Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
CIA Didn't Come to Help to Attacked Benghazi Consulate in the Benghazi 9/11 Attack; NFL: Didn't See The Knockout Blow; Apple's New "Wearable Tech"
Aired September 9, 2014 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper. In other world news, it will be a day of dark milestones this Thursday. 13 years since the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., but, of course, it will also mark two years since the terrorist attack on U.S. government posts, one diplomatic, one CIA, in Benghazi, Libya. The fog of war of that horrible night has been further blackened by political fingerpointing in Washington, D.C. But there are facts that remain irrefutable. Four Americans were killed in Benghazi. And now the surviving CIA contractors who fought to save those in harm's way are talking and they say more could have been done.
September 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. And then on the then secret CIA annex there, killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. In an increasingly dangerous part of the world, it started with a targeted attack on the compound by heavily armed militants who blew open the gates and fired rocket propelled grenades into the building. A State Department security officer at the consulate called the CIA annex located just a mile away, saying "The compound is under attack, people are moving through the gates."
With a fire burning inside the building, and attackers storming the compound, Stevens and State Department employee Sean Smith took refuge in a fortified room within the consulate, but they were overwhelmed by smoke. Amateur photos and video later show Libyans pulling what appears to be Chris Stevens out of the consulate, "Carry him!" One yells on the video "We need to take him to the hospital." Stevens was treated at a nearby hospital, but later died. The first U.S. ambassador killed on duty since 1979.
But meanwhile, a team of highly trained CIA security contractors rushed to the aid of consulate staffers, evacuating them to a CIA safe house and recovering the body of Sean Smith. Two contractors, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods both former Navy SEALs, were killed by mortar fire while on a roof of the CIA building when militants launched that second more intense attack around seven hours after the initial attack on the consulate. Despite the CIA annex being nearby when the attack initially happened, members of the U.S. security team there say they were told by the CIA station chief, a man they only refer to as Bob, to hang back for nearly half an hour before going into help. Had that security team not waited, would it have made a difference? Could more have been done to save the lives of Stevens and the other three Americans?
TAPPER: I want to bring in Mark Geist, Kris Paronto and John Tiegen, all part of the global response staff of military special operators that were tasked with providing security in Benghazi. They put their lives on the line that night to save others. They told their stories to Boston University journalism professor Mitchel Zukoff for the new book "13 Hours: The inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi". It's a very good read. I recommend it as I don't need to. I'm sure it will be a bestseller soon enough if it isn't already.
First of all, thank you for your heroism and your service. I appreciate it. And I want you to know when preparing for this, you should know that obviously I reached out to a lot of people on the parts of the government to find out what they said and not anybody -- nobody said anything other than these three men are heroes. Not one said anything other than that. They just - they disagreed with your take on something, but they did not badmouth you in any way. I just want you to know that.
Let's talk about the point - that is the biggest point of contention which is what happened when the distress call came from the compound. You're at the CIA annex. Tell us what happened.
MARK "OZ" GEIST, BENGHAZI EYEWITNESS: Well, I wasn't at the CIA - at the annex. I was out on another ....
TAPPER: You are the dinner with the ...
GEIST: I was at the dinner with another case officer. I got a call from Ron.
TAPPER: Tyrone Woods.
GEIST: Tyrone Woods. He said you need to get back here, there is something going on at the consulate. I knew -- he wasn't going to go into any further detail. It was an open source line. I knew I just need to get back, so I gathered up my case officer and we had to make our way back while events transpired at the annex.
TAPPER: And, Kris ...
KRIS "TANTO" PARONTO: Yes.
TAPPER: There was a time you all, I guess about seven of you raring to go.
PARONTO: Yeah, there was actually six of us.
PARONTO: Oz was out.
TAPPER: OK, so he was ...
TAPPER: And you're raring to go.
TAPPER: And what happened?
PARONTO: We are about - it took us about five minutes and we were jacked up, very - at the gate. And it was me that asked. I asked our chief of base, which we call ...
PARONTO: Bob in the book, and our team leader, that hey, we're ready to go. Let's get out the gate. And you got to remember, during that time, we have communication with the State Department on our radios, and we are hearing them call for help. And they are our friends. They are as good as guys that are with us. And ..
TAPPER: Sean Smith.
PARONTO: Sean Smith. Actually, Alec Henderson, Dave Ubben and Scott Wickland is who we become real good friends with. And so, I went up to Bob and I remember I say, we need to go. We're ready. Everybody's up. And he just - he looked right through me and he - right to the TL and says you tell them that they need to wait. So that happened.
TAPPER: Now, John why do you think Bob did that?
JOHN "TIG" TIEGEN: And the initial wait, I mean our initial thought was, you know, OK, they're coordinating with 17 February, which is the local militia out there in Benghazi that they are entrusting to be the QRF - quick reaction force in case something happened at the consulate. To me that would be the only reason why the initial wait would happen. Then about ten minutes after he got his stand down, I got a stand -- a wait, I got a stand down and a wait.
TAPPER: Now, I want to read what the CIA and State Department told us when we asked them about the stand down. First of all, the CIA said, "Although some members of the security team expressed frustration that they were unable to respond more quickly to the mission compound, the Senate select committee on intelligence found no evidence of intentional delay or abstraction by the Chief of Base or any other party. And here's what the State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki had to say about this yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: The chief of base wasn't telling the contractors to wait out of malice or unwillingness to help those under attack. There is a huge and fundamental difference between a short delay for security considerations and a stand down order.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: I understand that this might just be semantics. But their argument is that Bob wanted to make sure that they got Intel, wanted to make sure you had enough weapons, wanted to make sure there was enough backup. It wasn't a political decision.
GEIST: Sure, sure.
TAPPER: Your take?
PARONTO: My take on that is the first five minutes -- and I've even said this, and I even said this to the committee when we were interviewed. I said the first five minutes, I'll give you that. It is a combat situation. We do need to adjust fire and get ourselves in order. The next 20 minutes, no. Tactically, that's unsound and minutes cost lives. And they died of smoke inhalation, Sean and the ambassador. So, once that comes about in that 20 minute time frame, the decision needed to be made. And we need to go - we need to stay in. Also, we didn't have a rapport with the 17 February militia.
PARONTO: So we are calling - calling- we are relying on somebody to rescue our friends and our comrades and we didn't trust them. We didn't initially trust them. We still don't trust them.
GEIST: Well, you know, and we've never indicated that there was any malice from them. And why he made the decision. But you have six operators that have probably together almost 100 years of experience in counterinsurgency operations. The question that we have, is why wouldn't you utilize that asset that you have available to get out there and see and put eyes on to find out real true intelligence instead of depending on a local national to get that intelligence.
TAPPER: Obviously, obviously your enthusiasm is admirable. You wanted to get out there in the thick of the fight, you wanted to save your friends. You wanted to save Americans. Do you not believe Bob and the explanation from the government when they say this was the reason why I did it? If you think there is some other reason?
TIEGEN: Well, from past experience, just - I've been there more than these guys were, so I worked with Bob quite a bit out there. There is other security situations that have popped up out there where we weren't even allowed to leave to go and respond to it period.
TAPPER: To keep a low profile.
TIEGEN: To keep a low profile.
TAPPER: Personally - I don't know what his deal was, but my personally, we got chased in Benghazi with guys with guns and he would not - he still would not let the QRF leave the compound even though we were actively - not really being shot at, but being engaged by people with weapons. PARONTO: Let me clarify that. What he's saying, is we had our own
guys that we needed help in town on two separate occasions and we were told to wait on those separate occasions. So it was - it became - it became like an SOP, a standard operating procedure that we're not going to respond to secure ...
TAPPER: The book suggests, though in some interviews that the reason might be to have a low profile or because of whatever the CIA was doing, they didn't want attention toward that or they didn't want people to come at the CIA annex.
TIEGEN: We never were out to the (INAUDIBLE) - we respond to QRS. We don't raise our profile.
TIEGEN: It isn't like we're going to go in there guns blazing.
TIEGEN: We were going to go in, we were going to see what is going on. And we may not even intervene - as long as we are there, we get eyes on, we know what's going on. And if something does go wrong, we will intervene.
PARONTO: We are trained for that. That's what we're trained for. That's our job.
GEIST: And you get in the area of where the most probability of something happen is, so you can take care of that situation instead of having to travel. As in with the annex to the consulate, you know, five minutes, six minutes, could even be longer with the traffic. Who knows? But it's better to be there and be ready to deal with something that arises than to have to start from scratch from we were at. Whether it was that situation or a previous situations.
PARONTO: And it showed that night. I mean we didn't get there for almost an hour because we had to actually disembark because of the route that we were going to take to there, they had actually set up in a concentrated fire. So, we weren't even able to drive to the annex. And "13 Hours," again, it goes into more detail, but yes, it's very - still, very hard to talk about. So ...
TAPPER: It's a great book, a horrific experience. Again, thank you so much for your service. Thanks for what you've done for this country in uniform and out of your uniform. And thanks for talking to us today. We appreciate it.
GEIST: Thank you for having us. Thank you.
TAPPER: When we come back, how could the NFL commissioner not know about the Ray Rice video? My next guest says it's because he turned a blind eye. Harvey Levin of TMZ joins me next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We are going to go back to our Sports Lead now. If Oceans 11 Casino and legions of movies about casinos have taught us anything, someone, somewhere is always watching.
So all the video of Ray Rice assaulting his future wife was certainly shocking. The video's existence isn't really. Not anyone who knows anything about casinos. So when the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens publicly denied having seen the tape until TMZ posted it for the world to see yesterday morning, sports world collectively asked -- really?
The Commissioner's Office said this morning, the New Jersey State Police never screened the tape for league investigators. Even the state attorney general said it would have been illegal to turn over a copy of the video to the NFL.
But sources from the casino where the incident took place tell TMZ, which broke the story if someone had asked for the video, they would have gladly complied.
Joining me now is Harvey Levin, executive producer and founder of TMZ and we should mention that TMZ, of course, is owned by the parent company of this network. Harvey, good to see you as always.
First of all, I don't want to take away from your scoops. Obviously will was a very important one and we're not here to have a debate on the ethics of paying for content. But TMZ does pay for content as a policy, why do you think the tape only came out now a week after the casino closed?
HARVEY LEVIN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, TMZ: Well, I will say, so does CNN pay for content, every news operation in America pays for content when we're talking about video because, A, there is nothing wrong with it and, B, you guys do it, too.
If you guys get a fire that some string are shot, you buy it. I know that, you know that. And now everybody else buys it, too. So that said, in terms of why it came out, I think what happened was the casino closed.
And when the casino closed, I think there were a lot of employees who just said, you know he, what we want to it the right thing and ultimately we ended up getting this video because when you look at the video, clearly you see the NFL did not do the right thing.
And I think at a point somebody said that the gain here is worse than the risk in terms of doing what's right.
TAPPER: Why was there such a lag between the revelation of that initial video of Ray Rice dragging Janay Palmer out of an elevator in February and this video? Is it because the casino closed and finally the people who had it felt like they could give it to you or sell it to you?
LEVIN: I really don't know. I don't know why we were able to get one first and then the second. I can't answer that question. I just know that we got it when we got it. I think the real issue is why the heck didn't the NFL commissioner seek to get it?
He is a very aggressive guy and anybody who knows anything about him knows that when he conducts an investigation, he literally micro manages it. He will make phone calls. He will do all sorts of things to make sure punishment is meted out and an investigation is aggressive.
He has done this consistently in the past. In this case, he sat back and what we're told is they said to the police, yes, give us anything you got and just waited. If they happened to give him the video, great. If they didn't, great.
They knew the video existed at the casino. They never went to the casino. We know this. They never went to the casino and said let us see it. And the casino we're told would have known is to them. They didn't go to Ray Rice's lawyer.
We're told that Rice's lawyer also had a copy because of the criminal case and, look, Goodell had a lot of leverage over Rice at that point. So they probably could have even gotten it from the lawyer.
But for whatever reason, and this is what really smells about it, it feels like Goodell didn't want to get this video because he's too aggressive a guy and too thorough a guy in a case like this not to simply ask.
TAPPER: So Harvey, people may not know this that you're also an attorney. What was your reaction when you saw the tape in terms of the criminal charges against Ray Rice?
LEVIN: Well, look, I was shocked when I first saw it and now I know a lot more about the criminal charges. On the criminal side, Jake, what happened was this. Rice was charged with what in most states we call a misdemeanor assault. They don't call it that in New Jersey. But that's what it is.
And then what happened was the DA dropped that charge and gave it to the grand jury and said to the grand jury you guys decide. And the grand jury looked at the tape we're told and said this is ridiculous, this is a felony.
And what happened then was Rice's lawyer had a legal right, and he pursued that right, to basically get what amounts to a diversion program where he wouldn't be prosecuted for that felony. He qualified for this.
So everything was kosher. The only thing to me and to several people I've spoken with connected with that prosecution find odd is that the prosecutor could have gone in and said, look, even though he qualifies, we object in this case because of the nature of the video. And we're told that wasn't done.
TAPPER: I just want to make sure I understand. Do you think that Goodell or some of his underlings saw this tape, the one that came out yesterday that you broke yesterday, saw it before yesterday and they're lying about it, or do you think that Goodell and his minions were just coming an aggressive Sergeant Schultz from Hogan's Heroes routine where he didn't want to see anything?
LEVIN: I see nothing.
TAPPER: Yes, exactly.
LEVIN: You're good, Jake. That's the question. You framed it exactly right. I don't think Goodell saw the tape. I believe based on the people we've been talking to in the NFL, I do not think he saw it.
When they say we didn't see the tape until TMZ Sports put it out, I think the issue is how do you define "we?" Because we're told from people in the casino that somebody the way they put it from the NFL came and saw the tape.
Now, I don't know who the someone is. It could have been an ancillary person. But what may have happened here, and I'm speculating and I have to speculate, because the NFL has been radio silence since Sunday when we started making calls.
But maybe what happened was somebody saw that tape, whether the prosecutor's office, whether somebody who went to the casino, and maybe said to these guys, you don't want to see this tape and may they wanted to impose a penalty they felt was right and his tape was going to mess things up.
I can't think of any other reason because in any other circumstance, given Goodell's past, he would have simply had somebody go to the casino and say, hey, let us see it. It's so relevant.
TAPPER: All right. We got one minute left, Harvey, so I'll ask you to keep it concise if you can. The "Baltimore Sun" newspaper tried and failed to get these tapes through the Freedom of Information Act. Because TMZ pays for footage like this, and I don't want to get into a whole thing about it.
You're able to it acquire and get things that other news organizations won't pay cannot. How do you think TMZ has changed the game? Do you view this through a lens of accountability? You're holding people accountable in a way that they wouldn't be through the old way of doing things?
LEVIN: I think you're really misdirected, Jake, when you say news organizations don't pay. You know every single news organization pays for outside video. When you use a picture that you get from an agency called Splash, which CNN has done all the time, you guys pay.
"Good Morning America" where you used to work, they pay. Everybody in the media pays for video. They have always done it and it's OK because the video is the video is the video.
TAPPER: Harvey, thank you so much. Great to see you. Congrats on the scoop. When we come back, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, says it's the most intimate Apple invention ever. So what does the Apple Watch do? We'll show you next.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. The Money Lead. So what time is it? I guess it's time to get an Apple Watch. For Apple fans, a long rumored wearable tech watch is now a reality.
Apple CEO Tim Cook made the announcement to a group of avid Mac fans in California today using Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' tag line to fire up the crowd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM COOK, APPLE CEO: We have one more thing. Apple Watch is the most personal device we've ever created.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The watch includes a customizable face, fitness monitor, calendar, phone call answering, maps and this almost seem like an afterthought, it also tells time.
Earlier Cook released details of the new iPhone 6, there are two models, which are both thinner, longer, larger quality, HD screens and a new in-phone payment system that allows users to just swipe their phone to pay for items in stores.
Pre-orders for the iPhone 6 begin on Friday but be in stores September 19th. But the watches will not be available until early next year. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper.
That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.