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Panetta: Critics ‘Monday Morning Quarterbacking’ White House Handling Of Libya Attack

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Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta participates during a news briefing on Oct. 25, 2012 at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta participates during a news briefing on Oct. 25, 2012 at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta calls the criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the Libya terror attack “Monday morning quarterbacking.”

Panetta defended the way the White House handled the aftermath of the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans who were killed during an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi for which terror group Ansar al-Sharia took responsibility.

Panetta said that they didn’t have enough “real-time information” to send military forces to respond.

“(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,” Panetta said, according to The Associated Press. “And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”

Gen. Carter Ham is the head of U.S. Africa Command and Gen. Martin Dempsey is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Earlier this week, CBS News obtained State Department emails that provided a timeline of the events that took place at the Benghazi compound on Sept. 11.

The first email sent from the State Department Operations Center to such agencies as the White House Situation Room, the FBI and the office of the Director of National Intelligence, among others, at 4:05 p.m. on Sept. 11 stated that the Benghazi compound was under attack.

“The Regional Security Officer reports the diplomatic mission is under attack. Embassy Tripoli reports approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well. Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM personnel are in the compound safe haven.”

The next email, which came at 4:54 p.m., said that firing at the Consulate “has stopped and the compound has been cleared.” Officials said that a response team was on site to locate the American personnel.

The final email that came at 6:07 p.m. states that terror group Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”

House Speaker John Boehner sent a letter to President Obama on Thursday asking whether he or senior administration officials had been personally briefed about security at the consulate in Benghazi by Ambassador Stevens. The Ohio Republican also asked if military options were considered by the White House during or immediately after the attack.

Boehner insisted in the letter that the national debate over the incident shows that Americans are concerned and frustrated about the administration’s response to the attack.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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