A Pentagon spokesperson Friday would not say definitively that U.S. Marines in Egypt have been authorized to carry live ammunition, raising questions about the administration’s denial of reports indicating that Marines were not carrying live ammo when the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was besieged by rioters.
Reports emanating from the Nightwatch newsletter indicating that Marines in Cairo did not have permission to carry live ammunition sparked a firestorm Thursday, leading to denials from administration officials, including spokesmen at the Pentagon.
However, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs George Little would not clearly state whether the Marines had live ammunition during a press briefing earlier today.
When contacted by the Free Beacon, Pentagon spokeswoman Monica Matoush said that she was unable to clarify Little's comments, and directed this reporter to the State Department.
A senior State Department official told the Free Beacon: "The Marines on duty at Embassy Cairo had ammunition in their weapons, as they always do at all our Missions overseas when they are on duty."
U.S. Marines carry weapons, Little repeatedly stated during his Friday briefing.
Asked by a reporter if the Marines in Cairo were carrying live ammunition, Little responded: "I would say, first, that with or without a weapon, Marines are always armed."
"In this case, in Cairo, our Marines do in fact have weapons," he added.
The exchange continued:
Q: Do they have ammunition?
MR. LITTLE: Do they have ammunition?
Q: That—that was what the report was, that she had not—the ambassador had not authorized them to have ammunition in their weapons. Is that false?
MR. LITTLE: To my knowledge, they have weapons and I have heard nothing to suggest that they don't have ammunition.
Little also indicated that Marines are only authorized to use force in cases of self-defense.
"If embassy perimeters are breached and if certain conditions present themselves, then the Marines absolutely can act in self-defense, as you would expect, to protect American personnel and the inviolable compounds that constitute our diplomatic facilities around the world," Little said.