Obama administration knew and why nothing was done about it.
According to a CBS News “60 Minutes” report that aired Sunday night, American officials on the ground in Benghazi were aware al Qaeda was ubiquitous in the city, that it was likely to attack the Benghazi outpost, and that security at the mission was woefully inadequate to deal with it.
Republicans seeking to probe Benghazi have been accused of staging a partisan “witch hunt” designed to undermine Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ leading presidential prospect, who was Secretary of State at the time of the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack. But if Clinton, President Obama or their senior aides were aware of the problems in Benghazi and took no action, then serious offenses were committed at the top rungs of the administration – and Congress is duty-bound to find out about it.
The reporting, by star CBS reporter Lara Logan, also provides further fuel for questioning why the administration was still insisting an anti-Muslim videotape had prompted the attack when it there was abundant evidence that the incident was long in the planning and that it had finally been carried out.
Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wood, a Green Beret commander who was one of the top U.S. security officials in Libya, said the attack on the Benghazi mission was no surprise at all.
Al Qaeda had used a “familiar tactic” – posting its intentions online. It had vowed to attack the Red Cross, the British, and then the Americans in Benghazi. The group had already checked the first two boxes. America was next. And Washington, according to Wood, was aware of this.
Wood said he raised his concerns with the late Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the attack.
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. You need to change your security profile.”
Lara Logan: Shut down–
Andy Wood: Shut down–
Lara Logan: –the special mission–
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.”
A U.S. security officer in Benghazi – who uses the pseudonym Morgan Jones – said one unmistakable red flag was the black flag of al Qaeda, which could be seen flying from the rooftops of Libyan government buildings. He noticed that the armed Libyan militia tasked to defend the mission were incompetent and warned repeatedly that they would head for the hills the moment an attack occurred.
He thought this would be an easy assignment compared to Afghanistan and Iraq. But on his first drive through Benghazi, he noticed the black flags of al Qaeda flying openly in the streets and he grew concerned about the guard forces as soon as he pulled up to the U.S. compound.
Morgan Jones: There was nobody there that we could see. And then we realized they were all inside drinking tea, laughing and joking.
Lara Logan: What did you think?
Morgan Jones: Instantly I thought we’re going to have to get rid of all these guys . . .
Lara Logan: You also kept saying, “If this place is attacked these guys are not going to stand and fight?”
Morgan Jones: Yeah. I used to say it all the time. Yeah, in the end I got quite bored of hearing my own voice saying it.
Andy Wood: We had one option: “Leave Benghazi or you will be killed.”
Logan also uncovered that the U.S. was aware that a top al Qaeda operative was in Libya and busy at work. She asked Greg Hicks, the foreign service officer who was in Tripoli the night of the attack and who has testified before Congress, about it.
We have learned the U.S. already knew that this man, senior al Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi was in Libya, tasked by the head of al Qaeda to establish a clandestine terrorist network inside the country. Al-Libi was already wanted for his role in bombing two U.S. embassies in Africa.
Greg Hicks: It was a frightening piece of information.
Lara Logan: Because it meant what?
Greg Hicks: It raised the stakes, changed the game.
But apparently not in Washington.
The 60 Minutes report also offers details of the night of the attack. The segment appears below.