Sending additional forces into a foreign country always requires the president's approval. He was either absent, or refused "CBA".
When that meeting took place, it may have seemed as if the consulate attack was over, so President Obama might have thought the situation would stabilize on its own from that point forward. If he then goes upstairs to the family quarters, or otherwise makes himself “unavailable,” then his last standing orders will continue to stand until he changes them, even if he goes to sleep until the morning of September 12.
Perhaps the president left “no outside military intervention, no cross-border authority” standing orders, and then made himself scarce to those below him seeking further guidance, clarification, or modified orders. Or perhaps he was in the Situation Room watching the Predator videos in live time for all seven hours. We don’t yet know where the president was hour by hour.
But this is 100 percent sure: Panetta and Dempsey would have executed a rescue mission order if the president had given those orders.
And like the former SEALs in Benghazi, General Ham and all of the troops under him would have been straining forward in their harnesses, ready to go into battle to save American lives.
The execute orders would be given verbally to General Ham at AFRICOM in Stuttgart, but they would immediately be backed up in official message traffic for the official record. That is why cross-border authority is the King Arthur’s Sword for understanding Benghazi. The POTUS and only the POTUS can pull out that sword.
We can be 100% certain that cross-border authority was never given. How do I know this? Because if CBA was granted and the rescue mission execute orders were handed down, irrefutable records exist today in at least a dozen involved component commands, and probably many more. No general or admiral will risk being hung out to dry for undertaking a mission-gone-wrong that the POTUS later disavows ordering, and instead blames on “loose cannons” or “rogue officers” exceeding their authority. No general or admiral will order U.S. armed forces to cross an international border on a hostile mission unless and until he is certain that the National Command Authority, in the person of the POTUS and his chain of command, has clearly and explicitly given that order: verbally at the outset, but thereafter in written orders and official messages. If they exist, they could be produced today.
When it comes to granting cross-border authority, there are no presidential mumblings or musings to paraphrase or decipher. If you hear confusion over parsed statements given as an excuse for Benghazi, then you are hearing lies. I am sure that hundreds of active-duty military officers know all about the Benghazi execute orders (or the lack thereof), and I am impatiently waiting for one of them to come forward to risk his career and pension as a whistleblower.
General Petraeus, however, has indirectly blown the whistle. He was probably “used” in some way early in the cover-up with the purported CIA intel link to the Mohammed video, and now he feels burned. So he conclusively said via his public affairs officer that the stand-down order did not come from the CIA. Well — what outranks the CIA? Only the national security team at the White House. That means President Obama, and nobody else. Petraeus is naming Obama without naming him. If that is not quite as courageous as blowing a whistle, it is far better than the disgraceful behavior of Panetta and Dempsey.
We do not know the facts for certain, but we do know that the rescue mission stand-down issue revolves around the granting or withholding of cross-border authority, which belongs only to President Obama. More than one hundred gung-ho Force Recon Marines were waiting on the tarmac in Sigonella, just two hours away for the launch order that never came.