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.
According to Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News, Gregory Hicks, one of the Benghazi whistleblowers, has told House Oversight Committee investigators that military forces were told to stand down as terrorists were attacking the American consulate in Libya, a revelation that contradicts the White House and State Department (emphasis mine):
The deputy of slain U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens has told congressional investigators that a team of Special Forces prepared to fly from Tripoli to Benghazi during the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks was forbidden from doing so by U.S. Special Operations Command South Africa.
The account from Gregory Hicks is in stark contrast to assertions from the Obama administration, which insisted that nobody was ever told to stand down and that all available resources were utilized. Hicks gave private testimony to congressional investigators last month in advance of his upcoming appearance at a congressional hearing Wednesday.
According to excerpts released Monday, Hicks told investigators that SOCAFRICA commander Lt. Col. Gibson and his team were on their way to board a C-130 from Tripoli for Benghazi prior to an attack on a second U.S. compound “when [Col. Gibson] got a phone call from SOCAFRICA which said, ‘you can’t go now, you don’t have the authority to go now.’ And so they missed the flight … They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it.”
Hicks told congressional investigators that if the U.S. had quickly sent a military aircraft over Benghazi, it might have saved American lives. The U.S. Souda Bay Naval Base is an hour’s flight from Libya.
This week’s Benghazi hearing is shaping up to be a disaster for the Obama Administration. The whistleblowers who have come forward are now completely in the open, identified by Fox News as three State Department officials, and their testimonies could offer some long-awaiting insight on the security failures that led up to the terrorist attack, the lack of a military response, and the subsequent cover-up that transpired in its aftermath.
On Sunday, Face the Nation, which hosted House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee has investigated Benghazi, offered a preview of what we can expect to hear from Greg Hicks, one of the whistlerblowers, in regard to the post-Benghazi narrative and much more:
Everybody in the mission” in Benghazi, Libya, thought the attack on a U.S. consulate there last Sept. 11 was an act of terror “from the get-go,” according to excerpts of an interview investigators conducted with the No. 2 official in Libya at the time, obtained by CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
“I think everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning,” Greg Hicks, a 22-year foreign service diplomat who was the highest-ranking U.S. official in Libya after the strike, told investigators under authority of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Hicks, the former U.S. Embassy Tripoli deputy chief of mission, was not in Benghazi at the time of the attack, which killed Chris Stevens - then the U.S. ambassador to Libya - and three other Americans.
There is a showdown shaping up between the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the White House over the latest developments concerning Benghazi and subsequent threats directed at whistleblowers by Obama Administration officials.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama claimed that he was “not familiar” with claims by whistleblowers that they had been threatened. He told Ed Henry of Fox News that we would look into the matter. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who chairs the House Oversight Committee, issued a statement noting that he has sent four letters to the Obama Administration urging that they stop blocking the efforts of whistleblowers to fully tell their stories to their lawyers.
Issa isn’t wasting any time in looking into the lastest developments. According to a statement sent out yesterday, the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing next week — Wednesday, May 8th — to “expose new facts and details that the Obama Administration has tried to supress,” and it could include the whistleblowers themselves.
With whistleblowers claiming that Obama Administration officials are threatening them in order to keep them from talking to investigators, President Barack Obama is trying to avoid any discussion of the issue.
One whistleblower has information about the events leading up to, during, and after the attack. Another whistleblower has claimed that the military could have responded before the second attack, but that they were never called.
During the press conference yesterday at the White House, President Obama had nothing more to say other than he’s “not familar” with the claims and, essentially, that he’ll look into the allegations.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, isn’t buying the claim. He responded to President Obama’s comments in a statement made available on the committee’s website.
“A lawyer for Benghazi whistleblowers has publicly stated that the State Department is blocking her client’s ability to talk freely with counsel,” said Issa. “Over the past two weeks, I have sent four letters requesting that this Administration make information available about how lawyers – who already have security clearances and are representing Benghazi whistleblowers – can be cleared to fully hear their clients’ stories. I have yet to receive any response from the Obama Administration.”
While she’s now on the speaking circuit making around $200,000 per speech, Hillary Clinton is taking blame for the security failures at the American consulate that resulted in the deaths of four United States citizens, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
There has already been some analysis of the events that led up to the terrorist attack. A report by an independent panel faulted the State Department for the “inadequate” security at the consulate. This report led to three officials being relieved of their duties. Clinton, who was then-serving as Secretary of State, stepped down at the beginning of the year, though her resignation was not connected to Benghazi.
House Republicans have further investigated the incident and released a “progress report” which highlights the various things that went wrong before, during, and after the terrorist attack. The scathing report, which was pieced together by five high-ranking House Republicans, slammed Clinton for her role in the failures that led up to the attack and the subsequent cover-up:
The report, compiled by five House panels after a seven-month investigation, said Clinton approved reductions in security levels prior to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, contradicting Clinton’s testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Jan. 23.
Benghazi is back in the news again. The terrorist attack on the American consulate that claimed the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, has received new interest due to whistleblowers who may have new information to give to congressional investigators:
CBS News has learned that multiple new whistleblowers are privately speaking to investigators with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee regarding the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya.
The nature of the communications with the whistleblowers and their identities are not being made public at this time. But in response, the Oversight Committee yesterday sent letters to the three federal agencies involved: the CIA, the Defense Department and the State Department.
The letters make the case for the whistleblowers to be able to share sensitive or classified information with their own attorneys, and ask for each agency’s official description of the legal steps that process must follow. The letters also state that additional witnesses may be “compelled by subpoena to give testimony.”
Last week was the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the United States’ involvement in the war in Iraq. After 10 years, I still believe that the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime was the correct decision, but that the aftermath of the initial invasion was horribly managed, with poor rules of engagement, no clear strategy, and no real definition of “victory.” Even after the successful surge in troop levels helped to prevent an immediate decline into civil war and achieve an unsteady peace, the inability of the Obama Administration to come to a Status of Forces agreement with the Iraqi government not only left the United States with no tangible benefits 10 years later, but also left Iraq in a precarious position that runs the risk of declining into civil war that could have horrible regional consequences.
“I blame Congress more than the President because we really have not brought the issue before Congress as to whether or not the President should or should not have so much authority.” — Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) on executive power
There aren’t many in Congress who are willing to take strong stands against bad policies no matter who is sitting in the White House. Democrats were once strongly supportive of civil liberties, but now that President Obama is in the White House, there is little criticism to be found. And while expansive executive power and an aggressive foreign policy were popular during the Bush Administration, Obama’s expansion of these policies have started a conversation amongst conservatives.
Yesterday, I spoke with Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican who represents North Carolina’s Third Congressional District, about President Obama’s State of the Union address, foreign policy, and executive power.
Rep. Jones, who has served in Congress since 1995, has been at the forefront of questioning foreign policies decisions made by previous and current administrations. While he expressed disappointment that Obama didn’t talk in detail about the deficit, Rep. Jones explained that he was happy with the annoucement that 34,000 troops would be coming home from Afghanistan.
On Sunday’s Face the Nation, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he will attempt to block Obama’s nominations of both John Brennan to CIA Director and Chuck Hagel to Defense Secretary over the Obama Administration’s failures in Benghazi. As it is Bob Schieffer’s job to “wring news out of his guests,” Graham, emerging as the new head of the Neocon Right, certainly obliged.
GRAHAM: “I don’t think we should allow Brennan to go for forward the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed for secretary of defense, until the White House gives us an accounting. Did the president ever pick up the phone and call anyone in the Libyan government to help these folks? What did the president do? …What did he do that night? That’s not unfair. The families need to know. The American people need to know…”
SCHIEFFER: “But let me — I’m not sure I understand. What do you plan to do if they don’t give you an answer? Are you going to put a hold on these two nominations?”