Five security operators responsible for guarding the CIA station in Benghazi, Libya insist they were told to "stand down" the night of the deadly 2012 attacks, arguing the order prevented them from likely saving the life of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and others.
The claim is made in a new book titled "13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi." Scheduled for release next week, it is the first public account of the deadly attacks from security personnel who were on the ground that night.
An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. (Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
“If you guys do not get here, we are going to die!” a diplomatic security agent shouted over the radio, the commandos say in their new book, according to the New York Times.
Within moments the team, comprised of former members of American Special Forces teams and hired as private contractors, was ready to deploy and move to the compound, a mere mile away.
“Five minutes, we're ready,” Kris "Tanto" Paronto, a former Army Ranger, told Fox News. “It was thumbs up, thumbs up, we're ready to go.”
However, according to the team, a top CIA officer in Benghazi, who they refer to as "Bob," told them to "stand down."
[sharequote align="center"]"'Stand down, you need to wait.'"[/sharequote]
“It had probably been 15 minutes I think, and … I just said, ‘Hey, you know, we gotta-- we need to get over there, we're losing the initiative,’” John Tiegen told Fox News. “And Bob just looks straight at me and said, ‘Stand down, you need to wait.’”
“We're starting to get calls from the State Department guys saying, ‘Hey, we're taking fire, we need you guys here, we need help,’” Paronto added.
Finally, after 30 minutes of waiting, the team said they deployed, in defiance of the order, the Times reported.
Revisiting the events of the fateful night, the five commandos say they believe Ambassador Stevens and others would have been alive if not for the "stand down" order.
“Ambassador Stevens and Sean [Smith], yeah, they would still be alive, my gut is yes,” Paronto said.
“I strongly believe if we'd left immediately, they'd still be alive today,” Tiegen added.
[sharequote="center"]“I strongly believe if we’d left immediately, they’d still be alive today."[/sharequote]
A senior intelligence official told Fox News that "there were no orders to anybody to stand down in providing support."
The commandos adamantly denied that claim, insisting to Fox News the order was given.
“You use the words ‘stand down,’” host Bret Baier said. “A number of people now, including the House Intelligence Committee insist no one was hindered from responding to the situation at the compound…so what do you say to that?”
“No, it happened,” Tiegen answered.
“It happened on the ground-- all I can talk about is what happened on that ground that night,” Paronto added to Fox News. “To us. To myself, twice, and to-- to Tig, once. It happened that night. We were told to wait, stand-- and stand down. We were delayed three times.”
Fox News plans to air a special Friday night at 10 p.m. with the complete interview with the commandos.
Earlier this year, testimony from nine military officers appeared to undermine the claim that a "stand down" order was given.
This story has been updated.
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