On the evening hours of September 11, 2012, the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, came under attack.

What followed was a determined attack against the consulate, and later against the CIA compound, that resulted in the deaths of four Americans: Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department Information Officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs and CIA Ground Response Staff contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

That night, many politicians and diplomats at the highest level failed America by not heeding the security warnings of Ambassador Stevens and by not acting decisively when the attack was underway.

There was a Special Forces Crisis Response Force (CRF) team training in Croatia during the attack. They even had a C-130 transport aircraft with them that would have ferried the team to Benghazi to provide much-needed assistance. An AC-130 gunship was in Italy. Additionally, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) elements in other parts of Libya were stood down. But some operators disregarded the order and flew in Benghazi with their own initiative.

In the months and years following the attack, the U.S. Special Operations and Intelligence communities unleashed a manhunt against the perpetrators. Some were caught, others remain on the run.

In 2013, Ahmed Abu Khattala, one of the main perpetrators, was caught in Libya by a joint CIA, FBI, and JSOC team. And in 2017, Mustafa Al-Imam was captured by a JSOC team. Al-Imam had been tracked in the consulate the night of the attack, and he was an associate of Khattala.

“In the current geopolitical environment, terrorists must understand that there are harsh consequences for attacking diplomatic posts and harming U.S. personnel — particularly a U.S. ambassador,” wrote in the court filing the Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cummings.

An FBI photo of Mustafa al-Imam.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a press statement that “Mustafa Al-Imam was sentenced on January 23 to more than 19 years in prison for his participation in the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.  Al-Imam’s sentencing today sends a strong message to those who would attempt to commit such a heinous crime.”