A spokesman for the CIA is criticizing the Michael Bay movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” as a “distortion of the events and people who served in Benghazi that night.”
The spokesman, Ryan Trapani, was quoted in an exclusive Washington Post story, which also features an interview with the CIA chief in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed in a siege of the diplomatic compound and attack on the CIA annex.
“No one will mistake this movie for a documentary,” Tripani told the Post. “It’s a distortion of the events and people who served in Benghazi that night. It’s shameful that, in order to highlight the heroism of some, those responsible for the movie felt the need to denigrate the courage of other Americans who served in harm’s way.”
Tripani did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The CIA base chief, identified only as “Bob,” takes issue with a key point in the movie, when he tells the six contractors to “stand down” before responding to calls for help at the nearby diplomatic compound. The movie shows the contractors waiting for more than 20 minutes before bucking orders and leaving to try to save Stevens and others.
“There was never a stand-down order,” the CIA chief told the Post. “At no time did I ever second-guess that the team would depart.” The CIA chief told the Post that he spent about 20 minutes trying to enlist local security teams.
Congressional investigators also have concluded there was no “stand down” order.
The filmmakers and Mitchell Zuckoff, who along with the security contractors authored the book upon which it is based, have defended the movie and its portrayal of the events. It starts with a message, “This is a true story.”
Zuckoff told Variety on Thursday, “We have never heard anything from the CIA other than, ‘No [the stand-down order] didn’t happen.’ These guys [the security contractors] are putting their lives and their reputations on the line saying, ‘We were forced to wait,and the record shows it.'”
In interviews, the contractors have been adamant that the “stand down” order was issued. Earlier this week, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said in an interview with the Boston Herald that when it comes to the stand down order, “there are witnesses who said there was one and there are witnesses who said there was not one… So the best I can do is lay out what the witnesses say and then you are going to have to make a determination as to who you believe is more credible.”
Update: Zuckoff issued a statement on Friday evening through Paramount, the distributor of “13 Hours.”
“The movie and book got it right. The CIA spokesman’s comments are predictable but not remotely credible.
“If you read “Bob’s” statements to the Washington Post, he would have us believe that he neither prevented the guys from leaving nor approved or ordered their departure. That’s nonsensical on its face and contradicted by facts and logic:
“– Two of our named sources, John Tiegen and Kris Paronto, heard Bob say those words, stand down, which they shared with Jack and D.B., who already understood that they were being held back. Our two key sources are on the record, with their names, while Bob remains shielded by anonymity.
“– Neither Bob nor the CIA disputes that a delay occurred and that the guys ultimately moved out without his authorization. That, logically, adds up to a simple conclusion: he held them back and then they left without his approval.
“– All evidence — and the CIA’s past statements — points to the conclusion (included in the movie and the book) that the delay was caused by a sincere but ultimately misguided attempt to coordinate with 17 Feb militiamen. But from the guys’ perspective, based on a collective century of military experience, that was a fool’s errand because 17 Feb had failed to help Tyrone during the airport standoff; 17 Feb was on a work stoppage for higher pay during the ambassador’s visit; and 17 Feb generally couldn’t be counted on in a live-fire situation with an American ambassador’s life at stake.
“– Bob’s statements, and the CIA’s claims, need to be seen through the lens of hindsight. It must be terrible for him to live with the fact that he delayed the departure, knowing that the deaths of Chris Stevens and Sean Smith were caused by smoke inhalation, which by definition is a function of time.
“– Through the CIA, Bob refused my requests to hear his side of the story during the writing of the book. He is only now coming forward because he doesn’t like his depiction.
“– Bob might have had a different sense of urgency from the guys in part because he did not accompany them to the Diplomatic Compound to assess the weak security situation prior to the ambassador’s visit (as depicted in the movie and the book).
“– Logic suggests that Bob’s career as an intelligence officer did not give him the same tactical experience or knowledge that the guys possessed, as depicted in the movie and the book.”