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“Yes, the 16 members of the [site security team] did go to Benghazi on two separate occasions to support movement of the principal officer in the location to bolster the security that was there,” Col. Wood, a National Guard Green Beret, testified before the committee.

“These individuals were familiar and carried larger-caliber, better weapons, and the tactics they would employ would be to counter a military-style attack.”

A senior defense official told reporters Friday that the military reacted as quickly as possible in ordering troops to the area.

The Pentagon timeline shows that Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta approved sending two special operations teams to Sicily between 6 and 8 p.m. EDT — between midnight and 2 a.m. Libya time — when militants were attacking the CIA annex sporadically.

The Times has reported that the only remaining option for Army Gen. Carter Ham, chief of Africa Command, in terms of direct firepower was to deploy F-16 fighters from Aviano Air Base in northern Italy.

But a military source said the video feed from a drone over Benghazi did not clearly show the enemy or its mortar positions. Also, the CIA annex was nestled among residences, increasing the chance that a missile strike could kill civilians.