Timeline of Libya Consulate attack reveals administration contradictions
October 17, 2012
The timeline of events leading up to last month's deadly attack in Benghazi and the administration's shifting explanations have become a major problem for Democrats less than a month before Election Day.
The following is a detailed timeline of events leading to the Sept. 11 attack and what the Obama administration has said since then.
• February: The U.S. embassy requests - and is granted - a four-month extension, until August, of a Tripoli-based "site security team" composed of 16 special forces soldiers who provide security, medical and communications support to the embassy.
• March: State Department Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom sends a cable to Washington asking for additional diplomatic security agents for Benghazi, later says he received no response. He does so again in July, with the same result.
• April 6: Two fired Libyan security guards throw an IED over the consulate fence.
• May 22: An Islamist attack on the Red Cross office in Benghazi is followed by a Facebook post that warns "now we are preparing a message for the Americans." Another Facebook posting a month later highlights Stevens' daily runs in Tripoli in an apparent threat.
• June 6: Unknown assailants blow a hole in the consulate's north gate described by a witness as "big enough for 40 men to go through." Four days later, the British ambassador's car is ambushed by militants with a rocket-propelled grenade.
• July: Anti-Islam video "Innocence of Muslims" posted on You Tube.
• Aug. 14: SST team leaves Libya. Team leader Lt. Col. Andy Wood has testified that Stevens wanted them to stay on.
• In the weeks before Sept. 11, Libyan security guards are reportedly warned by family members of an impending attack. On Sept. 8, the Libyan militia tasked with protecting the consulate warns U.S. diplomats that the security situation is "frightening."
• Sept. 10: Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri calls on Libyans to avenge the death of his Libyan deputy, Abu Yahya al Libi, killed in a June drone strike in Pakistan.
• Sept. 11: Protesters converge on the U.S. embassy in Cairo, scale its walls and replace the U.S. flag with the Islamist banner. The protests eventually spread to 20 countries around the world. That night, Republican candidate Mitt Romney criticizes an embassy statement denouncing the video before the events unfolding in Libya are known to the world. Late that night, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says in a statement that "some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet."
• Sept. 12: Media outlets report that Stevens and three other Americans have been killed in an attack by well-armed militants. Obama denounces an "outrageous and shocking attack" without mentioning the video or terrorism. Reuters reports for the first time that some administration officials believe the assault "bears the hallmarks of an organized attack."
• Sept. 13: White House spokesman Jay Carney says "the protests we're seeing around the region are in reaction to this movie."
• Sept. 14: Carney says the administration had "no actionable intelligence" about a pending attack.
• Sept. 16: Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, does the rounds on the Sunday talk shows and says the video is the "proximate cause" of the assault in Benghazi. "Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous - not a premeditated - response to what had transpired in Cairo," Rice tells ABC. That same day, interim Libyan president Mohamed Magarief insists on CBS that "it was planned, definitely."
• Sept. 19: National Counterterrorism Center director Matthew Olsen testifies before the Senate Homeland Security Committee that the assault was a "terrorist attack" but goes on to call it an "opportunistic" attack in which armed militants took advantage of an ongoing protest.
• Sept. 20: CBS reports that witnesses in Benghazi say there was no protest prior to the armed assault against the consulate. Magarief tells NBC the same thing on Sept. 26. Also on Sept. 20, Obama at a town hall meeting says: "What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests." Carney declares it "self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack." Clinton, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter brief members of Congress. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) calls it "the most useless worthless briefing I have attended in a long time."
• Sept. 25: In his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama doesn't mention terrorism but makes repeated references to the video. Asked about Clinton's statement on ABC's "The View" show, the president skirts the issue by saying: "We're still doing an investigation," blames "extremist militias."