A map showing the position of U.S. Navy ships on the day terrorists attacked the special mission in Benghazi, Libya, killing four Americans, suggests the military had enough fire power in the region to intervene, according to a government watchdog group.
The unclassified map map obtained by Judicial Watch shows the positions of 51 U.S. Naval vessels in the North Africa Area of Responsibility (AOR) on Sept. 11, 2012, including two aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf (Eisenhower and Enterprise), four destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the command ship Mt. Whitney in Gaeta, Italy.
The map was provided to Judicial Watch by a private citizen, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Randy Schmidt, who is investigating how the military responded to the Benghazi attack. Schmidt received the map from the Navy in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for the status of naval forces in the North African AORthat day.
“The fact that he had the brains to ask this question and the fact that they came back and gave him a map of the layout I think is just tremendous,” said Chris Farrell of Judicial Watch. “It lays out in pretty good detail what the Navy had afloat and where it was. Now of course this is all unclassified. Probably there were other assets in other places doing other things. But at least we have a portion of the picture.”
Schmidt did follow up his FOIA request with an email requesting the location of air assets, but didn’t get anything back.“The impression I got was that if I wanted that, I would have to put in yet another FOIA request,” Schmidt said. “As this gets a little more heated and a few more people investigating, I think I might go ahead and do that.”
In a letter accompanying the map, the Navy suggests it would have been operationally difficult to get any naval assets to Benghazi in time, pointing out that the USS Enterprise, the aircraft carrier that appears to be closest to Libya by sea, would have taken seven days to get to Benghazi “assuming a 20 knot transit speed and no Suez Canal delays.”
“It seems like someone crafted that message,” Schmidt said. “They picked a possible scenario that had nothing to do with what the rest of those ships were doing. What were those four destroyers doing that were in the [Mediterranean]?”
Schmidt also suggested that jets from the carrier Eisenhower, about 1,500 nautical miles by air from Benghazi could have been launched and refueled in flight by Air Force tankers.
“I think the military is done thinking about it,” he said. “For whatever reason, they’ve already decided what they were or were not going to follow up on. The number of unanswered questions is phenomenal.”
Judicial Watch has brought four lawsuits in federal court over the Benghazi attack. “We’re going to continue to press the way that we do best, but it would certainly help if there were either a House select committee or even a joint select committee so you’d have one centralized place for the Congress to really pursue this matter,” Farrell said.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., has filed a bill to create a bipartisan House Select Committee to further investigate the Benghazi incident. It has 181 co-sponsors and has been endorsed by victims’ family members. Last month, the Senate Intelligence Committee faulted the U.S. State Department and the intelligence community for failing to prevent the attack. Pat Smith, the mother of victim Sean Smith, claims former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is directly responsible for her son’s death, and that of the three other victims, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.