Unclassified documents reveal more details about Benghazi attack
(CNN) — The House Armed Services Committee on Monday released hundreds of pages of transcripts of previously classified testimony about the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The testimony focuses primarily on the military posture before, during, and after the attack, which left U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.
In the testimony, senior military officials said that despite general warnings about the possibility of terrorist attacks around the world because of the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there were no discussions related to any specific threat in Libya. As a result, additional military assets were not deployed.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey testified that he did not recall Libya coming up in a conference call with President Barack Obama and his national security advisers on the eve of 9/11 to discuss “threat streams related to the 9/11 anniversary.”
Maj. Gen. Darryl Roberson, vice director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified that an analysis of how many attacks the U.S. has had on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks since 2001 found “the answer is one, and it was September 11 of 2012. Prior to that event at Benghazi, there had not been an attack on 9/11 that DOD had to respond to in any way. So we were taking in all of the indications and warning. We were postured as appropriately as we can be and we thought we should be around the world.”
Gen. Carter Ham, who headed U.S. Forces Africa at the time of the Benghazi attack, testified he stood by previous comments he made about not recommending “deployment of any additional U.S. military forces to Libya due to the threat environment.” He said that while the security situation was deteriorating in Benghazi, he did not have “specific indications of an imminent threat.”
Despite that, Ham and others did raise the idea that the presence of Defense Department protection of diplomatic personnel in Libya — specifically of a team known as a “Site Security Team” could have made a difference in protecting Stevens on the night of the attack. Ham testified that Stevens decided not to extend the deployment of that team beyond August 2012. So they were not present when the Benghazi attack occurred.
Ham also testified about his growing concern that eastern Libya was becoming a hotbed of extremism and that he had advocated for more intelligence assets to gain a better understanding of the extremist groups on the ground.
Ham said then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had approved the use of predator drones in the area, but Ham felt he could have used more military assets.
“I don’t know that I would go so far to say that it would have prevented the attacks that occurred on September 11th,” Ham said. “But it won’t surprise you that as a military commander, you know, I wanted more resources. And the resource that I felt I needed most was additional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to gain a better understanding of what was happening.”
Officials testified that in the wake of the Benghazi attacks, U.S. military assets are better positioned to respond in the event of another attack on a far-flung U.S. diplomatic compound.
Dempsey also revealed that the U.S. military is not authorized to kill any suspects believed involved in the Benghazi attack — meaning they would instead have to capture them. U.S. authorities have filed charges against Ahmed Khattalah, leader of a Libyan militia that officials believe was involved in the assault, people briefed on the investigation have previously told CNN. The charges are under seal.