Former Foreign Service officer Ethan Chorin was in Benghazi, Libya, on the day of the terrorist attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other members of the embassy staff.
He tells Newsmax that Stevens was not in Benghazi for the reason stated in President Barack Obama's speech at the United Nations.
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And he charges that the administration has treated Libya as a "sideshow" of the Arab Spring.
Chorin was a Middle East and Africa consultant with the Foreign Service in Libya from 2004 to 2006. His latest book is "Exit the Colonel: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution."
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Chorin says he was speaking with Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi the day of the September 11, 2012 attack.
"I was working for the previous few months with a team of colleagues on an effort to increase trauma medical capacity in eastern Libya," he discloses.
"Ambassador Stevens had been aware of the problem and was extremely supportive and we had been exchanging emails. We had a long phone conversation during the hours leading up to the attack.
"Interestingly, much of our conversation was about the security arrangements for a meeting that would take place the following day at the Benghazi Medical Center."
Asked about the mood in Benghazi at the time of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission, Chorin responds: "Superficially the city was very calm but that was not an unusual situation. What was troubling was the number of attacks that had preceded the attack on the U.S. mission. So we were aware of the risk that we were facing going in there, and I find it hard to believe that Ambassador Stevens was not also very much aware.
"The center of the conversation we had was one of concern. It wasn't something that he took lightly."
The focus of Ambassador Stevens' trip to Benghazi that day remains unclear, according to Chorin.
"I certainly wasn't aware of the schedule and was unaware that he was going to be there," he says.
"One of the things that was a bit concerning to us is the fact that one of the purposes of his visit was claimed to have been to meet with us and to discuss hospital related matters. I can confirm that that was not the case.
"That was repeated by the media and made it into several publications, as well as President Obama's U.N. General Assembly speech."
Chorin says he learned from the Libyan authorities that something was going on at the U.S. compound just prior to a conversation that he had with one of Ambassador Stevens' security detail.
"At that point it was clear that something was very wrong," he says.
Chorin has reportedly said that U.S. intervention in Libya was a contributing factor in the deaths of the four Americans in Benghazi.
"What I had said was our inability to protect our personnel in Libya contributed to political instability in Libya currently and one of my major messages and arguments both in my book and more recently in an op-ed is that context matters," he tells Newsmax.
"Essentially, the United States has treated Libya as if it's something of a sideshow, when in fact it's a critical piece of our reaction to the Arab Spring."
Asked why he thinks the people responsible for the attack have not been brought to justice yet, Chorin observes: "It's an extraordinarily complicated situation. There are certainly lots of political and social and other factor as well as just general chaos which make it very difficult to identify exactly who was behind these attacks.
"It's certainly ironic that much of our presence there in the lead-up to the attack was focused on better understanding many of these extremist elements. The fact that we were caught by such surprise is very problematic."
Regarding President Obama and the administration's reaction to the Arab Spring, Chorin states: "President Obama has done many things right with respect to the Arab Spring. The 2009 New Beginnings speech was a critical element which he said that the United States would stand with Arabs against tyranny.
"The main issue, which is not necessarily a partisan one, is that the U.S. institutional capacity to deal with post-conflict environments is quite weak, and there's this constant tension on the funding side between Congress and the State Department and between the State Department and clandestine agencies regarding resources and priority. That's where many of the issues lie at the moment."
Congress is investigating how the Obama administration handled things the night of the attack and also whether the White House engaged in a cover-up. Asked if he has any information about what happened that might prove helpful to Congressional investigators, Chorin says: "One thing that may be very helpful is to look at some of the local Arabic sources. There have been some interviews of the guards that were around the compound that night."
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