OTR Interviews

McCain: Not enough was done to prevent Benghazi murders

Uncut: Sen. McCain believes more could have been done to save Benghazi terror victims and sounds off on Obama's drones program


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 7, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Today the Defense Department's top two leaders going to battle with Republican senator over the U.S. response to Benghazi.


LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There was no specific intelligence or indication of imminent attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi. And, frankly, without an adequate warning, there was not enough time given the speed of the attacks for armed military assets to respond.

The United States military, as I've said, is not and, frankly, should not be a 911 service capable of arriving on the scene within minutes to every possible contingency around the world.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Did you ever get the message that said they could not withstand a sustained attack on the consulate.


MCCAIN: Did you receive that information?


MCCAIN: So it didn't bother you?

DEMPSEY: It bothered me a great deal.


MCCAIN: Why not put forces in place to be ready to respond?

DEMPSEY: Because we never received the request to do so, number one, and number two --

MCCAIN: You never heard of Ambassador Stevens repeated warnings about the --

DEMPSEY: I had through General Hamm, but we never received a request for support from the State Department which would have allowed us to put--

MCCAIN: So it's the state department's fault?

DEMPSEY: I'm not blaming the state department.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Is there a saying in the military when you go into harm's way, we've got your back?

DEMPSEY: Of course, yes, sir.

GRAHAM: Don't you think that saying has been undermined here? How can people in the military, the foreign service believe we've got their back when after over -- do you know how long the attack was going to last, Secretary Panetta?

DEMPSEY: No idea.

GRAHAM: Well, it could have lasted for two days.


VAN SUSTEREN: We spoke with Senator McCain shortly after the hearing.


VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, sir.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: I realize today was the hearing with the secretary of defense and General Dempsey. I'm curious, though, do you know what the CIA was doing at that Benghazi conflict? What was their job?

MCCAIN: I do not know what their job was, and I'm sure it was gathering intelligence. But the thing that was really frustrating about it is, General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta, who I admire, basically said, well, there was nothing we could do.

It's 330 miles from the base in Crete to Benghazi. If we'd had assets there, they could have reacted. Remember, this attack lasted for seven hours, two of the Americans died in the last hour. And they alleged somehow this threat at the consulate in Benghazi was no different than many other places in the world. I am absolutely confident there was no place in the world where there was the attack on the British ambassador, the Red Cross closed, and on August 15th, a message that said they could not resist a sustained attack on the consulate. And yet there was no provision made to move any department of defense asset, either air or ground, anywhere near the consulate in Benghazi. That's reprehensible.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the reason that I ask you about the question what was the CIA doing is because one of the other issues that came up is arming of the Syrian rebels, a question that came up, and there had been a long controversy whether or not the United States was going to arm the Syrian rebels or not and who was on board and who wasn't on board. And there has been some suggestion that through that consulate that weapons were being sent through Turkey to the Syrians. And I'm curious whether or not that consulate was used to channel weapons to the Syrian rebels for one. And number two, what do you think about the response from General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta about weapons to Syrian rebels?

MCCAIN: Well, there were published reports that some of the arms were coming from Libya that were arriving for the resistance in Syria. But that information that we had was not through the United States government, but through other sources, but I'm not clear on that.

But the thing that's really astounding to me is that we had a hearing with Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey back in march, a year ago, and at that time some 7,000 Syrians had been killed. They both said at the time Bashar al Assad will fall inevitably. And we're now up to 60,000 who have been massacred, hundreds of thousands in refugee camps, a million displaced. The numbers are staggering.

But the thing that's really astounding to me is that we had a hearing with Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey supported sending arms to the Syrian resistance. How did we find that out? Because it was a "New York Times" story that revealed last week that both Secretary Clinton and General Petraeus then head of the CIA, had also advocated sending arms to the rebels and the resistance in Syria.

So now we have a situation where the entire national security team, secretary of defense, secretary of state, head of CIA, chairman of joint chiefs of staff, who all advocated sending weapons to these rebels so they could defend themselves, keeping in mind the Russians are supplying Assad, as is Iranians, including the Revolutionary Iranian Guard on the ground. So what happened? Obviously, the buck stopped with the president of the United States overruling the recommendation of the national security team that he appointed. It's really remarkable.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I a sort or related topic. Everybody knows that you say torture doesn't work. And the now the report about drones coming out of the Justice Department that Americans thought to be terrorists on foreign soil can be essentially disintegrated by drones. Your thought about this?

MCCAIN: My thought is two thoughts. One, because of this administration's policy, if you find a terrorist who is an American citizen of the United States then that person has to be read his or her Miranda rights. If that same person is overseas, then after a certain process, you can kill them. That doesn't -- that doesn't compute.

But my other thought is that should we have the CIA, Central Intelligence Agency, being the drones carrying out the drone strikes all over the Middle East, or should it be a military mission? If it were a military mission then there would be much greater disclosure and much greater oversight on the part of Congress. But instead we're now it seems turning an intelligence agency into the prime instruments or one of the prime instruments waging the war on terrorism and our efforts to subdue radical Islamic extremism. So it seems we've gotten things out of balance here.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on.