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Judicial Watch Forces Obama Administration to Release Pentagon Benghazi Attack Documents

U.S. Africa Command records – heavily blacked out – show military gathered forces to support "anti-terrorist" actions in Benghazi day after attack

Contact: Jill Farrell, Judicial Watch, 202-646-5188

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2015 /Standard Newswire/ -- Judicial Watch announced today that the Obama administration finally turned over hundreds of pages of documents about the military response to the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission Compound and other facilities in Benghazi. The documents, which are heavily blacked out (redacted), confirm that the U.S. Military, through its U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) drafted orders for a military response to the attack, specifically "to protect vital naval and national assets." Other documents suggest that the military, hours after the attack, tied the assault to a group supporting "an Islamic state" that wanted to attack U.S. interests in Libya in retaliation for a drone strike on an al-Qaeda leader.

The Pentagon produced a total of 486 pages in response to a federal court order in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit Judicial Watch filed against the U.S. Department of Defense asking for "any and all" records produced by the U.S. Africa Command Operations Center concerning the terrorist attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia on September 4, 2014, (Judicial Watch v. Department of Defense (No. 1:14-cv-01508)). Almost all of the documents had been previously classified as secret, and the Defense Department has redacted a large percentage of the material in order to protect "military plans and operations," "intelligence" activities, and other exemptions.

Included in the production was a September 13, 2012, draft cable, "US Africa Command Request for Forces," which sought an "immediate" response from the Joint Chiefs of Staff for "additional forces" for the mission to "provide limited duration military and expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces in support of USAFRICOM commander in order to protect vital naval and national assets." The planning document was approved by "VADM [Charles] Joseph Leidig, Deputy CDR, Africa Command." The name of the military's Benghazi operation was Jukebox Lotus.

The Obama administration blacked out the specific mission information in the final deployment orders for Operation Jukebox Lotus. The orders (EXORD) detail that, ultimately, several components of the military, including Special Operations Forces, were deployed to support limited security and evacuation operations in Libya, including support for "BPT" (Be Prepared To) included, from the U.S. Army in Africa, "BPT support with mortuary affairs." The Pentagon has previously released other orders with virtually no redactions, including an operation in Libya in 2004 and an Obama administration operation to attack Muammar Gaddafi's government forces in Libya in 2011.

Other documents show that, early on September 12, 2012, the day after the attack, top Pentagon leadership received intelligence briefing slides reporting that a June 6, 2012, attack on the Benghazi Special Mission Compound was tied to a group promoting an Islamic state in Libya, "came in response to the 5 June [2012] drone strike on al-Qaida senior leader Abu-Yahya al-libi."

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