The 12:21 video and transcript below come from a self-identified retired lieutenant colonel special operations planner who phoned the Rush Limbaugh Show Friday, October 26, 2012. The caller claimed that Barack Obama had to have been informed within minutes after the attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
The caller also claimed that the U.S. ambassador and the three other staff members could have been rescued had Obama not countermanded the standing orders to extricate them. According to the caller, only Obama could have cancelled the rescue mission, and he did so because he feared another Desert One or Blackhawk Down type debacle right before the election. So to avoid political embarrassment, he let four Americans die.
RUSH: Now to the phones since it’s Open Line Friday. Doug in San Antonio. Great to have you on the program, sir. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Rush. Thanks. I wanted to speak to the question of when the president knew and why Secretary Panetta refused to support the CIA annex request either to move to the consulate or to reinforce. Within a few minutes of the consulate being under attack — I’m a retired lieutenant colonel special operations planner for 15 years — the personal security detail for the ambassador notified the communications room in Tripoli who then, on the top secret side, sent a message to the White House Situation Room that the ambassador was in peril, okay? And they did that by code word and it would have been within minutes of the attack commencing.
The White House Situation Room has a list of what’s called Essential Elements of Friendly Information. That’s the military’s acronym for it, but they would have a similar thing, a critical information list. Certain things go right to the person that’s standing next to the president, both military and civilian leadership. So he would have known within minutes or it’s supposed to be informed within minutes because an ambassador is a four-star equivalent, very high, very important person, you know, represents the president and essentially is the president’s — you know, is the surrogate of the president in that country. So the White House cannot deny that the president knew immediately.
RUSH: They are. They are.
CALLER: Well, it’s a bald-faced lie, you know. I’m giving you some inside baseball information –
RUSH: Look, I believe you. You’re talking about watch desks. That tells me you know what you’re talking about.
CALLER: Well, it’s even a little more frustrating than that. So when that message, that code word goes out, flash traffic, that an ambassador is in peril, okay, the –
RUSH: We have heard this. In our parlance, the way we heard this, Doug, was essentially the panic button was hit. That’s how this was explained to me the first time. Somebody who knew what they were talking about referenced this as a panic button essentially was hit, and that once that happens, everybody that receives it knows what’s going on. There’s no doubt about it. So that’s pretty much true, right?
CALLER: Right. But it’s even more detailed than that, Rush. What it means is when a code word goes out, there’s standard operating procedures. The geographic combatant commander that’s responsible for Libya would have been part of that message traffic, and his CINC’s In-Extremis Force, which is, you know, a Special Forces unit –
RUSH: Okay, let me stop you there for another question, because what a lot of people have been told, the excuse that has been offered, in fact, from Condoleezza Rice on Greta Van Susteren a couple nights ago, the impression is, “Well, there’s so much traffic coming in, there’s so many e-mails, so many cables, so many memos, it would take somebody hours to sift through it.” What you’re telling me is that there are systems designed to penetrate all that in a real emergency?
CALLER: Well, there’s three networks, Rush. The e-mails that have been released are unclassified e-mails. On the top secret side, a flash traffic message from the embassy Tripoli to the White House Situation Room, it’s like an IM. I mean, it’s immediately responded to. You have to acknowledge receipt of it. Okay? So it’s immediate. It gets to the person, the watch officer sitting there, boom, flashes on his screen, he has to acknowledge receipt. And then there’s a protocol for who he then sends it to. He physically turns to someone, the senior guy on watch, “This is a critical element of information. POTUS needs to hear this,” and that’s what would have happened.
So no one in the White House can deny that — well, they can deny it, but the fact is the protocol says someone marched their happy little ass up to the senior guy standing next to POTUS and said, “Sir, ambassador in Libya is in peril.” And if he was missing, that is even a higher precedence. And then the chain would have also gone out automatically to the geographic combatant commander, AFRICOM, and he would have then turned to his special operations commander and said, “I want the In-Extremis Force, you know, strip ready in five minutes.” And evidently they were strip ready in Sigonella and they would have the assets to penetrate the airspace, you know, an MC-130 papa, which is a C-130 specially equipped with electronic countermeasures. They didn’t need permission to enter Libyan airspace, okay?
I’m giving you a lot of Inside Baseball stuff, and maybe putting myself in a little peril by doing it, but the In-Extremis Force, they would have been chomping at the bit to do this. It was turned down, POTUS, at his five p.m. Eastern time meeting with the principals, that’s when he put the kibosh on everything. It was a conscious act. It has to be because, you know, the In-Extremis Force is required to be prepared to do In-Extremis non-combatant evacuation operations for its geographic responsibility, the entire continent of Africa. So there’s always somebody ready to go, and the aircraft are always prepared to go.
It’s maddening to say that there was not intelligence. An intelligence guy is not a decision-maker. He’s just some analyst dude that tells the decision-makers this is what we know. Well, the decision-makers who are so risk-averse now need perfect intelligence. They would have had to have, you know, in the calculus of this, to know that, whatever the attacking force was, if I put 15 or 50 or a hundred operators on the ground, you know, they’ll have success. No one knows that. In soft planning, you plan to fail half the time.
RUSH: What about the story we’ve been told that not only was there so much traffic coming in that it was impossible to find the right stuff, which you’ve now explained, but they’re also telling us that the president wasn’t told for a while, and even now, as recently as today, they’re saying that the three most recent e-mails — it sounds like we’re talking about — flash traffic’s not e-mails, right?
CALLER: Flash traffic is digital from station to station.
RUSH: Right. So they’re misleading us left and right. They’re trying to say, “Well, the president –” They will not explain. They will not tell us what happened to the three e-mails and why he didn’t get them or why he wasn’t told or when he knew or what. They’re basically portraying the president as removed from all this.
CALLER: Well, the bottom line is a flash traffic saying that the ambassador is in peril, or, worse, missing, you know, the protocol is for someone to physically contact with a person in the chain that’s supposed to determine what happens next. Now, I wasn’t in the Oval Office so I can’t –
RUSH: Let me ask you, the question came up yesterday that I couldn’t answer, and I need to ask you, just from what you’re saying. This is unreal, but let’s assume they can’t find POTUS, let’s assume he’s just not engaged. Who has trigger authority on a response to something like that? I mean, you say we don’t need permission to send a C-130 in there to disrupt. Who orders it in there, in a situation like this? Who has the authority to order the C-130s wherever they are, Italy, wherever they are, to take action? If you can’t find the president — is the president the only guy that can give that order?
CALLER: No, sir. Okay? Basically in the absence of permissions, okay, you have standing orders. And one of the standing orders to geographic combatant commander is to observe life of American citizens –
RUSH: Exactly. Precisely.
CALLER: And he’s a four-star, you know, he’s in Germany. AFRICOM headquarters is in Germany, and their op-center would have been monitoring this in real time, ’cause it’s part of their geographic responsibility. And they would have been going through the different permutations of courses of action of who can get there the quickest. Now, in their geographic area they have Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa, which is in Djibouti. I served there when it was the Joint Special Operations Task Force Crisis Response Element, and we have responsibility for all of CENTCOM and AFRICOM in Africa because at the time there was no AFRICOM. And we had the capacity to get from where we were in Djibouti to Benghazi in about three hours, four hours, depending on what we wanted to take. Now, if we wanted to go in there with a lot of operators, and at the time we had about a hundred operators, it would have taken us probably five hours.
RUSH: Okay, Doug, you’re sitting out here, you obviously are intimately familiar with all this. So what’s going through your mind, A, in real time when you hear about this, and then in subsequent days when you hear the excuses or explanations that have been offered for why no action was taken? I mean, I may be putting you on spot and you can’t share that with us, but I gotta ask you.
CALLER: It stems from Desert One, Rush, it stems from the failure of Desert One during the Iranian hostage rescue. And what commander wants to repeat that, you know. Now, at the lieutenant colonel level, at the colonel level of the In-Extremis Force of all these different headquarters, State Department, everybody was saying, “Let’s go! Let’s get boots on the ground and kick these people’s asses and get our people.” But who makes those decisions? It’s POTUS, V POTUS, State, and Def. And they had a five o’clock Eastern time meeting, and they said no. You know, we’re willing to have the consulate overruled and the embassy overrun — (phone connection goes bad)
RUSH: The fact that they’re afraid of replicating Carter’s boondoggle, that’s not gonna fly with a lot of people.
CALLER: Well, sir, I hate to break it to you, but the people that are-four-stars right now, okay, were young officers, and they saw what happened to the leadership, okay? I’m not saying on the Special Ops side. You know, Special Ops guys –
RUSH: But I mean there are alternate explanations. There are political campaign explanations that people have conjured up to explain why Obama would not want any military activity taking place there in order to make sure that an image is created for his campaign: We’re defeating Al-Qaeda. They’re on the run. We got bin Laden.
CALLER: All those memes, you know, are probably in play, but mostly it’s just incompetence and not understanding the principle of you don’t leave anybody behind, okay?
RUSH: Doug, look, I know you’ve stuck your neck out here and you obviously know your stuff intimately well and I really appreciate your call. It’s fabulous to get your input and knowledge on this. Somewhere, somebody refused to make a gutsy call.