When Did Obama First Meet with NSC After Benghazi? WH Isn't Saying

October 15, 2012 - 2:48 PM

Jay Carney

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The White House isn't saying when President Barack Obama first met with his National Security Council to discuss the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including U.S. Amb. Chris Stevens.

On Monday, CNSNews.com asked the White House: “‘At what hour on what day did President Obama first meet with the National Security Council to discuss what had happened in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012?”

The NSC is chaired by the president, and includes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

A NSC meeting would allow the leader of the intelligence community to communicate directly with the leader of the State Department in the presence of the president and for all of them to weigh any conflicting information.

On Monday morning, CNSNews.com called the White House, which asked for the question to be e-mailed. CNSNews.com then e-mailed the question at 9:01 a.m.

At 10:36 a.m., Bernadette Meehan, director of media outreach and assistant press secretary for the National Security Staff at the White House, responded by e-mail, “Jay will be ready to respond to this in the gaggle today,” referring to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who was at the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., where the president is preparing for the second presidential debate.

According to the official White House transcript of the press gaggle that began at 10:47 a.m. and ended at 11:19 a.m., the subject of Benghazi never came up. The questions that reported did ask were mostly about the presidential campaign and Tuesday's debate between Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney at Hoffstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

CNSNews.com followed up with Meehan, explaining that the question of when the president first met with the NSC about Benghazi did not come up and asking for a White House response to the question. Meehan did not respond.

After the Benghazi attack on Sept. 11 this year--the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon--Obama administration officials suggested it spontaneously grew out of a protest against a YouTube video.

However, last week, State Department officials testified to Congress that the department never concluded the Benghazi attack resulted from the YouTube video.

In a Fox News Sunday interview, Obama campaign senior advisor David Axelrod did not give a direct answer when asked how soon President Barack Obama met with the NSC after the Benghazi attack.

During the interview, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked about the testimony last week from Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary for international programs with the bureau of diplomatic security for the State Department.

Lamb told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that she was in real-time communication with people on the ground in Benghazi.

“So, there was a difference of opinion between what the intelligence community was saying and what the State Department was saying,” Wallace said.

“The State Department officials said that was never our conclusion that there was a spontaneous protest, which raises the question--how soon after the attack did the president meet with the National Security Council, with people from State, with people from the--the director of national intelligence, with all of the various people to try to sort out what happened in Benghazi?” he asked.

That was Wallace’s first unsuccessful attempt to get an answer.

“Look, we are sorting out what happened there,” Axelrod answered. “Understand that the president the day after the attack called it an act of terror and charged everyone with responsibility to get to the bottom of what happened, why, and as the first order of business, to make sure we bring to justice the terrorists who were responsible for this act.

“So, the president has reacted as you would want him to react to this, but just getting back to your point on the State Department,” Axelrod said.

Axelrod continued, “You talked about the State Department spokesman--you had representatives of the State Department testifying under oath this week before Congress, and they said what I said to you, which is that anyone, based on this intelligence that they had at the time, would have said what the administration said, what Ambassador Rice said, the day after the attack.”

Axelrod did not say what State Department representative he was referring to, but Carney has twice referenced the testimony of Pat Kennedy, under secretary for management at the State Department.

Kennedy told the oversight committee, “No one in the administration has claimed to know all the answers. We have always made clear that we are giving the best information we have at the time. And that information has evolved. For example, if any administration official, including any career official, were on television on Sunday, Sept. 16, they would have said what Ambassador Rice said.

“The information she had at that point from the intelligence community is the same that I had at that point,” Kennedy added.

Wallace followed up during the Sunday interview with reference to Obama’s trip to Las Vegas one day after the attack for a campaign event.

“The president made a statement, and then he went off to a fundraiser or to a campaign stop in Nevada,” Wallace said.

“Question, before he went to the fundraiser in Nevada, did he meet with his National Security Council to try to sort out the shifting stories, because State said they never said it was a spontaneous demonstration and intel did, you are quite right--did he meet with the National Security Council before he went to campaigning in Nevada?” he added.

Axelrod’s responded, “Chris, I assure you that the president was in contact with all those who had information and responsibility in the national security chain about this incident.

“Again, let me stress, there isn't anyone on this planet who feels a greater sense of responsibility for our diplomats, for our service people, who takes this more personally than the president of the United States. And he's determined to get to the bottom of what happened, to bring these killers to justice, these terrorists to justice and to make sure that whatever adjustments we have to make we make,” Axelrod said.