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Benghazi Testimony with Panetta, Dempsey: Shocking Revelations

On Thursday, February 7th, 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the events that transpired on September 11th, 2012, at the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. On that day, premeditated and coordinated attacks on the facility by Islamic militant groups Ansar al-Sharia and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, among others, cost four Americans their lives: U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and C.I.A. contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both former Navy SEALs.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey Senate Armed Services Committee Benghazi Hearing February 7th, 2013The purpose of the February 7th Senate hearing with Panetta and Dempsey was to probe into the military’s response to the September 11th siege, and to shed light on any communication that might have occurred between U.S. military commanders and the Obama administration. Under scrutiny by Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and John McCain (R-AZ), it was revealed in stunning testimony that not only was there no military mobilization response whatsoever, but there was zero communication from the Obama administration, save a 5pm EST meeting at the White House between the President, Panetta, and Dempsey shortly after the attacks began.

The video below highlights the intense line of questioning by these Senators, and the shocking answers given by Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey, all which point to a failure of leadership of the highest order which ultimately led to the tragic deaths of four Americans, including the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979:

  1. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Sec. Panetta – 0m00s to 1m56s
  2. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gen. Dempsey/Sec. Panetta – 1m56s to 5m15s
  3. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gen. Dempsey/Sec. Panetta – 5m15s to 6m17s
  4. Sen. Ted Cruz and Sec. Panetta/Gen. Dempsey – 6m17s to 6m49s
  5. Sen. John McCain and Gen. Dempsey – 6m49s to End

Here are some of the incredible admissions:

Senator Kelly Ayotte: And there was no follow-up during the night, at least from the White House directly?

Secretary Leon Panetta: No, no there wasn’t.

 

Senator Lindsey Graham: Was there any airplane launched anywhere in the world before the attack was concluded?

General Martin Dempsey: If you’re talking about a strike aircraft, no, Senator.

 

Senator Lindsey Graham: My question is, did anybody leave any base anywhere to go to the aid of the people under attack in Benghazi, Libya, before the attack ended?

Secretary Leon Panetta: No, because the attack ended before they could get off the ground.

Senator Lindsey Graham: Thank you, thank you. Okay, and we didn’t know how long it would last.

 

Senator Ted Cruz: In between 9:42pm, Benghazi time, when the first attacks started, and 5:15am when Mr. Doherty and Mr. Woods lost their lives, what conversations did either of you have with Secretary Clinton?

Secretary Leon Panetta: We did not have any conversations with Secretary Clinton.

Here is the full transcript:

1. Senator Kelly Ayotte and Secretary Leon Panetta – 0m00s to 1m56s

Senator Kelly Ayotte: So he didn’t ask you what ability we had in the area and what we could do?

Secretary Leon Panetta: No, I think, I mean, he relied on both myself as Secretary and on General Dempsey’s capabilities. He knows generally what we’ve deployed into the region. We’ve presented that to him in other briefings, so he knew generally what was deployed out there. But as to specifics about time, et cetera, et cetera, no, he just left that up to us.

Senator Kelly Ayotte: Did you have any further communications with him that night?

Secretary Leon Panetta: No.

Senator Kelly Ayotte Senate Armed Services Committee Benghazi Hearing February 7th, 2013Senator Kelly 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?”

Secretary Leon Panetta: No, but we were aware that as we were getting information on what was taking place there, particularly when we got information that the Ambassador – his life had been lost, we were aware that that information went to the White House.

Senator Kelly Ayotte: Did you communicate with anyone else at the White House that night?

Secretary Leon Panetta: No.

Senator Kelly Ayotte: No one else called you to say, “How are things going?”

Secretary Leon Panetta: No.

Senator Kelly Ayotte: Okay. And since then, has the President asked you, “Why weren’t we able to get, in light of the second attack that occurred seven hours later, armed assets there in order to help those who were left and attacked in the annex?”

Secretary Leon Panetta: The President has made very clear to both myself and General Dempsey that with regards to future threats, we have got to be able to deploy forces in a position where we can more rapidly respond.

Senator Kelly Ayotte: But 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 there?

Secretary Leon Panetta: I think the biggest problem that night, Senator, was that no one knew really what was going on there.

Senator Kelly Ayotte: And there was no follow-up during the night, at least from the White House directly?

Secretary Leon Panetta: No, no there wasn’t.

Senator Kelly Ayotte: Thank you.

2. Senator Lindsey Graham and General Martin Dempsey / Secretary Leon Panetta – 1m56s to 5m15s

Senator Lindsey Graham: Were there any AC-130 gunships within a thousand miles of Benghazi, Libya?

General Martin Dempsey: No, sir.

Senator Lindsey Graham: Were there any AC-130 gunships within two thousand miles of Benghazi, Libya?

General Martin Dempsey: I have to go back and look at a map and figure out the distance. The nearest ones I were aware of were –

Senator Lindsey Graham Senate Armed Services Committee Benghazi Hearing February 7th, 2013Senator Lindsey Graham: You said the F-16 was not a good platform to defend the consulate. What would have been the appropriate platform?

General Martin Dempsey: The appropriate platform, Senator, would have been to have boots on the ground ahead of the event. After the event is in conduct, it would be very difficult to have a military –

Senator Lindsey Graham: Well, let’s just, I mean – would an AC-130 have been a good platform to help defend the consulate after the attack?

General Martin Dempsey: If we had the adequate understanding of what was on the ground so that we weren’t killing innocent civilians –

Senator Lindsey Graham: Is there a saying in the military, “When you go into harm’s way, we’ve got your back?”

General Martin Dempsey: Of course, yes, sir.

Senator Lindsey Graham: Don’t you think that saying has been undermined here? That, how can people in the military or the foreign service believe we’ve got their back when after over seven – What – did you know how long the attack was going to last, Secretary Panetta?

Secretary Leon Panetta: No idea.

Senator Lindsey Graham: Well, it could have lasted for two days. Now, my question is, was one airplane anywhere in the world deployed in the aid of the consulate? Did anybody launch an airplane? Was any airplane launched anywhere in the world to help these people?

Secretary Leon Panetta: Well, we ultimately did launch 130’s to go in and rescue the people.

Senator Lindsey Graham: When were they launched?

Secretary Leon Panetta: They were launched at – in the period of time when the team went in there and when we, concluded, the attack was concluded, we said we’ve got to get the people out of there and that’s when –

Senator Lindsey Graham: Was there any airplane launched anywhere in the world before the attack was concluded?

General Martin Dempsey: If you’re talking about a strike aircraft, no, Senator.

Senator Lindsey Graham: Okay. Was any soldier en route to help these people before the attack was concluded?

Secretary Leon Panetta: Well, we had deployed these FAST teams, and they were on orders to move.

Senator Lindsey Graham: Were they on – was anybody in motion before the attack concluded to help these people? Anybody?

General Martin Dempsey: Only the personnel that were in Tripoli.

Senator Lindsey Graham: Okay, was any DoD asset ever deployed to help these people before the end of the attack?

General Martin Dempsey: Would you rephrase – would you repeat –

Senator Lindsey Graham: Was any DoD asset, aircraft or individual soldier, ever sent, put in motion to help these people before the attack was over?

General Martin Dempsey: Let, if I could, the, as soon as we knew there was an attack, the National Mission Force and the FAST teams began preparing to deploy.

Senator Lindsey Graham: My question is, did anybody leave any base anywhere to go to the aid of the people under attack in Benghazi, Libya, before the attack ended?

Secretary Leon Panetta: No, because the attack ended before they could get off the ground.

Senator Lindsey Graham: Thank you, thank you. Okay, and we didn’t know how long it would last.

3. Senator Lindsey Graham and General Martin Dempsey / Secretary Leon Panetta – 5m15s to 6m17s

Senator Lindsey Graham: Let’s talk about the State Department. General Dempsey, seems to me that General Ham kept you pretty well informed.

General Martin Dempsey: I agree with that.

Senator Lindsey Graham: I agree with that, too. And I want – did General Ham on that night ever order, ever suggest that a military asset – did he order a military asset in motion, and someone told him to stand down?

General Martin Dempsey: No, he, in fact, he was with us in the Pentagon.

Senator Lindsey Graham Senate Armed Services Committee Benghazi Hearing February 7th, 2013Senator Lindsey Graham: Okay, so he was with you.

General Martin Dempsey: (Nods in the affirmative)

Senator Lindsey Graham: Now, you knew about the cable from Ambassador Stevens because General Ham informed you of it, is that correct, General Dempsey?

General Martin Dempsey: In a written weekly report.

Senator Lindsey Graham: Okay. So, when Secretary Clinton testified a few weeks ago that she had a clear-eyed assessment of the threat we faced in Libya, is that really a credible statement if she didn’t know about the Ambassador’s cable on August the 15th saying, “We can’t defend this place?”

General Martin Dempsey: Well, I don’t know that she didn’t know about the cable.

Senator Lindsey Graham: She said she didn’t.

General Martin Dempsey: Then that’s a –

Senator Lindsey Graham: Are you stunned that she didn’t?

General Martin Dempsey: Uh, I would call myself surprised that she didn’t.

Senator Lindsey Graham: Okay.

4. Senator Ted Cruz and Secretary Leon Panetta / General Martin Dempsey – 6m17s to 6m49s

Senator Ted Cruz: In between 9:42pm, Benghazi time, when the first attacks started, and 5:15am when Mr. Doherty and Mr. Woods lost their lives, what conversations did either of you have with Secretary Clinton?

Secretary Leon Panetta: We did not have any conversations with Secretary Clinton.

Senator Ted Cruz: So, so, and General Dempsey, the same is true for you?

General Martin Dempsey: (Nods head in the affirmative)

5. Senator John McCain and General Martin Dempsey – 6m49s to End

Senator John McCain: General Dempsey, as to how the available threat estimates you were informed by, how our military was appropriately responsible for seven people – since four people died seven hours later, with the thousands of, hundreds of airplanes, ships, planes, and men and women who were serving, available in that part of the world, and how did you do what your posture and capabilities allowed?

General Martin Dempsey: Thank you, Senator. Let me begin by saying, I stand by my testimony, your dispute of it notwithstanding. But I would like to say that we base –

Senator John McCain: Well, perhaps you can give me some facts that would substantiate them.

General Martin Dempsey: Sure, I will, Senator. I – we base our response on the combined effects of what we get from the intelligence community, and that’s the network of intel agencies, as well, importantly, based on what we get from the State Department and the Chief of Mission and Chief of Station in the country.

Senator John McCain Senate Armed Services Committee Benghazi Hearing February 7th, 2013Senator John McCain: Did you ever get the message that said they could not withstand a sustained attack on the consulate?

General Martin Dempsey: I was tracking that intelligence. I was tracking through General Ham –

Senator John McCain: Did you receive that information?

General Martin Dempsey: I did, and I saw it –

Senator John McCain: So it didn’t bother you?

General Martin Dempsey: It bothered me a great deal, but we never received the request –

Senator John McCain: Then why didn’t you put forces in place to be ready to respond?

General Martin Dempsey: Because we never received a request to do so, number one, and number two, we –

Senator John McCain: You never heard of Ambassador Stevens’ repeated warnings about the lapses in security?

General Martin Dempsey: I had through General Ham, but we never received a request for support from the State Department which would have allowed us to put forces on the ground.

Senator John McCain: So it’s the state department’s fault?

General Martin Dempsey: I’m not blaming the state department. I’m sure they had their own assessment.

Senator John McCain: Who would you blame?

General Martin Dempsey: Sorry, sir?

Senator John McCain: Who is responsible then?

General Martin Dempsey: It appears –

Senator John McCain: It’s clear that an assessment was made that they could not withstand a sustained attack on the consulate with it being September 11th and many other indications that are on that board over there of various attacks that have already taken place.

General Martin Dempsey: Mm-hmm. Uh, I stand by the report of the Accountability Review Board, but I would also say, Senator, I was also concerned at that time with Sana’a in Yemen, Khartoum, Islamabad, Peshawar, Kabul, Baghdad. We had some pretty significant intel threat streams –

 

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