Seven weeks after the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, members of the media (other than Fox News) are beginning to take an interest in the timeline of events on Sept. 11, 2012. Today, Eli Lake, senior national security reporter for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, is reporting that no one from the State Department requested military backup the night of the assault that killed four Americans.
Who did (or didn’t) respond to requests for help from Americans on the ground in Libya is a hot potato that has been passed around quite a bit over the last couple of weeks.
Lake cites “two senior U.S. officials familiar with the details of military planning” in his report.
According to Lake’s timeline, Ambassador Chris Stevens and Sean Smith were killed before any outside military help could have saved them. Ex-SEALS Glenn Dougherty and Tyrone Woods, though, might have had a chance.
Normally it would be the job of the U.S. ambassador on location to request a military response. But Stevens likely died in the first two hours of the attack. The responsibility for requesting military backup would then have fallen to the deputy chief of mission at Benghazi or officials at the State Department in Washington.
“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.
On Oct. 26, Fox News reported that its sources “on the ground” in Benghazi claimed the CIA chain-of-command repeatedly denied requests for military support — a claim CIA spokesperson Jennifer Youngblood disputed, insisting that “no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need.”
Plenty still believe the buck stops with the president, although he’s been hard to pin down for questioning, unless your name happens to be David Letterman or Jon Stewart. Also on Oct. 26, Denver TV reporter Kyle Clarke managed to ask the president, “Were [the Americans in Benghazi] denied requests for help during the attack?” Obama replied, “Well, we are finding out exactly what happened.”
No, we’re not finding out exactly what happened, at least not from named sources and not from the president.