Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. military lacked intelligence needed to respond during the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, during which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
“The basic principle is don’t deploy into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on,” Panetta said today at a Pentagon news conference. He said he and top generals “felt very strongly” that deploying forces sooner wasn’t the right option.
The Pentagon did send a Fleet Anti-Terrorism Support Team, or FAST, to the region and had ships off the coast of Libya “prepared to respond to any contingency,” Panetta said.
The attack on the compound “happened within a few hours and it was really over before, you know, we had the opportunity to really know what was happening,” Panetta said
Panetta said “there’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on here.”
Republicans, led by presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have questioned whether there was adequate diplomatic security in Libya and criticized the Obama administration’s early accounts describing the attack as having grown out of a “spontaneous” demonstration against a video ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad. Administration officials and the spokesman for the office of the Director of National Intelligence have said that account was based on early intelligence reports that were revised as more information was received.