Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 06:55 PM
Mark Geist, one of five security contractors who co-wrote the new book “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi” told “MidPoint” host Ed Berliner that his team’s account of what happened that night in 2012 should be judged by the fact that it comes from eyewitnesses.
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“We were there,” Geist said of the sequence of events that ended with four Americans killed, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stephens.
Geist was responding to a Democratic congressman who said no evidence exists to support the authors’ claim of a stand-down order. According to “13 Hours,” the diplomatic annex security team was armed and ready to go less than a mile from where militants were overrunning the post.
“I can’t speak for what Washington’s doing,” said Geist. “Call it a stand-down, call it a wait — the truth of the matter is that there was 20-25 minutes where we were not allowed to go, and had we gone we would’ve been able to utilize a resource.
“You got six operators that have probably close to 100 years of experience combined in counter-insurgency operations. You have that asset at your availability: Are you going to use it or are you going to hold it back?”
Geist recalled the night of the attack, which is the subject of a special congressional investigation, as “very tense.”
“You have Americans on the radio calling for help . . . You can hear the panic in their voice, and our job is to go help fellow Americans — it’s ingrained in us,” he said.
Two of the dead were from Geist’s team, once the ex-commandos finally overrode their sit-tight order from a CIA station chief — identified in the book only as “Bob.”
Bob was reportedly trying to round up a homegrown Libyan militia to repel the attackers so he wouldn’t risk blowing the agency’s local cover.
Geist said the resulting delay was a case of two sets of people with different priorities.
“It wasn’t necessarily that we didn’t trust him,” Geist said of Bob, “because he did his job very well and we do our job very well. We just have two different jobs.”
Asked how certain he was that going in earlier would have made a difference, Geist said, “Getting into the ‘if’ this or ‘if’ that, there’s a number of things that could’ve happened.”
“I do believe — and I know my fellow operators believe — that a better outcome or a more positive outcome probably would have come about, had we been able to get over there sooner,” he said.
“Because then you would’ve had Americans giving back intel of what’s actually happening, and not depending on some local [Libyan] national over the telephone for your information.”
Another commando and co-author of the book, Kris “Tanto” Paronto, said in a separate interview on Newsmax’s “The Steve Malzberg Show” that he was comfortable with the decision to disobey orders.
“I can sleep with that at night. I can’t tell you why things were done on higher, I don’t know. I really have no idea why a stand on order came from or where it came from besides my local chain of command. Other than that, we did what we had to do tonight,” he said.
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“It’s hard to just sit there, it’s hard to just sit there, but you don’t start arguing and yelling especially with your chain of command because all that’s going to do is hurt in the long run eventually.
“Finally when it came to the last straw, you just make the decision and you go. Whether consequences be damned, you got to save Americans and you got save our friends.”
Geist told Malzberg:
“Imagine hearing the desperation of a close friend of a family member over the radio calling for you to come help and you’re not able to go out there and you know you have the skill set to come over and help them, to do something, to make a difference.
“That’s what we do. I mean that’s what we’re trained to do, that’s everything about us. It’s to go help others and save lives if we can.”
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