An urgent request from CIA personnel to be allowed to go to the aid of the U.S. Consulate in Libya during the Sept. 11 attack was denied by U.S. officials, despite the fact that the team, which included at least one Navy SEAL, was only one mile away.
The officials twice told CIA officers to “stand down” rather than help the Americans when shots were heard in Benghazi.
Fox News reports that sources on the ground said that former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a small team at a CIA annex near the consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack.
Stevens and three other Americans died in the attack.
When Woods and others heard the shots fired about 9:40 p.m., Fox reports, they notified their supervisors at the annex and requested permission to head to the consulate to help.
But the supervisors told them to "stand down," sources familiar with the exchange told Fox. Moments later, they were told the same.
Woods and at least two others, however, ignored the orders and moved toward the consulate, which by then was engulfed in flames, Fox reports.
Shots were exchanged and the rescue team from the CIA annex evacuated those who remained at the consulate, including the body of Sean Smith, the Foreign Service Information Management Officer who had been killed in the initial attack.
The rescue team could not find Stevens, returning to the CIA annex at about midnight, Fox reports.
At that point, the CIA team called again for military support and help, because shots were being fired where they were at the annex. The request was denied, Fox reports.
The new revelations will be aired in full in a Fox News special on Saturday at 1 p.m. Eastern time.
In response to the report, CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said the CIA "reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi."
She added: "Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate."
President Barack Obama said repeatedly Friday that his administration would "find out what happened" and punish those responsible, but he twice ducked questions about whether U.S. officials denied requests for help.
"We're going to gather all the facts, find out exactly what happened, and make sure that it doesn't happen again, but we're also going to make sure we bring to justice those who carried out these attacks," Obama said in an interview with Denver television station KUSA.
Fox News says there were no communications problems at the annex, according to those present at the compound. There was continuous radio contact between the team and headquarters, with at least one member of the CIA team on the roof of the annex with a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound.
The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up from a Spectre gunship, Fox reports. The gunship is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to support Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights.
The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours, which provided enough time for planes based in Sigonella Air base on the Italian island of Sicily — about 480 miles away — to arrive.
Two separate Tier One Special operations forces also were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators, Fox reports.
This chain of events apparently counters remarks from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday, who told reporters at the Pentagon that U.S. officials lacked a clear picture of what was occurring on the ground in Benghazi to send help.
"There's a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on here," Panetta said on Thursday. "But the basic principle here ... is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on."
U.S. officials have said that there was a period of several hours when the fighting stopped before the mortars were fired at the annex, leading officials to believe the attack was over.
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