Republicans hoping to get to the truth of when President Barack Obama knew the Benghazi attack was an act of terrorism have been foiled by congressional investigators' failure to ask the right questions to pinpoint a timeline, according to The Washington Times.
GOP members of the House Committee on Armed Services last month released classified testimony on the military response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate and CIA annex on the Libyan city.
The attack killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, including two former Navy SEALs. Five days later, Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told five Sunday morning talk shows that the incident began as a peaceful protest against an anti-Muslim film that was "hijacked" by militants.
The transcripts revealed that on the day of the attacks, Army Gen. Carter Ham, then head of the U.S. Africa Command, told then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, that the CIA mission was probably being besieged by terrorists.
Ham's statement has fueled GOP claims that Obama must have known that same day that it was terrorism and not a spontaneous protest over a U.S.-made anti-Muslim video.
But the House oversight subcommittee never asked Ham whether he had told Panetta and Dempsey of his conclusions before the pair went to the White House and talked with the president, or when they had returned to the Pentagon that day and had spoken further to Ham.
A transcript of Dempsey's testimony revealed that despite Ham's testimony, he was never asked how he had described the attack to the president.
Although Panetta did not testify before that committee, he did appear before a Senate committee hearing in February 2013.
He stated that at first he was not aware of the reason behind the attack, but when he learned that rocket-propelled grenades and mortars were being used and that the CIA annex was under siege, "There was no question in my mind it was a terrorist attack."
According to the Times, the timeline would mean that Panetta did not know it was conducted by terrorists until after he had met with the president on Sept. 11.
But at the hearing, Panetta said that three days after the incident he'd told a private Senate committee meeting on the Syrian crisis that "it was a terrorist attack."
That was two days before Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday political shows. On Sept. 19, three days after Rice's appearances, an administration official, Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a Senate committee that it was terrorism.
However, Obama continued to blame an anti-Muslim video protest for the attacks for at least two weeks after they had taken place, the Times added.
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