Timeline: How Benghazi attack, probe unfolded

Timeline: How Benghazi attack, probe unfolded

Credit: Getty

An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012.

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by CBS News

KMOV.com

Posted on November 5, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Since the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, which left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead, questions have persisted over what happened that night, whether there was adequate security at the compound and the manner in which the Obama administration initially characterized the attack.

Below is an account, compiled by CBS News, from sources who spoke to us in Washington and Benghazi about the attack in that eastern Libyan city and the investigation that followed.

Security Incidents Prior to the Benghazi Attack

December 2011: Terror plot thwarted, but Benghazi emergency plan warns of many Islamic terrorists still operating in area.

March 2012: U.S. Embassy in Tripoli lead security officer, RSO Eric Nordstrom, requests additional security but later testified he received no response.

April 10, 2012: An explosive device is thrown at a convoy carrying U.N. envoy Ian Martin.

May 22, 2012: A rocket-propelled grenade hits the offices of the International Red Cross.

June 6, 2012: An IED explodes outside the Benghazi consulate compound.

June 11, 2012: An RPG hits a convoy carrying the British Ambassador. The U.K. closes its consulate. Col. Wood, military Site Security Team (SST) commander, is in Benghazi, and helps with emergency response.

July 2012: RSO Nordstrom again requests additional security (perhaps via cable signed by Amb. Stevens dated July 9, see below).

July 9, 2012: Amb. Stevens sends a cable requesting continued help from military SST and State Dept. MSD (Mobile Security Deployment team) through mid-Sept. 2012, saying that benchmarks for a drawdown have not been met. The teams are not extended.

Early August: State Dept. removes the last of three 6-man State Dept. security teams and a 16-man military SST team from Libya.

August 2, 2012: Ambassador Stevens sends a cable to D.C. requesting "protective detail bodyguard postions" -- saying the added guards "will fill the vaccum of security personnel currently at post... who will be leaving with the next month and will not be replaced." He called "the security condition in Libya ... unpredictable, volatile and violent."

August 8, 2012: A cable from Amb. Stevens to D.C. says "a series of violent incidents has dominated the political landscape" and calls them "targeted and discriminate attacks."

Aug. 27, 2012: The State Department issues a travel warning for Libya citing the threat of assassination and car bombings in Benghazi/Tripoli.

Timeline of 9/11 Consulate Attack As It Unfolds

September 11, 2012: 9:43 a.m. Benghazi time (3:43 ET): Amb. Stevens sent cables to D.C., including a Benghazi weekly report of security incidents reflecting Libyans' "growing frustration with police and security forces who were too weak to keep the country secure."

Hours before the assault, nearly 750 miles away in Cairo, events were taking shape that would inform the early narrative surrounding the events in Benghazi:

Around 12:00 p.m. (6:00 a.m. ET): The U.S. Embassy in Cairo releases a statement on its website disavowing a YouTube film named "Innocence of Muslims," which mocks the Prophet Mohammad. Later that afternoon, protesters who had gathered outside the embassy compound stormed the gates and tore the American flag down, replacing it with a black Salafist flag.

Around 9:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. ET): In the walled Benghazi compound, U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens says good night to the Turkish Ambassador Ali Kemal Ayd1n and retires to his room in Building C, a large residence with numerous bedrooms and a safe haven.

There are three other structures in the compound: Building B, a residence with bedrooms and a cantina and dining room; a Tactical Operations Center (TOC) located across from building B, containing offices, one bedroom and security cameras; and barracks located by the front gate, staffed by Libyan security guards.

At this time, there are five diplomatic security agents (DS) on site - three based in Benghazi and two traveling with Stevens. According to a U.S. State Department account given Oct. 9 there was "nothing unusual outside of the gates. "

9:40 p.m. (3:40 p.m. ET): Gunfire and an explosion are heard. A TOC agent sees dozens of armed people over security camera flowing through a pedestrian gate at the compound's main entrance. It is not clear how the gate was opened.

The agent hits the alarm and alerts the CIA security team in the nearby annex and the Libyan 17th of February Brigade, one of several powerful militias serving as a de facto security presence in Benghazi. The embassy in Tripoli and the State Dept. command center were also alerted.

State Dept. Diplomatic Security follows events in real time on a listen-only, audio-only feed, according to testimony of Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant director for international programs, given before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Oct 10.

Around 10 p.m. (4 p.m. ET): At the compound, several DS agents leave to get tactical gear from Building B. One stays in Building C with Ambassador Stevens and Information Officer Sean Smith. The mob sets fire to the 17th of February Brigade barracks on site.

DS agent Scott Strickland moves Stevens and Smith to the closest area "safe haven" in Building C.

The other agents, currently in Building B and the TOC come under attack.

The attackers gets into Building C, lights furniture on fire, then the building's exterior. Stevens, Smith and Agent Strickland move to the bathroom and lay on floor but decide to leave safe haven after being overcome by smoke.

 

Strickland goes out an emergency escape window. Stevens and Smith do not follow. Strickland returns several times but can't find them in the overwhelming smoke. He goes up to the roof and radios the other agents.

Three agents return to Building C via armored vehicle. They search and find Smith's body, but not Stevens.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is told of the incident "shortly after it began at 4 p.m.," CBS News' Margaret Brennan reported Sept. 14. Clinton spoke to the Libyan President Mohammed Magariaf to "enlist his full support."

 

10:05 p.m. (4:05 p.m. ET): An alert from the State Department Operations Center is issued to a number of government and intelligence agencies, including the White House Situation Room, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI. "US Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack" -- "approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well. Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM (Chief of Mission/embassy) personnel are in the compound safe haven."

10:25 p.m. (4:25 p.m. ET): A six-member CIA team arrives from the annex with 40 to 60 members of 17th of February Brigade. The team removes Smith's body.

10:54 p.m. (4:54 p.m. ET): An alert from the State Dept. Operations Center: "the firing... in Benghazi has stopped. A response team is on site attempting to locate COM personnel."

11 p.m. (5 p.m. ET): Just ahead of the weekly meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey, White House National Security Advisor Tom Donilon tells President Obama of the attack and the fire at the main villa. The president is updated several times throughout the evening.

At the compound, the 17th of February Brigade says they can't hold the perimeter and withdraws.

DS agents make final search for Stevens and leave with the CIA team in an armored vehicle heading for the annex, taking fire along the way.

Of note, when CBS News' Elizabeth Palmer visited the compound in one of several trips to Libya, she found little evidence of an extensive firefight at the compound's walls and main gate, likely indicating the fiercest fighting occurred away from the compound.

Midnight (6 p.m. ET) Agents arrive at the annex, which receives sporadic small-arms fire and RPG rounds over a roughly 90-minute period. The security team returns fire and the attackers disperse.

12:07 a.m. (6:07 p.m. ET): An alert from the State Dept. Operations Center states that the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli reports the Islamic military group "Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibilty for Benghazi Attack"... "on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli."

Around 12:30 a.m. (6:30 p.m. ET): The Pentagon issues an order to a special operations team in Europe to move to Sigonella, Sicily - less than one hour's flight away from Benghazi. Over the next three hours an additional special operations team based in the U.S. is ordered to deploy to Sigonella. Neither arrived in time.

1:00 a.m. (7 p.m. ET): The first of two unmanned U.S. Predator drones, which already had been flying over eastern Libya, is diverted to Benghazi, as reported by CBS News' Sharyl Attkisson and David Martin on Oct. 15.

1:30 a.m. (7:30 p.m. ET): A U.S. security team from Embassy Tripoli lands in Benghazi and learn that the ambassador is missing. They try to arrange for transportation into town, with the goal of locating Stevens.

4:07 a.m. (10:07 p.m. ET): Secretary Clinton issues a statement acknowledging the death of one State Dept. officer.

5:00 a.m. (11:00 p.m.): A second U.S. Predator drone arrives, per CBS News' Attkisson and Martin.

5:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m. ET): The U.S. Regional Security Office in Tripoli gets a phone call from an Arabic-speaking source who says a Westerner has been found in Benghazi and is perhaps at a hospital. It's believed to be Ambassador Stevens. Transfer to airport is arranged.

At around the same time, the additional security team finds transportation from the airport under the escort of the Libyan Shield, another local militia, but decides to head to the annex after learning that Stevens was almost certainly dead. Just after their arrival, the annex takes mortar fire, sustaining three direct hits. The precision of the attacks indicates a level of sophistication and coordination.

Former U.S. Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty are killed in the mortar assault, which lasts just 11 minutes before dissipating; a DS agent and annex security member are severely wounded.

After the mortar attack, about 30 Americans evacuate the annex and head to the airport, with the assistance of the Libyan security convoy.

 

Ambassador Stevens is confirmed dead later that morning, as Americans see his body at the airport

The plane is too small for all of the Americans, so the first flight out takes U.S. diplomats and civilians to Tripoli, leaving behind security staff and bodies.

8:00 a.m. (2 a.m. ET): The second flight leaves Benghazi for Tripoli with U.S. security members and bodies.

President Obama is told of Stevens' death. State Department tells all diplomatic posts around the world to review their security posture and to take all necessary steps to enhance it

Post-Attack Response and Investigation

Sept. 12: Secretary Clinton announces the death of Stevens and Smith via press release.

Clinton holds a video conference with the entire embassy staff in Tripoli, which by then also included everyone who was evacuated from Beghazi, as reported by CBS News' Margaret Brennan Sept. 14.

Clinton later delivers live remarks from the Treaty Room of the U.S. State Department.

President Obama addresses the public: "Make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.

"Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence. ... No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."

The president spends time with State Department personnel in an impromptu visit that is closed to the press.

In an interview with President Obama the same day, "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft presses the president on early accounts that the attack stemmed from a spontaneous protest, saying it didn't "sound like your normal demonstration."

"We're still investigating exactly what happened," Mr. Obama said. "I don't want to jump the gun on this. But you're right that this is not a situation that was exactly the same as what happened in Egypt. And my suspicion is, is that there are folks involved in this, who were looking to target Americans from the start."

Meanwhile, Clinton visits the Near Eastern Affairs bureau, and the information technology bureau where Sean Smith was assigned, CBS News' Margaret Brennan reports.

Clinton later references the assault as an "attack by a small and savage group."

Meanwhile, senior State Dept. officials share initial details of the attack in Benghazi with members of the press via phone briefing. A senior official says in response to an inquiry about alleged protests outside of consulate that night: "We frankly don't have a full picture of what may have been going on outside of the compound walls before the firing began. ... With regard to whether there is any connection between this Internet activity and this extremist attack in Benghazi, frankly, we just don't know. We're not going to know until we have a chance to investigate."

CBS News' David Martin reports that some U.S. officials already were looking at the attack as a terrorist act, perpetrated by people either associated with or who sympathize with al Qaeda, that took advantage of the protest.

The FBI officially opens an investigation into the deaths of Stevens and the three other Americans killed, as reported by CBS News' Andres Triay and Bob Orr.

Sept. 13: A government official speaking on the condition of anonymity said the FBI is planning to send investigators to Germany to interview U.S. Consulate personnel who were evacuated there, as reported by CBS' Pat Milton.

CBS News' David Martin reports that a radical Islamic group called Ansar al Sharia is the lead suspect in the attack, according to U.S. officials. The name means "Supporters of Islamic law."

Sec. Clinton remains in regular contact with other top officials such as Secretary Panetta and Gen. Dempsey, CBS News' Margaret Brennan reports.

Marine anti-terrorist teams similar to the one sent to Tripoli land in Yemen to protect the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a, reports CBS News' David Martin. There are two more of these teams on standby but so far no plans to send them to particular embassies.

CBS News' Charlie D'Agata gets access to an injured Libyan guard based inside the consulate, who offers a firsthand account of the attack and makes the first mention of Blue Mountain, a British security firm contracted by the State Department that employed Libyans to conduct procedural security measures inside the compound, including x-rays of equipment.

Sept. 14: The bodies of Stevens, Smith, Woods and Doherty are returned to the U.S. They are welcomed in a televised ceremony at Joint Base Andrews. Secretary Clinton publicly denounces the "Innocence of Muslims" video.

CBS News' Brennan reports that Clinton visits the Situation Room and Oval Office "half a dozen times this week" and spends "countless hours" there.

CBS News' Cami McCormick reports on protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan. The number of protestors outside the Khartoum Embassy is estimated at 2,000. Police use tear gas against the stone-throwing protestors. The demonstrators were trying to get in the compound but police held them back.

CBS News' Charlie D'Agata interviews members of the 17th of February Brigade's VIP protection team involved in the evacuation and obtains exclusive photos of an injured American being evacuated to the airport from the annex under the brigade's escort. They put the total number of Americans evacuated from Benghazi at 32.

Sept. 15: CBS News' D'Agata is the first reporter to locate the secret CIA annex in Benghazi. He reports that the roof of the house is covered in mortars. CBS News broadcasts images of the helmets and bloodied flak jackets discovered there.

Sept. 16: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice tells Bob Schieffer on CBS' "Face the Nation" that there is no information that suggests the attack was preplanned.

"We'll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions. But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy ... sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that -- in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent. ... We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned."

Earlier in that same program, Libyan President Magariaf tells Schieffer that the assault was preplanned and some of the attackers were foreigners.

"The way these perpetrators acted and moved ... this leaves us with no doubt that this has preplanned, determined - predetermined ... It was planned -- definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who -- who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their -- since their arrival."

Magariaf also claimed "about 50" people had been arrested in connection with the attack.

- Magariaf separately states Ahmed Boukhatala is one of the lead suspects. CBS News interviews Boukhatala over mango juice off camera and admitted he was there that night but denies any involvement in the attack. At that point, he had still not been questioned and was moving freely in Benghazi, challenging Magariaf to "come to my house and arrest me" if he was a suspect.

Sept. 17: FBI officials say that they will not be going to the crime scene until they are sure they have substantial protection.

Sept. 18: Secretary Clinton tells CBS News' Margaret Brennan that the attack was the work of extremists:

"Let me assure you that our security in Benghazi included a unit of host government security forces, as well as a local guard force of the kind that we rely on in many places around the world. In addition to the security outside the compound, we relied on a wall and a robust security presence inside the compound. And with all of our missions overseas, in advance of September 11, as is done every year, we did an evaluation on threat streams. And the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said we had no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent."

Clinton announces that the FBI has arrived in Libya. The team remains in Tripoli.

- Meanwhile, CBS News' Elizabeth Palmer reports from Benghazi that witnesses say there was no protest outside of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on the night of Sept. 11.

Sept. 19: Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matthew Olsen tells Congress that the Benghazi assault was "a terrorist attack on our embassy. ... We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda's affiliates; in particular, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb."

Sept. 20: House Oversight Committee sends a letter to Secretary Clinton asking for information in regard to the attack.

U.S. State Department spends $70,000 to buy ad time on seven Pakistani TV stations, featuring clips of Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama disavowing the film "Innocence of Muslims." The clips were taken from previous speeches from Mr. Obama and Clinton. Pakistan's government declares a national holiday to protest the film.

The State Department issues an alert warning Americans to avoid nonessential travel to Pakistan as protests are likely to continue and turn violent.

CBS News obtains a memo detailing injuries sustained by DS personnel in Benghazi:

"Special Agent David Ubben, was injured during the attacks on Consulate Benghazi. From the last I have heard, Dave repeatedly entered the burning Consulate to recover injured personnel, was involved in a heavy firefight, and at some point was struck by mortar shrapnel. David has been successfully evacuated to Tripoli, was stabilized and is currently in Germany for more medical treatment. David has suffered a serious compound fracture to his leg and shrapnel injuries to his head. As of our last communication, the doctors are optimistic that his leg will be saved but he may currently have some minor brain injuries. "

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a closed briefing to Congress.

Sept. 21: Secretary Clinton says "what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack," adding "we found the video that's at the core of this series of events offensive, disgusting, reprehensible."

Sept. 28: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases the following statement:

"As we learned more about the attack, we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists. It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attack, and if extremist group leaders directed their members to participate. However, we do assess that some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al-Qa'ida."

Oct. 1: State Dept. security team reviews security camera footage of the attack in Benghazi for the first time.

Oct. 2: Secretary Clinton announces her appointees to the Accountability Review Board (ARB), which will conduct the probe of the events of Sept. 11. The board begins work the same week.

Oct. 3: Secretary Clinton responds to question from CBS News' Margaret Brennan about claims that Washington denied requests for additional security in Libya:

"Let me start by cautioning everyone against seizing on any single statement or piece of information to draw final conclusions. It's essential that we go through all of the information and the entire context so that we can get a full and complete accurate understanding of what happened. I take this responsibility very seriously, and I believe that our diplomats, our leaders, and the American people deserve a rigorous, serious, careful process ... no one wants the answers more than we do here at the department. And now based on the reviews so far, we're developing a better understanding of what happened, but we have a lot of work to do to give complete and accurate responses to all the questions and statements that are swirling out there."

Oct. 4: CBS News' Bob Orr reports the FBI arrived at the consulate in Benghazi, where it conducted an examination, collecting evidence and documentation to the extent possible given the time elapsed from the incident.

Oct. 5: CBS News' Sharyl Attkisson reports on questions over whether the Benghazi compound was adequately secured:

-- Lt. Colonel Andy Wood who headed the Site Security Team in Libya said U.S. diplomatic personnel in Libya repeatedly requested increased security, but the State Department in Washington DC denied those requests.

-- Wood said his team and a six-member mobile security deployment team were pulled from Libya in August, and that two other MSD's also left between February and August.

-- Congress and others say there were 13 threats and attacks leading up to the September 11 assault.

Oct. 8: In an interview with CBS News' Attkisson, Lt. Col. Wood says there was "pressure to reduce the number of security people" in Libya, starting shortly after his arrival in February.

The State Department told CBS News' State Dept. correspondent Margaret Brennan that despite the withdrawal of Wood's security support team, it had "no impact whatsoever on the total number of fully trained American security personnel in Libya overall or in Benghazi specifically."

In addition, the State Dept. said Wood was stationed in Tripoli and was not a part of the assessment of security in Benghazi.

Brennan also first reports that there is video evidence of the assault in Benghazi and that it is now in the hands of government investigators.

Oct 9: Two senior U.S. State Dept officials share a timeline of events.

Oct. 10: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing into the attack, with testimony from Lt. Col. Wood, former regional security officer in Libya Eric Nordstrom, State Department's deputy assistant director for international programs Charlene Lamb and State Department's Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy.

Lawmakers questioned the pre-attack security levels and the government's initial linking of the attack to the anti-Muslim film.

Meanwhile, Colonel Hamid Hassi, a senior Libyan army officer, tells CBS News' Elizabeth Palmer that he believes American intelligence knows exactly where Ansar al Sharia, the group linked to the attack, are.

Hassi said a drone strike would be a mistake, and that any strike would have to have to come from "our side," or there would be huge problems between the U.S. and Libya.

Oct. 15: In an interview with CBS News' Margaret Brennan, Secretary Clinton first acknowledges that the State Dept. considered using outside assets to rescue those under siege in Benghazi but decided against it: "Well we considered everything and, um, we did as you know send additional assets from Tripoli. But it was a fast moving, very difficult assault to try to figure out. As you know, the assault on the post ended, there was a gap of time, then the assault on the annex, um, so everybody who had any responsibility was scrambling very hard to figure out what more could be done."

Brennan: Why not send assets from outside of the country in addition to those coming in from Tripoli?

 

Clinton: "Well partly because of the difficulties of trying to do that but I think all of this will be examined in the accountability review board because after all we have this independent board to sort through everything."

Clinton also says that she did not speak with or brief Ambassador Susan Rice before her television appearances on Sept 16.

"She got the same information that everyone got and I think she very clearly said here's what we know now but this is going to change. This is what we have at present but it will evolve and the intelligence community as said the same thing."

Clinton also says that she accepts responsibility for what happens at the State department.

Oct 16: CBS News' Sharyl Attkisson and David Martin confirm that unarmed Predator drones were moved to fly over Benghazi during the attack.

Oct. 19: In the weeks before his death, Stevens sent the State Department several requests for increased security for diplomats in Libya, CBS News' Attkisson reports.

Oct. 20: CBS News' Attkisson reports no outside U.S. military help was sent to Benghazi despite the presence of a major naval air base in Sigonella, Italy, less than one hour's flight away.

Oct. 23: CBS News' Attkisson obtains some of the government's first internal emergency alerts sent during the assault.

"As the assault began, at 4:05p eastern time on September 11, an alert from the State Department Operations Center was issued to various government emergency watch lists including the White House Situation Room (nss.eop.gov), the office of the Director of National Intelligence (dni.gov), and the FBI (fbi.gov). Entitled "US Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack," the alert reports "approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well. Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM (Chief of Mission/embassy) personnel are in the compound safe haven."

Another alert an hour later reports: "the firing... has stopped...A response team is on site attempting to locate COM personnel."

At 6:07 p.m. ET, an alert was sent with the subject heading "Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibilty for Benghazi Attack." The Embassy in Tripoli, says the alert, reports the group "claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli." That alert was sent around midnight in Benghazi, hours before the wave of mortar attacks against the CIA annex began.

Oct. 24: CBS News' Andres Triay confirms that government investigators are in possession of footage from security cameras at the U.S. compound. The quality is said to be "decent."

CBS News' Margaret Brennan reports that the footage had been in Libyan custody for "weeks" until it was handed over to U.S. government investigators. Brennan also confirms that there was no live video feed of the attack in Benghazi that was being viewed at Diplomatic Security headquarters during the night of the attack.

CBS News' David Martin and Andres Triay confirm the arrest of a Tunisian suspect in Turkey who is believed to be involved with the attack.

-- CBS News' David Martin reports a SIF team was activated in Italy and a destroyer moved off the coast of Libya during the attack. However, these elements were activated in light of the growing tensions in the region - protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria - not necessarily to specifically relieve Benghazi.

Nov. 1: CBS News' Sharyl Attkisson reports that the Obama administration did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource - the Counterterrorism Security Group - during the Benghazi attack.

"The CSG is the one group that's supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies," a high-ranking government official told CBS News. "They were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon."

As to why the Counterterrorism Security Group was not convened, National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor told CBS News: "From the moment the President was briefed on the Benghazi attack, the response effort was handled by the most senior national security officials in governments. Members of the CSG were of course involved in these meetings and discussions to support their bosses."

Attkisson also reported on a draft letter obtained by ForeignPolicy.com, written the very day of the Benghazi attack, that someone on the U.S. team in Benghazi apparently spotted a suspicious member of the local police force photographing the inside of the U.S. mission. The letter, intended for the head of the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Benghazi, called for an investigation. It's not clear if it was ever sent.

Another draft letter written two days before complained of an inadequate local police presence around the compound, requested ahead of Stevens' visit.

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