CIA personnel who testified Tuesday on the Benghazi attack provided new evidence that it was premeditated, telling lawmakers that the deadly mortar strike on the CIA annex began within minutes of a rescue team's arrival, Fox News has learned.
According to the closed-door testimony on the Hill by two CIA personnel, a small team was sent on the night of the attack from Tripoli and got held up at the Benghazi airport. After they were eventually cleared, they arrived at the annex. Witnesses testified that it did not seem coincidental that the mortar attack began soon after.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., told Fox News after the closed, classified session that all of the witnesses (eight total witnesses have now testified in these sessions) were on the same page about the nature of the mortar attack, which killed former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty on the annex roof.
"These were trained people and ... it was an attack. It wasn't over any type of film or propaganda," Westmoreland emphasized, referring to the administration's initial claims that an anti-Islam film triggered protests that led to the attack.
"We don't know why the administration would have ever thought any differently," Westmoreland said. "Other than that them and the State Department were trying to make sure that they were covered because of the unpreparedness they were in."
The witnesses also testified that the mortar fire was extremely accurate, professional and likely the work of a trained mortar team which they believe included a spotter. They said the first mortar was about 25 meters short of the target, the second was closer and the next three hit. This is consistent with previous testimony that five mortars were fired in quick succession; previous witnesses testified those mortars were fired in under a minute.
The witnesses also told lawmakers that when they arrived in the early morning hours of Sept. 12, some of the State Department consulate survivors seemed to be in the "early stages of shock, crying" -- and left the impression they had never faced hostile fire before.
The information about the mortar attack was communicated to Tripoli, which is the CIA chain of command, and it was Tripoli's job to communicate details to Washington.
The two CIA personnel also said they knew when they arrived in Benghazi, based on information passed on earlier in the evening, that Ambassador Chris Stevens was missing after the first wave of the attack.
The witnesses said the communication between CIA in Benghazi and Tripoli seemed solid. The Tripoli office would have been expected to keep Washington informed of the events in a timely fashion.
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.