A CIA team a mile away from America's besieged consulate in Libya was told to stand down and was denied reinforcements, Fox News reported in the latest revelation of intelligence failures surrounding the September 11th attack. Despite military drones in the air above the incident and military forces on alert at nearby bases, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that the administration lacked the necessary information to deploy a rescue force.
CIA operators at a nearby safe house were told to "stand down" twice rather than try to help the ambassador's team after initial shots were fired at the consulate, the Fox report said. Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods and two other employees at the CIA annex ignored the orders and went to the consulate, rescuing the surviving diplomatic personnel. Following their return they requested backup for the then besieged CIA building, but were denied that request as well.
As mortars fell on the CIA building, a rooftop operative identified their source and called for air support. But American military forces refused to send in a Spectre gunship, despite more than sufficient time for forces to arrive from the Navy's Sigonella Air Station in Italy. Two separate Tier One Special Operations forces were also told to wait, included Delta Force troops. More than six hours into the attack, sufficient time to bring troops from European bases further afield, a mortar shell killed Woods and fellow former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty.
Panetta defended the administration's response Thursday, despite the continuing revelations. "(The) basic principle is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on; without having some real-time information about what's taking place," Panetta told Pentagon reporters. "And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation."
He did not address the presence of two military drones providing live video feed of the attacks as they took place.