Witnesses in Benghazi, Libya, provide a chronology for the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate here that differs in significant ways from time lines released by U.S. officials in Washington, raising more questions about how the assault unfolded and the speed with which Americans at a nearby CIA annex responded to calls for help from the consulate.
The versions of the attack told here indicate that the last visitor who met with Ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the assault on the consulate, departed at least 45 minutes earlier than U.S. officials in Washington have said. Witnesses here also suggest that the attack may have begun as many as 15 minutes earlier than officials in Washington have said.
Witnesses also said there was no indication that anyone in the U.S. diplomatic compound was aware before the assault that protests had broken out in neighboring Egypt over an inflammatory film about the Prophet Muhammad that was produced in the United States.
The differences in the time lines could mean that CIA officers stationed in a compound just 1.2 miles away may have waited as long as 40 minutes before setting out to assist the besieged consulate and might not have arrived there until more than an hour after the attack began. A time line released by the CIA says help was dispatched after just 25 minutes and that it took the rescue squad 25 minutes to arrive.
At a minimum, the witness accounts suggest that after two months, the U.S. government still may not know the basic sequence of events and when key moments in the assault occurred.
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