Chris Matthews On Benghazi: "Where Were The People That Could Have Come? I'm Going To Ask That Question Until I Get An Answer"


CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me go to Brandon first. I guess this is the question that gets to me. If you're out there pinned down and the word gets back to Washington in real time at the National Security Agency or the national security desk, why didn't we try to send somebody from somewhere? What happened?

BRANDON WEB: Hi, Chris. I think people need to understand this is a situation where as much as the people on the ground working with the State Department in Libya knew that the threat was there and requested the security, the State Department just wasn't prepared to deal with this situation. And by being prepared, you have a list of things that when something goes wrong like this you go down that list and you make certain phone calls and notify certain people. And that just wasn't the case. They had numbers from the DoD that had expired. Then you run into a situation where these agencies, the CIA, the State Department, and the military don't necessarily talk to each other and are in communications as much as you'd think.

MATTHEWS: You know, as an American, that doesn't work for me. The president, the National Security Agency people, are sitting in the White House 24/7, there's officers on deck. They're getting an instantaneous report of what's going on there. What weren't they looking at in terms of assets that could have been sent? Where was the U.S. cavalry, to use an American image? Where were the people that could have come or that tried to get there within however many hours it took to save the lives of the people still living. Where were they and why couldn't they do it? I'm going to ask that question until I get an answer.

WEBB: I agree. I mean, there's some blame on the Secretary of Defense. Our sources say that Obama, before he left on that campaign trip, told Panetta, you do everything you can to save those people. So, I think a lot of people in the military are wondering that were sitting there standing by ready to go, why wasn't the call sent down to send those folks in? But a lot of people need to understand, you know, when you add the CIA and the heroes that went on their own, took their own initiative.

MATTHEWS: T hat's what I'm impressed by, then you hear about the guys who got in there, grabbed their uniform, grabbed their weapons, got on a plane and they were stopped en route. I mean, that's unbelievable! People who were like volunteer fire department racing to save their colleagues, and what happened to them?

WEBB: Well, I think that, you know, the two heroes of the day are Glen Doherty and Ty Woods, the two Navy SEALS/CIA contractors that were taking the initiative that day along with the JSOC, or the Joint Special Operations Command, troops that were on the ground that noticed, you know, having worked in that military system, noticing that help isn't on the way and took their own initiative to go in there and rescue these folks, and you know, largely, most of the Americans in Benghazi were evacuated, and, you know, relatively few lives were lost, other than the Ambassador, Sean Smith, and the two Navy SEALS.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Jay Newton-Small, about the politics of this thing. I know it's a hot opportunity for the Republicans, but my interest is on facts, and the questions I have about this are what was the State Department's role in real time, not beforehand, but at the time of the attack in defending the lives of their people, especially the U.S. ambassador, who was a friend, a friend of the Secretary of State's, Hillary Clinton? What was their actions, what was the tick-tock? What did they do when they got the warning of the attack?

JAY NEWTON-SMALL: Well, Hillary in her testimony before Congress said she was there, she was, you know, on the ground, in the State Department listening to the response in real time on the phone as it was happening, and so, she knew what was happening. But again, they also testified that there were waves of attacks, so they thought that, you know, after the first wave that things were quieting down. That's when they said, well, maybe we don't need to send help, and help was really far away. It wasn't like it was next door. It was several hours away in Italy, so --

MATTHEWS: But the fight went on for seven hours.

NEWTON-SMALL: Yeah, but then if you're doing it in waves, you think the attack is over and sending somebody is not going to help anymore, right? Then all of a sudden, they attack again.

MATTHEWS: I'm going to ask you something. If that what your brother or father in there, would you say that's an acceptable response? 'Oh, it's probably over by now, it's no good to send anybody.' Or would you say, 'I don't care if it's over or not, I'm going to collect the bodies if nothing else. I'm going to get there and show I cared.' That's what I'd do.

NEWTON-SMALL: These are questions that Hillary will have to answer if she runs for president in 2016 --

MATTHEWS: And the president and the National Security Adviser and everybody sitting in that Situation Room. We had lots of coverage of people when we killed bin Laden, we had a lot of coverage of that. There's a lot of photographers around during that. How come this is shrouded in mystery? What I can't understand is all these months later we're still trying to figure out what happened. I just want to know, as an American, what happened? Did everybody do what they were supposed to do? Did everybody make a really good desperate effort to save the lives of our people over there or didn't they? If they didn't, that's a problem, but I want an answer.

WEBB: I think the biggest problem, Chris, is the State Department's own security environment threat list lists Benghazi and Tripoli in the top ten of the most dangerous facilities the State Department has worldwide, and a lot of people don't realize, Tripoli was evacuated -- the embassy in Tripoli evacuated to the CIA compound too because they didn't have adequate security. So, a lot of blame falls on the State Department for just not being prepared to deal with the response, to communicate effectively to the military to get help. They really left their people hanging and I see --

MATTHEWS: Jay, are the Republicans doing this right? I mean, a broken clock can be right twice a day. I'm not a big fan of Darrell Issa because I think he's on staff for publicity half the time, but is it possible that we could hope that the Republicans and the Democrats on the committees when they look at this, will focus intently on the reasonable questions like why -- did we do as much as we could at the time? That's, to me, the most important question.

NEWTON-SMALL: These are questions that Hillary is absolutely going to have to put to rest and answer if she's going to ever run for president in 2016. It's a huge sort of black mark on her. She's going to have to, I mean, really answer and say what was she doing? Why wasn't help given? And when you look at her first term as Secretary of State or Obama's first term when she was Secretary of State, what were the achievements that she had? I mean, she normalized relations with Burma, but --

MATTHEWS: Well, those are larger questions. I don't want to open that one right now, but I just care about what happened that night, because I do think, I think that Lindsey Graham's on to something here. And I know he has to cover his rear end in terms of the right-wing in that primary challenge, but sometimes politics does coincide with reasonable government. Anyway, thank you, Brandon Webb and thank you, Jay Newton-Small. And thank you for your service, Mr. Webb. We'll be right back after this.

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