Benghazi Probe Finds Marines' Response Was Slowed By Uniform Changes

In this Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 file photo, Libyan civilians watch fires at an Ansar al-Shariah Brigades compound, after hundreds of Libyans, Libyan Military, and Police raided the Brigades base, in Benghazi, Libya.
AP Photo photo by Mohammad Hannon

Editor’s Note: This article by Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.

A new congressional report on the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead found that the Marines tasked with responding to the attack had to change in and out of uniform four times, slowing their arrival at the scene of the attack.

The 800-page report, released Tuesday by the House Select Committee on Benghazi, is the last in a series of Republican-authored probes into the attack and the response of administration officials. It provides nearly two dozen more details about the chain of events taken from the testimony of key leaders, detailing what are described as communication and intelligence failures and leadership gaps.

Among these were delays imposed on the 50-man Marine Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team, or FAST, which launched from Rota, Spain, more than 2,000 miles away from Benghazi. The team was loaded onto C-130 aircraft, but held on the ground for three hours before being allowed to take off.

According to the report, Navy Vice Adm. Kurt Tidd, then-director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified that the State Department had dithered about how to send forces into Libya without creating a larger international incident.

"State was very, very concerned about what the footprint would look like in Tripoli," Tidd said in testimony cited in the report. "They didn't want it to look like we were invading. That was the gist or that was the genesis of the discussion that occurred over whether or not when the FAST arrives at the airport in Tripoli — because they wanted to reinforce security at the embassy — but there was concern that it not have this image of a big, invading force."

The team was going to be transported in vehicles to the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Tidd said.

"And there was just concern of parading a bunch of trucks or buses full of Marines in uniform, what kind of image that would present, recognizing it was going to be daylight when they arrived," he said.

The Marine commander of the FAST platoon, unnamed in the report, testified that the Marines' orders changed constantly as they waited to depart.

"We were told multiple times to change what we were wearing, to change from cammies into civilian attire, civilian attire into cammies, cammies into civilian attire," he said. "There was also some talk of whether or not we could carry our personal weapons. I was basically holding hard and fast to the point where we were carrying our personal weapons. Like, we've got a very violent thing going on the ground where we're going, so we're going to be carrying something that can protect ourselves."

Ultimately, the commander said, the Marines would change in and out of uniform four times.

The report's authors concluded that these hours of indecision contradicted official statements that the administration had responded with all haste in response to the attacks.

"Although [then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin] Dempsey told the U.S. Senate that once forces began moving, 'nothing stopped us, nothing slowed us,' it appears the U.S. Military's response that night was delayed -- because it started too late," they wrote.

In his 2014 memoir, "Worthy Fights," Leon Panetta, the former CIA director and later defense secretary, defended the administration's response to the Benghazi attack.

"Any suggestion that anyone, from the president on down, delayed or was indifferent to the ambassador and his staff in Benghazi is simply false," he wrote. "One conspiracy theory held that the CIA security team in Tripoli had been ordered by their chain of command to 'stand down.' That was not only false but directly the opposite of the sum of everyone's efforts in response to the president's orders, which was to move as quickly as possible to help."

The House report also concluded the uniform issue spoke to a lack of clear leadership.

"The issue of military attire versus civilian clothes illustrated no one seemed to be taking charge and making final decisions," the authors wrote.

It remains unclear whether the three-hour delay made a difference in the fast-moving events of that night in Libya. Ultimately, the FAST Marines were never ordered to Benghazi.

This article originally appeared on

More from

U.S. Army Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain is captured in this photo during a media opportunity while serving as backup crew for NASA Expedition 56 to the International Space Station May, 2018, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. (NASA photo)

NASA is reportedly investigating one of its astronauts in a case that appears to involve the first allegations of criminal activity from space.

Read More Show Less
New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen of the 24th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team (CST) and 106th Rescue Wing prepare to identify and classify several hazardous chemical and biological materials during a collective training event at the Plum Island Animal Disease Research Facility, New York, May 2, 2018. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Harley Jelis)

The Department of Homeland Security stored sensitive data from the nation's bioterrorism defense program on an insecure website where it was vulnerable to attacks by hackers for over a decade, according to government documents reviewed by The Los Angeles Times.

The data included the locations of at least some BioWatch air samplers, which are installed at subway stations and other public locations in more than 30 U.S. cities and are designed to detect anthrax or other airborne biological weapons, Homeland Security officials confirmed. It also included the results of tests for possible pathogens, a list of biological agents that could be detected and response plans that would be put in place in the event of an attack.

The information — housed on a dot-org website run by a private contractor — has been moved behind a secure federal government firewall, and the website was shut down in May. But Homeland Security officials acknowledge they do not know whether hackers ever gained access to the data.

Read More Show Less
A U.S. Marine with Task Force Southwest observes Afghan National Army (ANA) 215th Corps soldiers move to the rally point to begin their training during a live-fire range at Camp Shorabak. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Luke Hoogendam)

By law, the United States is required to promote "human rights and fundamental freedoms" when it trains foreign militaries. So it makes sense that if the U.S. government is going to spend billions on foreign security assistance every year, it should probably systematically track whether that human rights training is actually having an impact or not, right?

Apparently not. According to a new audit from the Government Accountability Office, both the Departments of Defense and State "have not assessed the effectiveness of human rights training for foreign security forces" — and while the Pentagon agreed to establish a process to do so, State simply can't be bothered.

Read More Show Less
The Topeka Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Public domain)

The Kansas City VA Medical Center is still dealing with the fallout of a violent confrontation last year between one of its police officers and a patient, with the Kansas City Police Department launching a homicide investigation.

And now Topeka's VA hospital is dealing with an internal dispute between leaders of its Veterans Affairs police force that raises new questions about how the agency nationwide treats patients — and the officers who report misconduct by colleagues.

Read More Show Less
Jeannine Willard (Valencia County Detention Center)

A New Mexico woman was charged Friday in the robbery and homicide of a Marine Corps veteran from Belen late last month after allegedly watching her boyfriend kill the man and torch his car to hide evidence.

Read More Show Less