President Obama said Monday, regarding the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, that “if we find out that there was a big breakdown and somebody didn’t do their job, then they’ll be held responsible.” He has also claimed that “the minute [he] found out what was going on” he issued a directive to “make sure we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to do.”
The latest reports, though, suggest otherwise. On Friday, Fox News reported that CIA operators in a position to provide air support were told to “stand down.” Now, Eli Lake reports that the State Department did not request backup on the night the attacks took place. Why?
“The State Department is responsible for assessing security at its diplomatic installations and for requesting support from other government agencies if they need it,” a senior U.S. Defense official said. “There was no request from the Department of State to intervene militarily on the night of the attack.”
The president, however, would have the final say as to whether or not to send in the military. By 11 p.m. Benghazi time, 90 minutes after the assault began on the U.S. mission, Obama met with the National Security Council to discuss the attack. NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor said the president “ordered Secretary Panetta and Chairman Dempsey to begin moving assets into the region to prepare for a range of contingencies” at that meeting . . . By the time the special operations team and the Marines were prepared to go forward with the rescue mission, however, the first wave of the attack was over. . . .
Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of a House oversight subcommittee investigating the Benghazi attacks, told The Daily Beast that General Carter Ham, the outgoing U.S. commander of Africa Command, “told me directly that he had no directive to engage in the fight in Benghazi.”
Chaffetz also told Greta Van Susteren yesterday that Ambassador Stevens himself called the deputy chief of mission in Tripoli, while the attack was underway, to sound the alarm.
UPDATE: CBS reports that, as the attack on the U.S. mission unfolded over the course of hours, the president “did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource: the Counterterrorism Security Group, (CSG).” A source, a “high-ranking government official,” explained to the network that “the CSG is the one group that’s supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies . . . They were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon.”
This seems to call into question the president’s claim that he acted in response to the attack by issung “three clear directives,” including “securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to” and “find[ing] out exactly who did this so we can bring him to justice.”