Despite a carefully narrated version of events rolled out late this week by the CIA claiming agents jumped into action as soon as they were notified of calls for help in Benghazi, security officials on the ground say calls for help went out considerably earlier -- and signs of an attack were mounting even before that.
The accounts, from foreign and American security officials in and around Benghazi at the time of the attack, indicate there was in fact a significant lag between when the threat started to show itself and help started to arrive.
According to the CIA, the first calls for assistance came at 9:40 p.m. local time from a senior State Department official at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, to the CIA annex about a mile away.
But according to multiple people on the ground that night, the Blue Mountain Security manager, who was in charge of the local force hired to guard the consulate perimeter, made calls on both two-way radios and cell phones to colleagues in Benghazi warning of problems at least an hour earlier. Those calls allegedly went to local security contractors who say that the CIA annex was also notified much earlier than 9:40 p.m. U.S. military intelligence also told Fox News that armed militia was gathering up to three hours before the attack began.
One source said the Blue Mountain Security chief seemed "distraught" and said "the situation here is very serious, we have a problem." He also said that even without these phone and radio calls, it was clear to everyone in the security community on the ground in Benghazi much earlier than 9:40 p.m. that fighters were gathering in preparation for an attack.
Many of these security contractors and intelligence sources on the ground in Benghazi met twice a week for informal meetings at the consulate with Blue Mountain and consulate staff, and at times other international officials. They were all very familiar with security at the consulate -- and said the staff seemed "complacent" and "didn't seem to follow the normal American way of securing a facility."
Both American and British sources say multiple roadblocks set up by fighters believed to be with Ansar al-Sharia were in place in Benghazi several hours before the 9:40 p.m. timeline and that communications also alluded to "heavily armed troops showing up with artillery." Fox News was told by both American and British contacts who were in Benghazi that night that the CIA timeline rolled out this past week is only "loosely based on the truth" and "doesn't quite add up."
Fox News was also told that the local guard force meant to protect the consulate perimeter "panicked" and didn't know what to do as the attackers took up positions. Sources say other guards simply "walked away".
One former Special Op now employed by a private company in Benghazi said that even the safe room wasn't properly set up. He said "the safe room is one of the first measures you take" and that he is "not sure how you can set a safe room without fire suppression and ventilation in case of fire." He also said, "Ambassador Stevens would likely be alive today if this simple and normal procedure was put into place."
As details emerge of serious security issues before the attack on Sept. 11, Fox News is also beginning to hear more frustration from sources both on the ground in Benghazi and in the U.S. Multiple British and American sources insist there were other capabilities in the region and are mystified why none were used. Fox News was told there were not only armed drones that monitor Libyan chemical weapon sites in the area, but also F-18's, AC-130 aircraft and even helicopters that could have been dispatched in a timely fashion.
However, George Little, a spokesman from the Pentagon, denied their presence in the area.
"On the night of the attack on American personnel and facilities in Benghazi, there were no armed unmanned aerial vehicles over Libya, and there were no AC-130s anywhere close," he said.
British intelligence sources said that unarmed drones routinely flew over Benghazi every night in flight patterns and that armed drones which fly over chemical sites, some a short flight from Benghazi, "were always said to be on call." American sources confirmed this and questioned "why was a drone armed only with a camera dispatched?"
Another source added, "Why would they put a ragtag team together in Tripoli as first responders? This is not even what they do for a living. We had a first responder air base in Italy almost the same distance away." Despite the team arriving from Tripoli that night, sources said sufficient American back-up never came.
British sources on the ground in Benghazi said they are extremely frustrated by the attack and are still wondering why they weren't called for help. “We have more people on the ground here than the Americans and I just don't know why we didn't get the call?" one said.
Both American and British sources said, at the very least, the security situation on the ground and the lack of proper response were the result of "complete incompetence." The covert team that came in from Tripoli was held up at the Benghazi airport for more than three hours by Libyan officials. Sources said the team notified officials in Washington that they were being delayed within 30 minutes of their arrival.
They also point out that these questions "don't even address the military capabilities of our United Nations ally Turkey, who (has) forces available a similarly short flight away." Fox News has learned that Turkey had a number of embassy staff in town the night of the attack and that the Turkish consul general met with Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi the night he and the three other Americans were killed.
One source asked, "Were the Turks not warned? What forces were available from our ally Turkey? Especially since they had officials there in Benghazi also and had to be concerned … and where was the U.N. in all of this?"