If the CIA officer was lasing a target with the laser designator/laser sight on his weapon, one might argue (and some have) that this was an act of improvisation — a hope that the visible lasing would convince the mortar team to flee their position in fear of being bombed. This position is not without merit but overlooks two salient facts. The first is that these security officers lasing the target were manning a heavy machine gun, which presumably would have the reach and power to eliminate the mortar team, or at least suppress it, without air support. It also overlooks the fact that the article directly states that the target was being lased for a specific asset, a “Spectre.”
Airborne gunships have been around since the Vietnam war, when C-47 transport planes were first equipped with port-side mounted miniguns for close air support missions, becoming AC-47s.
By 1967, a desire to improve upon the concept involved replacing the aged twin-engine C-47 base aircraft with the four-engine C-130, which had greater speed, more fuel, and a greater capacity for weapons and ammunition. These AC130s carried various nicknames, including “Spooky” (inherited from the AC-47) and “Spectre,” the latter of which has been the most publicly recognizable name of these powerful ground support aircraft.
If the CIA operators were using an LTD, it additionally means that air assets were not in Italy or Sicily on the ground. It means that strike aircraft were overhead, and were denied permission to fire from someone in the chain of command. LTDs must sync with overhead aircraft; they have no deterrent effect since they use a spectrum of light we cannot see and can only communicate with craft overhead.
I will caution that this is highly speculative, but an LTD would presumably not be used for just any variant of the C-130-based gunships. While we did have AC-130 gunships based close to Benghazi, they would not make the best use of targets lit by an LTD. The AC-130 uses guns, not guided weapons.
The same cannot be be said of another “Spectre” variant, the MC-130W.
The MC-130W is built to use precision-guided weapons, including the GBU-44/B Viper Strike glide bomb and the AGM-175 Griffin missile. Both are laser-guided weapons that can be directed using a ground-based LTD. Both are weapons designed to be highly accurate, with small warheads to greatly reduce the danger of collateral damage. They are precisely the kind of weapon an experienced CIA operator would call in if they wanted to reduce the threat of collateral damage, like the kind of damage that might be caused by firing an HMG from a rooftop.
If this is what occurred, it seems that even in weapon selection, the primary concern of the HMG operator was saving innocent lives.