The continuation of a false narrative for weeks after the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead is "not understandable and is not forgivable," former director of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency Gen. Michael Hayden told Newsmax TV.
Hayden, in an exclusive interview, said he's been in the shoes of the State Department staff who had to deal with the aftermath of the Benghazi terrorist attacks. Knowing what they were going through, he tells Newsmax that he doesn't want to accuse anyone of wrongdoing in how they handled the situation while it was ongoing – or immediately afterward.
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But he is curious about why so few options were available in the first place and why the State Department and the White House weeks later were sticking with the narrative of a demonstration over a video.
"I’ve been in these kinds of circumstances where if you’ve got a worldview, if you’ve got a narrative that you believe in, you try to make the facts presented to you fit the narrative," Hayden said. "I fear there may have been some people in our government who kind of fell into that trap in the days after Benghazi, which is understandable and, frankly, forgivable, and then in the weeks after Benghazi, which is not understandable and is not forgivable."
"Anyone like me who saw those events would quickly conclude it was a terrorist attack," Hayden said. "It was fairly complex, synchronized, direct and indirect fire weapons on multiple locations, and it took place in a part of Libya that was the heartland of the Libyan Islamic fighting group."
"I mean, the immediate explanation that this was a bad movie review, that just beggared comprehension," he said.
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You don’t have to do anything bad or stupid or unwise for bad things to happen, he said. He's more concerned with what happened before and after the Benghazi events.
Wednesday's testimony touched on that, he said, but added that more questions need to be answered.
"If you had this very short menu of very bad choices to make during the event, why is that? Why do you put people in harm’s way the way we did when there was solid intelligence that Benghazi was very dangerous?" he said. "And then, afterward, I guess I would say don’t treat me like a child. It’s very obvious as to what happened here so give me some clarity, rather than obfuscating what really happened on the ground."
In a report three months after the events, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and Ambassador Thomas Pickering concluded that, indeed, few options were available, and Hayden said he believes, after hearing Wednesday's testimony, that everyone on the ground did exactly what they should have.
"They were choosing from a short list of very bad options," Hayden said. "My point is, why is there only a short list of very bad options? Why did you create the circumstances in which there was almost nothing that could be done to save the ambassador and the other individuals?"
When he was head of the National Security Agency every intelligence report was sent with his name on it regardless of whether he personally knew about it, so he isn't surprised that some had then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's name on them.
Still, the report by Mullen and Pickering found "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies."
There were lots of mistakes in Benghazi, Hayden said, "The question is, just at what level were they finalized?"
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