Breaking: Benghazi Transcripts Reveal; Top Defense Officials Briefed Obama on ‘Attack,’ Not Video, Not Demonstration, Not ProtestPosted: January 13, 2014
James Rosen reports: 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.
“My first call was to General Dempsey, General Dempsey’s office, to say, ‘Hey, I am headed down the hall. I need to see him right away,'” Ham told lawmakers on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation on June 26 of last year. “I told him what I knew. We immediately walked upstairs to meet with Secretary Panetta.”
Ham’s account of that fateful day was included in some 450 pages of testimony given by senior Pentagon officials in classified, closed-door hearings conducted last year by the Armed Services subcommittee. The testimony, given under “Top Secret” clearance and only declassified this month, presents a rare glimpse into how information during a crisis travels at the top echelons of America’s national security apparatus, all the way up to the president.
Also among those whose secret testimony was declassified was Dempsey, the first person Ham briefed about Benghazi. Ham told lawmakers he considered it a fortuitous “happenstance” that he was able to rope Dempsey and Panetta into one meeting, so that, as Ham put it, “they had the basic information as they headed across for the meeting at the White House.” Ham also told lawmakers he met with Panetta and Dempsey when they returned from their 30-minute session with President Obama on Sept. 11.
Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., sitting in on the subcommittee’s hearing with Ham last June, reserved for himself an especially sensitive line of questioning: namely, whether senior Obama administration officials, in the very earliest stages of their knowledge of Benghazi, had any reason to believe that the assault grew spontaneously out of a demonstration over an anti-Islam video produced in America.
Numerous aides to the president and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly told the public in the weeks following the murder of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans that night — as Obama’s hotly contested bid for re-election was entering its final stretch — that there was no evidence the killings were the result of a premeditated terrorist attack, but rather were the result of a protest gone awry. Subsequent disclosures exposed the falsity of that narrative, and the Obama administration ultimately acknowledged that its early statements on Benghazi were untrue…
James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show “The Foxhole.”
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