CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson — last heard from explaining that although her bosses have been supportive of her Benghazi reporting, her network’s shows and producers don’t seem interested — has chased down another major scoop. This time, she quotes unnamed White House officials admitting that administration leaders determined they would not deploy a counterterror response team to Benghazi from the get-go:
The Foreign Emergency Support Team known as “FEST” is described as “the US Government’s only interagency, on-call, short-notice team poised to respond to terrorist incidents worldwide.” It even boasts hostage-negotiating expertise. With U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens reported missing shortly after the Benghazi attacks began, Washington officials were operating under a possible hostage scenario at the outset. Yet deployment of the counterterrorism experts on the FEST was ruled out from the start. That decision became a source of great internal dissent and the cause of puzzlement to some outsiders.
Thursday, an administration official who was part of the Benghazi response told CBS News: “I wish we’d sent it.” The official said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy, Patrick Kennedy, quickly dispensed with the idea. A senior State Department official Thursday told CBS News, “Under Secretary Kennedy is not in the decision chain on FEST deployment” but would not directly confirm whether Kennedy or somebody else dismissed the FEST. [FEST leader] leader Mark Thompson says Benghazi was precisely the sort of crisis to which his team is trained to respond. While it was the State Department that’s said to have taken FEST off the table, the team is directed by the White House National Security Council.
So someone high up in the administration decided “from the start” that a FEST crew wouldn’t be sent to Benghazi, even though the team’s leader says his group was designed to handle exactly that sort of emergency. We don’t know who made the decision to shut down the FEST option, or why. These questions must be answered. The FEST chain of command resides inside the State Department and the White House. Attkisson reports that much like the Tripoli response team that was ordered to stand down twice, FEST members were shocked when their services weren’t required in Benghazi: Continue Reading