The e-mails sent around the federal government on the night of the September 11 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, have finally been obtained by the U.S. media. Since the tragic events well over a month ago, Members of Congress have been asking for a clear answer from the executive branch about what really happened on that Tuesday night and what the Administration knew about it.

The evidence is clear: Despite having confirmed knowledge from day one that the attacks were pre-planned terrorism, the Administration chose to cover up that information and hide severe security inefficiencies and grotesque unpreparedness behind an immature YouTube video.

All three e-mails that are now public were sent within two hours, updating in real time the events happening in Benghazi. According to an anonymous source, the cables were sent by the State Department Operations Center to e-mail accounts for the top national security officials at the State Department, Pentagon, FBI, White House Situation Room, and office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The first e-mail was sent at 4:05 p.m. with the subject title “U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack (SBU).” The message was short and to the point, stating, “The Regional Security Officer reports the diplomatic mission is under attack.” The e-mail also confirmed reports from Tripoli that the attack was carried out by “20 armed people,” explosions and gunfire had been heard, and Ambassador Christopher Stevens along with four Chief of Mission (COM) personnel were in the compound safe haven.

Exactly 50 minutes later, another e-mail was sent reporting that “the firing at the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi has stopped and the compound has been cleared.” The update ended with the confirmation of a response team on site attempting to locate COM personnel.

The last e-mail was sent two hours later, at 6:07 p.m. It was titled “Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack (SBU).” The group had reportedly claimed responsibility for the attacks on Facebook and Twitter and was calling for an attack on the embassy in Tripoli.

This concrete evidence, along with confirmations from the intelligence community within 24 hours of the attacks, left no doubt that al-Qaeda-affiliated operatives were behind the attack. And yet White House officials were vehemently denying that the Administration had “actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent.” It took the Administration more than two weeks to even begin using the phrase “terrorist attack.”

In light of the evidence that continues to pile up, Americans deserve explanations of why an attack was so easily executed on the Benghazi mission and why the true nature of the attacks was hidden from the nation.

Caitlin Duvall is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: