The CIA rushed security operatives to an American diplomatic compound in Libya within 25 minutes of its coming under attack and played a more central role in the effort to fend off a night-long siege than has been acknowledged publicly, U.S. intelligence officials said Thursday.
The agency mobilized the evacuation effort, took control of an unarmed U.S. military drone to map possible escape routes, dispatched an emergency security team from Tripoli, the capital, and chartered aircraft that ultimately carried surviving American personnel to safety, U.S. officials said.
The account provided by senior U.S. intelligence officials offers the most detailed chronology yet of the Sept. 11 assault that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. The attack has become a flash point in the U.S. presidential campaign.
The decision to give a comprehensive account of the attack five days before the election is likely to be regarded with suspicion, particularly among Republicans who have accused the Obama administration of misleading the public by initially describing the assault as a spontaneous eruption that began as a protest of an anti-Islamic video.