Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.
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By Jake Tapper
Washington (CNN) – Under fire from CIA contractors who were first-hand witnesses to the events in Beghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday reaffirmed the committee’s report on the events that day. John Tiegen and Kris Paronto, CIA contractors who were on the ground in Benghazi the night of September 11, 2012, called the report “full of inaccuracies” and asserted in a statement that “the authors of the report printed them anyway despite testimony and other truthful information that proved those statements wrong.”
The two men, part of a team who wrote the book “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi,” issued a statement that details 13 findings in the committee report that they call false.
A spokeswoman for the House Intelligence Committee says the committee is preparing a point-by-point response to the CIA contractors’ point-by-point response.
"The Committee stands by its report,” said Susan Phalen, spokeswoman for the House Intelligence Committee in a statement to CNN.
Phalen said the report “is based on the full scope of intelligence information from that night” including the testimonies of the security contractors and others, “their CIA chain of command, CIA officers present in Benghazi during the attacks, FBI records, documentary evidence, and time stamped video footage. The eyewitness testimonies were taken on the record and under oath.”
The report, issued on November 21, asserts among other things that there was no stand down order nor any intelligence failure by the CIA. (You can read it here.)
But the CIA contractors disagree with several of the report’s assertions.
“We have continually attempted to take the ‘high road’ and not delve into the political weeds, until we were once again called liars by the same government we had sworn to protect,” Tiegen and Paronto asserted. “We never did what we did that night into the following morning to support agendas, political parties or presidencies. We did what we did that night to save the lives of fellow Americans and defend American soil. We disobeyed orders and went to help the DS agents and our friends because they were under attack by terrorists and were on the brink of death. Now it’s our turn once again to set the record straight, show integrity and tell the truth. It’s a pity though that the truth is something that’s not very popular in today’s society.”
The most serious of the thirteen “false findings” take issue with how much the CIA chief of base, referred to as “Bob,” hindered their ability to try and rescue their colleagues.
The House Intelligence Committee report asserts that “Although some security officers voiced a greater urgency to depart for the TMF, no officer at the CIA was ever told to stand down. The evidence from eyewitness testimony, ISR video footage, closed-circuit television recordings and other sources provides no support for the allegation that there was any stand-down order.”
But the CIA contractors call that “grossly incorrect.” Paronto directly told the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, “that he was delayed and was told to wait twice,” their statement said, adding that “Bob” specifically used the words “stand down” to Tiegen.
Paronto also told the committee that the delay – which the CIA contractors assert lasted at least 27 minutes, though the committee puts it at 21 minutes – “was a severe military tactical mistake made by leadership figures who had little to no military training or experience in combat operations, and the delay cost the lives of Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith due to them dying from smoke inhalation—something that takes time.”
The video footage from the CIA Annex in Bengahzi, the two men say, shows the contractors continually getting in and out of their vehicles approaching Bob and another contractor. “This was due to the GRS security contractors continually requesting to ‘Bob’ and Team Leader to leave the Annex to save the lives of the DS agents who were under attack and burning.”
The House Intelligence Committee report also asserts that “CIA did not intimidate or prevent any officer from speaking to Congress or otherwise telling his story.”
Paronto asserts that that, too, is wrong, since he knows of a CIA employee “that was poorly treated while in Tripoli due to disagreeing with the story that was being fabricated by the CIA Benghazi Base Chief ‘Bob,’ CIA Station Chief and GRS Team Leader, who were briefing CIA Director Petraeus. The CIA employee also filed a complaint with the CIA Inspector General which either was never investigated or dismissed due to the fact it contradicted the fabricated report.”
As for the assertion that there were no intelligence failures prior to the attack, the contractors noted a “BOLO” (be on the lookout) report given to them by CIA staff approximately two weeks before the September 11 attack: "Be advised, we have reports from locals that a Western facility or US Embassy/Consulate/Government target will be attacked in the next week.”
As the contractors note in their book, “the operators moved their body armor, long guns, ammunition, night-vision goggles, and other tactical gear into their bedrooms, so they could more quickly ‘jock up,’ as they called preparing for battle.
"Discussions had been under way for some time about ‘co-locating’ the Compound and the Annex on the same property, so Bob the Annex chief suggested a trial run. He urged the Diplomatic Security team to move to the Annex during the ambassador's visit, for added layers of protection. The offer was declined.”
The House Intelligence Committee report has been seized upon by Democrats as evidence that there is no reason to ask questions about what happened that night.
“The effort to turn the Benghazi tragedy into a political scandal never had a factual basis,” David Brock, founder of the pro-Hillary Clinton website “Correct the Record” and author of the e-book “The Benghazi Hoax,” told the New York Times. “The Republican committee report should close the case.”
The report has also been assailed by Senate Republicans such as Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who told CNN’s Gloria Borger that the report is “full of crap,” and Rand Paul of Kentucky, who wrote “it might be time to rename the House ‘Intelligence’ Committee.”