CNN’s Candy Crowley interviewed outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey on “State of the Union” Sunday, asking the men a number of questions many Americans have been curious about for months.
What were the authorities doing for a reported seven hours, as Americans called for help? Why wasn’t a strike team mobilized sooner? And why does the administration keep citing bad intelligence, when they had people on the ground relaying information?
After Panetta said he will likely have the “opportunity” to testify on Benghazi before leaving office, he said (all subsequent emphasis added):
…Frankly, intelligence did not provide any warning that this, in fact, was going to happen. I mean, we deployed. We knew there were problems there. We moved forces into place where we could deploy them quickly if we had to. They were ready to go.
But very frankly by the time we got the information as to what in fact was taking place there, just distance alone made it very difficult to respond quickly. That’s just the nature of dealing with the Middle East.
After a discussion of where the nearest available assistance was– Crowley noting that they “had an ambassador telling people that it was trouble” before and during the attack– Panetta stated:
This is not 911. You cannot just simply call and expect within two minutes to have a team in place. It takes time. That’s the nature of it. Our people are there. They are in position to move, but we’ve got to have good intelligence that gives us a heads up that something is going to happen.
After questions about basic security at the consulate and what we should have done differently in retrospect (not much), Crowley finally snapped:
“Why isn’t there better intelligence? It’s not like the intelligence community is underfunded. And it seems like any time we come into something where it has been a tragedy, it’s always the intelligence community…So it seems like it’s always the CIA’s fault.”
Crowley did not ask about the infamous YouTube video, however, or reports claiming urgent requests for military backup were denied and that CIA operators were told to “stand down.”
However, the clip is still worth watching: