As Benghazi Trial Starts, Remembering a Fallen Ex-SEAL


Earlier today the trial of a suspected key player of the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya began in Washington, D.C.

Abu Ahmed Khattala was captured in a special operation in Libya in June 2014 after he was secretly indicted for his alleged role in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, former Navy SEALs and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty and State Department computer specialist Sean Smith in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack. A superseding indictment (PDF) filed against Khattala in October 2014 accuses him of being a leader of a local militant group and being directly involved in the attack.

Khattala has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could face life in prison, after the Department of Justice said in 2016 it would not seek the death penalty.

The trial is sure to reignite one of the most heated political debates in recent memory concerning the Obama administration's purported failures on the night of the attack and in the subsequent days. But, just for now, I want to talk about Glen Doherty.

Glen was killed when he led a rescue team to Benghazi from Libya's capital of Tripoli. Just minutes after arriving at the CIA annex in Benghazi that was under attack, Glen went onto the roof to link up with Tyrone Woods, who had taken a defensive position there. They were both struck by the blast from a mortar.

Read: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report on the Benghazi Attack (PDF)

In early 2012, I met Glen through a mutual acquaintance and we kept in sporadic touch over the next months. I had spoken to him on the phone about three weeks before his death and, sitting in California where he said he was recovering from a bicycle accident, he seemed as upbeat and cheerful as ever. 

In the movie "13 Hours," the Hollywood blockbuster about the Benghazi attack, Glen is played by Toby Stephens as an incredibly stoic, G.I. Joe, all-American badass who may have never laughed in his life. They got the all-American and badass part right. Former SEAL Brandon Webb, one of Glen's best friends, told me after Glen's death that he was "a superb and respected operator, a true quiet professional," words that were echoed by others who served in the SEALs with him.

But the movie missed the most human part about Glen, based on what friends and family said about him (and a very funny home video): As much as he was said to be a solid special operator downrange, he was a pretty goofy guy who was a best friend to people he just met and who played as hard as he worked. 

"Glen lived to better himself and recreate. Not necessarily in that order," one of his friends said at Glen's memorial in California a month after his death.

At the memorial that October, dozens of Glen's friends from across the country and family said goodbye to him by pouring his ashes into the Pacific Ocean, not far from where he had spent so much time surfing for fun and striving in the cold to become a Navy SEAL. 

Reporter's Notebook: A Touching, Rambunctious Memorial for Glen Doherty (ABC News)

After his death, Glen's friends and family set up the Glen Doherty Memorial Foundation and though it's been updated since, the website's front page originally said what they believed to be Glen's words to live by.

"He believed life should be earned by hard work and hard play," it said. "Celebrate this beautiful world that we live in, recreate as much as humanly possible. Help others, and surround yourself with people that you respect, who challenge you and make you a better person."

Webb, speaking shortly after Glen's death in 2012, said, "Don't feel sorry for him, he wouldn't have it. He died serving with men he respected, protecting the freedoms we enjoy as Americans and doing something he loved. He was my best friend and one of the finest human beings I've ever known."

For live coverage of the Khattalah hearings, The New York Times' national security reporter Charlie Savage is inside the courtroom and tweeting updates.

Primary Source: A Letter to My Friend Glen Doherty, By Brandon Webb (The New York Times)

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