Panetta: Terrorists ‘planned’ attack in Benghazi

Dempsey: Intel prior to attack indicated groups in 'eastern Libya were seeking to coalesce'

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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday the attack on the Benghazi was a “planned” attack by terrorists in a press briefing with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.

“Mr. Secretary, when did you, when did you come to the conclusion what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack?” a reporter asked Panetta at the briefing.

“As we determined the details of what took place there, and how that attack took place,” Panetta replied, “it became clear that there were terrorists who had planned that attack, and that’s when I came to that conclusion.”

Dempsey also said that intelligence prior to the attack had indicated that groups in “eastern Libya were seeking to coalesce,” though it was a broad report and there had been no specific threat to the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

Full transcript of the exchange:

REPORTER: Also on Benghazi, sir, Mr. Secretary, when did you, when did you come to the conclusion what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack? And Mr. Chairman, did the Joint Staff or the D.I.A. provide any warning to the State Department ahead of the attack that there were increasing security concerns in Benghazi? And to that, the FBI says it is too dangerous to be in Benghazi, which is why none of them are there now. Is that because the situation has worsened or was the always that dangerous in Benghazi?

PANETTA: I think, on the terrorist attack, I mean, as we determined the details of what took place there, and how that, attack took place, that it became clear that there were terrorists who had planned that attack, and that’s when I came to that conclusion. As, again, as to who was involved, what specific groups were involved, I think the investigation that is ongoing hopefully will determine that.

REPORTER: Was that a day after or, was —

PANETTA: No, it took a while to really get some of the feedback from what exactly happened at that location.

DEMPSEY: There was a thread of intelligence reporting that that groups in the environment in western, correction, eastern Libya were seeking to coalesce but there wasn’t anything specific and certainly not a specific threat to the consulate that I’m aware of. And, as far as to the risks that the FBI reported to you, you really have to ask them for why they made that determination. I don’t know.

REPORTER: Was that threat of intelligence — thread of intelligence, did you make the State Department aware of the intelligence? Were they aware what you knew?

DEMPSEY: The intelligence that we get, that we all get is broadly shared among intelligence agencies and all interagency partners.

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