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TESTIMONY AT THE HOUSE OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE HEARING: MAY 8, 2013
Testimony at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Hearing: May 8, 2013

* May 8, 2013: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing on the events of Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. The witnesses are: (a) Gregory Hicks, foreign service officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, who was stationed at the State Department residential compound in Tripoli on 9/11/12; he is also a Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primary, and then for Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 general elections; (b) Mark Thompson, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counter-terrorism; and (c) Eric Nordstrom, diplomatic security officer.

Key Testimony of Gregory Hicks:

...[A]t 9:45 p.m. -- and all times will be Libyan times, a six-hour time difference -- the RSO John Martinec ran into my villa yelling, "Greg! Greg! The consulate's under attack.'' And I stood up and reached for my phone because I had an inkling or thought that perhaps the ambassador had tried to call me to relay the same message.  And I found two missed calls on the phone, one from the ambassador's phone and one from a phone number I didn't recognize. And I punched the phone number I didn't recognize, and I got the ambassador on the other end. And he said, "Greg, we're under attack." And I was walking out of the villa, on my way to the Tactical Operations Center, because I knew we would all have to gather there to mobilize or try to mobilize a response....

When I got to the Tactical Operations Center, I told people that the ambassador -- that I had just talked to the ambassador and what he said.  At the time, John Martinec was on the phone with Alec Henderson in Benghazi, the RSO there.... I asked -- when John Martinec got off the telephone, I asked him what was going on.  And he said that the consulate had been breached, and there were at least 20 hostile individuals armed in the -- in the compound at the time.  So I next called the annex chief to ask him if he was in touch with the Benghazi annex to activate our emergency response plan.... And he said that he had been in touch with the annex in Benghazi, and they said they were mobilizing a response team there to go to the -- to our facility and provide reinforcements and to repel the attack.

With that knowledge, I called the operations center at the State Department, approximately 10 p.m. to report the attack and what we were doing to respond to it.  The next thing I did was to begin calling the senior officials in the government of Libya that I knew at the time. And so, I dialed first the President Magariaf's chief of staff and reported the attack and asked for immediate assistance from the government of Libya to assist our folks in Benghazi.

I followed that up with a call to the prime minister's chief of staff to make the same request and then to the MFA, America's director. MFA is Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The defense attache was, at the same time, calling the leadership of Libya's military with the same purpose, to ask them for assistance.

Once that was done, I called again to Washington to report that these actions had been commenced.  Over the night we -- over that night, that is basically how our team operated.  I was talking to the government of -- of Libya, reporting to the State -- State Department through the operations center, and also staying in touch with the annex chief about what was going on.

Let me step back one minute, if I could, and say that I also discussed with the annex chief about mobilizing a Tripoli response team, and we agreed that we would move forward with a -- chartering a plane from Tripoli to fly a response team to Benghazi to provide additional reinforcements.  The defense attache was also reporting through his chain of command, back to AFRICOM and to the joint staff here in Washington about what was going on in the country. David McFarland, our political section chief, had just returned from Benghazi, where he had been our principle officer for the previous 10 days.  And so, he jumped into this picture by reaching out to his contacts in -- in Benghazi and trying to get them, at the local level there, to respond to the attack.  And he also was in touch with our local employee there, as well ...

The Benghazi response -- the consulate was invaded, the -- Villa C where the ambassador and Sean Smith and Scott Wickland were hiding in the safe area was set on fire. The attackers also went into another building. They were unable to enter the tactical operations center in Benghazi, because of improvements to that facility that had been made.
They -- Scott attempted to lead the ambassador and Sean Smith out of the burning building.  He managed to make it out. He tried repeatedly to go back in to try to rescue Sean and the ambassador but had to stop due to exposure to smoke.

The response team from from the annex in Benghazi, six individuals, drove the attackers out of our compound, and secured it temporarily. There have been estimates as high as 60 attackers were in the compound at one particular time.  There were repeated attempts by all of the RSOs and by the response team from the annex to go into the burning building and recover -- try to save Sean and the ambassador.  They found Sean's body and pulled it out but he was no longer responsive. They did not find the ambassador....

A second -- it was noticed that a second wave of attackers was coming to attack the facility.  And our teams evacuated, five RSOs and Sean Smith in one vehicle that suffered heavy fire, but they managed to break through and get to the annex, and in -- the annex team also withdrew from the facility and the second wave of attackers took it over.

After the second phase of the evening occurs, the timing is about 11:30 or so.  The second phase commences after the teams have returned to the annex, and they suffer for about an hour and a half probing attacks from terrorists.  They are able to repulse them and then they desist at about 1:30 in the morning.

The Tripoli response team departs at about midnight and arrives at about 1:15 in Benghazi.  If I may step back again to Tripoli and what's going on there at this point.  At about 10:45 or 11:00 we confer, and I asked the defense attache who had been talking about AFRICOM and with the joint staff, "Is anything coming?  Will they be sending us any help?  Is there something out there?" And he answered that, the nearest help was in Aviano, the nearest -- where there were fighter planes.  He said that it would take two to three hours for them to get onsite, but that there also were no tankers available for them to refuel.  And I said, "Thank you very much," and we went on with our work.

Phase III begins with news that the ambassador -- the ambassador's body has been recovered, and David McFarland, if I recall correctly, is the individual who began to receive that news from his contacts in Benghazi.  We began to hear also that the ambassador has been taken to a hospital.  We don't know initially which hospital it is, but we -- through David's reports we learned that it is in a hospital which is controlled by Ansar Sharia, the group that Twitter feeds had identified as leading the attack on the consulate.

We're getting this information as the Tripoli response team arrives in Benghazi at the airport.  Both our annex chief and the annex chief in Benghazi and our defense attache are on the phone during this period trying to get the Libyan government to send vehicles and military -- and-or security assets to the airport to assist our response team.

At this point, this response team looks like it may be a hostage rescue team, that they're going to -- we're going to need to send them to try to save the ambassador who is in a hospital that is, as far as we know, under enemy control....

About 12:30 at the same time that we see the Twitter feeds that are asserting that Ansar Sharia is responsible for the attack, we also see a call for an attack on the embassy in Tripoli.  And so we begin to - we -- we had always thought that we were in -- under threat, that we now have to take care of ourselves and we began planning to evacuate our facility.  When I say our facility, I mean the State Department residential compound in Tripoli, and to consolidate all of our personnel in -- at the annex in Tripoli. We have about 55 diplomatic personnel in the two annexes.

On that night if I may go back, I would just like to point out that with Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith in Benghazi there are five diplomatic security agents -- assistant regional security officers. With us in -- in our residential compound in Tripoli, we have the RSO John Martinek, three assistant regional security officers protecting 28 diplomatic personnel. In addition, we also have four special forces personnel who are part of the training mission.

During the night, I am in touch with Washington keeping them posted of what's happening in Tripoli and to the best of my knowledge what I am being told in Benghazi.  I think at about ... 2 a.m. ... the Secretary of State Clinton called me along with her senior staff were all on the phone, and she asked me what was going on. And, I briefed her on developments.

Most of the conversation was about the search for Ambassador Stevens.  It was also about what we were going to do with our personnel in Benghazi, and I told her that we would need to evacuate, and that was -- she said that was the right thing to do.

At about 3 a.m. I received a call from the prime minister of Libya.  I think it is the saddest phone call I have ever had in my life.  He told me that Ambassador Stevens had passed away. I immediately telephoned Washington that news afterwards, and began accelerating our effort to withdraw from the Villas compound and move to the annex....

And so we moved at dawn.  We arrived at the annex, at least my group I think at about 4:45 perhaps, maybe 5 a.m., and a few minutes later came the word of the mortar attack....

The Tripoli team was -- basically had to stay at the Benghazi airport because they had no transport and no escort from the -- the Libyans.  After the announcement of Chris' passing, military-escorted vehicles arrived at the airport.  So the decision was made for them to go to the annex.  One of the -- before I got the call from the prime minister, we'd received several phone calls on the phone that had been with the ambassador saying that we know where the ambassador is, please, you can come get him....

Because we knew separately from David that the ambassador was in a hospital that we believe was under Ansar Sharia's call, we -- we suspected that we were being baited into a trap, and so we did not want to go send our people into an ambush. And we didn't.

We sent them to the annex.  Shortly after we arrived at the annex the mortars came in.  The first was long.  It landed actually among the Libyans that escorted our people.  They took casualties for us that night.  The next was short, the next three landed on the roof killing Glen and Tyrone, and severely wounded David.
They didn't know whether any more mortars were going to come in. The accuracy was terribly precise.  The call was the next one is coming through the roof, maybe if it hit -- two of the guys from team Tripoli climbed up on the roof and carried Glen's body and Tyrone's body down.  One guy, Mark Si, full combat gear, climbed up there strapped David, a large man, to his back, carried him down a ladder and saved him.

In Tripoli, we had -- the defense attache had persuaded the Libyans to fly their C-130 to Benghazi and wanted to airlift -- we had -- since we had consolidated at the annex, and the Libyan government had now provided us with external security around our facilities, we wanted to send further reinforcements to Benghazi.

We determined that Lieutenant Gibson and his team of special forces troops should go.  The people in Benghazi had been fighting all night.  They were tired. They were exhausted.

We wanted to make sure the airport was secure for their withdrawal.  As Colonel Gibson and his three personnel were -- were getting in the cars, he stopped.  And he called them off and said -- told me that he had not been authorized to go.  The vehicles had to go because the flight needed to go to Tripoli -- I mean, to Benghazi.  Lieutenant Colonel Gibson was furious.  I had told him to go bring our people home. That's what he wanted to do ... So the plane went.  I think it landed in Benghazi around 7:30. The other thing that we did was -- and I -- and I want to mention Jackie Lavesk's name in this hearing.  She was our nurse.  We initially thought that we would -- that she should go to Benghazi.... Jackie, I -- I -- I refused to allow her to go to Benghazi, because I knew we had wounded coming back.  I knew David was severely wounded.  And I knew others were wounded as well.  And Jackie had just made terrific contacts with a hospital in town.  And so, we sent ... her to that hospital to start mobilizing their E.R. teams and their doctors to receive our wounded.

So when the charter flight arrived in Tripoli, we had ambulances at the hospital -- at the -- at the airport waiting. Their doctors were ready and waiting for our wounded to come in, to be brought in to the operating room.  And they certainly saved David Oven's leg. And they may have very well have saved his life.  And they treated our other wounded as well, as if they were their own.

Key Testimony of Mark Thompson:

The night that I was involved in this incident, I was at my desk at the end of the day when the first reports came in that indicated that we had an attack going on at our diplomatic facility in Benghazi. In that facility, we knew we had our ambassador and we had his security personnel. Later, when I heard that the situation had evolved to them going to a safe haven, and then the fact that we could not find the ambassador, I alerted my leadership, indicating that we needed to go forward and consider the deployment of the Foreign Emergency Support Team [FEST].... I notified the White House of my idea. They indicated that meetings had already taken place that evening, that had taken FEST out of the menu of options. I called the office within the State Department, that had been represented there [at the White House meeting], asking them why it had been taken off the table and was told that it was not the right time [because it might be too unsafe], and it was not the team that needed to go right then....

The other thing that I pointed out is that with the tyranny of distance – at least 8 or 9 hours to get to the middle of the Mediterranean – we needed to act now and not wait. There is sometimes the hesitancy to not deploy [sic] because we don't know what's going on. One definition of a crisis is, you don't know what's going to happen in two hours, so you need to help develop that situation early....

We live by a code. That code says you go after people when they're in peril, when they're in the service of their country. We did not have the benefit of hindsight in the early hours, and those people who are in peril in the future need to know that we will go get 'em, and we will do everything we can to get them out of harm's way. That night unfolded in ways that no one culd have predited when it first started. And it is my strong belief, then as it is now, that we needed to demonstrate that resolve even if we'd still had the same outcome.

Key Exchange between Hicks and Rep. Trey Gowdy:

GOWDY: [Just hours after the attack] the president of Libya … labeled it an attack by Islamic extremists, possibly with terror links. Correct?
HICKS: Yes sir....
GOWDY: Did the president of Libya ever mention a spontaneous protest related to a video?
HICKS: No sir.
GOWDY: When Ambassador Stevens talked to you perhaps minutes before he died, as a dying declaration, what precisely did he say to you?
HICKS: He said, “Greg, we're under attack.”
GOWDY: Would a highly decorated career diplomat have told you or Washington, had there been a demonstration outside his facility that day?
HICKS: Yes sir, he would have.
GOWDY: Did he mention one word about a protest or a demonstration?
HICKS: No sir, he did not.
GOWDY: So fast-forward, Mr. Hicks, to the [September 16, 2012] Sunday talk shows and Ambassador Susan Rice. She blamed this attack on a video. In fact, she did it five different times. What was your eaction to that?
HICKS: I was stunned. My jaw dropped. And I was embarrassed.
GOWDY: Did she talk to you before she went on the five Sunday talk shows?
HICKS: No sir.
GOWDY: You were the highest-ranking official in Libya at the time, correct?
HICKS: Yes sir.
GOWDY: And she did not bother to have a conversation with you before she went on national television.
HICKS: No sir.
GOWDY: So Ambassador Rice directly contradicts the evidence on the ground in Libya, she directly contradicts the president of Libya, she directly contradicts the last statement uttered by Ambassador Stevens.
GOWDY: Mr. Hicks, who is Beth Jones?
HICKS: Beth Jones is the acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department.
GOWDY: I want to read an excerpt from an email she sent [on September 12], and you were copied on it.... This is from Miss Jones to you [Hicks], to counsel for Hillary Clinton, to Victoria Nuland, to Mr. Kennedy [U.S. State Department's Under Secretary of State for Management, Patrick F. Kennedy]. Near as I can tell, to almost everyone in the State Department. And I'm going to read from it: “I spoke to the Libyan ambassador and emphasized the importance of Libyan leaders continuing to make strong statements. When he said his government suspected that former Qadhafi regime elements carried out the attacks, I told him that the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.... Mr. Hicks, I want to know two things. Number 1, why in the world would Susan Rice go on five Sunday talk shows and perpetuate a demonstrably false narrative? And secondarily, what impact did it have on the ground, in Benghazi, the fact that she contradicted the president of Libya?
HICKS: As for the first question, I cannot provide an answer, but perhaps you should askl Ambassador Rice. As to the second question, at the time, we were trying to get the FBI to Benghazi to begin its investigation. And that talk show actually provided an opportunity to make that happen. Afterwards, we encountered bureaucratic resistance for a long period from the Libyans.... It took us an additional 18 days, maybe, to get the FBI team to Benghazi....

Key Exchange between Hicks and Rep. Jason Chaffetz:

REP. Jason CHAFFETZ: Mr. Hicks, I want to go back to that first plane from Tripoli [which] included 7 rescue-team members, including two U.S. military personnel. That plane then returns to Tripoli. And the first rescue team that is there is now really engaged in the attack. You have no idea, is my understanding, as to when the attack is going to end. So the second rescue team [which included 4 U.S. military special-forces personnel] is preparing to go.... And yet these military personnel do not operate under your authority, and your permission is not enough for them to go. Explain to me again exactly what happened.
HICKS: Again, we determined that we needed to send a second team from Tripoli to secure the airport for the withdrawal of our personnel from Benghazi. |
CHAFFETZ: But were any of these U.S. military personnel not permitted to travel on a rescue mission from Tripoli to Benghazi?
HICKS: They were not authorized to travel.
CHAFFETZ: What happened with those personnel?
HICKS: They remained in Tripoli with us. The medic went with the nurse to the hospital to lend his skills to the treatment of our wounded.
CHAFFETZ: How did the personnel react to being told to stand down?
HICKS: They were furious.... I will quote Lt. Col. Gibson. He said, “This is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than somebody in the military.”
CHAFFETZ: … Where did the stand-down order come from?
HICKS: I believe it came from either AFRICOM [United States Africa Command] or SOCAFRICA [Special Operations Command Africa]....

Key Exchange between Hicks and Rep. Jim Jordan:

JORDAN: All that [praise and support from the Obama administration] seems to change [after] the phone call you got from Beth Jones [after Susan Rice went on the five Sunday talk shows] ... because you asked Beth Jones what?
HICKS: I asked her why the ambassador had said there was a demonstration, when the embassay had reported only an attack.
JORDAN: And again, what kind of response did you get from Beth Jones when you asked that question?
HICKS: She said, “I don't know.” … The sense I got was that I needed to stop the line of questioning.
JORDAN: … [A]s I read the transcript, it seems to me that it [tension between Hicks and his superiors in the Obama administration] came to a head in phone calls you were on with lawyers from the Department of State prior to Congressman [Jason] Chaffetz [a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee] coming to visit in Libya [to get an on-the-ground assessment of the attack]. Is that accurate?
HICKS: Yes sir.
JORDAN: And tell me about those conversations, what those lawyers instructed you to do on Mr. Chaffetz's visit to Libya.
HICKS: I was instructed not to allow the RSO, the acting deputy chief of mission, and myself to be personally interviewed by Congressman Chaffetz.
JORDAN: So the people at State told you, don't talk to the guy who's coming to investigate?
HICKS: Yes sir.
JORDAN: … You’ve had [dozens and dozens of] congressional delegations come to various places you’ve been around the world. Has that ever happened … Have you ever had anyone tell you don’t talk with the people from Congress coming to find out what took place?
HICKS: Never.
JORDAN: … And isn't it true that one of those lawyers on the phone call accompanied the folks in the delegation and tried to be in every single meeting you had with Mr. Chaffetz and the delegation from this committee?
HICKS: Yes sir, that's true.
JORDAN: Tell me what happened when you got a classified briefing with Mr. Chaffetz. What happened in the phone call that happened after that?
HICKS: The lawyer was excluded from the meeting because his clearance was not high enough, and the delegation had insisted that the briefing not be limited by –
JORDAN: Did the lawyer try and get into that briefing?
HICKS: He tried, yes, but the annex chief would not allow it, because the briefing needed to be at the appropriate level of clearance.
JORDAN: You had a subsequent conversation after this classified briefing that the lawyer was not allowed to be in, with you and Mr. Chaffetz and others in that delegation, and you had another conversation on the phone with Cheryl Mills [counselor for the Department of State and chief of staff to Secretary Clinton].... She is as close as you can get to Secretary Clinton. Is that accurate?
HICKS: Yes sir.
JORDAN: And tell me about that phone call you had with Cheryl Mills....
HICKS: She demanded a report on the visit –
JORDAN: Was she upset by the fact that tis lawyer, this babysitter, this spy, whatever you want to call him, was not allowed to be in that [classified briefing]?
HICKS: She was very upset.
JORDAN: So this goes right to the person next to Secretary Clinton. Is that accurate?
HICKS: Yes sir.

Key Exchange between Hicks and Rep. Patrick McHenry:

McHENRY: Was there any evidence when you were there, in Libya, on that day [September 12], that this was a protest?
HICKS: No, there was none, and I'm confident that Ambassador Stevens would have reported a protest immediately if one appeared on his door....
MCHENRY: Was there anything in connection to a YouTube video? Was there any awareness that the events occurred because of a YouTube video?
HICKS: The YouTube video was a non-event in Libya.
MCHENRY: And did you know about that within a couple of days, or the day of?
HICKS: Yes.
MCHENRY: And so, did you report to anyone in Washington, within the first couple of days, that there was a protest in connection to a YouTube video?
HICKS: No, the only report that our mission made through every channel was that there had been an attack on our consulate.
MCHENRY: Not a protest.
HICKS: No protest.
MCHENRY: … Would you have said the things that Ambassador Rice said?
HICKS: Not after hearing what President Mugariaf said, especially considering the fact that he had gone to Benghazi himself, at great personal and political risk. And for him to appear on world television and say this was a planned attack by terrorists is phenomenal. I was jumping up and down when he said that. It was a gift for us, from a policy perspective, from my perspective, sitting in Tripoli.
MCHENRY: And did that occur before September 16th?
HICKS: He said that on the same talk shows with Ambassador Rice.

Key Exchange between Hicks and Rep. Paul Gosar:

HICKS: When Assistant Secretary Jones called me after the talk show [the shows on which Susan Rice had appeared on September 16], I asked her why she [Rice] had said there was a demonstration, when we had reported that there was an attack.
GOSAR: … And her reaction was?
HICKS: Her reaction, again, was “I don't know,” and it was very clear from the tone that I should not proceed with [this line of questioning] any further.
GOSAR: Did you receive any negative feedback based on this conversation?
HICKS: Over the next month, I began to receive counseling from Assistant Secretary Jones about my management style, things that I basically was already doing on the ground but nevertheless I implemented everything that she asked me to do.

Key Exchange between Hicks and Rep. Paul Gosar:

[GOSAR plays Hillary Clinton's infamous question (from her January 23, 2013 testimony), “What difference at this point does it make?” He then asks Hicks to answer that question.
HICKS: President Magariaf was insulted in front of his own people, in front of the world. His credibility was reduced. His ability to lead his own country was damaged. He was angry. A friend of mine who ate dinner with him in New York during the UN season told me that he was still steamed about the talk shows two weeks later. And I definitely believe that it definitely affected our ability to get the FBI team quickly to Benghazi.... It was a long slog of 17 days to get the FBI team to Benghazi, working with various ministries to get, ultimately, agreement to support that visit.... But at the highest levels of the [Libyan] government, there was never really positive approval.
GOSAR: … Was the crime scene secured during that time [the 17 days]?
HICKS: No it was not. We repeatedly asked the government of Libya to secure the crime scene and prevent interlopers, but they were unable to do so.

Key Exchange between Nordstrom and Rep. Patrick Meehan:

MEEHAN: Did you have confidence in the ability of the locals in the country who were purportedly designed to provide security for you? Did you have confidence in there ability to provide that?
NORDSTROM: I think, to put it succinctly, it was the best bad plan. It was the only thing we had.
MEEHAN: … Did you have confidence in that?
NORDSTROM: No.
MEEHAN: Did you report that, at any point in time, to officials in Washington, DC?
NORDSTROM: We did. We did note the training deficiencies in particular. That was something that was always there. Certainly we had also raised the issue of doing some sort of counter-intelligence vetting of the people that worked for us. Ultimately that was turned down, even though we wanted it ...

Key Exchange between Hicks and Rep. Scott Desjarlais:

DESJARLAIS: After Congressman Chaffetz's visit, did you feel any kind of shift in the way you were treated?
HICKS: Yes, again, I did.... Prior to [Chaffetz's] visit, Assistant Secretary Jones had visited, and she pulled me aside and, again, said I needed to improve my management style and indicated that people were upset. I had had no indication that my staff was upset at all, other than with the conditions that we were facing. Following my return to the United States, I attended Chris's [Stevens'] funeral in San Francisco and then I came back to Washington. Assistant Secretary Jones summoned me to her office and she delivered a blistering critique of my management style. And she even exclaimed, “I don't know why Larry Pope would want you to come back.” And she said she didn't even understand why anyone in Tripoli would want me to come back.
DESJARLAIS: But yet, right after the attack, and before the attack, you had [received] all kinds of praise for your leadership. You got a call from Secretary Clinton. You got a call from the president, praising you for your service and how you handled things. Was there a seminal moment, in your mind, to when all this praise and appreciation turned into something else?
HICKS: In hindsight, I think it began when I asked a question about Ambassador Rice's statement on the TV shows.... I was angry with the way I'd been criticized. I thought it was unfounded. I felt like I'd been tried and convicted in absentia, but I decided I was going to go back and try to redeem myself.
DESJARLAIS: What is your job right now?
HICKS: I am a foreign-affairs officer in the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs.
DESJARLAIS: A far cry from where you were and your level of capabilities.
HICKS: Yes sir.... I accepted an officer of what's called a “no-fault curtailment.” That means that there would be no criticiam of my departure of Post, no negative repercussions … The job now is a ... demotion. “Foreign-affairs officer” is a designation that is given to our civil service colleagues who are desk officers. So I've been effectively demoted from deputy chief of mission to desk officer.

Key Exchange between Nordstrom and Rep. Blake Farenthold:

FARENTHOLD: Mr. Nordstrom, can you tell me what the role was of the February 17th Martyrs' Brigade in protecting the consulate in Benghazi?
NORDSTROM: Certainly. That was the unit, for lack of a better term, that was provided to us by the Libyan government.
FARENTHOLD: Were you aware of any ties of that militia to Islamic extremists?
NORDSTROM: Absolutely. We had that discussion on a number of occasions, the last of which was when there was a Facebook posting of a threat that named Ambassador Stevens and Senator McCain, who was coming out for the elections. That was in the July time frame. I met with some of my agents and also with some annex personnel. We discussed that.
FARENTHOLD: Mr. Hicks,... do you believe the February 17th militia played a role in those [September 11, 2012] attacks, was complacent [sic] in those attacks?
HICKS: Certainly elements of that militia were complicit in the attacks. The attackers had to make a long approach march through multiple checkpoints that were manned by February 17 militia.

Key Exchange between Nordstrom and Rep. Rob Woodall:

WOODALL: Thinking back to early July 2012. Do you recall your back-and-forth with Charlene Lamb particularly?
NORDSTROM: Vividly.
WOODALL: What did you think of that decision-making process? Were those decisions that Ms. Lamb was making, or were those decisions that were being kicked up to a higher level?
NORDSTROM: It was unclear. I think largely DASS [Deputy Assistant Secretary of State] Lamb. But one thing that struck me throughout the entire that I was in Libya was a strange decision-making process.... Certainly I felt that anything that DASS Lamb was deciding certainly had been run by undersecretary Kennedy.
WOODALL: … Did you receive an explanation for why that request [for additional scurity] was denied, that satisfied you?
NORDSTROM: I didn't.... I perceived that it was some sort of – explained to me that it would be somehow embarrassing or politically difficult for State Department to continue to rely on DOD, and there was an element of that. That was never fully verbalized. But that was certainly the feeling that I got, going away from those conversations.
WOODALL: … What was the nature of your conversation with the ambassador [Stevens], that this was such a serious issue, that rather than leaving it with a “No” on back channels, he wanted to elevate that?
NORDSTROM: That's exactly what it is. In fact, I recall all the way back to our first meeting with Congressman Chaffetz and the chairman, that was the question that I think they posed to me: “If you knew she was gonna keep saying no, why did you keep asking?” Well, because it was the right thing to do, and it was the resources that were needed. And if people, also, on the other side, felt that that was the right thing to do, to say no to that, they could at least have the courtesy to put that in the official record.
WOODALL: And did you receive any feedback back from Washington, whether a direct response to that cable, or a back-channel response to the fact that you elevated it to this front-channel process?
NORDSTROM: By the time that we sent the one in July, no, we did not receive a response. In fact, that cable, as I understand, was never responded to, which is something that is relatively unheard of in the State Department. When you send a request cable for anything, whether it's copiers or manpower, they get back to you. Prior discussions – back-channel ones – yes, I had a number of conversations with my regional director and also DASS Lamb, where it was discouraging, to put it mildly, that, “Why do you keep raising these issues? Why do you keep putting this forward?”
WOODALL: And if you can characterize it, then, between a non-response or a disagreement, when it comes to issues of security for American personnel on the ground in Libya, were you rceiving a non-response from Washington, or was there disagreement in Washington with your assessment of levels of need on the ground?
NORDSTROM: I'd largely get a non-response. The responses that I did get were: “You don't have specific targeting. You don't have specific threats against you. The long and short of it is, you're not dealing with suicide bombers, incoming artillery, and vehicle bombs like they are in Iraq and Afghanistan, so basically stop complaining.”

Key Exchange between Nordstrom and Rep. Doug Collins:

COLLINS: [Regarding a March 28 cable from Nordstrom, requesting more security for the Benghazi mission]: Did you expect Secretary Clinton to either have read or be briefed about that cable?
NORDSTROM: Absolutely. I certainly expected, given that she had an involvement in the security process. If I could take a step back: By virtue of having the SST teams there, because they were a Department of Defense asset, the process required for that is something called an exec sec. That exec sec is literally a request from one Cabinet head to another, in this case, State to DOD. That request must be signed by the Cabinet head, Secretary Clinton. She would have done the initial deployment request, plus an extension in the fall, and a second extension in February. She also came out to post, toured our facilities … and saw the lack of security there.... She was briefed by the country team as she visited the site. We also saw, later, there was the attacks against the facility. Certainly there's a reasonable expectation that her staff would have briefed her on those points.

Key Exchange between Thompson and Rep. Mark Meadows:

MEADOWS: Mr. Thompson, you had talked earlier about the deployment of the FEST team, and you said that you thought it was important to do that. Were there any other agencies, other than you, that thought that was important?
THOMPSON: Yes, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and DOD specifically … People who are a normal part of that team that deploy with us were shocked and amazed that they were not being called on their cell phones, beepers, etc. to go....

Key Exchange between Hicks and Rep. Ron DeSantos:

DESANTOS: When you spoke with Secretary Clinton at 2 a.m., did she express support for giving military assistance to those folks in Benghazi; i.e., did she say that she would request such support from either the Secretary of Defense or the President of the United States?
HICKS: We actually didn't discuss that issue. At the time, we were focused on trying to find and hopefully rescue Ambassador Stevens. That was the primary purpose of our discussion. [The] secondary purpose was to talk about what we were going to do in Tripoli, in order to enhance our security there.... The first two attacks [in Benghazi] had been completed, and there was a lull in Benghazi at the time.... We knew the situation was in flux.

Key Exchange between Hicks and Rep. Darrell Issa:

ISSA: Mr. Hicks, 2 in the morning, the Secretary of State calls you personally.... Did she ask you about the cause of the attack? Did she ask about videos? Did she ask about anything at all that would have allowed you to answer the question of how Benghazi came to be attacked, as far as you knew.
HICKS: I don't recall that being part of the conversation.
ISSA: So she wasn't interested in the cause of the attack, and this was the only time where you talked directly to the Secretary, where you could have told her or not told her about the cause of the attack.
HICKS: Yes, that was the only time when I could have. But, again, I had already reported that the attack had commenced and that Twitter feeds were asserting that Ansar Sharia was responsible for the attacks.
ISSA: You didn't have that discussion with her only because it was assumed that since you'd already reported that the cause of the attack was essentially Islamic extremists, some of them linked to al Qaeda.
HICKS: Yes.

Key Exchange between Nordstrom and Rep. Jason Chaffetz:

CHAFFETZ: When I saw Secretary Clinton four and a half months after the attack in Benghazi, testify before the United States Congress that she didn't make the security decisions, you made the security decisions, Mr. Nordstrom. You're the regional security officer on the ground. You were the chief security person. You're the ones that made the security decisions. True of false?
NORDSTROM: The response I got from the regional director, when I raised the issue that we were short of our standards for physical security was that my quote, “tone,” was not helpful.
CHAFFETZ: Is it true or false: The security decisions on the ground in Libya were made by you.
NORDSTROM: I would have liked to have thought, but apparently no.
CHAFFETZ: Mr. Hicks, when you heard and saw that, did you have a reaction to it? What's your personal opinion?
HICKS: When I was there, I was very frustrated by the situation – at times, even frightened by the threat scenario that we were looking at, relative to the resources that we had to try to mitigate that threat scenario.

Key Exchange between Nordstrom and Rep. Jim Jordan:

JORDAN: Mr. Nordstrom you testified in October [2012] there were 200 and some security incidents in Libya [during] the 13 months prior to the attack. Is that correct?
NORDSTROM: That's correct.
JORDAN: Repeated attempts to breach the facility there. You repeatedly asked for additional security personnel and it was denied. Correct?
NORDSTROM: That's correct.
JORDAN: Not only denied, but it was reduced. Correct?
NORDSTROM: That's correct.
JORDAN: And then four and a half months after it all happens, the Secretary of State says you were responsible for the security situation in Libya.

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