Benghazigate: Where are the Drone Videos?

One of the most startling revelations of late was that Congress has not seen the videos made by the Predator/Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) that were flying during that event we now call Benghazigate.

This detail is one of many arising from the recent classified hearings held by the House Intelligence Committee in which five eye-witnesses to the event gave testimony for the first time (A discussion of the apparent impetus for these hearings may be found here.)

Early reports on the event do not reference overhead aircraft (Including the first "official" briefing and the first [pdf] "official" testimony.)

Sharyl Attkisson appears to have been the first journalist to (Caution-autoplay) report (20 Oct.) on those videos and aircraft a month after the event: unmanned Predator drone was...over...Benghazi, and...[it] and other...aircraft apparently observed the final hours of the [event].

A few days later the CIA fed reliable Administration lapdog, David Ignatius, a timeline (A copy of which does not appear to exist on the interwebs) in which Ignatius reports:

11:11 p.m.: An unarmed...drone arrives....[It] had been diverted from a mission over Darnah (sic), about 90 minutes away. But without weapons, it can't help much.

The, apparent, first "official" reference to drones appears in State's ARB report (18 Dec,) on p.25 of the report:

...a remotely piloted...aircraft...arrived over the [Compound] shortly before [Woods'] team departed. A second...relieved the first, and monitored the eventual evacuation of personnel from the Annex...on...September 12.

The Senate Report offers just the same information about the diverted aircraft.

The first call for release of the video came on 2 November 2012 by Nick Mottern at Truthout.

The aircraft referenced in the reports were a part of an incredibly complex and remarkable system.  Developed in combat over more than 15 years, this system of flyers, intelligence personnel, and operators team up in constantly-changing, global ways to support specific missions, frontline troops, and agents on the ground. 

Most importantly, everything that is done is documented and preserved, and the data from almost every mission is recorded and logged.  The video, audio, and mission details still exist

RPAs almost always fly in direct support of a unit on the ground and in close coordination with a specified command center.  All of these missions, both CIA and Air Force, are routed through common operations and intelligence hubs that are globally dispersed.

The MQ-1B Predator system supporting the Libya operation would have consisted of a Launch and Recovery Element (In this case, Crete, where we believe the Predator was based) for forward based take-offs/landings and maintenance, a Ground Control Station for the mission crew at AFRICOM HQ or at CIA HQ  or elsewhere, a defined set of supporting intelligence resources, and a global, satellite-and-ground-based fiber-optic communications architecture.

RPA allocations are hotly debated and ultimately decided by the Joint Staff.  All told, the entire team in this operation would easily amount to dozens of Air Force/Agency personnel.

The RPA system with its supporting intelligence architecture is not perfect, but it is pretty damn good.

The Predators in question might have been supplied by a National Guard unit, and certainly would have been flown by CIA personnel. 

Last May, a caller who claimed to be a member of a Predator RPA crew that flew over Benghazi on the night of the event detailed his actions during the event to Sean Hannity on his radio program here (Annoying Blaze pop-up for text version,) and  here (YouTube [Autoplay]) version, and here (Radio [Autoplay]) version (Starting at 16:30.)

The caller described in detail the drone's arriving on scene above the Compound after the initial assault and then its subsequent moving to the Annex.  He also then described the relieving of the drone his crew was operating by a drone being operated by another crew. 

His extensive knowledge of RPA operations leaves no question as to his veracity, and he implies that he was active in the military at the time and supporting an "Agency." 

The key point of the revelation is that not just that audio and video tapes of those events exist; that audio and video record was available to multiple command centers, commanders, and decision makers in Crete, Europe, the US, and, indeed, around the world in real time during the events at the Annex.

We disagree with a reporter who said (Annoying pop-up ad): "Depending on where they were coming from, it could have taken hours more before they could start sending officials images of what was going on."

That is simply not the way the RPA architecture works.  Any US command center worldwide that routinely receives any RPA feed could have been provided, in a manner of minutes, access to the live Benghazi feeds, and that certainly would include the White House Situation Room.

Readers may easily recall that all of us were so very graciously provided with photos of Mr. Obama watching a live RPA feed from overhead the Pakistani Compound during the Bin Laden takedown -- they were watching that takedown over the identical network being used over Benghazi.

Why, then, do you and we ask (rhetorically, surely,) can we not see similar photos of Mr. Obama and all of his National Security Band watching the RPA video on the night of Benghazi?

Devin Nunes (R-CA) asks about those videos here at 0:50 (Caution-autoplay) saying "just provide the videos."

In pursuing this matter, among the questions that must be asked the next times that hearings are held are:

What mission was it that the Predators were supporting on the ground in Libya?  Predators and Reapers are very valuable intelligence and attack assets and are highly coveted by combatant commanders.   To have two operating in Libya almost a year after the major hostilities had ceased means that something was going on.  What was it?

Many news reports confirm that the drones were flying over rebel camps near or in Derna at the very easternmost point in Libya.

There may or may not have been Special Forces on the ground near the observed areas, but we are not sure that this information needs to escape from the classified hearings.

What was the actual time the first drone went off its original station?  What was the time (Ignatius says 11:11) after the initial assault when it arrived on station over Benghazi?

(The Hannity caller said he saw perhaps "hundreds" of people in the compound on arrival -- that would be the mob after Woods and team departed, and his report does not comport with all other reports.)

What was the intelligence support that was provided to initiate the original mission?  Who was the provider of the support?

Who gave the order to launch the Predator on the original launch?  Who ordered the diversion?  When was the diversionary order given?

These last questions bring closer attention to the role of then AFRICOM commander, Gen. Carter Ham, because much confusion exists about what he knew about the assault and when it was that he first learned about the assault and the drone operations.

The Hannity caller indicated that he knew in advance of his mission that there was an ongoing attack in Benghazi.  We doubt that the launchers knew before launching that something "might be going down or is going down."  The timelines of events and of flight times do not support that contention.

Where, exactly, were the Predators based?

This basing location of the Predators is incidental, but important.

Given the normal flight speeds of Predators (100-120 knots), we suggest that the only logical basing location to support Benghazi operation would be Crete, probably based at Chania in western Crete ~2-3 hours flight time away (During the Libya war the US flew Predators out of western Crete.) 

That is the only logical field in the area.  That location partially explains why they were unarmed (it is a civil field,) and the other explanation being the complexity of Greek politics.  Malta or Italy/Sicily would be almost twice as far away, greatly reducing the on-station time for the missions.

The answers to these questions would go a long way in providing the American people a better understanding of the events on the night of September 11-12, 2012 in Benghazi.

However, the core question remains: Where are the videos?

These videos and audio chats have never been publicly released, and, to our knowledge, they have never been provided to Congress. 

Any claim of classification is patently absurd.  They could be declassified by a competent authority in less than an hour by deleting audio and masking data on the screen. 

A good place for the House Intelligence Committee to start asking these, and other, questions would be the Hannity caller and the Commanding Officer of whatever unit it was that owned the drones for which he was a sensor operator.

There are too many people who saw the events in Libya as they unfolded on that night and next morning for those events to be forever covered up: It is all on tape.

Many of these young airmen will talk about that tape, apolitically, if given the chance.

We sincerely hope that the Committee will give them this chance.

Bill is retired, his profile as Steamboatman, Field Director, Skipper, and Hotelier may be found on LinkedIn, and he may be argued with at Gary is a retired USAF Colonel currently residing in Austin, Texas, and he may be reached at

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