On September 11, 2012, the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, there was a terrorist attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were murdered: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty. On that day, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with the President at a 5 o’clock prescheduled gathering. At the time of this meeting, Sean Smith was dead and Ambassador Stevens was missing. Secretary Panetta’s prepared statement at the Benghazi hearing on February 7, 2013 includes this:
“Soon after the initial reports about the attack in Benghazi we received, General Dempsey and I met with President Obama and he ordered all available DOD assets to respond to the attack in Libya and to protect US personnel and interests in the region.”
During questioning, Secretary Panetta’s testimony indicates that there was no further communication with anyone at the White House during the remainder of the attack.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte: Did you have any further communications with him (the President) that night?
Sec. Leon Panetta: No.
Sen. Ayotte: Did you have any other further communications, did he ever call you that night… to say, how are things going, what’s going on, where’s the consulate?
Sec. Panetta: No, but… we were aware of that as uh, we were getting information what was taking place there, particularly uh, we got information that the ambassador, uh, his life had been lost. So, we, we… were aware that that information had went to the White House.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte: Did you communicate with anyone else at the White House that night?
Sec. Panetta: No.
Sen. Ayotte: No one else called you to say, how are things going?
Sec. Panetta: No.
Sen. Ayotte: Just to be clear, that night he didn’t ask you what assets we had available and how quickly they could respond and what we could do to help those individuals?
Sec. Panetta: The biggest problem that night, Senator, was that nobody knew really what was going on there.
Sen. Ayotte: And there was no follow-up during the night, at least from the White House directly?
Sec. Panetta: No.
On October 27, 2012, President Obama was interviewed by Kyle Clark of 9News in Denver. Mr. Clark asked some of the most probing questions that the President was subjected to in the entire election cycle.
Kyle Clark: Were the Americans under attack at the consulate in Benghazi Libya denied requests for help during that attack? And is it fair to tell Americans that what happened is under investigation and we’ll all find out after the election?
President Obama: Well, the election has nothing to do with four brave Americans getting killed and us wanting to find out exactly what happened. These are folks who served under me who I had sent to some very dangerous places. Nobody wants to find out more what happened than I do. But we want to make sure we get it right, particularly because I have made a commitment to the families impacted as well as to the American people, we’re going to bring those folks to justice. So, we’re going to gather all the facts, find out exactly what happened, and make sure that it doesn’t happen again but we’re also going to make sure that we bring to justice those who carried out these attacks.
Kyle Clark: Were they denied requests for help during the attack?
President Obama: Well, we are finding out exactly what happened. I can tell you, as I’ve said over the last couple of months since this happened, the minute I found out what was happening, I gave three very clear directives. Number one, make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to. Number two, we’re going to investigate exactly what happened so that it doesn’t happen again. Number three, find out who did this so we can bring them to justice. And I guarantee you that everyone in the state department, our military, the CIA, you name it, had number one priority making sure that people were safe. These were our folks and we’re going to find out exactly what happened, but what we’re also going to do is make sure that we are identifying those who carried out these terrible attacks.
In the President’s own words, the minute he learned what was happening, he gave three very clear directives. Only one is mentioned in Secretary Panetta’s testimony above. “Number one, make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to,” sounds very similar to Secretary Panetta’s statement, “He ordered all available DOD assets to respond to the attack in Libya and to protect US personnel and interests in the region.” That could be construed as two different people’s recollection of the same conversation. According to his interview with Kyle Clark, the President also thought it important, in the midst of an attack, with one man dead and one ambassador missing, to state his intention to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice. Secretary Panetta forgot to mention these directives.
Was the President satisfied with the DOD assets that were dispatched to help the Americans in Benghazi? From FoxNews after attending an off-camera briefing with an official who could only be quoted anonymously who presented the Pentagon timeline of the attack, “Within 17 minutes of the start of the attack, AFRICOM commander General Carter Ham, who happens to be visiting Washington and was in the Pentagon that day, redirects an unarmed, unmanned drone to Benghazi.” On October 9, 2009 the President remarked upon winning the Nobel Peace Prize, “I am the Commander-in-Chief of a country that’s responsible for ending a war and working in another theater to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies.” Commander-in-Chief is a shorter way of saying the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces. The military buck stops with the President. On February 14, 2013, in a Google hangout, the President answered a challenge to the openness of his administration, “This is the most transparent administration in history, and, I can document how that is the case.” It follows that we can expect to hear more about how the President worked to make sure our Americans in Libya were safe from a “ruthless adversary,” since it was the “number one priority” of the “most transparent administration in history.”
We still don’t know what the President did during the night of the attack. We know that four Americans died that night. We know that President Obama campaigned in Vegas on September 12, 2012.
Kyle Clark: Is it fair to tell Americans that what happened is under investigation and we’ll all find out after the election?
President Obama: Nobody wants to find out more what happened than I do.
This article was first published on May 14, 2013. Read more at Commentari, I’m just getting started.