Benghazi Hearing Offers Clearer Picture of Attack, Misleading Narrative

Benghazi Whistleblowers

In what was a highly anticipated hearing, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hosted three whistleblowers — Gregory Hicks, Eric Nordstrom, and Mark Thompson. The three State Department staffers have come forward with a clearer picture of what happened before, during, and after the terrorist attack that took place last September at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which claimed the lives of four Americans.

The three biggest allegations on which Republicans on the committee focused was the State Department’s involvement in the initial talking points that removed references to terrorism, the role those talking points played in preventing the FBI from getting to the consulate to investigate the attack, and a “stand down” order given that kept military assets from responding in its aftermath.

Hicks, who made the most damaging allegations and was the primary focus of the questioning from both Republicans and Democrats on the committee, offered a detailed description of the attack:

In his first full public accounting, Gregory Hicks, a Foreign Service officer and ex-deputy chief of mission in Libya, recounted in vivid detail what happened the night of the attacks. Republicans insist that the Obama administration and the State Department didn’t do nearly enough to aid U.S. personnel under attack in September 2012.

Sure to be trumpeted by Republicans, Hicks’s most explosive revelation centered on an assertion that a four-man special operations team based in Tripoli was allegedly told not to make the flight to Benghazi on the night of the attacks.
After being prompted by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to provide a full recounting of the attacks, Hicks reached for his water as he told the story of getting a phone call from the Libyan prime minister who confirmed the death of his boss, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.

“It was the saddest phone call of my life, when he told me Ambassador Stevens had passed away,” Hicks said as his voiced cracked.

Hicks then dramatically described a chaotic night that started when he was awoken by a staffer informing him the Benghazi Consulate was under attack. He picked up the phone and called an unknown number that was answered by Stevens, whom he talked to briefly before the line went dead.

You can read Hicks’ account of the attack here.

The Pentagon has disputed any notion that a stand down order was given to prevent military assets from going into Benghazi in the aftermath of the attack. Democrats also focused on the Accountability Review Board’s report, which claimed a military response wouldn’t have changed the outcome, a point on which Hicks agreed. The stand down order was apparently given to a response team that could have gone into assist and remove victims from the area:

The talking points, which were edited to remove references to terrorism for political reasons, used in the days after the attack were also a primary focus of the hearing. Instead of references to terrorism, the Obama Administration initially claimed that the attack was actually a protest over an anti-Islam YouTube video gone awry.

Hicks, who was once praised by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, told the committee that it was clear from the start that what happened at the consulate was a coordinated attack, not a protest, and added that the video was a “non-event in Libya.” He further explained that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s apparance on Sunday morning talk shows five days after the attack damaged diplomatic relations with Libya and prevented investigators from visit the consulate.

According to an e-mail read at yesterday’s hearing, there was no ambiguity in the State Department about what had happened in Benghazi. If the communication coming out of the Libya to Washington wasn’t enough, the State Department knew the very next day that it was a pre-planned terrorist attack and they knew the name of the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization behind it.

Hicks also explained he was eventually demoted at the State Department, which he attributes to his questioning of the explanation given by Rice.

Democrats targeted Thompson, who has claimed that counterterrorism agents were cut out of the loop by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy. They disputed his allegation, noting statements from other State Department officials, but Thompson didn’t change his story. It looks like specific allegation with be the focus of another hearing in the future.

Democrats also had their messaging down. They frequently claimed that Republicans were ostensibly responsible for the lack of resources at the consulate because of budget cuts. Citing the previous testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb, who had said that budget considerations played no role in the lack of the security at the consulate, Republicans debunked this accusation.

They also tried furiously to defend the actions of former Secretary of State Clinton, who is likely running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, going so far to accuse Thompson of lying and claiming that decisions made about security and post-Benghazi talking points were out of her control.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) says that the hearing proves that there is no evidence of a cover-up or that the Obama Administration mislead the American people. But to anyone who watched the hearing saw otherwise.

The evidence suggests that Clinton was either completely ignorant of pre-attack conditions in Benghazi or willfully ignored them. Moreover, her involvement in the post-attack narrative which attempted to cover-up the fact that what happened at the consulate was indeed a terrorist attack is just too much to ignore.

The hearing may not have been a game-changer as far as it goes, but it was an important to provide Americans with a clearer picture of what happened on that tragic night and provide transparency on the actions of the Obama Administration.

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