House Intelligence subcommittee Chairman Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) said that for the first time, last week Congress got to speak behind closed doors with five CIA contractors who witnessed the Benghazi attack.
“Basically, the timelines are the same as far as when these activities started. There is a little discrepancy, between, you know, was it 9:32, 9:42. But, basically we know when it started. The big question has been was there any lull in the activity? And you know in Benghazi, after talking to these guys, it wasn’t unusual at night to hear gunfire or explosions or whatever,” Westmoreland said on CNN this morning.
“So once they got back to the annex, they did take some small arms fire, maybe an RPG, but you know, during the night, it was probably — they were probably arranging for the attack that happened about 5:00. And so, yes, there was movement probably all night and it was probably some probing fire, but as far as an un — just an ongoing gun battle, that was not true,” he continued.
The question of whether there was a lull in the firefight leads to the question of whether additional support could have been brought in.
“I don’t believe it was over after the first attack, but I do believe there was a lull in the fighting. Now, there was still probing, you know, guns being shot. As far as getting somebody else there, they had been a directive issued in August of 11 that basically tell the personnel in Libya, you are on your own. So we are looking into that directive to find out exactly who put that out and this was brought to our attention during the hearing,” the congressman said.
Westmoreland said if not for the security staff who were present, “I believe every American in Benghazi would have been killed at the complex and at the annex.”
“And these guys were very heroic in what they did. And naturally, they were calling for all the support they could get. They were fixing to go into an unknown situation, seven of them. Sure, they were calling for support, but they were calling for the eyes of the drone — the overhead intelligence and, you know, they had been in different places in the world and probably were used to having some different type of coverage, I’m sure they were asking for everything, you know, with the kitchen sink. But what the reality of that coming was — I don’t think was ever there.”
Westmoreland added that he doesn’t think Congress is being stonewalled by the CIA.
“You know, it took us a long time. We want to try to get these witnesses back-to-back, and you can imagine some of these guys have been re-deployed. Some of them had retired. Some of them are working for other companies. They live in different parts of the United States, and different parts of the world, but we want to do something like an attorney would do preparing a case,” he said. “We wanted to get all the FBI, all the CIA, all the State Department, we want to get those out and our committee has had 13 different committee hearings talking to these agencies. Then we wanted the eye witnesses to come in. The last two or three months has probably just been coordination of trying to get them here together because we didn’t want to do them one individually and let an air leak out, so we didn’t want to contaminate the witness. So that’s the reason it took so long.”
He acknowledged that the non-disclosure statements required of CIA operatives regarding Benghazi did seem suspicious.
“We are looking into that,” Westmoreland continued. “Now, the fact that some of them were modifying their contracts, or maybe writing a new contract, due to a new non-disclosure security agreement is not that unusual. The ones that aren’t, we’re looking into that, we’re trying to find out why at that time they were asked to do this. Now the non-disclosure does say I believe in the ninth paragraph that they do have permission for unlawful or improper activity to report to the House Intelligence Committee and to the Senate Intelligence Committee.”
The chairman did reveal that the CIA contractors “were really surprised at the lack of security at the mission facility.”
“They also testified that the people at the facility had been wanting help, requesting help, requesting additional security in fact, you know, they just couldn’t believe that those guys were over there as unprepared and unequipped as they were,” he said.
“I don’t know that it was a complete cover-up. I don’t think there was any doubt that they knew it was a coordinated attack. And you can see the results of that by the accuracy of the mortar fire that came in at five that morning. But as far as the compound goes, you know I don’t think there was ever any doubt of either there and I don’t know how they got their communications mixed up, but I think what ended up happening, you had the State Department trying to tell one story and you had the security — the intelligence community that may have been trying to sell another story.”