Mark Thompson, the State Department’s acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism, told Congress Wednesday that President Obama’s National Security Council refused his recommendation to deploy a military counterterrorism team to Benghazi.
Thompson told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he recommended the counterterrorism team’s deployment because it was clear to him that the Benghazi attack was being carried out by terrorists.
“When I heard that the situation had evolved to them going to a safe haven and then that we could not find the ambassador, I alerted my leadership that we needed to go forward and consider the deployment of the Foreign Emergency Support Team,” Thompson said during his opening statement.
“I notified the White House. They indicated that meetings had already taken place that evening [deciding against deployment],” Stevens added, explaining that he was told “it was not the right time and it was not the team that needed to go right then.”
FEST can only be deployed at the order of the National Security Council. FEST “is the United States Government’s only interagency, on-call, short-notice team poised to respond to terrorist incidents worldwide,” according to the State Department website.
Thompson emphasized that the team needed to deploy early in the evening in order to be effective because it would take so long to get to Libya.