Under Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, FBI Director Mueller and CIA Director Petraeus Grounded Critical Benghazi Rescue Operation
When distress reports reached U.S. Intelligence in Langley and the Pentagon that the American ambassador to Benghazi and dozens of his diplomatic personnel were under terrorist attack in Libya on Sept. 11 2012, CIA and Defense Department officials scrambled an immediate response.
Officials moved quickly to assemble a counter-terrorism team of professionals to dispatch to Benghazi. That little-known but elite squad, known as the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST), is in fact the government’s sole inter-agency, on call and short notice team trained to respond to any terror-related incident in the world.
But not this time. Not in Benghazi.
Robyn Gritz, a decorated FBI agent who previously served as the Bureau’s official attaché to the CIA prior to Benghazi, recalls the troubling details surrounding the stand-down order.
Gritz details the FBI counter-terrorism division’s initial emergency meeting to discuss the unfolding events in Benghazi. In the meeting led by now FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, he briefed agents about the violent attacks in Benghazi. McCabe was assistant director of anti-terrorism at the time but running the FBI’s response to Benghazi, sources confirm.
Gritz was already briefed by her Defense Department contacts who instructed her to prepare FBI personnel for the FEST plane.
“I said I got a call from DOD, people that actually put the FEST plane together and I was offered six slots for FBI but I can probably get eight,” she said, recalling the FBI’s initial Benghazi meeting. “McCabe said: ‘No, we don’t need your help with that Robyn or help from DOD.’
“I explained to him that I was the only SSA (Supervisory Special Agent) sitting in this room that has deployed FBI on a FEST plane to a U.S. Embassy under major attack. In Yemen there were terrorists driving around blowing shit up. And it didn’t stop when we got on the ground. And the same thing happened in Beirut. But McCabe told us all in the meeting the FBI was standing down.”
Gritz led the FBI’s FEST contingency in 2008 in the terror attack on the American Embassy in Yemen. The al Qaeda-affiliated attack – almost four years to the day of the Benghazi siege — killed 18 people.
After the 2012 meeting where Gritz was spurned by McCabe, the FBI veteran said she was barred from further Benghazi briefings and the FBI’s anti-terrorism email chain on the Benghazi attacks. While Gritz was not directly assigned to McCabe’s task force, CIA had sought out her expertise to staff FEST for Benghazi and Gritz happily volunteered to help McCabe and Mueller in the Bureau’s response. But she was basically told to mind her own business. Regardless, FBI agents quietly sought her counsel on Benghazi but did so in secret away from McCabe and Mueller.
For seasoned FBI agents, McCabe’s stand down order was hard to process. McCabe told the room – after several emotional eruptions — then-FBI Director Robert Mueller had approved the official “stand down for now” stance, another FBI official familiar with the meeting confirmed.
Radicals danced outside the torched U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya
A second FBI agent familiar with McCabe’s initial Benghazi meeting confirms Gritz’s account.
“It left me shaking my head and ready to put his (McCabe’s) head through a wall. He was going on and on about the violence in Benghazi having to do with a video on the internet or something. Nobody knew what he was talking about and why we would not load up (FEST) and respond.”
The decision to walk away and simply sit idle made no tactical sense whatsoever.
“Why would you stand down when you can get Special Forces Operators there in one plane and FBI and CIA Intel as well?,” the FBI insider said. “Wheels up in less than 90 minutes. Been done before.”
The Benghazi assault, in fact, was the exact scenario FEST was created and funded for.
“We used FEST when I served on the NSC’s Hostage and Personnel Recovery Working Group where we regularly discussed deployment of the FEST,” Gritz said. “For example, when our embassy in Sanaa (Yemen) was attacked, a Fest plane took off with personnel and supplies. For it to not go to Benghazi was a real surprise. It was an incident that seemed like the Fest was made for. But it wasn’t sent. Just like help from other resources weren’t sent. Why?”
The now-retired Gritz and her FBI colleagues weren’t the only agents dismayed at FEST’s non deployment. A high-ranking Defense Department source who was involved in Benghazi prep for the team echoed the collective FBI frustration. The career spy said the orders to stand down came directly from CIA Director David Petraeus, via National Security Advisor Tom Donilon in the White House.
“This is something that haunts me to this day,” the DOD insider said. “The families of these fallen warriors need to know that there were people trying to get to them to help. That is what we do. But we can’t fuel up a jet and load it with Operators without a green light.”
The DOD insider said he wanted to “come clean” to let the families of Americans killed in Benghazi and survivors know that there were people in the United States working to rescue them and deploy Operators and resources to help them fight. However, they were denied the ability to do so “at every turn.”
The official said when he was notified FEST was scrubbed, he cross referenced with the Pentagon sources to determine if any U.S. Marine-led FAST companies had been scrambled to Benghazi as a replacement for the scrubbed Intel-based FEST. These Marine teams, called Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Teams (FAST) are part of the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment. FAST soldiers are highly-trained and reinforce security at US Embassy hot zones around the world. Each FAST Company consists of 6 platoons of around 50 men each and there are two companies located near Benghazi.
FAST Company Europe is stationed in Rota, Span, approximately 2,500 miles west of Benghazi and Fast Company Central is headquartered in Manama, Bahrain which is roughly 1,800 miles southeast of Benghazi.
Plus, the DOD insider said Charlie 110 Company, a unit of approximately 30 U.S. Special Forces and assets was training in Croatia at the time, approximately 900 miles north of Benghazi, Charlie 110, normally based in Germany, could have also been dispatched to Benghazi quicker than any team. And, in fact, it eventually was sent, but far too late to save any American lives. By the time American Special Forces arrived, the deadly standoff had ended.
Well into the siege, no military personnel had been deployed to Benghazi. Neither FAST companies or the FEST unit were sent. From the Beltway, FEST could have been in Benghazi roughly twelve hours after takeoff, if its transport had been re-fueled mid flight, sources said.
One hour into the Benghazi attack, No Intel or military reinforcements had been dispatched, according to the DOD insider and Benghazi timelines.
Then two hours elapsed and still no official movement of Intel or military reinforcements by the White House, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Then three hours.
And still no military personnel deployed to rescue Americans. By then, we now know the American consulate in Benghazi had been torched and all diplomatic personnel had been evacuated while Operators trekked back to a nearby CIA annex to continue fighting off waves of terrorists to protect Americans evacuated from the consulate. Ambassador Stevens was also missing by that time.
Presumably dead. Or worse.
U.S. Ambassador Stevens, tortured in the streets of Benghazi by radicals
During this time lapse – where many FBI, CIA, DOD employees lobbied feverishly for resources to be dispatched to Benghazi — the exact whereabouts of President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton remained largely unknown. There are hours where the duo remain unaccounted for and absent from a crisis response which was seemingly formulated on the fly by understudies like Vice President Joe Biden to address the attacks, according to documents, testimony and records.
Obama was missing for the first six hours after the attack was reported, some internal military documents show.
During this bureaucratic limbo, Gritz said she likewise worked contacts in CIA and Defense Department sources in AFRICOM to see who, if anyone, was being deployed after her FEST Op was grounded. No one had been given clearance to deploy to Benghazi, Gritz said she learned from her limited fact finding.
“They were told to stand down,” Gritz said.
Normally, the highly-skilled FEST deploys to assist, advise and coordinate U.S. government crisis response activities and includes representatives from the State Department, Defense Department, and the Intelligence Community, specifically the Federal Bureau of Investigation among other appropriate agencies.
FEST personnel are tailored to the specific international incident and particular U.S. Embassy needs, according to its federal charter.
But not in Benghazi. That talent was grounded by Robert Mueller, then-FBI director and David Petraeus, then-CIA director. But who ordered U.S. agents to stand down? During the attacks, Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State, answering to Obama. Are you beginning to see the pattern?
Yet after 70,000-plus pages of documents and 38 hours of House and Senate hearings about Benghazi and Congress’ much-heralded Benghazi Report, there has never been any details about FEST and how its mission was scrubbed despite the outcry from FBI and CIA personnel who were prepping for its deployment to Benghazi.
Who scrubbed it? Until now, its existence in the Benghazi dialogue wasn’t even acknowledged by Intelligence and military officials. It’s one of many missing puzzle pieces, this one surfacing six years after the deadly Benghazi standoff.
No Congressional investigators ever subpoenaed or interviewed Gritz or key State Department personnel. How can you compile a comprehensive report on Benghazi and not probe FEST?
Perhaps Congressional investigators and FBI need to independently determine what transpired with the FEST debacle.
State Department sources fingered Patrick Kennedy as pulling the plug on the FEST mission. Kennedy, now retired, was a State consigliere for Hillary Clinton, his boss at the time. Kennedy’s name and emails surfaced in Wikileaks files, where he allegedly “pressured” the FBI to downgrade the classification of one of Hillary Clinton’s classified emails as part of a “quid pro quo.” Kennedy, the Undersecretary of State, offered the FBI more agents in countries where they had previously been forbidden.
But as stated earlier, a DOD insider said the White House disbanded the FEST Op.
It is important to note too John Brennan, during Benghazi, served as chief counterterrorism advisor to President Obama. Brennan’s title was Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
Brennan, working inside the White House, reported directly to Obama.
Six months after Benghazi – with the full government cover up in motion – Brennan was promoted to Director of the CIA to replace Petraeus who by that time was embroiled in a personal scandal of his own with paramour Paula Broadwell. He was forced to resign from his CIA post months earlier.
And Rice was promoted from U.S. ambassador to Obama’s new national security advisor.
Two integral members of the Benghazi cover-up promoted for their allegiance. One could argue otherwise.
The charred remains of one interior portion of U.S. Consulate in Benghazi
It must be noted that between Benghazi and Nov, 9 2012 when Petraeus resigned — just two months after Benghazi — from the CIA, according to sources, the general had a “ugly” running dispute with Obama sparked by comments the president reportedly made about Petraeus and possibly his wife. At one point Petraeus threatened to go public with details about Benghazi that would “soil” Obama’s presidential legacy, DOD insiders confirm.
“Petraeus even threatened Obama during a meeting over his comments,” one DOD source said. “It was bad. Very ugly stuff.”
It came as little surprise then that Petraeus was forced from office after an extramarital affair was soon leaked to the media and then, the unthinkable: Eric Holder’s Justice Department indicted Petraeus for leaking classified documents to his paramour. Petraeus struck a plea bargain to stay out of prison.
“The general should have exposed Obama for Benghazi like he planned,” a DOD insider said.
What was Petraeus going to reveal? A sweeping stand down policy crafted by Obama? Or was this simply the by-product of a commander in chief who was AWOL during an international crisis?
Petraeus could not be reached for comment for this story.
With or without Petraeus’ testimony, the FEST debacle points to the White House, especially since the National Security Council by charter green lights or red lights FEST missions. That would take the responsibility away from Hillary Clinton’s State Department and Kennedy and place the decision to abort the FEST mission on the White House.
Did the national security advisor – with or without Brennan’s urging — converse directly with President Obama regarding scrapping the FEST deployment to Benghazi? Was it Obama who scrubbed the Op?
These are pertinent questions that have seemingly eluded Congressional investigators and Intelligence agency brass. And Obama and Clinton as well.
To summarize: Despite the best efforts of many Intel agents and military officials, the following U.S. assets were told to stand down and NOT respond to Americans pinned down by terrorists in Benghazi, according to interviews with federal law enforcement sources, documents and public information:
- CIA/FBI/Special Ops FEST Unit
- FAST Company Europe in Italy
- FAST Company Central in Bahrain
- U.S. AFRICOM Special Forces
This largely secret bureaucratic mess cost Americans their lives. The patriots killed in Benghazi include:
- U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens
- Sean Smith, U.S. Foreign Service Officer
- Glen Doherty, Navy SEAL and CIA contractor
- Tyrone Woods, State Department Diplomatic Security Service officer and CIA Contractor
SHOW TIME: Hollow respect and sympathy for the returning Benghazi dead
Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979.
That doesn’t include the wounded, the warriors on the ground who fought their way out of Benghazi while awaiting U.S. reinforcements like the FEST that never was permitted to deploy..
Mark “Oz” Geist was one of the six former elite military operatives who fought back that night along with former Army Ranger Kris “Tonto” Paronto and former Marine Sgt. John “Tieg” Tiegen. This trio — fighting alongside Smith, Doherty, and Woods – were spared in Benghazi after fighting off heavily-armed hostile factions for nearly eight hours. The story of the three surviving Operators was adapted into the movie Thirteen Hours.
And just like a Hollywood movie script, FBI insiders may have been exposed to some creative, scripted Benghazi story plot as well.
The FBI agent present at McCabe’s initial Benghazi briefing on September 11 said four days later the rhetoric at that meeting started to finally make sense. And it was somewhat shocking. The FBI insider said he watched in amazement on Sunday morning as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice appeared on network television news shows and blamed the deadly Benghazi violence on a YouTube video that sparked civil unrest.
“It was the same exact bullshit McCabe was spouting in the meeting,” the FBI agent said. “He was feeding us talking points about the YouTube video. It was all bullshit. I got on the phone and told other agents you’re not going to believe what I just saw on TV.”
How did McCabe have Rice’s talking points four days before she unveiled them to the media on September 16th? And where was Mueller while McCabe was making sweeping unilateral decisions for the Bureau’s response to Benghazi.
“When I look back on it, McCabe was listening to Susan Rice and the White House,” Gritz said. “He was in with Rice. Now I understand what happened with everything that has come out about McCabe.”
It was all seemingly quite coordinated. Mueller via McCabe and Petraeus folding the FEST contingency, an apparatus of the State Department run by Clinton via Kennedy.
Orchestrated like a well-oiled Op itself, capped off by Obama and Clinton meeting and ‘consoling’ the families of the Benghazi dead as their loved ones’ caskets were carried off the military charter by U.S. Marine pall bearers. The perfect photo opportunity for two guilty bureaucrats who nobody in the United States government could even locate for several hours while the bloody terror in Benghazi unfolded.
From President Obama and John Brennan in the White House to the Hillary Clinton’s State Department, the CIA, the FBI, and the DOD. Even the Benghazi Report and the Benghazi Commission failed to address the FEST debacle.
Mueller and Petraeus were ordered to stand down but who gave the order, the President?
“Do you know what we call this in the FBI?” a FBI insider asked. “A Conspiracy. We used to investigate good cases like that.”
Perhaps Sen. Chuck Grassley would agree.
And perhaps someone in power in Washington D.C. could do something about it.
Justice for the four dead Americans and their families. And the good folks who tried to save them. What a concept.