American spy agencies were aware that the Benghazi attacks on Sept. 11, 2012 were terror-related immediately because they were listening in on conversations the attackers made on seized State Department cell phones, Fox News reports.
The information was confirmed by retired Air Force Maj. Eric Stahl and an anonymous U.S. official with information on the attacks, Fox reported.
The White House initially blamed the attacks that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, on a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim YouTube video produced in the United States, but later backtracked.
While the administration has stuck by the story that it initially did believe the video was the motive for the attacks, Stahl disputed that, telling Fox's Bret Baier
that members of a CIA-trained Global Response Staff told him they knew nothing of the video.
Stahl was the pilot of a C-17 that transported the bodies of those killed as well as four injured to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he was stationed. He said he asked the response staff the next day about the videotape because it was all over the news.
"They just shrugged and said, 'I have no idea,'" Stahl said.
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The staffers acted perplexed over the video report, he said, because, "They knew that this was a full-scale attack from while it was going on. And the reports about the video, that is was some kind of spontaneous uprising, was confusing them."
They also told Stahl that they were aware that the attackers were terrorists during the eight-hour ordeal because American spy agencies were listening in on cell calls made by the attackers to their leaders. They were using State Department phones they picked up at the diplomatic facility during the attack, he said.
"Right after they left the consulate in Benghazi and went to the [CIA] safehouse, they were getting reports that cell phones, consulate cell phones, were being used to make calls to the attackers' higher ups," Stahl said.
Stahl also told Fox that his crew in Germany was on alert status at the time and could have reached Benghazi in under five hours to help rescue those under attack. The White House has said no assets were available to reach Benghazi before the attack ended.
"You would've thought that we would have had a little bit more of an alert posture on 9/11," Stahl said. He said he also was told that a request had been made a month before the attack for a C-17 to be on standby in Benghazi because the situation there was getting tense.
Stahl was never interviewed by the Accountability Review Board, which has been criticized for a lack of thoroughness. A Republican-led House select committee has been tapped to investigate the attacks and their aftermath.
"I don't think a lot of the truth has necessarily been told," Stahl told Fox News. "I think people aren't necessarily 'fessing up to what happened, and hopefully the truth will come out eventually."
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