Where Was Obama on Night of Benghazi Attack? WH Isn’t Saying

February 11, 2013 - 12:20 PM

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President Barack Obama. (AP).

(CNSNews.com) – The White House isn’t saying where President Barack Obama was, what he did or whom he spoke to between 5:30 p.m. Sept. 11, 2012—when he finished a meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, which took place while the Benghazi terrorist attacks were unfolding—and 11:26 p.m. that night, which is approximately the time former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed in the attacks.

According to timelines of the Benhazi attacks released by the government, they began at 3:42 p.m. Washington, D.C. time when dozens of armed terrorists swarmed through a gate at the State Department’s compound in Benghazi. A U.S. security officer at that compound almost immediately notified the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, which in turn notified Washington, D.C.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, were informed of the attack at 4:32 p.m. while they were at the White House waiting for a pre-scheduled 5:00 p.m. meeting with the president.  According to government timelines, an unarmed Defense Department drone arrived over the State Department compound in Benghazi at about 5:10 p.m., while Panetta and Dempsey were meeting with Obama.

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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey. (AP)

In his testimony in the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, Panetta said he informed the president at their 5:00 p.m. meeting of what was going on in Benghazi. Gen. Dempsey testified that the meeting lasted a half hour. Panetta and Dempsey also testified that after the meeting ended they did not talk to President Obama or the White House again that night.

Almost six hours elapsed between the end of the Panetta-Dempsey-Obama meeting and the deaths of Woods and Doherty at the CIA’s Annex in Benghazi.

At about 5:30 p.m., when the Panetta-Dempsey-Obama meeting ended, the five State Department security officers, who had been at the Benghazi mission compound when it came under attack, fled the compound in an armored car to go the CIA Annex. They came under fire, were covered by CIA security officers as they evacuated the compound, and evaded an ambush between the compound and the Annex.

The timelines indicate that terrorists continued to fire on the Annex until about 7:00 p.m. Washington, D.C. time, or about an hour and a half after the Panetta-Dempsey-Obama meeting ended. From 7:00 p.m. until about 11:15 p.m., there was a break in the fighting. But at 11:15 p.m., after a rescue team of security personnel had arrived at the Annex after taking a chartered private flight from Tripoli to Benghazi, the terrorists attacked again.

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Gen. Martin Dempsey, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. (AP)

This battle lasted about 11 minutes. It was during this time—about six hours since Obama’s sole conversation with Panetta and Dempsey--that Woods and Doherty were killed by a terrorist mortar and a State Department security officer was severely wounded.

On Friday morning, CNSNews.com called the White House press office to inquire about where President Obama was, what he was doing, and who he was communicating with, after 5:30 p.m. on the night of Sept. 11, 2012. At 10:29 a.m. on Friday, CNSNews.com followed up by emailing questions to the White House press office.

On Friday afternoon, CNSNews.com additionally followed up by calling the White House National Security Council press office and also emailing that office the questions. CNSNews.com also followed up on Friday afternoon by again calling the White House Press Office and emailing the questions again to that office.

Here are the questions CNSNews.com asked the White House:

1.) Where was President Obama between 5:30 p.m. when his meeting with Panetta and Dempsey ended and 11:26 p.m., when the terrorist attacks on the U.S. personnel in Benghazi finally stopped?

2.) What was President Obama doing between 5:30 p.m. when his meeting with Panetta and Dempsey ended and 11:26 p.m. when terrorist attacks on the U.S. personnel in Benghazi finally stopped?

3.) Who did President Obama communicate with between 5:30 p.m. when his meeting with Panetta and Dempsey ended and 11:26 p.m. when the terrorist attacks on the U.S. personnel in Benghazi finally stopped?

4.) Why didn't President Obama speak with Panetta or Dempsey again that night after their 5:30 p.m. meeting ended?

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President Obama and then-Secretary of state Hillary Clinton meet with family members of the 4 Americans killed in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. (AP)

On Monday morning, CNSNews.com followed up yet again by phoning the White House press office and the National Security Council press office and emailing them the questions again. The White House press office Monday morning confirmed receiving the questions but did not have a timetable for when it could provide answers.

At a hearing last week in the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R.-N.H.) asked Defense Secretary Panetta: “Did you have any further communications with him [Obama] that night?”

“No,” said Panetta.

“Did you have any other further communications? Did he ever call you that night to say how are things going, what’s going on, where’s the consulate?” asked Ayotte.

“No,” said Panetta. “But we were aware as we were getting information about what was taking place there, particularly when we got information that the ambassador, his life had been lost, we were aware that that information went to the White House.”

“Did you communicate with anyone else at the White House that night?” asked Ayotte.

“No,” said Panetta.

“No one else called you to say: How are things going?” asked Ayotte.

“No,” said Panetta.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) followed up to verify with Panetta and Dempsey that they did not talk to Obama on the night of the attack except in their one half hour meeting. The two reconfirmed.

On CBS’s Face the Nation, Graham said that the nominations of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense and John Brennan to be CIA director should not go forward until senators know more about what Obama did on the night of Sept. 11.

“We know nothing about what the president did on the night of Sept. 11 during a time of national crisis, and the American people need to know what their commander in chief did, if anything, during this eight-hour attack,” Graham told CBS on Sunday.

“I don't think we should allow Brennan to go forward for the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed to secretary of defense until the White House gives us an accounting,” said Sen. Graham. “What did he do that night? That's not unfair. The families need to know, the American people need to know.”