Pentagon releases Benghazi timeline
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WASHINGTON -- Elite U.S. Marines arrived in the Libyan capital more than 23 hours after the deadly Sept. 11 assault on a diplomatic mission in the city of Benghazi began, a Pentagon timeline released Friday shows.
A second team tasked with protecting Americans in the besieged eastern city was ultimately not deployed because it would have arrived after all Americans were evacuated, Pentagon officials explained.
The timeline, which added few new substantive details about the government's response to the attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound and the CIA station in Benghazi, appeared to represent an effort by the Pentagon to beat back criticism from Republicans who suggest the Obama administration could have done more to prevent the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. employees.
The timeline shows that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and senior defense officials learned about the siege on the rudimentary diplomatic outpost less than an hour after it began at 9:42 p.m. in Libya.
Roughly an hour and a half after the attack started, a U.S. unarmed surveillance drone arrived at the site.
After midnight, Mr. Panetta gave verbal approval to prepare two Marine anti-terrorism teams based in Rota, Spain, for deployments to Benghazi and Tripoli.
One made it to Tripoli, where it reinforced the embassy's security personnel.
State Department officials are scheduled to testify about the attack on Benghazi in five closed sessions on Capitol Hill next week.
The hearings begin Tuesday with one by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. David Petraeus, who resigned Friday as CIA director, had been listed as a witness before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the hearings are closed. The department's internal review of the Benghazi attack is expected to be complete next month.
Arizona Sen. John McCain and five other Republican senators who have criticized the administration's handling of the attack issued a statement Friday saying they weren't satisfied with Mr. Panetta's explanation.
"Unfortunately, Secretary Panetta's letter only confirms what we already knew -- that there were no forces at a sufficient alert posture in Europe, Africa or the Middle East to provide timely assistance to our fellow citizens in need in Libya," the senators said in the statement. "The letter fails to address the most important question -- why not?"
First Published November 10, 2012 12:00 am