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Obama did not deny requests for help in Benghazi: Aide

Olivier Knox, Yahoo News
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President Barack Obama talks with supporters after arriving in Manchester, N.H. for a campaign stop Saturday (Winslow …

The White House on Saturday flatly denied that President Barack Obama withheld requests for help from the besieged American compound in Benghazi, Libya, as it came under on attack by suspected terrorists on September 11th.

"Neither the president nor anyone in the White House denied any requests for assistance in Benghazi," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told Yahoo News by email.

Fox News Channel reported Friday that American officials in the compound repeatedly asked for military help during the assault but were rebuffed by CIA higher-ups. At a press briefing one day earlier, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, asked why there had not been a quicker, more forceful response to the assault, complained of "Monday-morning quarterbacking." Panetta said he and top military commanders had judged it too dangerous to send troops to the eastern Libyan city without a clearer picture of events on the ground.

The "basic principle is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on; without having some real-time information about what's taking place," he said during a joint question-and-answer session with Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey.

"As a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, General Ham, General Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation," Panetta said. General Carter Ham commands the U.S. Africa Command.

And the CIA has denied that anyone in its chain of command rejected requests for help from the besieged Americans.

But Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, in a post published Friday, doubted Panetta's explanation and said the fault must lie with Obama himself. "Would the secretary of defense make such a decision on his own? No," Kristol wrote. "It would have been a presidential decision."

"He's wrong," said Vietor.

On Friday, Obama himself forcefully denied deliberately misleading Americans about the attack in Benghazi, which claimed the lives of four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

CORRECTION 3:26 p.m.: An earlier version of this post confused the timing of the Fox News Channel report and Defense Secretary Panetta's remarks. Panetta's remarks came before the Fox report, not afterwards.

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