Top secret Benghazi documents prove Obama administration ‘knew about terrorist attack within minutes’
- Newly declassified testimonies about what happened among Pentagon officials the night of the Benghazi attack on September 11, 2012 have been obtained by Fox News
- The documents show the U.S. military found out about 15 minutes after the attack – which killed four Americans – that it was an act of terror and communicated that to the Obama administration
- However the government – including Obama and then-U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who were in the throes of the 2012 US Presidential election – maintained for two weeks afterward the attack started as a protest against an anti-Islamic film and turned violent
PUBLISHED: 02:04 EST, 14 January 2014 | UPDATED: 02:05 EST, 14 January 2014
The documents – which were obtained by Fox News and contain 450 pages of top secret testimonies about the attack – has proven the Obama administration lied about the cause of the attack for two weeks afterward, having repeatedly maintained it was sparked by a violent demonstration against an anti-Islamic movie.
According to the documents, Gen. Carter Ham – who at the time was head of AFRICOM, the Defense Department combatant command with jurisdiction over Libya – said that while there was mention of the demonstrations – which started on the same day day as Benghazi but in Egypt – he and the other commanders involved were always clear that Benghazi was a terrorist attack.
That information was delivered to President Obama and his top advisers, including then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
However the government said the attack was caused out of protest of Innocence of Muslims, a controversial 14-minute video uploaded to YouTube that was seen as denigrating of the prophet Muhammad.
The movie subsequently caused a breakout of violence in Egypt on September 11 that spread to other Arab and Muslim nations and caused the death of 50 people.
That night, a heavily armed group of between 125 and 150 gunmen attacked the American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, killing U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and another diplomat.
Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported the Obama administration claims that Muslim of Innocence was believed to be cause, and chose the Accountability Review Board to conduct an ‘investigation’ into the attack.
The investigation determined that there was no such protest in Behnghazi and that the attack was premeditated and launched by Islamist militants.
Skepticism has surrounded the government’s explanation of the attack, especially from the Republican party, mostly because Benghazi happened just two months before the 2012 Presidential Election.
However the declassification of the documents proves the Obama administration were not divulging details of the attack to the American people.
Numerous aides to the president and Clinton repeatedly told the public in the weeks following the murder of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans that night – as Obama’s hotly contested bid for re-election was entering its final stretch – that there was no evidence the killings were the result of a premeditated terrorist attack.
According to Fox, Gen. Ham said he learned about the assault on the consulate compound within 15 minutes of its commencement, at 9:42 pm 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.’
Ham’s account of that fateful day was included in some 450 pages of testimony given by senior Pentagon officials in classified, closed-door hearings conducted last year by the Armed Services subcommittee.
The testimony, given under ‘Top Secret’ clearance and only declassified this month, presents a rare glimpse into how information during a crisis travels at the top echelons of America’s national security apparatus, all the way up to the president.
Also among those whose secret testimony was declassified was Dempsey, the first person Ham briefed about Benghazi.
Ham told lawmakers he considered it a fortuitous ‘happenstance’ that he was able to rope Dempsey and Panetta into one meeting, so that, as Ham put it, ‘they had the basic information as they headed across for the meeting at the White House’.
Ham also told lawmakers he met with Panetta and Dempsey when they returned from their 30-minute session with President Obama on September 11.
Armed Services Chairman Howard ‘Buck’ McKeon, R-Calif., sitting in on the subcommittee’s hearing with Ham last June, reserved for himself an especially sensitive line of questioning: namely, whether senior Obama administration officials, in the very earliest stages of their knowledge of Benghazi, had any reason to believe that the assault grew spontaneously out of a demonstration over an anti-Islam video produced in America.
‘In your discussions with General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta,’ McKeon asked, ‘was there any mention of a demonstration or was all discussion about an attack?’
Ham initially testified that there was some ‘peripheral’ discussion of this subject, but added ‘at that initial meeting, we knew that a U.S. facility had been attacked and was under attack, and we knew at that point that we had two individuals, Ambassador Stevens and Mr. [Sean] Smith, unaccounted for’.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, a first-term lawmaker with experience as an Iraq war veteran and Army reserve officer, pressed Ham further on the point, prodding the 29-year Army veteran to admit that ‘the nature of the conversation’ he had with Panetta and Dempsey was that ‘this was a terrorist attack’.
‘As a military person, I am concerned that someone in the military would be advising that this was a demonstration. I would hope that our military leadership would be advising that this was a terrorist attack,’ Wenstrup said.
‘Again, sir, I think, you know, there was some preliminary discussion about, you know, maybe there was a demonstration. But I think at the command, I personally and I think the command very quickly got to the point that this was not a demonstration, this was a terrorist attack,’ Ham answered.
‘And you would have advised as such if asked. Would that be correct? Wenstrup continued.
‘Well, and with General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta, that is the nature of the conversation we had, yes, sir,’ Ham responded.
Fox says they are going to continue to release more information found in the testimonies.