Memo to Rep. Martha Roby: Marines were Deployable—Benghazi FOIA exclusive
So the highly anticipated Benghazi Select Committee, chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), held its first open hearing on September 17, and the Committee is determined to get to the truth of the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, right? Then why did Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) make assertions about the Marines that were inaccurate and omit critical information?
Look at this exchange between Rep. Roby with Gregory Starr, a witness, and the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, during the hearing. Although Starr was not serving in the State Department when the Benghazi attack occurred, and Ambassador Christopher Stevens, CIA Global Response Staff (GRS) and former Navy SEALs, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and information specialist Sean Smith were killed, he received the bulk of the questions.
Watch on CSPAN. Exchange begins at approximately 1:58 mark.
Roby: The Benghazi compound, we’ve already established by multiple questions here, was a temporary facility and Marine Security Guard (MSG) detachments are never deployed to temporary facilities, correct?
Starr: Not in my experience.
Roby: Okay, so the increase in Marine Security Guard detachments as a result of ARB recommendations, therefore, would not have actually helped in Benghazi, correct? I mean if it is a temporary facility and they can’t be deployed than it won’t help, correct?
Starr: I just want to make the point. I’m not saying that additional personnel on the ground would not have helped, but yes, you are correct. In my experience, we would not have put a Marine Security Guard detachment into a temporary facility.
For starters, to give the impression that Marines could not have been deployed to Benghazi is false. The United States Marine Corp. (USMC) had two response options.
Allow an information paper, written by the USMC, dated October 3, 2012, obtained via Freedom of the Information Act (FOIA), to explain.
The subject of the paper was a response to Senator Kelly Ayottes’s (R-NH) questions regarding the Benghazi attacks.
There are two potential USMC response options – [Marine Corps Embassy Security Group] MCESG/[Marine Security Guard]MSG and Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams (FAST); however, there is no standard response time, the response time to any emergency is predicated by many factors such as time of day, advance notice or no-notice, current activities, and the locations of off-duty members of the detachments.
The MSGs conduct a minimum of two no-notice drills per month, but most detachments conduct more drills than the minimum standard.
What’s the motto of MCESG according to a “smart pack” obtained via FOIA? “In Every Climate and Place” … except Benghazi
Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG), also commonly referred to as Marine Security Guards (MSG), are never posted permanently at a temporary facility or compound. They are also never posted at CIA-rented facilities, like the Annex in Benghazi, the agency’s CIA headquarters, where Woods and Doherty were killed.
Marine Security Guards are posted at embassies or consulates, hence the name. Despite erroneous reporting that continues to misidentify the structures in Benghazi, there was no embassy or consulate in Benghazi. Stevens and Smith died in a rented villa that State Department officials used which is also why there were no Marine Security Guards. Starr understood the difference when he testified, “In my experience, we would not have put a Marine Security Guard detachment into a temporary facility” or a CIA facility—truth be told Rep Roby.
The information paper continues, “The MSGs train to respond to protests, mass casualty/bombings, intruders, and fire and bomb threats/searches.”
So when Rep. Roby’s said, “Okay, so the increase in Marine Security Guard detachments as a result of ARB recommendations, therefore, would not have actually helped in Benghazi, correct? I mean if it is a temporary facility, and they can’t be deployed than it won’t help, correct?” is also not accurate.
Why? Since Rep. Roby is speaking hypothetically, theoretically speaking, if there were additional Marine Security Guard detachments and one was posted at the Tripoli Embassy, some of the Marines in Tripoli could have gone to Benghazi—just like the security team went to Benghazi from Tripoli. Try stopping Marines from helping Americans in peril. Do you think they could have made a difference? Possibly. Now we will never know.
Why wasn’t there a Marine Security Guard detachment at the Tripoli Embassy? According to the information paper, “The embassy in Tripoli” was “on the planned expansion list and the Marine Corps” was “prepared to provide an MCESG detachment at the request of the Department of State.”
Considering Ambassador Stevens had repeatedly requested additional security, coupled with the high-threat, volatile and precious situation in Libya after Col. Moammar Gadhafi was ousted and killed, a Marine Security Guard detachment should have been posted at the Tripoli embassy.
Is it because Hillary’s State Department provided the “diplomatic cover” for a CIA operation in Benghazi which is why “Ambassador Stevens twice said no to military offers of more security,” as Fox News and McClatchy reported.
““[Ambassador Stevens] didn’t say why. He just turned it down,” a defense official who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject told McClatchy.”
There’s more. Officials briefed on intelligence told the WSJ, “the U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation.” Moreover, as the Business Insider reported, there was also evidence that U.S. agents—particularly Ambassador Stevens—were at least aware of heavy weapons moving from Libya to Syrian rebels.
Syrian rebels that today might be called ISIS received heavy weapons?
Moving on to another Marine asset that could have been deployed to Benghazi that Rep. Roby failed to mention during the hearings—FAST platoon.
From a smart package prepared by the USMC obtained via FOIA:
“FAST Companies maintains forward-deployed platoons at various naval commands around the globe, and possesses U.S.-based alert forces capable of rapidly responding to unforeseen contingencies worldwide. FAST is not designed to provide a permanent security force for installations. FAST platoons are primarily designed to conduct defensive combat operations, military security operations, and rear area security operations in response to approved requests in support of geographic combatant and FLEET commanders.”
Among their numerous missions, FAST platoon was deployed to Sana’a, Yemen in May 2011 to provide security at the Sheraton hotel where embassy staff resided, “allowing the diplomatic mission to continue unimpeded.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but a hotel would be considered a temporary facility for U.S. personnel. Yes?
According to the Commanding Officer at FAST CENTCOM, “What we do is protect people and things better than anyone else available. We do it quickly and quietly with little impact to the operations that we are protecting…” except in Benghazi.
There’s more. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta deployed FAST platoon from EUCOM FAST Company to Tripoli and not to Benghazi to help Americans under attack. Consequently, the crime scene was also never secured and the FBI investigation—when they were finally allowed access three weeks later to Benghazi was compromised and contaminated (AP). Some law enforcement might consider that obstruction of justice. EUCOM FAST Company supports U.S. Africa command for “crisis response and contingency situations.”
One can’t help but wonder who is advising Rep. Roby considering there were Marine options that could have been deployed. That question among others and an interview request were submitted to Rep. Roby’s office after the hearing.
Not deployed, held back, stand down
Air Force Brigadier General Robert Lovell testified, “While people on the ground were fighting for their lives, discussions among U.S. leaders outside Libya “churned on about what we should do but the military waited for a request for assistance from the State Department,” as USA Today reported. Lovell was deputy director for intelligence at Africa Command when the Benghazi attack occurred and the military includes the Marines.
It wasn’t just the Marines who were not deployed, on the ground, a “U.S. security team in Benghazi was held back from immediately responding on orders of the top CIA officer there as Fox News’ Bret Baier reported. The annex security contractors, Kris (“Tanto”) Paronto, Mark (“Oz”) Geist, and John (“Tig”) Tiegen of the book, 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff, defied the stand down orders and went to try to rescue Ambassador Stevens and Smith.
It is worth pointing out that the Marines were wrongly accused of letting a U.S. Ambassador die because the attack was misrepresented as occurring at a consulate. The administration eventually apologized to the Marines.
May the truth prevail and Rep. Roby get the all the information she needs.
Below is 24-page FOIA that includes a part of a smart pack that includes unclassified maps of the Marine response options –who does what and Senator Kelly Ayottes’s RFI. Aside from redacting names and faces for privacy and security reasons, there are no redactions.