To date, the Obama White House has released very little information regarding the president’s whereabouts and actions on the night of 9-11-12, when the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya was under terrorist assault. Today, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta shed some light on the president’s actions, but his testimony before the Senate raises more questions.
Under questioning from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) Panetta says that President Obama knew “generally” what US military assets were deployed in the region, but did not ask for specifics. He left the strategy, according to Panetta, “up to us,” meaning himself and military leadership. Panetta says that after the initial briefing, which took place at about 5 pm Washington time, he had no further communications at all with President Obama that night. The president never even called to ask how the attack was progressing. No one from the White House ever called later that night, according to Panetta, to inquire about the attack. President Obama went to bed that night not even knowing whether the Americans under assault had survived the attack.
US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died in the assault, which the Obama administration later blamed on an obscure YouTube movie.
Penatta’s testimony appears to resolve one mystery. After the attack, the White House came under criticism for failing to release any photographs of the president taken during the attack. The White House eventually released a single photo, which it says shows the president receiving his initial briefing on the attack, from Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough. That is probably the briefing that Panetta mentioned as taking place at 5 pm local time. The attack went on for several more hours. Many have questioned why there have been no photos released of Obama monitoring the attack from the White House situation room. The answer appears to be that he never went to the situation room, and was not monitoring the attack.