Declassified testimony reveals administration officials knew Benghazi was a terrorist attack

There’s been a lot of wrangling recently over Benghazi. At the end of December, for example, The New York Times ran a report stating that the attack on the American outpost in the Libyan city “was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”

The Times report also suggested that al-Qaeda wasn’t involved in the attack, though that has been disputed by members of Congress from both parties, including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Whether or not the anti-Islam played a part in the attack or there was involvement from al-Qaeda affiliates will continue to be the subject of debate. But virtually everyone agrees that the assault on the compound, which lead to the deaths of four Americans, was a planned attack.

But questions, however, remain about the initial narrative that the White House and State Department tried to set about the attack. If you’ll recall, they blamed the incident on the anti-Islam YouTube video, calling it a protest gone awry.

James Rosen of Fox News has revealed declassified congressional testimony showing that top Defense Department officials knew from the beginning that the assault on Benghazi was a terrorist attack:

Minutes after the American consulate in Benghazi came under assault on Sept. 11, 2012, the nation’s top civilian and uniformed defense officials — headed for a previously scheduled Oval Office session with President Obama — were informed that the event was a “terrorist attack,” declassified documents show. The new evidence raises the question of why the top military men, one of whom was a member of the president’s Cabinet, allowed him and other senior Obama administration officials to press a false narrative of the Benghazi attacks for two weeks afterward.

Gen. Carter Ham, who at the time was head of AFRICOM, the Defense Department combatant command with jurisdiction over Libya, told the House in classified testimony last year that it was him who broke the news about the unfolding situation in Benghazi to then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The tense briefing — in which it was already known that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens had been targeted and had gone missing — occurred just before the two senior officials departed the Pentagon for their session with the commander in chief.

According to declassified testimony obtained by Fox News, Ham — who was working out of his Pentagon office on the afternoon of Sept. 11 — said he learned about the assault on the consulate compound within 15 minutes of its commencement, at 9:42 p.m. Libya time, through a call he received from the AFRICOM Command Center. 
[…]
“In your discussions with General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta,” McKeon asked, “was there any mention of a demonstration or was all discussion about an attack?” Ham initially testified that there was some “peripheral” discussion of this subject, but added “at that initial meeting, we knew that a U.S. facility had been attacked and was under attack, and we knew at that point that we had two individuals, Ambassador Stevens and Mr. [Sean] Smith, unaccounted for.”

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, a first-term lawmaker with experience as an Iraq war veteran and Army reserve officer, pressed Ham further on the point, prodding the 29-year Army veteran to admit that “the nature of the conversation” he had with Panetta and Dempsey was that “this was a terrorist attack.”

The White House and senior Obama Administration officials continue to dismiss questions about the narrative that the initially tried to advance. In an interview late last month on 60 Minutes, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who blamed the incident on the video per White House talking points, called the focus on the initial narrative a “false controversy.”

Unfortunately, given how hot button of an issue that Benghazi has become, it’s unlikely that Americans will know anytime soon what led the White House and administration officials to push the false narrative about the YouTube video.


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