(by David Lerman, Business Week) – On Wednesday, a State Department official told Congress that his plea for troops to help defend the besieged U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, was rejected and that he knew all along that terrorists were behind the attacks.
Gregory Hicks, the second-ranking U.S. diplomat in Libya at the time of the attack, said he was told special forces troops that wanted to board a Libyan cargo plane heading to Benghazi were ordered not to go during the attacks on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.[Yesterday’s] hearing [determined that] the Obama administration didn’t provide enough security to U.S. diplomats in Libya before the attacks, failed to respond militarily during it and engaged in what Representative Darrell Issa, the committee’s chairman, has called a cover-up afterward to hide the role of terrorists linked to al-Qaeda.
Obama administration officials have rejected all of those characterizations, and Democrats have said Republicans are trying to exploit a tragedy for political gain. …
Hicks said in his testimony that he was stunned when Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, described the attack on national television days [after the terrorists killed the four Americans] as growing out of a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islamic video that sparked demonstrations in Egypt and elsewhere.
“My jaw dropped and I was embarrassed,” Hicks said. adding later, “The YouTube video was a non-event in Libya.”
The administration later corrected the “talking points” that Rice had used, acknowledging that there was no demonstration and that [terrorist] groups staged the assault.
Recounting the events of Sept. 11, Hicks said he called Stevens from Tripoli, Libya and the ambassador said, “‘Greg, we’re under attack.” …
Hicks said he tried in vain to get fighter jets to fly over Benghazi in an effort to scare off the attackers. He also said four U.S. special forces troops were ordered not to board a Libyan military transport plane that flew to Benghazi from Tripoli in the hours after the attack.
“We wanted to send further reinforcements to Benghazi,” Hicks said. “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.” [CBS News reported: No assistance arrived from the U.S. military outside of Libya during the hours that Americans were under attack or trapped inside compounds by hostile forces armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and AK-47 rifles. 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 [in Crete] is an hour’s flight from Libya. “I believe if we had been able to scramble a fighter or aircraft or two over Benghazi as quickly as possible after the attack commenced, I believe there would not have been a mortar attack on the annex in the morning because I believe the Libyans would have split. They would have been scared to death that we would have gotten a laser on them and killed them,” Hicks testified. Two Americans died in the morning mortar attack.]
Pentagon spokesman George Little said today the four-man unit was ordered to remain in Tripoli because the mission in Benghazi had already shifted to evacuation.
“We continue to believe that there was nothing this team could have done to assist during the second attack in Benghazi on Sept. 11,” Little told reporters at the Pentagon. “The team remained in Tripoli and performed admirably.” [There is no explanation of what the team was doing in Tripoli.]
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified last year that while troops were mobilized to prepare a response, the military assets weren’t close enough to reach Benghazi in time. He said the Pentagon “spared no expense to save American lives.”
Eric Nordstrom, who served as the regional security officer at the Tripoli embassy last year, said in written testimony that the Accountability Review Board appointed by Clinton chose to “ignore the role senior department leadership played before, during and after the 11 September attack.”
The review board found that the State Department showed “a lack of proactive leadership and management ability,” although the panel didn’t formally interview Clinton and no government employees were found to have violated their duties. One resigned and three others were relieved of certain duties. None were fired.
Nordstrom told a congressional committee in October that he was turned down by the department when he requested extension of a 16-member security support team that was scheduled to leave Tripoli in August. Clinton has testified she never was informed of the request.
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1. The American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, Libya, was attacked on September 11, 2012 by heavily armed terrorists. While the Obama administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, blamed the attack on a spontaneous protest over a youtube video that turned violent, others say they knew immediately it was a terrorist attack. There had been no protests over the youtube video in Libya. The Obama administration now admits it was a terrorist attack. The attack began during the night at a compound that is meant to protect the consulate building. A second assault in the early morning the next day targeted a nearby CIA annex in a different diplomatic compound. Four Americans were murdered, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Ten others were injured.
What did yesterday’s Congressional hearing on Benghazi show was lacking in the Obama administration’s response to the attack on our consulate in Benghazi?
2. a) Who is Gregory Hicks?
b) How would the outcome in Benghazi have been different if the U.S. had quickly sent a military aircraft over Benghazi, according to Mr. Hicks? Why does he think this is so?
3. The Obama administration insisted that nobody was ever told to stand down and that all available resources were utilized. Who do you think has more of a motive to lie: Mr. Hicks or the Obama administration? Why?
4. What did former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testify last year regarding the lack of response to Benghazi?
5. The Obama administration, Democrats and the news media say that Republicans are conducting this investigation for political purposes only, that the administration did everything they could to save our people in Benghazi. Think about what really happened there: In August, Ambassador Stevens had requested extra security from the State Department, which was denied. Our consulate was attacked on September 11, and our government did nothing to help the men under fire there.
How important do you think this news story is?
What do you think of the testimony of Gregory Hicks and Eric Nordstrom? Should anyone in the Obama administration be held accountable, or did they do all they could, and it is Republican lawmakers who are at fault here? Explain your answers.
CHALLENGE: Do an internet search for the “survivors from the Benghazi attack.” How many major news organizations have reported on these individuals (who they are, what job they held, their background)? Why do you think this is so?
On Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya, testimony before the House Committee on Wednesday:
Hicks said he called the State Department in Washington at 10 p.m. [on Sept. 11, 2013] to tell them what was happening and that diplomatic security agents were trying to mount a rescue.
Hicks, who was Stevens’ second in-command in Libya and was left in charge after Stevens’ death, testified about a night of chaos while he and other embassy staff tried to rescue, locate and extract the missing ambassador and to defend and evacuate all U.S. personnel from Benghazi.
Hicks quickly learned that the consulate had been breached and there were at least 20 armed men in the compound. The person in charge of a second U.S. compound in Benghazi, known as the annex, said he was putting together a response team to go to the compound and repel the attack.
A series of phone calls followed to seek help from Libyan politicians and military officials, and to the State Department in Washington to inform officials there of what was going on.
“I also spoke to the annex chief about organizing a Tripoli response team and we agreed to charter a flight to send a response team from Tripoli to bring reinforcements,” Hicks said.
Before long, embassy workers learned that “the ambassador was in a hospital controlled by Ansar al-Sharia, the group whose twitter feed said it was leading the attack on the consulate,” Hicks said.
Hicks said he received several phone calls about the ambassador saying “you can come get the ambassador, we know where he is,” but Hicks was worried about “wading into a trap.” Then he said they saw on the same twitter feed as before that Ansar al-Sharia, an al-Qaeda-linked terror group, “was calling on an attack on our embassy in Tripoli.”
Embassy personnel in Tripoli started making preparations to protect themselves, he said.
Hicks told committee staffers prior to Wednesday’s hearing that he pushed for a stronger military response to an attack. He said he was rebuffed by Washington, according to excerpts of interview transcripts provided by the House oversight committee.
Hicks said he asked twice whether an F-16 or some other “fast-mover” aircraft could fly over the battlefield with hopes it would scatter the attackers.
“I talked with the defense attache, Lt. Col. Keith Phillips, and I asked him, ‘Is there anything coming?’
According to Hicks’ account, Phillips said the nearest fighter planes were in Aviano, Italy, and it would take two to three hours to get them airborne, and there were no tanker assets close enough to support them. Hicks said when he asked again, before the 5:15 a.m. mortar attack that killed State Department former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. But the answer was no again. Also killed was State Department employee Sean Smith.
A four-man team of military Special Forces was in Tripoli was organized, geared up and about to drive to a C-130 aircraft, to help those in Benghazi when its commander, Lt. Col. Gibson, was ordered to stop by his superiors, Hicks said.
“He got a phone call from SOCAFRICA (Special Operations Command Africa) which said, you can’t go now, you don’t have authority to go now,” Hicks said. “They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it.”
Hicks said Gibson told him: “I have never been so embarrassed in my life that a State Department officer has [more nerve] than somebody in the military.” (from a USAToday article:)
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