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Where are the Benghazi survivors?
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill January 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. Lawmakers questioned Clinton about the security failures during the September 11 attacks against the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the death of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Where are the Benghazi survivors?

In my opinion, any good journalist is a bit of a conspiracy theorist at heart. Every story has a bottom, some are deeper to dig through than others and I believe Benghazi to be one of those stories.

Sen. Rand Paul seems to be one person working to get to the bottom of the story and keeping his eye on the bigger picture. Make no mistake, the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi wasn't just about a protest gone awry or the anniversary of September 11. There's a larger story that has yet to unfold in all of this, another shoe to drop.

As we reported here, Paul suspects it involves under-the-table arms deals:

I really think part of the cause may have been there was a gun running operation going on in Benghazi, leaving Libya and going to Turkey and distributing arms to the rebels… They’ve interviewed the captain of the ship. A ship from Libya sailed for Turkey a week before the ambassador was killed. It was full of arms and they interviewed the captain and he actually specifically talks about the distribution of the arms to Syrian rebels… And I think the administration needs to answer, "Are they running guns through Turkey to Syria?"

If true, this scenario might help explain why Ambassador Stevens was meeting with Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin just before he was killed.  Through shipping records, Fox News has confirmed that the Libyan vessel Al Entisar arrived in the Turkish port of Iskenderun -- located just 35 miles from the Syrian border -- on Sept. 6, just five days before the attack.  The cargo reportedly included surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and shoulder-launched missiles.

Although what was discussed at the meeting is not public, a source told Fox News that Stevens was in Benghazi to negotiate a weapons transfer, an effort to get SA-7 missiles out of the hands of Libya-based extremists. And although the negotiation said to have taken place may have had nothing to do with the attack on the consulate later that night or the Libyan mystery ship, it could explain why Stevens was travelling in such a volatile region on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Following their meeting, Stevens reportedly escorted Akin out the compound's main gate at 8:35 p.m. local time.  But residents in the neighborhood surrounding the consulate reported that bearded Al Qaeda jihadis in pickup trucks mounted with machine guns were setting up checkpoints at about 8:00 p.m.   Because of the checkpoints, “it felt like our neighborhood was occupied, no one could get out or in,” one witness told the Associated Press.  But somehow, Akin managed to slip out of the area with no problem before the attack commenced at 9:35 p.m.  And even if he passed through the terrorists' checkpoints, there was obviously no attempt on his part to warn the Americans at the consulate of an impending attack.

Obviously there are a lot of questions that remain.  One of the biggest questions I have in all of this is where are the survivors?  While four Americans were killed in the attack at the consulate and safe house, many others managed to escape.  From early reports, we know that there were at least five State Department diplomatic security agents in Benghazi during the attack who were evacuated to Germany and received medical treatment for smoke inhalation; one was seriously wounded.

Further, Brig. Gen. C.K. Hyde has confirmed that Air Force personnel evacuated 32 Americans from Libya to Ramstein AFB in a noncombatant evacuation operation following the attack.

The State Department's own Accountability Review Board later reported that one of the surviving diplomatic security officers at the Benghazi mission actually saw the attack begin on a security video monitor as dozens of armed terrorists entered the compound's main gate.  At that point, he sounded the alarm and phoned the CIA annex and the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli to alert them that they were under siege.  (What? No protest over a YouTube video?)

During her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed that she had spoken to just one of the American survivors evacuated from Libya after the attack.  The FBI has likely debriefed the eyewitnesses, but who knows?  While the names of the four Americans killed in the attack were released almost immediately, the Obama administration has not publicly named a single one of these survivors.


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