All-Star Panel: Breaking down CIA account of Benghazi attack

All-Star panel weighs in



VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: From this podium I'm not going to be speaking about any aspect of the requirement to bring to justice those who were responsible for the Benghazi attack. I'm not going to speak about our conversations with other governments. I'm not going to speak about what we're learning or who we may be pursuing along with the Libyans.


BAIER: There was not a lot coming out of the State Department today on a lot of questions about Benghazi. That was a question about the access to the suspect in Tunisia, which now the FBI will get access to. Thanks in part, we're told to Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, who pressured the Tunisians, first by letter , then by phone call. And now the FBI is getting access.

So, why now? This as the CIA brought reporters in to brief them on their timeline. After our reporting about what happened in the early hours after the attack started. We were not invited to that briefing. But we're back with our panel. Bill, what about this story? I know you think Governor Romney should talk about it. But let's get the broad perspective.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: He should, just to finish that point because I think if he doesn't talk about it, voters will say it's so complicated, it was a screw-up but everyone screws up. He has to make clear that he takes it seriously enough to raise it in one of the speeches he is giving in the last few days.

The story itself, the president said he issued a directive that evening in the White House that everything should be done to rescue our men in Benghazi. It is perfectly reasonable for us to ask him two months later to whom did you issue the directive, was it written or was it in a meeting? Where was the meeting?  Who was in the meeting? And what was done to follow up on that directive? And are you satisfied with what was done? It may be that we did everything or that we could, it may be that the defense assets weren't in place to move in. It may be that we thought the CIA guys from Tripoli would get out – the guys in Benghazi. Everyone understands these are complicated decisions. But we are entitled, I really do believe this, we are entitled to an account of what the decisions were made and what the follow-up was within the White House on that evening.

BAIER: I just want to explain about our reporting, Jennifer Griffin's reporting about the stand-down. The CIA now says it took 24 minutes for the -- from the start of the attack for Tyrone Woods and five other CIA operators in the annex, that's about a mile away from the consulate, to respond. They said they were waiting for the Libya militia to get their weapons ready. Our source, very knowledgeable that we trust, said that they could have left much sooner but they were told to stand down. And the timing is different. The CIA said that there could have been a misunderstanding in that communication. They say it was 24 minutes.

Kirsten, U.S. intelligence informed senior leaders as early as 7:00 p.m. eastern time. Less than four hours after start of the attack. That Ansar al-Sharia tied to Al Qaeda, carried out this attack.

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Well, not only that, but they also surrounded the hospital where Ambassador Stevens' body was. Now if you look at the CIA timeline that now has been released they knew that Ansar al-Sharia had surrounded the hospital. So where did the video story come from? These things just aren't connected if they knew that. And then let's just talk about the spoon-feeding of this story from various [INAUDIBLE] outlets --

BAIER: Let's just stop right there.


BAIER: So, if you go to the video story, then you have over the next few days, this video story -- we talk about Susan Rice, what she says on the Sunday shows, but what the president says out on the multiple shows – but then on September 25, he goes to the United Nations and does the video, tied to the video -- the anti- Islamic video, six times in that speech. Now this is four hours after the attack. Intelligence, up to senior leaders saying, it's Ansar al-Sharia tied to Al Qaeda.

POWERS: Well, I think what the administration would say on the e-mails that they got saying well, that was just sort of speculation.

BAIER: This is the CIA timeline.

POWERS: Right, but now it's in the CIA timeline when – even that they had surrounded the hospitals. So it wasn't just speculations that we know for a fact --


POWERS: I was going to say -- the main problem with this story that has been spoon fed, it's suppose to be a diversionary tactic basically, with a bunch of information answering questions that nobody's ever asked. They are not even of concern to anybody really. David Ignatius is saying –

BAIER: From the Washington Post.

POWERS: -- well, the CIA bungled but there is no conspiracy. Nobody said there was a conspiracy. They said there was incompetence and then lying. That is a big difference between those things. And so it's like by saying, oh there is no conspiracy, story is over. Everybody just move along. But nobody says there is a conspiracy, they said there was incompetence.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What makes a mockery of this whole pretense they didn't learn it was an insurgent attack and a terrorist attack until later is the president in the second debate boasting that he had called it terror attack on day one. So that undermines the entire story. Because then they spent the next two weeks talking about a video and denying Susan Rice and others. So their own version of it is completely contradictory.

And then there is the other aspect of it, the warnings ignored. We've been learning from your reporting, Jennifer's reporting all the way through is that there were warnings upon warning, emergency meeting August 15. Not a regular, emergency meeting in which they were warned they had no protection and they are trying to get help.

And then we learn in the recent releases that one of the – the force -- I think it was the 417, that was supposed to be the locals, the local militia that was supposed to be on their side, that the guy, one of their guys who was taking pictures of the compound I think on the same day, which was as large a warning as you could have. So it gave them a few hours to see, there was no way to rely on the force.  And the CIA explanation for the stand-down and the half-hour delay it was that they were trying to get in contact with Libyan protectors, but there were none and they were actually defecting to the other side against us.

BAIER: We will have, something tells me, more opportunities to talk about this topic. That is it for the panel. But stay tuned to see a few copycats.