In Thursday's interview, Panetta provided the first confirmation that the Syrians had mixed chemical ingredients into shells or bombs that could be used against the Syrian people.
"Our biggest concern was the intelligence we received -- that they were, in fact, putting together these ingredients into shells that could then be deployed against their own people," he said. "And that's when the president spoke out about it, expressed our concern and made very clear that that's a red line for us."
Panetta said indications are that the chemical material "remains put together." He estimated it would take the Syrians "a matter of hours" to put the weapons into use, depending on "whether they're going to put them on planes or try to load them into artillery."
He said the Obama administration continues to send the clear message to the Assad regime "that they must not deploy these kinds of weapons against their own people."