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Author of Benghazi book stands by pivotal ‘stand-down’ scene

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Pablo Schreiber, from left, as Kris “Tanto” Paronto, John Krasinski as Jack Silva, David Denman as Dave “Boon” Benton and Dominic Fumusa as John “Tig” Tiegen, in the film, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” from Paramount Pictures and 3 Arts Entertainment/Bay Films.

“Stand down,” says the actor playing the CIA station chief in Michael Bay’s new film, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.” He’s speaking to the security team that wants to go help Americans under siege less than a mile away in a U.S. diplomatic compound under fierce attack. His order keeps the team from leaving for a crucial 20 minutes, before they decide to ignore him and go anyway.

It’s the pivotal — and most controversial — scene in the new film, a movie that Bay insists steers clear of politics, but which is bound to spark much political discussion nonetheless. On Friday — the movie’s opening day — the Washington Post quoted the now-retired CIA station chief, identified only as Bob, as strongly denying he ever issued such an order or anything like it.

“There never was a stand-down order,” the base chief was quoted by the Post as saying. “At no time did I ever second-guess that the team would depart.”

The author of the book upon which the film is based, Mitchell Zuckoff, stood by his depiction of the scene on Friday, saying in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that he’d based it on several firsthand accounts. Zuckoff collaborated on his book, “13 Hours,” with some of the surviving security contractors.

“It’s not credible what he’s claiming,” Zuckoff said of the station chief, whom he said he had tried to interview when writing the book, but his request was denied.

Four Americans died in the attacks, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

In November 2014, a two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee found that the CIA and military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on the compound. Among other findings, it determined that there was no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, and no missed opportunity for a military rescue.

In Washington, CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani referred to those findings and others as making it clear that the scene in the film is inaccurate. “If one is looking for facts on Benghazi, those reviews contain them,” he said.

“No one will mistake this movie for a documentary,” Trapani added. “It’s a distortion of the events and people who served in Benghazi that night. It’s shameful that, in order to highlight the heroism of some, those responsible for the movie felt the need to denigrate the courage of other Americans who served in harm’s way.”

Trapani called what happened in Benghazi “an amazing tale of heroism, courage under fire, leadership and camaraderie by the CIA security team, other CIA officers, State Department personnel, and those who came on the evacuation mission from Tripoli.”

In the Post report, the station chief, Bob, also challenged the movie’s depiction of him as treating the security contractors —members of the so-called Global Response Staff — dismissively and derisively as “hired help,” in the words of the film script.

“These guys were heroes,” he was quoted as saying by the Post.

Zuckoff, who teaches journalism at Boston University, said he wasn’t surprised that the movie has sparked political discussion.

“It would be naive to think that some won’t view it through a political lens,” he said. “But it’s not what we set out to do in the book or movie.”

Bay, the director, has stressed that he sees the movie as non-political, because it focuses on what he calls “a great human story, that got buried. And that’s the story I’m telling: the guys who were on the ground. The men and women that were stuck in the CIA annex, and how they fought for 13 hours to get out of there alive.”

Speaking in an interview last week in Miami promoting the movie, Bay also said that the filmmakers took great pains to present the facts accurately.

“We worked very hard to get the facts right from the research of the book that Mitch did to the amazing access I have from working 20 years with the military, from the boots on the ground, the people who were in country to the CIA, at a high-level meeting to get just the facts right, the recently released emails. We just had to get it right.”

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    • According to CIA personnel, the Pentagon, the House Armed Services Committee, the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Tripoli commander Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, and nine other military officers, no such order was ever given.

      • You would think at least ONE of those entities – you know, like the REPUBLICAN-controlled House Armed Services Committee – would have maybe mentioned it if it had actually happened? But nooooooo…

      • Members of the security team on the ground in Benghazi say they were told by the C.I.A. station chief in Tripoli to stand down or don’t go by. Not one of them was interviewed or testified before the committees that claim no such order was given. Someone is not telling the truth. Is it the former CIA station chief or is it three security team members who were in Benghazi? Three to one seems convincing.

        • “say they were told”. Was that under oath? If not, why didn’t the REPUBLICAN controlled committee subpoena them and have them testify? Or are we just supposed to take this author’s word that they said it. So no, three to one is NOT convincing…especially since there is no testimony. I’d be interested to hear why you think the REPUBLICANS in Congress and on the Committee aren’t pushing this if it’s true? They have tried every other tactic to attack the Administration and especially Secretary Clinton. This line of attack doesn’t pass the evidence OR smell test.

        • DowntownGreen, three of the security team members who were on the ground in Benghazi have been interviewed on TV in recent days and all three claim they were told by the C.I.A. station chief in Tripoli to stand down or not go to the aid of fellow Americans under attack at the Consulate. After 20 or so minutes of delay, they proceeded on their own. All three also claim they were never called to testify before Congress. Why would they say that on national TV if it did not happen?

        • Saying it on TV (I haven’t seen any of those interviews, so I won’t comment directly on what they did or didn’t say) is a far cry from saying it under oath. I wonder how much they were paid (if at all) to be “advisers” on the film? I will ask again: Why DIDN’T the REPUBLICANS on the Committee ask them to testify? If they knew this information, do you honestly think the Committee wouldn’t have exploited it for political and justice purposes? Could it be that they didn’t deem them credible?

        • In one post you say: “All three also claim they were never called to testify before Congress. Why would they say that on national TV if it did not happen?” And then you say 6 1/2 hours later you state: “All three also claim they were never called to testify before Congress. Why would they say that on national TV if it did not happen?”(from Breitbart, no less!). Which is it Ronin? Which occasion were they telling the truth?

        • OK, DowntownGreen, I misspoke by saying they did not testify before congressional committees. There were ten (10) committees investigating Benghazi. The fog of Congress got me confused. They appeared before the House Intelligence Committee chaired by Republican Rep Mike Rogers, but their testimony that were ordered to stand down was either ignored or not believed. My misstatement does not change that fact.

    • Republican controlled House Intelligence Committee, two year investigation, findings – no evidence of a stand down order, military acted appropriately. Don’t you think if a the intelligence committee found there was a stand down order they would have put it in their report?

      • The military did not act properly. Military units in Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean area were put on alert but they were never ordered by the Secretary of Defense to proceed to Benghazi to help the people on the ground as they should have been. The only thing the military did do was to send in an unarmed drone to monitor the situation and to give the people in the White House Situation Room live coverage of the disaster, but it did nothing to keep four Americans from being murdered. I want to know why the military was not ordered to proceed to Benghazi. Don’t you?

  • Fictional film with erroneous presumptions. But Republicans will use any pretense to discredit Hillary. Truth is, not one of the Republicans is anything less than a total disgrace and embarrassment.

  • All very interesting takes on the issue of “stand down”. Regardless the Secretary did disregard the Ambassador’s repeated request to beef up the security which could have had a less tragic results then unfolded. Further what she said to the survivors families and cables she sent to the Egyptian Embassy are diametrically opposed. Movies are movies and the bottom lines are the motives. Make money! Move on!

      • Really? Every dollar spent by State was on higher priorities than beefing up security in Bengahzi? I don’t believe that for a second and neither do you, just a hackneyed, partisan, empty argument.

        • Thanks for ascribing beliefs to me, even though you don’t know me or WHAT I think. It’s kind of amusing that you label it a “partisan, empty argument” without acknowledging (like the Republican leadership did) that the hearings themselves were a partisan witch hunt and resulted in zero charges.

        • What did I misinterpret about your comment? Perhaps if you had made equally empty statements about the hearings I would have reflected on that too. But you didn’t so I didn’t.

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