Panetta: 'You Don't Deploy Forces Into Harm's Way Without Knowing What's Going On'

October 26, 2012 - 7:04 AM

(CNSNews.com) - In the third and final presidential debate, President Obama responded to a question about what happened in Libya:

"Now, with respect to Libya, as I indicated in the last debate, when we received that phone call, I immediately made sure that, number one, we did everything we could to secure those Americans who were still in harm’s way..."

But subsequent reports -- and Obama's own defense secretary -- indicate the Obama administration -- fearing the risk involved -- did not do enough to "secure those Americans who were still in harm's way."

State Department emails obtained by Fox News indicate that two Navy SEALS, who fled to an annex about a mile away from the consulate in Benghazi, were alive more than six hours after the initial attack on the consulate. Those SEALS managed to hold off their attackers until a mortar shell fired into the annex killed them around 4 a.m. local time.

Fox News reports that "sometime after 1:30 a.m. (local time), a team of reinforcements arrived in Benghazi  from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.  "They made their way to the annex, but according to reports, they were going into an ambush," Fox's Greg Palkot reported.

Where were U.S. Special Forces?

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday told a Pentagon briefing, "We -- we quickly responded, as General Dempsey said, in terms of deploying forces to the region. We had FAST platoons in the region. We had ships that we had deployed off of Libya. And we were prepared to respond to any contingency and certainly had forces in place to do that.

"But -- but the basic principle here -- basic principle is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on; without having some real-time information about what's taking place. And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, General Ham, General Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation."

CBS News reported on Thursday that an unarmed predator drone was diverted to Benghazi two and a half hours after the attack began, and another unarmed drone was sent four hours and 15 minutes later. CBS said those were the only U.S. military forces sent to the scene.

Although Special Forces were dispatched from Europe to an air field in Sicily, CBS said they didn't get there until the Benghazi attack was over.

Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, died during the terror attack that began around 10 p.m. local time at the consulate and later spread to the annex where the SEALS were holed up.