BENGHAZI, Libya -- Just more than a mile from the group of villas that served as the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was another set of U.S.-leased villas – an annex where the CIA had set up shop, and from where would-be rescuers set out on the night of Sept. 11 in response to the attack at the consulate.
Despite speculation to the contrary, no Libyan or non-American diplomats stationed in Benghazi say they knew of the existence or purpose of the CIA annex.
Top Libyan security officials in Benghazi and Tripoli, as well as diplomatic representatives who worked closely with Americans here, said they had no idea about the compound, which unlike the consulate had no signs of American life outside its tall gates. There were no concrete barriers in front or barbed wire on the top of its concrete wall.
Libya’s deputy interior minister, Omar al Khadrawy, and the deputy interior minister for Benghazi, Saleh Daghman, told McClatchy they didn’t know that the CIA had kept a base there. Neither did the second in command of Benghazi’s largest revolutionary brigade, the Libyan Shield. Two consuls from allied nations who met frequently with Americans said they didn’t know the CIA annex existed until after the deadly Sept. 11 attack.
Ahmed Langhi, Benghazi’s representative to the country’s congress, the General National Council, said he didn’t think that anyone in the top levels of the Libyan government knew that the CIA was housed there; neither did he.
Of the dozen people McClatchy asked in Benghazi and Tripoli, only an unarmed 31-year-old security guard who was stationed at the main gate of the consulate on Sept. 11 had heard about a possible second U.S. compound in Benghazi. And he said he didn’t know the CIA had been based there.
“All I heard about was a secret building,” the guard said, adding that he didn’t know where it was. The guard asked not to be further identified, fearing reprisals from extremists for working with Americans.
During an Oct. 26 question-and-answer session at the University of Denver, Paula Broadwell, who’s been named as the woman whose affair with CIA Director David Petraeus led to his resignation Friday, told the audience that two Libyan militiamen were being held at the CIA annex and suggested that the attackers were targeting the annex, rather than the consulate.
“Now, I don’t know if a lot of you heard this, but the CIA annex had actually, um, had taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner, and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back. So that’s still being vetted,” she said.
But most here don’t believe that. The guard, who stayed around the consulate for the duration of the assault, said he thought that the subsequent attack on the CIA compound happened because the attackers had followed the Americans who were fleeing the consulate to the CIA annex.
“They came to kill Americans,” he said.
The assault at the consulate began somewhere between 9:25 and 9:40 p.m. The CIA annex came under fire twice in subsequent hours, according to a timeline released by the CIA. The first attack consisted of what the agency called “sporadic small arms fire and RPG rounds,” a reference to rocket-propelled grenades. That assault lasted about 90 minutes, from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.