A senior U.S. intelligence official emphatically denied that the CIA refused repeated requests from its officers on the ground in Benghazi, Libya, to assist the Americans under attack at the U.S. mission there.
Just days before the presidential election and in a rare briefing to reporters, the official offered almost a minute-by-minute account of what happened that night.
According to a recent Fox News report, citing an unnamed source, CIA officers working at an annex about a mile from the mission were told by officials in the CIA chain of command to "stand down" after receiving a call from the mission asking for help.
"There were no orders to anybody to stand down in providing support," the senior intelligence official said, offering a passionate defense of the actions taken by the CIA officers on the ground during the September 11 attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The official insisted the agency operators at the annex were in charge of their movements and the safety of those who were preparing to respond to the initial attack on the mission compound.
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There was "no second guessing" their decisions, the official said.
According to a detailed timeline provided by the official, there was a roughly 25-minute gap between the time those officers received the initial call for help from the mission to the time when the approximately half a dozen officers were able to get underway to assist.
During that time, according to the official, CIA officers at the annex location were loading weapons and equipment into their vehicles, while others were on the phone trying to get local "friendly" militias with heavier weapons to help. The official said the officers responded "as quickly and as effectively as possible."