On the anniversary of the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, al-Qaeda (AQ) executed another brazen assault a decade after 9/11 on the American Consulate and CIA Annex in Benghazi, Libya, beginning on September 11th, 2012. Killed in the attack were U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Information Management officer Sean Smith, and two CIA Global Response Staff (GRS) security officers, former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
Standing before four American flag-draped coffins at Andrews Air Force base, then President Obama promised, 'Their sacrifice will never be forgotten. We will bring to justice those who took them from us.'
Five years later, Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a Libyan national, was captured and brought to trial as the "mastermind" of the Benghazi attacks. He was convicted primarily of looting and was sentenced to 22 years in U.S. Federal prison, where he still serves today. The U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the case declared, "The jury has now held Ahmed Abu Khatallah accountable for his role in the terrorist attack that destroyed the U.S. Mission in Benghazi. During that attack and the one that followed, four American heroes lost their lives, and others were seriously wounded. We will never rest in our efforts to bring to justice those who commit terrorism abroad."
Two years later, Palestinian-Libyan Mustafa al-Imam was captured and sentenced to 19 years for his role in the events in Benghazi. To date, they are the only two individuals, out of one hundred plus involved, who have been brought to justice in the U.S. in the decade since September 11th, 2012. Sadly, as revealed in exhaustive detail in Benghazi: Know Thy Enemy by Sarah Adams, a former CIA Analyst and Targeter and co-author, Dave "Boon" Benton, a former CIA GRS officer, both stationed in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) prosecuted minor players in the overall incident. Neither Khatallah nor al-Imam was the mastermind of the attack on the American Consulate or the CIA Annex. Even more surprising, the "Rebel" Libyan National Army led by General Khalifa Haftar, who has been fighting the hardcore AQ and Islamist-led militias directly responsible for the deaths of the four Americans, receives no support from the U.S. or NATO. The U.S. and the United Nations continue to support Libya's Government of National Accord based in Tripoli, which initially funded the Islamist militias, many of whom participated in the 9/11/12 and 9/12/12 Benghazi attacks. Many of these extremist militias still receive funding today from the country's capital.
Adams and Benton's seven-year investigative effort - Benghazi: Know Thy Enemy - shares the research and documentation revealing who ultimately ordered the attack on the U.S. Mission and why. The real masterminds behind both the Consulate and Annex attacks on the anniversary of 9/11 are not the two terrorists currently serving 20+ year sentences. Those terrorists were nothing more than Jihadi opportunists who showed up at the Consulate after the attack had already begun. The order to target Ambassador Stevens came directly from the top of AQ senior leadership, who plotted, planned, and executed the attacks on September 11th, 2001 – Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri coordinated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), who organized with local Islamist groups like the Ansar al-Sharia-Benghazi to coordinate a complex attack on the Consulate, which then carried over to the Annex. The original order from Zawahiri was to kidnap the U.S. Ambassador in order to release senior AQ leadership like the Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. Rahman, an Egyptian, and leader of Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyaa, was convicted of conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and is serving a life sentence in a U.S. Federal prison.
Multiple insider threats within the U.S. Mission in Benghazi provided Intel on the Ambassador's movements on that September 11th. The Consulate's own Quick Reaction Force (QRF), a local militia called February 17th Martyrs Brigade, on the U.S. payroll, did not come to the rescue. The brigade actually had over two dozen fighters who joined in the attack they were being paid to prevent.
It took ten years for two former CIA officers stationed in Benghazi on that fateful September 11th, an analyst and an operator, to set the record straight. Insider perspective of the intelligence picture on the ground before, during, and after the attacks coupled with the dramatic first-hand account of one of the heroes on the ground who fought against overwhelming odds to rescue Consulate survivors and defend the Annex, saving more than 30 American lives. During the entire thirteen chaotic hours, the official response from the Commander in Chief and Secretary of State was to do nothing. A decade later, not much has changed.
Benghazi: Know Thy Enemy is an important and timely read, especially in light of an American empire retreat from the Middle East and Central Asia on the world stage. The same bad actors involved in 9/11 in 2001 and 2012 are still spreading terrorism around the world, from kidnappings, and funding operations on the African continent, to plotting the next 9/11. The next generation of Islamist terrorists is operating openly again in Afghanistan and war-torn regions like Libya and Syria today. Only fools fail to learn from history and will be doomed to repeat it.
For an in-depth, deep dive on Benghazi, watch the Armed Forces Press exclusive podcast – Benghazi: Know Thy Enemy with Sarah Adams and Dave "Boon" Benton. The hour-and-a-half-long interview gives an insider's perspective on what really happened over those "Thirteen Hours" in Benghazi on 9/11/2012.