In a new book released Tuesday highlighting the events of the Sept. 11, 2012 Islamic militant attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the CIA security contractors that responded and defended the compound claim that they could have saved the life of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Information Management Services Officer Sean Smith had the team not been delayed at the Benghazi CIA Annex for over a half an hour by the top CIA Officer in Benghazi.
In the book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi, members of the Annex Security Team said they were told explicitly to "stand down" for over 30 to 40 minutes by the top CIA officer in Benghazi known publicly as "Bob".
The members of the Annex Security Team, who all work for an organization called Global Response Staff and are former military service members, said they were ready to deploy to the terrorist-stricken compound within five minutes of receiving the call but had to wait in the car until they received further instruction from "Bob."
"Five minutes and we are ready. Thumbs up, thumbs up. We are ready to go," Annex Security Team member Kris "Tanto" Paronto said in an interview with Fox News' Bret Baier. "I said, 'Hey, we are ready to go.' Bob looks right through me and looks at the team leader and says, 'You guys need to wait.'"
As the team waited in the car and continued to get calls from the State Department telling them the building was "taking fire", team member John "Tig" Tiegen told Fox News that he again told "Bob" that it was urgent for the team to leave.
"It had been fifteen minutes and I had gotten out of the car. Bob and the team lead were standing on the porch," Tiegen said. "'I said 'Hey, we got to get over there, we are losing the initiative.' Bob just looks straight at me said 'stand down. You need to wait.'"
Paronto and Tiegen, along with team member Mark Geist, all agreed in the Fox News Interview and in an interview with The American Spectator, that had they left on time they could have saved the life of Stevens and Smith. Two other team members included in the Annex Security Team, Glenn Doherty and Tyrone Woods, were killed in the resulting conflict.
"I strongly believe that if we had left immediately, they'd still be alive," Tiegen said in the interview with The American Spectator. "They didn't die of gunshot wounds or knife stabbing. They died of smoke inhalation. And that takes time. It's not something that just happens in a split second. Their house was on fire. Every second counts. Firefighters know every second counts. So, yeah, it directly impacted their deaths."
The team members believe that they were told to wait by "Bob" because he was trying to coordinate support from the local friendly militia called the 17 February militia.
In a statement to Fox News, senior intelligence officials said the team had not been told to "stand down" but confirmed the team's delay while CIA's top officer in Benghazi tried to rally local support.
Additionally, the team members claim in the book that they had repeatedly asked for aerial backup and support once they had gotten to the compound and assessed the attacks but never received the help they needed.
"It was Tanto who made that request. He made it pretty quick. He requested the IR and a Spectre gunship within 10 or 15 minutes," Tiegen told American Spectator. "They just kinda said 'Roger that. We'll look into it.' All we ever got was the IR (drone surveillance), obviously."
Mark Geist said he feels that CIA didn't send reinforcements for the same reason they delayed the initial respondents: the CIA wanted to limit the exposure.
"I think somebody was either afraid to make the decision or they felt that the situation wasn't as grave as it was, which could lead you to the conclusion that maybe that's [also] why they had us stand down and hold off for 30 minutes," Geist said. "Because they thought it could be handled in an easier manner, or they didn't want the exposure or something."
As the Daily Beast reports, "Bob" had received one of the CIA's most prestigious intelligence medals in May of 2013.