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tv   Open Phones With Kris Paronto and Mark Geist  CSPAN  February 16, 2015 8:30pm-9:10pm EST

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of the benghazi response team. this is kris paronto and mark geist also known as oz and tonto. they are parts of this book "13 hours" the inside account of what really happened in benghazi benghazi. we will begin here. mark geist where were you on september 12, 2012? >> guest: benghazi libya and that night was actually being a case officer having dinner with people we had to me that night and talk to. we had just about wrapped it up when i got a call from tyrone woods on the cell phone and he said you need to get back to the mx as quickly as possible. there's something going on. there is trouble at the consulate. >> host: were you a member of the military? why read there? >> guest: i was working as chris was, we are both private military contractors contracting
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with the united states government to protect case officers while they go about doing their job. >> host: kris paronto were you? >> guest: i was in the ad next and i was standing by. i was on the q. r. f. reaction force. basically i was standing by waiting for them to come back so we could call it a night so basically you are on edge but just another normal day for us. there were operations going on and we were making sure people were supported. >> host: what was the cia annex? >> guest: basically a facility used to do operations, clandestine operations. >> host: how far was was that from where the ambassador kris stevens was? >> guest: three-quarters of a mile. it wasn't real far way. it's a couple of short turns anywhere there. >> host: and was it a non-facility? >> guest: and the state
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department facility in the country are known. our facilities are not supposed to be known but over time it especially for certain period of time you are going to be of the sea bass is coming out of the compound so whether ours was or not don't know but it's safe to assume the locals knew it wasn't a global facility. >> host: why was ambassador stevens in benghazi? >> guest: he was there to help open up was a school opening. a local libyan had helped a u.s. airman or pilot who was shot down during the ousting of gadhafi and to support him he had been opening up an american school or an american speaking school for libyans and the ambassador came down to do a ceremony for that individual.
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>> host: you too were not on the ambassador's personal team, correct? in fact did you even see him while he was there in benghazi? >> guest: i did. he did come by and the ambassador did come by and visit us. he is the ambassador of libya. he came by the day before and had lunch and of course he's going to meet with our chief of base. he won't meet with the security team personally but he will come in and give a talk like great job this is what's going on this is what the state department is doing. it's morbid meet and greet justice say hey thanks guys versus thing has and also a chance for them to get way better food and a chance to come to our facility. >> host: what was the security spread threat at the time? >> guest: benghazi itself was a lawless city. it was part of a country that had a government but the only place the government had effective control was in tripoli. outside of the greater tripoli
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area that didn't have any control whatsoever. when i first got there you never saw police cars around. everything was controlled by the militia. 15 days before 9/11 when the attack happened you started to see police cars but even the police would answer to the militias. they worked for the government that they would answer the militias. >> guest: it's just like afghanistan and iraq. that dave bing 9/11 it is always a threatening environment every day you are there especially in areas like that don't have a solid government. so it's very dangerous and that is why we are there. >> host: , the american security personnel such as yourselves and their diplomatic security and grs and then there was some cia folks, correct? >> guest: yeah diplomat
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security officers which there were six and then us. we work with the security team. >> host: grs stands for? >> guest: global response and the staff personnel non-shooters we call them 18 or 19 as well. >> guest: less than 25. >> host: is that a normal staff for diplomatic compounds such as this? >> guest: for the annex there is never a normal staff. adjusted berries on the location and what help they need supported things like that. the consulate now i have been in probably in my 30 years of being in the military and contracting 15 or 20 different countries at the embassies i have been to. having five diplomatic security
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personnel is not normal. >> host: it's a low number? >> guest: it's a low number especially with no other security on their site. they had five libyan guards that were hired from february 17 martyrs brigade but that was it. you are guarding eight acres. >> guest: it was odd. i have worked state department contracts state department contracts prior to cia contracts and it was very low, very undermanned especially with the high-ranking and like ambassador stevens. it seemed odd to us. >> host: here's the cover of the book. it's called "13 hours" the inside account of what really happened in benghazi. the numbers are up on the screen if you would like to die lan and top with kris paronto and mark geist who were on site in benghazi at night. 585-3891 for those of you in the mountain and pacific timezones. what time did the incident
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occurred? i hate to call it an incident that invasion? >> guest: in fact there were several timelines. my timeline when i looked at my watch and i say this to everybody i have been interviewed by and the house and tells subcommittee. it was 9:32. that's what i have in my watch when we were called and began and we found out about it. again there are conflicting timelines. i don't know what to tell you about those. allah knows what i saw my watch. >> host: at the time you're at the annex a mile and a half away from the compound. what time did you all arrived at the compound? >> guest: well i was out of town. i got the call and i made my way back and by the time i got back to the annex these guys that already laughed because i had to take care of security when i got back to make sure if the annex
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got attacked i was there to protect them. >> guest: the last our compound approximately 9:58 so almost 27 minutes after the initial call. we left and we were able to get halfway there where they had actually reinforced a lot of the positions we were going to drive drive. we had to split into teams to go to the consulate so we took 45 minutes to an hour to arrive from initial call until they got on the consulate and by that time there was already a fire and the ambassador was missing. the buildings were filled with smoke and we were very lucky we were able to push them off and get it low where we could clear the compound and evacuate the people that we could. but it took, so now were first to reach the consulate after the initial call. >> host: but why? i mean did you get the call right away?
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>> guest: that's the million-dollar question. we were told to stand down. we were delayed for approximately 27 minutes on our compound. we do not know his bars outside of our chain of command in libya where that came from. we know that came from the stand-down orders in the waste and the delays came from libya the chief of station chief of base. whether came from anybody higher we don't have an answer to that. we would like to know that we have no idea. >> host: mark geist did you ever get outside assistance? the brits, the libyans? >> guest: no can't say that. about 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning after the mortars hit the militia that is actually part of the libyan government libyan shield is what helped escort us then to the airport but that was 13 almost 13 hours later, 10 hours later.
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but up until that time there was no other real significant assistance. there was a libyan the february 17th martyr brigade there are few people that showed up where kris was that helped out on their own kind of a thing but there was not a substantial force from any libyan militia or security government to force up until like i said 6:00 in the morning. >> host: okay so you were in town with a case officer knew in the went to this libyan businessmen's house out on the beach for dinner. you gave him your knife because he admired it. you drove her back to where? >> guest: back to the annex. >> host: this is before the attack? >> guest: actually while the attack was taking place at the consulate became back on account of the different route. >> host: so you did not take her back to the consulate? >> guest: she was never living at the consulate. >> host: you took her back to
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the annex. at that point did you stay at the annex for 13 hours? >> guest: yes. >> host: were able to communicate with those in the compound? >> guest: yeah, the biggest thing at that point was being a good listener and making sure i understood the situation that they were giving out over the radio and making sure also i had things ready. we knew if they were hitting that more than likely they were going to hit us so we had to be ready and that was the biggest thing i was looking out, making sure we had positions manned and in the meantime no one was trying to sneak up on our compound and attack us. >> host: kris paronto how many people died? >> guest: on our and we did lose for. we lost ty woods of course gwen dougherty and grs security officers on our team but morris and sean smith and ambassador stevens due to smoke inhalation
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at the consulate so it was tough. it is still tough to lose everybody. we have had reports anywhere from 20 to 40 so it's difficult unless there is a military in there too, and find bodies you don't know but we weren't keeping score here. that somehow works. >> host: when and how was ambassador stevens finally discovered? >> guest: he was discovered and we found this after-the-fact via channels. actually the gentleman carrying him with the phone in his mouth was a neighborhood friend of ours. he was actually a friend, a libyan. when we finally left the consulate at midnight and the attack resumed at the annex and the small guy down in the fire died down the locals were able to go in there and that is when the looting took place between 12:00 and 1:30 in the morning. they were able to get far back enough into the villa because
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the smoke inhalation in the diesel fumes have died down and they were able to find his body and pull them out. he died of smoke inhalation. there were reports of handing drug in the street and torture. that is incorrect. we did look at his body when they brought him to as the following morning. he died of smoke inhalation. >> host: in here been locked into the military or the secure area of the villa itself so smoke inhalation. >> guest: yes. >> host: very quickly or military background. >> guest: i joined the marine corps and 18 -- 198084 into 12 years and got out in 1996. >> host: in the became a contractor? >> guest: became a police officer. before that i was chief of police in a small town in eastern colorado. after that i started my own business doing private investigation and bail bonds in bounty hunting in that kind of thing and when the court -- were kicked out i had to get back in again.
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>> guest: army ranger and actually was with the 19 special forces group and was a contractor for approximately nine years before benghazi happened. over in the middle east every country middle east and north africa i had deployed to. we have extensive experience on the ground with the team so we are very lucky we did have that experience on the ground. i think it saved a lot of lives and kept us together. >> host: tactically what would you do differently? >> guest: i've been asked a that question before. tactfully -- tactically personally i would have disobeyed orders earlier and left. if i had control of the supporting elements or have the ability to contact them with supporting elements would have been there sooner but this borders our movement and the shooting that we did the actual splitting up of teams and
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assaulting the compound tattoo tactically we did everything correctly and that is why we were able to save lives and fight often extremely large force. the mistakes that were made on our end and i do take responsibility for the people say i should and are not us not leaving early enough and not being able to save the ambassador's life that i take that personally so that's the biggest mistake i feel we may. i don't know if everybody agrees but it keeps me up at night. >> host: mark geist? >> guest: the same thing. it wasn't our job to protect the ambassador but he is an american serving in an area of operations operations. when we are there we feel we are responsible for any other american that is there in the fact that we couldn't get over there quickly retired and was
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an instructor at the ads and with his experience, if you have a guard dog will you let him do his job or hold him back? >> host: then there is a
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third gentleman off to the side who was odds and tonto and in the book and then we have at their gentleman sitting over here off to the side who was also there. all three are in this book "13 hours." this is hannah and riverside california. and like you are on booktv. >> caller: great. my question is, i heard that the ambassador had some inside information and it was possible he was targeted and the victims who were, the first one had inside information about benghazi and i was wondering if you had heard anything about that and god bless our president. thank you. >> guest: thank you. i can speak for myself that i have not heard any information that was similar to that on any
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specific information that they would have had either of those people that would have brought the danger to them. >> guest: tactically because of their sheer numbers is a possible? is a possible they were targeting him for kidnapping? it is possible but do we have information that was taking place? we don't have solid information and spars to be having we don't have information that any of the beheadings were due to people having information on benghazi and i've seen that as well and it has not been confirmed on our end. the question to you or the answer to you is we really don't have a solid answer because it has not been solidified on either account. >> host: jemison north brunswick new jersey. >> caller: hillary made the statement what difference does it make? how did that make you feel?
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>> guest: you know, angry. weather was in that context because that is the thing i have heard as well was in the wrong context that no matter what context to put that statement and from somebody at that level within politics it always makes a difference. if you don't find out the truth about what happened you can evaluate what you did right and wrong. yeah it angered me very much. >> guest: me as well. we had people die, u.s. ambassador at high levels in their friends died. it is a huge difference when americans die on foreign soil so again context or not it was an incorrect statement and it still makes me angry two-day hearing that. so myself and i think i speak for the team that makes us hold onto telling the truth and not be swayed or bullied to not put the truth out there. so yeah thank you for saying
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that. i'm going to dig my heels in and make sure everyone knows what happened that i matters. >> host: allen are calling from san francisco. go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: gentlemen thank you for your service. i have two comments before i asked my question and i don't think it's fair to take the secretary's comments out of context. i know darned well she didn't mean what you are implying that she did. where she was saying was these people were dead and no matter what you can bring them back so i mean i watch that testimony and i certainly didn't get any of the negative aspects of her response that you are implying or that you have heard. but anyway my question is i am sure you are aware of all the hearings that isis has had in congress on benghazi and i'm wondering if you have any opinions about you know what has
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come out and whether you think it was useful and that sort of thing. i would really appreciate your opinion on that. thank you. >> guest: well, you know the hearings that are taking place i think are very useful. i think that we have to get out as much information as possible and we have to evaluate it and determine what happened and what was right and what was wrong just so we don't repeat that. and the only way to do that is to kick that force until it's down. we have still got to do that because we haven't reached the full complex. not everybody was on the ground has been talked to. >> guest: and you know as far as a lot of the house we were there on the ground. we told the truth. we told told the house and tell
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subcommittee what happened. whether they wanted to believe us or not that's up to them that they were people -- no other people on the ground but us that night in her stories haven't changed. they have not wavered so it's a subcommittee or whoever else wants to come out and say things that doesn't represent the book have them on the show and ask them but all we are going to do is tell you what actually happened that night. on the comment and i appreciate and understand that you are in charge and you are leader you don't say that about military personnel when they die especially the way they died or were when we didn't have the support we needed over there. i understood your position and its respected. thanks. >> host: mitchell is the author of "13 hours" with the anti-security team. there is a cover of the book and stephen decatur illinois please go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: first i want to say
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i thank you for your service. anytime people go into harm's way that makes a difference and that's always important. i would like your opinion and politics gets in the way but i would like your opinion on an issue of whether the state department participated in calling and closing the embassy properly? he said they didn't get out soon enough. it sounds to me like the best response would have been we didn't respond quickly enough to the situation on the ground and we didn't get you out of there like we should have and what is your response to that? >> guest: you know, i think the thing that should have happened first and foremost before 9/11 is to ensure that
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any u.s. facility we have overseas has the assets available to protect itself through most circumstances they are going to run into because you are it's going to have the but then also have her response force or a response plan in place that is going to allow those people to survive. and not have to depend on themselves only. that's the best thing to do to keep americans alive overseas is to make sure you have a strong presence and were putting up that bigger defense so you don't look like the victim or the person that's going to go down without a fight. >> guest: you are correct and you make a good point. you either defend your keep and you make sure you have a properly defended or you pull up and leave. we were stuck in the middle. it was halfway. you can't do that. you have to either either show up in force or you have to leave. so you bring up a good point and
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i do agree. if we are not going to fully secure our facilities overseas like they should've been we probably should not have been there. so you will get no argument from me there. >> host: todd is in hawaii. todd, you are on the air. >> caller: yeah hi. i was wondering what you guys do when you are not working and you you were off duty and these hostile countries? can you go out? can you interact with people? i will take fans are off-line. thanks. >> guest: usually what we do, i mean our job is to understand the community and the environment that we work in so when we are not on a specific mission we are always doing things to better acquaint ourselves with the environment we are working in and around them what's going on in that environment. outside of that i mean to let go
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of the stress we work out a lot and we played a lot of x-box. >> guest: we were very lucky that we are allowed to go off site whenever we want to so we get the atmosphere. yes we do mingle in town and we did go to the coffee shops. we pride ourselves on knowing cities better than the locals and also they are good people and benghazi but we became friends with local restaurant owners that wanted to get back on if you wanted their country back. when these sorts of things happen it really hurts us more than most because we do have a relationship of these people. some of them that have relationships with us when we leave the country they are going to die because of their relationship with us. i say mark and i have played our sure video games but we do read a lot. we read a lot of books when they are overseas and try to learn and better ourselves and know what the heck is going on within
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the country, the history and also to try to stay busy as best we can. downtown is the worst enemy force over there. >> host: did i read correctly in here that there was a libyan security team guarding the consulate or the compound that night september 12, 2012 and when the break-in occurred they fled? >> guest: 17 february martyrs brigade. and the blue mountain group were hired by the state department to provide security at the consulate local forces and i believe there was one shot fired on the video camera but after that they were gone. >> host: they basically got into the villa where the ambassador was staying with one shot fired? >> guest: they are very good at planning. the terrorists are good at blending and they walked into the compound and basically took over without having to do much but basically fire a few shots
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of rpgs in iran. >> host: set standard operating procedure to have non-americans guarding the compound's? >> guest: their security is layered and just just like a foreign government's consulate or embassy here in the united states is guarded its outermost layer is the u.s. personnel guarding that and the same agreement happens in foreign countries. the people that are going to come up and come to that conflict are going to be locals from that country and the first people they get to interact with our local security forces. >> guest: it's to show hearts and minds sort of thing but in that respect the reporter needed to be developed at the local forces wasn't there and in other countries it works because we develop a good report in afghanistan and at least we try to in kurdistan but it hadn't been developed yet. with the size of a local force was there was not large enough.
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like mark says it was eight to 10 acres. you need more that carry batons and i don't think they carried batons. he was insufficient. >> host: john is in westlake. you're on booktv with mark geist and kris paronto. >> caller: yes from the description of the numbers of personnel and what they were doing from what the gentlemen have been saying and from other information, it sounds like this really was not a standard consulate. it was more a cia operation and that there was more activity relating to intelligence gathering and counterinsurgency activities then what would normally be considered
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diplomatic activities. .. way this situation should be approached? the second question, the man had a lot of courage and was a patriot, but i have to ask realistically commented the ambassador demonstrate good judgment in going to use the place under the circumstances that were prevailing? >> the ceo annex and the consulate are two completely separate entities independent of one another, and their operations, though may be coordinated
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together back in washington we were completelyin' of them and them as well as us. our missions are completely different, and that would be the case there as well as everywhere else we would be working. >> and i think i get what you're saying, maybe it was used for cover to help our base. whether it was or not, it still needs to have security. was intelligence gathering going on? of course week the cia. that's what we do. we have to find terrorists. we have to find anybody involved with aqi or al qaeda or any other terrorist organization that might hit us. so that's going on there. that's just normal. as far as the ambassador, yes he is a patriot. aim going to tell you dang it was his fault he died there? no way. never will say that could he have used better judgment had more security with him? if it was me, yeah i probably would have. so, i guess i'm not going to say
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i agree with you on saying that maybe he made a bad judgment call. i would have made something different. but it was the ambassador and the felt comfortable there. working in state depth confines before, and being a detail leader for ambassadors in iraq and having almost 80 guys protecting an ambassador, i thought it he was a little underprotected but he is the ambassador and does what he wants to do. but i wouldn't have made the same decision if i was him. >> host: what are you doing these days? >> guest: actually, we all had to resign -- it killed us. literally. i miss the job immensely. right now this it. we're pushing the book. >> host: you had to resign why? >> guest: our names are out there. it's -- your names are out there. we're not giving up classified information in the book. the book has nothing classified in it. it's about the battle at night. but because our names are out there and our call signs are out
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there, we can't deploy anymore, and it's one hoff those things we head to do. >> mark geist, what are you doing. >> guest: spending time with my kids and as my wife says my new job is selling books. so i'm a book seller. so y'all come out and buy the book we'd love it. >> host: beth, columbia, south carolina, got a couple minutes left. >> caller: hi, guys. first of all, i just wanted to say, thank you so much for your service, and thank you so much for coming forward with this story. it truly amazing. i'm sorry for the loss of your team members and i think it's absolutely shameful you didn't have the support you needed. with that said, i just wanted to know if you -- what kind of response overall you guys are getting from people now that the book is out and also, if and when you're coming to columbia so you can sign my coffee?
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>> guest: where is she from? columbia south carolina gamecocks, got you. >> guest: thank you very much for your support. the support of the people out there when we're meeting the people is what makes us a worthwhile. it's wonderful to see and hear what people have to say, that people -- it's refreshing to see the love people have for this country and they're patriotism and that's as for getting to south carolina, i know if it was directly up to us we'd hit every state and every major town. i'm a small-town guy so i'd like to hit every small town. we're going to try to get out that way. follow us on facebook or on twitter, and we'll let you know when we're getting in that direction. >> host: oh how do they follow you. >> guest: personal names. there's nothing to hide out the with us. also you can call grand central publishing and tell them you want us to be in your city. get with the publisher and tell
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them you want thus, because they're the ones that drive the train on this. appreciate you're phone call. thank you very much. >> host: thank you beth. and ramona in sanford, florida. you're the last call. >> caller: yes. i was calling about -- just not enough security there, and the first place and the second place, it a report came out yesterday about republican -- there was no standdown order there was no obama coverup, so you guys are out there trying to push a book to get your money because you have no job no more, and trying to blame it on obama administration and i think that
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is wrong. you should tell the truth. exactly the truth. >> host: thank you, ma'am. >> guest: mam, during the house intelligence subcommittee i looked at mike rogers in the eye and said if we would have not been delayed, which we were three times we would have saved the ambassador's life, and i'll go and say that again, which i've said multiple times. why he came out with the report he did, i don't know what to tell you on that. you have to ask him. what we said in the book is what happened on the ground and that is the truth. as far as book-selling i do have my own business on the side. i don't need the book-selling money. we didn't do this to sell a book. we did it to tell the truth. we also deployed for a year after that waiting for the administration or somebody to come forward and tell the truth which they didn't and we made a decision as a team to come
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forward and tell the truth. so you have your opinion, and you're entitled to and it i respect that. but the book is the truth. bottom line. >> guest: a mon na, had we stayed working, we would be able to make more money working than what we could selling this book. we did it to honor the four guys that died because they weren't being honored. what was refreshing, we were up in mt. and the same thing happened there was a fireman from los angeles that built a mon independent mt. because he didn't feel they were being honored, and at that time and it was -- this started two years ago, a year and a half ago when hi started building that. but those are the things that -- why we did it, why other americans are doing the things they do, is to let the story be told of what happened on the ground and to honor the four americans that died serving their country.
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>> host: kris paronto, mark geist. they were member of the annex security team. 13 hours, the inside account of what really happened in benghazi. you're watching booktv on c-span2. >> book tv is on facebook, like us to get publishing news, scheduling updates, pictures and videos, author information and to talk directly with authors. >> how an army officer associated with george washington's legacy go to war against what we today consider george george washington's latest -- the union. that's that tragic tension and the knowledge, the history could have turned out so much differently. because on the eve of the civil war, leaders on both sides of
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the potomac, in richmond, and in washington sought lee's services for high command. both knew about his connections to george washington. that was common knowledge. both saw tremendous significance in them they've also now that winfield scott, who was the ranking gené the u.s. army thought lee was the very best soldier he had ever seen in the field. and robert e. lee looked like a fine soldier. he stood just under six feet tall. he had powerful broad shoulders, he had a barrel chest. he had perfect posture. everybody who saw him says some version of the same thing: that man looks every inch the soldier. and so in april 1861, an emissary for abraham lincoln, asked robert e. lee to ride from arlington and come to the city of washington. that emissary's name is francis blair, and he makes an extraord


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