Lack of strike force impeded Benghazi response

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Mr. Stevens sought safety in the living quarters, which became engulfed in flames.

A nearby CIA base, identified by the State Department as one of its annexes, sent a rescue team of martyrs brigade members and at least one former Navy SEAL, Tyrone Woods. They collected all the staff they could find amid fires and gunshots, and returned to the annex in armored cars — minus the ambassador, whose whereabouts was unknown.

Now close to midnight in Libya, the CIA officers sent urgent radio messages to headquarters in Langley asking for the military to send help, Fox News reported Friday. It said the CIA had ordered the officers not to attempt the rescue, but they went anyway.

No military help was sent.

An unmanned spy aircraft, whose video signal could be relayed to policymakers in Washington, buzzed overhead during part of the raid. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says a 50-minute recording exists, but it has not been provided to Congress.

At the White House during the attack, President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta met in the Oval Office.

Seven hours later, a rescue contingent from Tripoli, with Libyan personnel, made its way from the airport to the annex, which then came under mortar fire.

Mr. Woods and fellow former SEAL Glen Doherty, whose job was to guard the CIA officers, had been killed.

The team learned that Mr. Stevens had been found dead, presumedly from smoke inhalation, and was taken to a hospital.

The new mission: Gather the living and dead, and escape to the airport.

After the attack

The next day, the Obama administration began blaming the attack on a “spontaneous” protest sparked by the anti-Muslim video.

That assertion apparently was based on an instant assessment by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who oversees the nation’s civilian and military spy agencies.

But that instant assessment was not unanimous.

The Defense Intelligence Agency on Sept. 12 briefed the Pentagon that the attack likely was carried out by Ansar al-Shariah, The Washington Times has reported. The Defense Intelligence Agency made no mention of protesters.

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