Pentagon Defends Benghazi Decision

10.26.12 | Jeremy Miller

The Pentagon defended its decision not to deploy forces to Benghazi, Libya, as soon as the U.S. mission came under attack on September 11th, saying it would have been irresponsible to put forces in harm's way without better information. President Barack Obama's response to the attacks in Libya has been a contentious issue in the hard-fought U.S. presidential race, with Republican opponents raising questions about his administration's truthfulness and competence. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Pentagon reporters that U.S. forces were on a heightened state of alert already because of the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington by al Qaeda. But he said there simply wasn't enough information to responsibly deploy forces to Libya at the time of the attack. "You don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on, without having some real-time information about what's taking place," Panetta said. Lacking that information, Panetta said he, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Carter Ham, head of the U.S. military's Africa Command, felt they couldn't "put forces at risk in that situation." The administration initially attributed the violence to protests over an anti-Islam film and said it was not premeditated. Obama and other officials have since said the incident was a deliberate terrorist attack. A State Department email made public this week showed that two hours after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission compound in Benghazi, the Department's Operations Center advised officials at various U.S. agencies that a militant group called Ansar al-Sharia had claimed credit on Twitter and Facebook for the attacks. U.S. officials, including Clinton, on Wednesday said that such Internet postings did not constitute hard evidence of who was responsible for the attacks.