Jennifer Griffen @ Fox News:
After more than nine weeks of trying to reconcile their story line with that of the State Department and the CIA, the Pentagon finally released its timeline of the Libya terror attack during a Friday afternoon, off-camera briefing with an official who could only be quoted anonymously.
The news was overtaken almost immediately by the announcement that Gen. David Petraeus had resigned, purportedly due to an extramarital affair. He was slated to testify in closed-door hearings on Capitol Hill this coming week before the Senate and House intelligence committees. Petraeus no longer plans to testify.
However, while the Petraeus resignation has since dominated attention in Washington, an examination of the military’s version of events reveals a number of discrepancies and gaps worth closer scrutiny.
THE FIRST DISCREPANCY
The Defense Department timeline on the night of Sept. 11 begins at 9:42 p.m. local time and states, “The incident starts at the facility in Benghazi.”
Right from the start, the Pentagon and the CIA timelines do not match. (The CIA timeline, which was released on Nov. 1, states that at 9:40 p.m., “A senior State Department security officer at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi called the CIA annex and requested assistance.”)
A source at the CIA annex that night told Fox News that when they first asked to go and help, they were told to wait.
Within 17 minutes of the start of the attack, AFRICOM commander Gen. Carter Ham, who happens to be visiting Washington and was in the Pentagon that day, redirects an unarmed, unmanned drone to Benghazi.
PANETTA AND DEMPSEY ARE ALERTED 50 MINUTES AFTER ATTACK
At 10:32 p.m. (4:32 p.m. in Washington), 50 minutes after the incident began, the National Military Command Center, which is the operations center at the Pentagon where Ham is overseeing the operation, notifies Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.
That means for nearly an hour, no one told the defense secretary and Joint Chiefs chairman that a U.S. ambassador is in peril and his personal security officer has pressed his “personal distress button” which sends an SMS signal back to the command authority in the U.S. and a U.S. embassy has been overrun by attackers.
A CIA team left for the consulate at 10:04 p.m. — 28 minutes before the Pentagon says Panetta and Dempsey were told the attack had occurred.
Sources at the CIA annex in Benghazi told Fox News in an interview on Oct. 25 that they asked permission to leave for the consulate immediately and twice were told to wait. The CIA says the base chief was trying to arrange Libyan help.
PREVIOUSLY SCHEDULED MEETING WITH PRESIDENT: 78 MINUTES AFTER ATTACK
At 5 p.m. in Washington, D.C. (11 p.m. in Libya), nearly an hour and a half after the attack began, according to the Pentagon’s timeline, “Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey attend a previously scheduled meeting with the President at the White House.”
The attack has already been under way for 78 minutes, but no rescue forces from outside Libya have yet been mobilized.
By 5:30 p.m. (11:30 p.m. in Libya), all surviving American personnel are rescued by the CIA annex team and leave the consulate for the CIA annex. From 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Pentagon, Panetta, Dempsey and Ham meet to discuss additional response options.
MORE CALLS FOR HELP
Upon returning to the annex, the CIA team and those that were rescued immediately begin taking fire and at midnight, according to sources on the ground that night, begin making radio calls for help and air support. Almost immediately, they begin taking fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
According to a senior U.S. defense official, “This was not one long continuous fight, but two separate incidents at two separate facilities with some separation of time.”
However, British sources who were near the consulate and annex that night tell a different story, saying there was almost continuous fire on the annex after the team fled from the consulate.
Sometime over the next two hours, according to the official Pentagon timeline, Panetta gives the “go code” for two Marine FAST (Fleet Anti-terrorism Security) teams to prepare to leave Rota, Spain. A Special Operations force which is training in Central Europe is told to “prepare to deploy to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe (Sigonella, Sicily), and a Special Operations team in the U.S. is told to prepare to deploy to Sigonella as well.
It isn’t until 2:53 a.m. (about five hours after the incident began) that those orders are formalized by Panetta and the teams are told they can leave.
TEAM LANDS AT SIGONELLA 20 HOURS LATER