Defense response comes after CIA and NSC denials.
Following a pair of denials by the CIA and the National Security Council to a Fox News story published Friday, the Pentagon has come under scrutiny for its response to the assault on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. However, in a statement to The Atlantic Wire, a senior defense official says the Pentagon never rejected requests for military intervention in Benghazi. Not only that, the official said no such requests were ever made.
"The Pentagon took action by moving personnel and assets in the region shortly after it learned of the attack on the Benghazi consulate," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There was no request made for military intervention in Benghazi. To be successful, such an operation, if requested, would have required solid information about what was happening on the ground. Such clarity just wasn't available as the attack was unfolding."
The statement follows a loud outcry from conservative critics in wake of a report by Fox News that armed CIA operatives near the U.S. compound in Benghazi were repeatedly told to "stand down" after asking for permission to assist on the night of Sept. 11. According to Fox News national security reporter Jennifer Griffin, former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a CIA outfit one mile away from the U.S. compound housing Ambassador Chris Stevens. "When he and others heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out," reported Griffin. "They were told to 'stand down,' ... Soon after, they were again told to 'stand down.'" The report also said that repeated requests for outside military backup were denied.
But the report did not say who denied those requests. Was it the CIA? The Pentagon? The White House? Critics of the administration want to know in their efforts to assign blame for the tragedy. On Monday morning, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough asked that very question to President Obama who said the matter was still under investigation and he couldn't give further comment. "If we find out we that there was a big breakdown, and somebody didn't do their job, they'll be held accountable," he said. Meanwhile, the agencies involved with the Benghazi attack have been issuing independent denials.
On Friday, the CIA was the first agency to issue a denial. "No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate," said CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood.
That denial led some to allege that the White House itself denied the requests for backup. On Saturday, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor dismissed those accusations in an email to Yahoo News' Oliver Knox. "Neither the president nor anyone in the White House denied any requests for assistance in Benghazi," he said.
With the CIA and White House denials in place, speculation shifted to the Pentagon.
Read the rest of this story at The Atlantic Wire.