October 24, 2012
A series of email alerts sent as Obama administration officials monitored the attack on the U.S consulate in Benghazi last month are the latest to shine light on the chaotic events that culminated in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
The names of the individual recipients of the emails, first reported by CBS News but independently obtained by ABC News Tuesday evening, are redacted. A source who requested anonymity said it appears they are sent by the State Department Operations Center to distribution lists and email accounts for the top national security officials at the State Department, Pentagon, the FBI, the White House Situation Room and the office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The first email, with a subject line of “U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack,” sent at 4:05 PM about 25 minutes after the attack began, describes an assault on the compound by 20 armed people.
“The Regional Security Officer reports the diplomatic mission is under attack,” the email states. “Embassy Tripoli reports approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well.”
“Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM (Chief of Mission) personnel are in the compound safe haven,” the email continues. “The 17th of February militia is providing security support.”
The next email sent at 4:54 PM states that the shooting has stopped and the compound was cleared, adding that a response team was “onsite attempting to locate COM personnel.”
The third email updates officials that Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility for the Benghazi attack on Facebook and Twitter, and has threatened to attack the Tripoli embassy.
The timing of the emails is consistent with what a senior State Department official told reporters at a briefing on Oct. 9.