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Rosen Reports Newly Declassified Benghazi Testimony At Odds with White House Reaction
Rep. Wenstrup’s Questioning Confirms DOD, White House Discrepancy over Attack’s Origination
Newly declassified testimony from military leaders describing 2012’s Benghazi consulate attack confirms top Department of Defense officials knew the incident was a “terrorist attack” as it was unfolding, questioning from Congressman Brad Wenstrup reveals.
James Rosen, first to report on the declassified transcripts, observed:
“Ham's declassified testimony further underscores that Obama's earliest briefing on Benghazi was solely to the effect that the incident was a terrorist attack, and raises once again the question of how the narrative about the offensive video, and a demonstration that never occurred, took root within the White House as the explanation for Benghazi.”
In the just released testimony, Wenstrup, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve and Iraq War veteran, pressed military leaders over whether they immediately recognized the incident as a protest or terrorist attack.
“This testimony is a big step towards finding answers: it reveals a real discrepancy between the Department of Defense and the White House.” Wenstrup said as the testimony was declassified. “It’s clear our military leaders, as they were advising the White House, recognized what was unfolding in Benghazi as a terrorist attack. No one in the chain of command was calling it a demonstration.”
“The question we’re still asking is, why did Susan Rice tell the American people nearly a week later that our ambassador was killed over a Youtube video? Why was the White House trying to obscure the terrorist element of this attack?” Wenstrup asked.
During a June 26, 2013, briefing, Wenstrup questioned General Carter Ham, head of AFRICOM (covering Libya) during the attack:
WENSTRUP: "As a military person, I am concerned that someone in the military would be advising that this was a demonstration. I would hope that our military leadership would be advising that this was a terrorist attack."
HAM: "Again, sir, I think, you know, there was some preliminary discussion about, you know, maybe there was a demonstration. But I think at the command, I personally and I think the command very quickly got to the point that this was not a demonstration, this was a terrorist attack."
WENSTRUP: "And you would have advised as such if asked. Would that be correct?"
HAM: "Well, and with General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta, that is the nature of the conversation we had, yes, sir."
Later, in a July 31 briefing, Wenstrup pressed Marine Corps Col. George Bristol, commander of AFRICOM's Joint Special Operations Task Force, on how military leadership was referring to the attack as it unfolded:
WENSTRUP: "So no one from the military was ever advising, that you are aware of, that this was a demonstration gone out of control, it was always considered an attack -"
BRISTOL: "Yes, sir."
WENSTRUP: "-- on the United States?"
BRISTOL: "Yes, sir. ... We referred to it as the attack."
This testimony comes as the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations releases newly declassified transcripts from six classified hearings on Benghazi throughout 2013, available in full here. The HASC Oversight & Investigations majority Members plan to release a report summarizing the series of briefings later this week.