The Associated Press gave Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) space to parrot tired Benghazi myths about military aid and President Obama's whereabouts the night of the attacks in its coverage of the congressman's recent speech in New Hampshire.
On February 18, the Associated Press detailed Issa's criticisms of the Obama administration during a New Hampshire speech, highlighting Issa's accusation that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta refused to send military aid to Americans under attack in Benghazi in September 2012 and his suggestion that Obama was absent as the administration planned its response to the attacks:
Issa said that Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta were accountable as the "top two informed individuals who were awake."
"They didn't react," he said, adding later, "We need to find out from Secretary Clinton, why in the world you wouldn't have insisted that (security forces) be moving and providing support."
Rather than acknowledge that Issa's claims have been soundly discredited, AP prefaced his remarks with the vague disclaimer, "Democrats complain that the continued focus on the Benghazi attack, in particular, is a political stunt designed to weaken Clinton should she run for president."
And yet, Issa's claim that Clinton and Panetta "didn't react" that night, which AP takes at face value, has been called "cartoonish" by military leaders, who have repeatedly testified that the response represented the best of our military's capabilities.
All available military assets were deployed to Benghazi during the attacks. In fact, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence credited these responding personnel with saving the lives of Americans that night, and went on to debunk the notion that more could have been done, finding "there were no U.S. military resources in position to intervene in short order in Benghazi to help defend the temporary mission facility."
Indeed, Panetta ordered the Marine Corps' Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST), stationed in Spain, to deploy to Libya "as fast as you can" after the first attack began. But the unit encountered logistical issues, as former diplomatic security agent Fred Burton and journalist Samuel M. Katz explained:
There was never a question concerning U.S. resolve or the overall capabilities of the U.S. military to respond to Benghazi. There was, however, nothing immediate about an immediate response. There were logistics and host-nation approvals to consider. An immediate response was hampered by the equation of geography and logistics.
As Panetta testified in a 2013 hearing, "there was not enough time, given the speed of the attack, for armed military assets to respond."
Robert Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense during the Bush and Obama administrations, said in a May interview that the idea military assets could have arrived in Benghazi more quickly represented a "cartoonish impression of military capabilities." According to Gates, getting a force to Benghazi from outside the country "in a timely way would have been very difficult if not impossible." He also explained that "given the number of surface to air missiles that have disappeared from Qaddafi's arsenals I would not have approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft, over Benghazi under those circumstances."
Other military experts, like Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs retired Admiral Mike Mullen, agree that the military did everything they could that night.
What's more, Issa's suggestion that Obama was absent the night of the Benghazi attack has been also been repeatedly debunked, both by Panetta and Dempsey, who testified that Obama's staff "was engaged with the national military command center pretty constantly" throughout the attack.
Notably, AP itself has previously reported that Panetta and Dempsey were meeting with Obama when they learned of the attack and that Obama responded immediately, telling them to "deploy forces as quickly as possible."