Fox News' James Rosen reported Monday on Special Report that just minutes after the American consulate in Benghazi was attacked 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."
In the coming weeks, numerous aides to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama told the public that the attack was not premeditated but rather a spontaneous response to an anti-Muslim video that made waves at the time. That this was in the midst of Obama's tough re-election fight buttresses critics who contended Obama misled the public in order to propel the campaign narrative that al-Qaeda was on the run.
The article reports Armed Services subcommittee staffers want to question Panetta more about the attack now that this information has come to light:
But the former defense secretary, now retired, has resisted such calls for additional testimony.
"He is in the president's Cabinet," said Rep. Martha Roby R-Ala., chair of the panel that collected the testimony, of Panetta. "The American people deserve the truth. They deserve to know what's going on, and I honestly think that that's why you have seen — beyond the tragedy that there was a loss of four Americans' lives — is that the American people feel misled."
"Leon Panetta should have spoken up," agreed Kim R. Holmes, a former assistant secretary of state under President George W. Bush and now a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation. "The people at the Pentagon and frankly, the people at the CIA stood back while all of this was unfolding and allowed this narrative to go on longer than they should have."
Neither Panetta's office nor the White House responded to Fox News' requests for comment.