When Chris Stevens was killed in Benghazi, Libya, on the anniversary of September 11th last year, it was only the sixth time that the United States had lost an ambassador to its enemies. The events of that night have been overshadowed by misinformation, confusion and intense partisanship. But for those who lived through it, there’s nothing confusing about what happened, and they share a sense of profound frustration because they say they saw it coming.
Tonight, you will hear for the first time from a security officer who witnessed the attack. He calls himself, Morgan Jones, a pseudonym he’s using for his own safety. A former British soldier, he’s been helping to keep U.S. diplomats and military leaders safe for the last decade. On a night he describes as sheer hell, Morgan Jones snuck into a Benghazi hospital that was under the control of al Qaeda terrorists, desperate to find out if one of his close friends from the U.S. Special Mission was the American he’d been told was there.
Morgan Jones: I was dreading seeing who it was, you know? It didn’t take long to get to the room. And I could see in through the glass. And I didn’t even have to go into the room to see who it was. I knew who it was immediately.
Lara Logan: Who was it?
Morgan Jones: It was the ambassador, dead. Yeah, shocking.
Morgan Jones said he’d never felt so angry in his life. Only hours earlier, Amb. Chris Stevens had sought him out, concerned about the security at the U.S. Special Mission Compound where Morgan was in charge of the Libyan guard force.
Now, the ambassador was dead and the U.S. compound was engulfed in flames and overrun by dozens of heavily armed fighters.
Although the attack began here, the more organized assault unfolded about a mile across the city at a top secret CIA facility known as the Annex. It lasted more than seven hours and took four American lives.
Contrary to the White House’s public statements, which were still being made a full week later, it’s now well established that the Americans were attacked by al Qaeda in a well-planned assault.
Five months before that night, Morgan Jones first arrived in Benghazi, in eastern Libya about 400 miles from the capital, Tripoli.
He thought this would be an easy assignment compared to Afghanistan and Iraq. But on his first drive through Benghazi, he noticed the black flags of al Qaeda flying openly in the streets and he grew concerned about the guard forces as soon as he pulled up to the U.S. compound.
Morgan Jones: There was nobody there that we could see. And then we realized they were all inside drinking tea, laughing and joking.
Lara Logan: What did you think?
Morgan Jones: Instantly I thought we’re going to have to get rid of all these guys.
Morgan Jones’ job was training the unarmed guards who manned the compound’s gates. A second Libyan force — an armed militia hired by the State Department — was supposed to defend the compound in the event of an attack. Morgan had nothing to do with the militia, but they worried him so much, he could not keep quiet.
Morgan Jones: I was saying, “These guys are no good. You need to– you need to get ’em out of here.”
Lara Logan: You also kept saying, “If this place is attacked these guys are not going to stand and fight?”
Morgan Jones: Yeah. I used to say it all the time. Yeah, in the end I got quite bored of hearing my own voice saying it.
Andy Wood: We had one option: “Leave Benghazi or you will be killed.”
Green Beret Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wood, was one of the top American security officials in Libya. Based in Tripoli, he met with Amb. Stevens every day.
The last time he went to Benghazi was in June, just three months before the attack. While he was there, al Qaeda tried to assassinate the British ambassador. Wood says, to him, it came as no surprise because al Qaeda — using a familiar tactic — had stated their intent in an online posting, saying they would attack the Red Cross, the British and then the Americans in Benghazi.
Lara Logan: And you watched as they–
Andy Wood: As they did each one of those.
Lara Logan: –attacked the Red Cross and the British mission. And the only ones left–
Andy Wood: Were us. They made good on two out of the three promises. It was a matter of time till they captured the third one.
Lara Logan: And Washington was aware of that?
Andy Wood: They knew we monitored it. We included that in our reports to both State Department and DOD.
Andy Wood told us he raised his concerns directly with Amb. Stevens three months before the U.S. compound was overrun.
Andy Wood: I made it known in a country team meeting, “You are gonna get attacked. You are gonna get attacked in Benghazi. It’s gonna happen. You need to change your security profile.”
Lara Logan: Shut down–
Andy Wood: Shut down–
Lara Logan: –the special mission–
Andy Wood: –“Shut down operations. Move out temporarily. Ch– or change locations within the city. Do something to break up the profile because you are being targeted. They are– they are– they are watching you. The attack cycle is such that they’re in the final planning stages.”
Lara Logan: Wait a minute, you said, “They’re in the final planning stages of an attack on the American mission in Benghazi”?
Andy Wood: It was apparent to me that that was the case. Reading, reading all these other, ah, attacks that were occurring, I could see what they were staging up to, it was, it was obvious.
We have learned the U.S. already knew that this man, senior al Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi was in Libya, tasked by the head of al Qaeda to establish a clandestine terrorist network inside the country. Al-Libi was already wanted for his role in bombing two U.S. embassies in Africa.
Greg Hicks: It was a frightening piece of information.
Lara Logan: Because it meant what?
Greg Hicks: It raised the stakes, changed the game.
Greg Hicks, who testified before Congress earlier this year, was Amb. Stevens’ deputy based in Tripoli – a 22-year veteran of the Foreign Service with an impeccable reputation.
Lara Logan: And in that environment you were asking for more security assets and you were not getting them?
Greg Hicks: That’s right.
Lara Logan: Did you fight that?
Greg Hicks: I was in the process of trying to frame a third request but it was not allowed to go forward.
Lara Logan: So why didn’t you get the help that you needed and that you asked for?
Greg Hicks: I really, really don’t know. I in fact would like to know that, the answer to that question.
In the months prior to the attack, Amb. Stevens approved a series of detailed cables to Washington, specifically mentioning, among other things, “the al Qaeda flag has been spotted several times flying over government buildings”.
When the attack began on the evening of September 11, Amb. Stevens immediately called Greg Hicks, who was back in Tripoli.
Greg Hicks: Ambassador said that the consulate’s under attack. And then the line cut.
Lara Logan: Do you remember the sound of his voice?
Greg Hicks: Oh yeah, it’s indelibly imprinted on my mind.
Lara Logan: How did he sound?
Greg Hicks: He sounded frightened.
In Benghazi, Morgan Jones, who was at his apartment about 15 minutes away, got a frantic call from one of his Libyan guards.
Morgan Jones: I could hear gunshots. And I– and he said, “There’s– there’s men coming into the mission.” His voice, he was, he was scared, you could tell he was really scared and he was running, I could tell he was running.
His first thought was for his American friends, the State Department agents who were pinned down inside the compound, and he couldn’t believe it when one of them answered his phone.
Morgan Jones: I said, “What’s going on?” He said, “We’re getting attacked.” And I said, “How many?” And he said, “They’re all over the compound.” And I felt shocked, I didn’t know what to say. And– I said, “Well, just keep fighting. I’m on my way.”
Morgan’s guards told him the armed Libyan militia that was supposed to defend the compound had fled, just as Morgan had predicted. His guards — unarmed and terrified — sounded the alarm, but they were instantly overwhelmed by the attackers.
Morgan Jones: They said, “We’re here to kill Americans, not Libyans,” so they’d give them a good beating, pistol whip them, beat them with their rifles and let them go.
Lara Logan: We’re here to kill Americans.
Morgan Jones: That’s what they said, yeah.
Lara Logan: Not Libyans.
Morgan Jones: Yeah.
About 30 minutes into the attack, a quick reaction force from the CIA Annex ignored orders to wait and raced to the compound, at times running and shooting their way through the streets just to get there. Inside the compound, they repelled a force of as many as 60 armed terrorists and managed to save five American lives and recover the body of Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith. They were forced to fight their way out before they could find the ambassador.
Not long afterwards, Morgan Jones scaled the 12-foot high wall of the compound that was still overrun with al Qaeda fighters.
Morgan Jones: One guy saw me. He just shouted. I couldn’t believe that he’d seen me ’cause it was so dark. He started walking towards me.
Lara Logan: And as he was coming closer?
Morgan Jones: As I got closer, I just hit him with the butt of the rifle in the face.
Lara Logan: And?
Morgan Jones: Oh, he went down, yeah.
Lara Logan: He dropped?
Morgan Jones: Yeah, like– like a stone.
Lara Logan: With his face smashed in?
Morgan Jones: Yeah.
Lara Logan: And no one saw you do it?
Morgan Jones: No.
Lara Logan: Or heard it?
Morgan Jones: No, there was too much noise.
The same force that had gone to the compound was now defending the CIA Annex. Hours later, they were joined by a small team of Americans from Tripoli. From defensive positions on these rooftops, the Americans fought back a professional enemy. In a final wave of intense fighting just after 5 a.m., the attackers unleashed a barrage of mortars. Three of them slammed into this roof, killing former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
Lara Logan: They hit that roof three times.
Andy Wood: They, they hit those roofs three times.
Lara Logan: In the dark.
Andy Wood: Yea, that’s getting the basketball through the hoop over your shoulder.
Lara Logan: What does it take to pull off an attack like that?
Andy Wood: Coordination, planning, training, experienced personnel. They practice those things. They knew what they were doing. That was a– that was a well-executed attack.
We have learned there were two Delta Force operators who fought at the Annex and they’ve since been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross — two of the military’s highest honors. The Americans who rushed to help that night went without asking for permission and the lingering question is why no larger military response ever crossed the border into Libya — something Greg Hicks realized wasn’t going to happen just an hour into the attack.
Lara Logan: You have this conversation with the defense attache. You ask him what military assets are on their way. And he says–
Greg Hicks: Effectively, they’re not. And I– for a moment, I just felt lost. I just couldn’t believe the answer. And then I made the call to the Annex chief, and I told him, “Listen, you’ve gotta tell those guys there may not be any help coming.”
Lara Logan: That’s a tough thing to understand. Why?
Greg Hicks: It just is. We–, for us, for the people that go out onto the edge, to represent our country, we believe that if we get in trouble, they’re coming to get us. That our back is covered. To hear that it’s not, it’s a terrible, terrible experience.
The U.S. government today acknowledges the Americans at the U.S. compound in Benghazi were not adequately protected. And says those who carried out the attack are still being hunted down.
Just a few weeks ago, Abu Anas al-Libi was captured for his role in the Africa bombings and the U.S. is still investigating what part he may have played in Benghazi. We’ve learned that this man, Sufian bin Qumu, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and long-time al Qaeda operative, was one of the lead planners along with Faraj al-Chalabi, whose ties to Osama bin Laden go back more than 15 years. He’s believed to have carried documents from the compound to the head of al Qaeda in Pakistan.
The morning after the attack, Morgan Jones went back to the compound one last time to document the scene. He took these photos which he gave to the FBI and has published in a book he has written. After all this time, he told us he’s still haunted by a conversation he had with Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, a week before the attack.
Morgan Jones: Yeah, he was worried. He wasn’t happy with the security.
Lara Logan: And you didn’t tell him all your worries?
Morgan Jones: No. No, didn’t want to–
Lara Logan: Why not?
Morgan Jones: I didn’t want to worry him anymore, you know? He’s a nice guy. I sort of promised him he’d be OK.
Lara Logan: You think about that?
Morgan Jones: Every day, yeah.
The U.S. pulled out of Benghazi and al Qaeda has grown in power across Libya. When a member of our team went to the U.S. compound earlier this month, he found remnants of the Americans’ final frantic moments still scattered on the ground. Among them Amb. Stevens’ official schedule for Sept.12, 2012, a day he didn’t live to see.