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It is unclear whether footage from the surveillance drone has been included in Mr. Clapper’s briefings.

Defense Department officials have said the drone did not arrive over the Benghazi compound until about two hours after the militants stormed through the facility’s gates.

Critical observers, including one family member of the men who were killed, have questioned whether officials monitoring the drone video missed a chance to launch a more aggressive rescue mission or a counterstrike on the militants.

Response in real time

Senior defense officials argued otherwise during a Nov. 9 background briefing on the Benghazi attack.

“There are people out there who have suggested that an overhead surveillance aircraft could have perfect visibility into what was happening on the ground, and on that basis alone, you could send in a team,” one senior defense official said. “That is not necessarily how things work.

“You get a lot of good information from a surveillance aircraft, but it doesn’t necessarily provide you a complete and instant picture of what is happening on the ground. If you’re going to undertake military action, you’d better have solid information before you decide to take the kinds of steps that are required to effectively complete a military mission of this sort.”

A senior U.S. intelligence official, meanwhile, has told The Times that the CIA’s personnel in Benghazi “responded to the situation on the night of 11 and 12 September as quickly and as effectively as possible.”

“The security officers in particular were genuine heroes,” said the official, noting that CIA personnel drove to the site of the attack within 25 minutes of the alarm first being raised and “put their own lives on the line to save their comrades.”

The official said a support team was scrambled from the Libyan capital of Tripoli and, despite having to put together a team from scratch and charter a plane to fly them to Benghazi, were able to make the trip in less than four hours.

Officials have declined to comment on whether anyone in Benghazi or Tripoli had access to the drone footage in real time, or whether it was used to help the rescue team find its way into the city from the Benghazi airport.

Shaun Waterman contributed to this report.