Last week marked the 8th anniversary of attacks on two U-S facilities in Benghazi, Libya by an Islamic terrorist group known as Ansar al-Sharia. That night 4 Americans were killed, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens. As many as ten investigations followed, with no clarity on how decisions were made, or not made, to support the Americans under fire.
One person, who defied orders and attempted a rescue that night, was as one of the CIA military contractors stationed nearby, John Tiegen, known as Tig, who contributed to the book ‘13 Hours’ which later became a movie. He sat down with our Lisa Fletcher.
(Video shows compound in flames)
Lisa: That night, was September 11, 2012, Islamic extremist terrorists battered two U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya, for nearly eight hours. Four Americans were killed: Ambassador Chris Stevens and Diplomat Sean Smith, along with former Navy Seals Glen Doherty and Ty Woods.
The first attack was on the American diplomatic compound, where Ambassador Stevens had just finished a meeting with a Turkish diplomat.
A mile away the call for help was heard at the secret CIA compound that was later to come under attack.
The film “13 Hours, The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” recounts the story of CIA contractors who say they were prevented from going to the immediate rescue of the Americans under attack. (Movie clip: “13 Hours” Actor: “You will wait.”)
Lisa: No outside military ever came to help.
Lisa: What triggered you on the night of September 11th, 2012, to defy the orders of the chief of base?
John Tiegen: There was just the radio call that came over. And they said, “If you don’t get here now, we’re all going to die.”
(movie clip “13 Hours” Actor 1: “You got to send us.” Actor 2:” You are not the first responders.”)
Lisa: You heard that call?
Tiegen: We heard that call and that was pretty much, that was the last call that we got from them and we were all itching and ready to go. Already had the little spat with our chief of base
and that was it, it was just like, we weren’t waiting. We were their last hope and we knew that we could make a difference.
Lisa: What’s the first thing you remember when you arrived on the scene?
Tiegen: I saw about a dozen guys that were shooting back at the three militiamen that were engaging when we first pulled up down that way. And I just engaged with the grenade launcher and fired three rounds and right after they hit, went up with the fourth round, I noticed there was no more fire coming.
Lisa: Describe that night, when you knew help was not on the way.
Tiegen: So we were never really told that help wasn’t on the way, or no help was available. In the back of my mind, I was just kind of always waiting to hear that jet fly over. We didn’t need bodies on the ground. We didn’t need that. We needed air power. And that would have made a world of difference.
Lisa: I’m sure you’ve told this story hundreds of times in the last eight years but is there part of it that still gives you pause, no matter how much distance is between that night and today?
Tiegen: Usually, the pause is usually going up on the roof and dealing with that portion. (Actor: Are we expecting any friendlies?)
And sometimes even knowing for a fact that if we’d have left immediately, Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith would have been alive.
Lisa: We’re eight years after this event. What are your thoughts? What do you reflect on?
Tiegen: I just hope that they actually learn something from it, but I don’t think they did, because nobody’s still held accountable when things go wrong. They just promote them and move them up and get them out of the way. And that’s not how you fix things. You take responsibility for everybody that’s involved. That means you pay the price for your screw up. To me, Lamb I blame her more than I actually do Clinton.
Charlene Lamb was the State Department official who was in charge of fielding appeals for more security resources. She and 3 others were cited for “systematic failures” of leadership and “grossly inadequate” security, even after repeated requests for increased security teams by the Libyan mission.
All were put on paid administrative leave in December 2012, and all four returned to duty the following summer.
Tiegen: She was the one that was an ultimate denier of all the security that they were asking for from 2011, when I was there. I mean, they did report it in the beginning that the consulate was attacked twice prior to 9/11. I was there the second time when it was attacked, and there was only two security personnel that night protecting the compound. Nothing will ever change until people are held accountable. That’s the sad thing and this country doesn’t hold anybody accountable for anything.
Lisa: When I asked you to reflect upon that night, my answer would be, “I just try to put it out of my mind.” How do you cope with all of it?
Tiegen: But you know you cope with it, you do it for your brothers that you lost. I mean, that’s the best thing you can do, is how you do it for them.
Democrats offered their own version of the 2-year House investigation, blaming inadequate security in Benghazi on decisions made by mid-level officials at the Obama state department. They also denied secretary of state Hillary Clinton or anyone else intentionally delayed the military response.
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