Panetta: We didn’t defend consulate under attack because of a lack of intel

posted at 8:41 am on October 26, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

One of the unanswered questions about the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi is why the US military didn’t intervene.  Rumors had swirled that the US asked the Libyan government in Tripoli for permission to fly into Benghazi to break up the attack but had been refused, although no one has claimed that on the record.  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta put that rumor to rest yesterday by telling reporters that the US never planned to intervene at all, thanks to a lack of intel on the ground:

US military leaders ruled out sending in forces during the attack on an American consulate in Libya last month because of a lack of reliable intelligence, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday.

Although forces were on alert and ready to launch an operation if needed, the US military commander for Africa, General Carter Ham, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, and Panetta all decided against any intervention as they had no clear picture of events unfolding in Benghazi, he said.

“There’s a basic principle here, and the basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on, without having some real-time information about what’s taking place,” Panetta told a news conference.

“And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who’s …in that area, General Ham, General Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”

I agree with Panetta that onebasic principle in military operations is not to jump into a situation without having real-time data.  However, we discovered in the House Oversight hearings two weeks ago that we did have that kind of data; the State Department has 50 minutes of video of the attack from surveillance feeds that their command center watched in real time as the attack unfolded.  Surely State could have had the Pentagon watch the same feed for the “real-time information” that we otherwise lacked.

Second, it’s difficult to believe that we weren’t collecting this kind of intel prior to the attack.  There had been a number of attack attempts in the city on our assets.  The New York Times reported that the CIA “got our eyes poked out” by the loss of the consulate.  There may have been a lack of intel on the attack itself, but not on the threat.  Ambassador Chris Stevens had warned State repeatedly of the security dangers before the terrorist attack that took his life — and let’s not forget that the attack took place on the anniversary of 9/11.

Finally, isn’t there a more basic principle at stake?  Consulates and embassies are considered American territory.  When they are under attack, the US is under attack in a very real way.  When we are under attack, do we not defend ourselves and our people from attack, or do we only do that when the intel is solid?

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Pole-Cat on October 26, 2012 at 9:27 PM

“The fact is, is the protocol says that someone march their happy little ass up to the senior guy standing next to POTUS and said ‘Sir the ambassador of Libya is in peril’.”

Pole-Cat on October 26, 2012 at 9:38 PM

No, your analogy was terrible.

AC-130s aren’t like grapes. There are very few of them in the world.

Military bases aren’t like grocery stores. They don’t offer full selection. We collocate like assets on several bases throughout the world. Sorry, not every base has fighters and AC-130s all the time.

blink on October 26, 2012 at 5:35 PM

We have a lot of stuff in EUCOM. SOMETHING could have been flown in – if not from Aviano, then from one of the other air bases in EUCOM. The battle went on for SEVEN HOURS. You can fly quite a distnace in that time.

And, if there was absolutely nothing in all of EUCOM that could have been flow in during that time, we have an even bigger problem – a lack of operational readiness that we ought to be firing and impeaching people for.

SubmarineDoc on October 26, 2012 at 9:50 PM

We didn’t defend consulate under attack because of a lack of intel

Translation “we’re lying, chickenshits-not only covering up for Obama politically but historically emulating the Italian Army World War II experience in North Africa.”

MaiDee on October 26, 2012 at 11:36 PM

Bull sh!t.


Chicken sh!t.

Which is it Leon?


profitsbeard on October 27, 2012 at 1:27 AM

How about this? An AC-130U Gunship was On-Scene in Benghazi but the Obama Admin Refused to Let It Fire.

Dollayo on October 27, 2012 at 6:06 AM

Two AC-130 gunships were tasked to Libya. They were not overhead, but they were either in-country on the ground, or close by on the ground.
Since the operators on the ground were painting the enemy, they must have assumed that the standard of “Officer Needs Help” (as commonly practiced in civilian police) would cause assets to be available right away.

This whole situation stinks like yesterday’s diapers. What was the Ambassador engaged in? Why was there a Mission and a CIA station close by? Why were there no “Blue” security elements? Why was SecState’s request for additional security overruled, and by whom? Who gave the radio orders to “Stand Down”, and what command elements were involved in relaying the message? Why has the Commander of AfriCom been suddenly relieved? (

There’s a whole lot of wrong here, a whole lot of coverup, and all of the markers of covert operation. The $64,000 question is: Why were that Ambassador and these men hung out to dry? What involvement did they have that they deserved the Uriah treatment? (2 Sam 11:14)

Medbob on October 28, 2012 at 1:06 AM

The basic principle here is that you don’t order a rescue mission that could fail and cause problems for the election campaign. The media will not ignore a repeat of Blackhawk down.

Nomas on October 28, 2012 at 2:32 PM

I find Panetta’s explanation quite lacking. The only question I can think of is whether or not the consulate was in danger and/or under attack.

If a group of Representatives and/or Senators or the VP or even the President had been at the consulate, and the situation had been unknown other than they seemed to be under attack, I highly doubt that Panetta would be able to make this kind of “explanation” for a failure of the US Military to respond, rapidly and in as much force it could muster, and not get raked over the coals and/or forced to resign.

Russ808 on October 28, 2012 at 7:41 PM

Panetta: We didn’t defend consulate under attack because of a lack of intel

Panetta’s argument should have been applied to the prospect of Obama assuming the presidency.

landlines on October 28, 2012 at 8:21 PM