Former Obama Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has dropped what may be the biggest bombshell yet on his former boss.
Panetta appeared on MSNBC today and explained that he knew, from the beginning, that the attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, was a terrorist attack. President Obama did not see it that way, and his actions that night remain a mystery.
Host Andrea Mitchell asked Panetta, “You wrote in the book that you disagreed with David Petraeus and told the situation room he thought it was a spontaneous demonstration outside the consulate that night. Why did you disagree. What didn’t ring true about that?”
Panetta fired: “I didn’t have any specific information, but the fact was that when you bring grenade launchers to a demonstration, something else is going on. From the very beginning I sensed that this was an attack, a terrorist attack on the compound. I remember saying look, based on the ones I see and the nature of the attack, I think this was a terrorist attack. He said look, the information we are getting from intelligence sources is that it really was a demonstration. I said you know, David, i don’t see it that way.”
Both President Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the protest point of view. For weeks after the attack both Clinton and Obama blamed the attack on an obscure YouTube video. The producer of that video was later arrested and spent a year in prison on parole violations.
Up to now, Panetta’s criticisms of Obama’s handling of foreign policy, in particular his handling of Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State, could be seen through the lens of Panetta tearing away at Obama to help his longtime friend Hillary Clinton distance herself from the unpopular president as she gears up to run for president in 2016.
But Panetta’s Benghazi comments are different. Clinton stood before the bodies of the four Americans who were killed in the Benghazi attack and blamed the protest. She reportedly told the parents of one of the slain Americans that a video was to blame, and its producer would be prosecuted. He was.
During congressional hearings on Benghazi, Clinton shouted “What difference, at this point, does it make?” when she was questioned about whether the attack was a terrorist assault or grew out of a protest.
Clinton’s State Department repeatedly denied requests to improve security at the facility. After the attack, Clinton appointed the Accountability Review Board, which was designed not to ask questions of Clinton or any of her close lieutenants in the State Department.
On Benghazi, Panetta and Clinton are clearly at odds on one of the most important debacles of Clinton’s tenure at the State Department.