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Thursday, May 09, 2013

Benghazi diplomat rips White. House

For those of you who didn’t see the hearing, it’s worth watching, especially questions posed by Rep. Chaffetz, Rep. Jim Jordan, and a testy exchange between Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and the three witnesses.

WASHINGTON — The US diplomat who was second in command in Libya during the fatal attack on the Benghazi consulate fought back tears yesterday when he told lawmakers about his colleagues’ final moments — and said he was “stunned” by administration claims it was sparked by a spontaneous protest.

Gregory Hicks, the first person to testify to Congress who was on the ground in Libya during the fateful night of the Sept. 11, 2012 siege, told a House committee that he was incredulous just five days later when UN Ambassador Susan Rice said on Sunday talk shows that the assault was not a terrorist attack.


EMOTIONAL: Gregory Hicks, the second in command in Libya at the time of the Benghazi attack, addresses Congress yesterday.

“My jaw dropped,” Hicks said. “I was embarrassed.”

Hicks riveted the audience in a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing room as he recalled the night.

“Shortly after we arrived at the annex, the mortars came in,” Hicks said. “The first was long. It landed actually among the Libyans that escorted our people. They took casualties for us that night.”

“The next three landed on the roof, killing Glen [Doherty] and Tyrone [Woods],” Hicks said, referring to the security operators who died in the attack. “They didn’t know whether any more mortars were going to come in, the accuracy was terribly precise.”

A career State Department diplomat, Hicks also told the panel yesterday that he was warned by upper agency officials not to talk to a congressman investigating the consulate assault — fueling GOP charges that politics were behind the administration’s response.

The order came after he began questioning Obama administration claims that the incident was not a terrorist attack, he said. Hicks got a call from Beth Jones, an acting assistant secretary to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to stop questioning Washington’s stance that the attack was spurred by a protest, he said.

“I asked her why the ambassador said there was a demonstration when the embassy reported there was an attack,” Hicks said. “The sense I got is that I needed to stop my line of questioning.”

Hicks received another call from Clinton’s counselor and chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, angry that he met with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Mills asked for a full report.

“She was very upset with me,” said Hicks, who said he was eventually demoted after the controversy.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) called Hicks’ testimony evidence that Clinton was involved in trying to suppress information.

“This goes right to the person next to Secretary Clinton,” Jordan said.

Former State Department spokesman Philippe Reines yesterday called the allegation untrue.

“Nobody was told to keep Chaffetz from speaking with anyone,” Reines told NBC News. “That’s completely at odds with the cooperative approach the department has taken with Congress.”

Hicks was one of the last people Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed, talked to in a call reporting the attack. Hicks somberly recalled learning about Stevens’ death.

“It was the saddest phone call I’ve ever received in my life,” Hicks said, pausing to hold back his emotions.

Hicks joined Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for counterterrorism, in telling lawmakers that efforts to get military help to the consulate were rebuffed. Special forces in Tripoli wanting to help were furious, Hicks said.

Democrats ripped into the witnesses, accusing committee Republicans of conducting a “highly partisan” political attack on the Obama administration.

“There is no place or no time that the American military wouldn’t be there to protect American lives if they possibly could get there,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said.

Eric Nordstrom, the third whistle-blower to testify, was the diplomatic security officer and former regional security office in Libya. He blamed the administration for ignoring calls for more security in the country.

“It matters to the American public for whom we served and most importantly, it matters to the friends and family of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Wood, who were murdered on Sept. 11,” Nordstrom said.

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May 9, 2013

Stunning new revelations at House Benghazi hearing

Brave men risk their careers to dispute the Obama administration narrative

Dear Sheila,

Congressional hearings are frequently tedious affairs, often dominated by Members of Congress making speeches rather than posing questions of witnesses.

Not yesterday’s House Benghazi hearing. See The New York Post story below (highlights added).

Stunning new revelations included:

  • Gregory Hicks, the Libya Deputy Mission Chief, testified that he called an acting assistant secretary to dispute Susan Rice’s claim made on Sunday news shows, that the attack was prompted by a video. Hicks said he was told to drop that line of questioning.

    Hicks further testified that, during the following month, his performance was criticized by superiors, including receiving a “blistering critique” of his management style. Hicks made it clear he felt he was being punished for refusing to go along with the administration narrative, and in fact was demoted.
  • Hicks also testified that Cheryl Mills, then Chief of Staff for Hillary Clinton, told him he could not speak to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, when Chaffetz traveled to Libya to investigate, without a State Department attorney present. Hicks called the attorney “the minder”—in other words, the person assigned to monitor what Hicks said.
  • Mark Thompson, an official with the State Department counterterrorism unit, testified that the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST), was not allowed to respond to the attack. Thompson noted that FEST was specifically created to respond to just such attacks.

For those of you who didn’t see the hearing, it’s worth watching, especially questions posed by Rep. Chaffetz, Rep. Jim Jordan, and a testy exchange between Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and the three witnesses.

Here’s perhaps the most important thing the American people need to keep in mind.
These three witnesses jeopardized their careers, and certainly made enemies, because of their courage to come forward and tell what they knew. “Whistleblowers” are not treated kindly in Washington.

Much of what they said directly contradicts the administration narrative of what happened and how the administration responded.

These three men had nothing to gain—politically or career-wise—by doing so. What motivation could they possibly have to lie?

Benghazi diplo rips W. House

'Stunned’ at claims of protest

•    By GERRY SHIELDS & GEOFF EARLE, Post Correspondents
    Last Updated: 3:45 AM, May 9, 2013
    Posted: 1:12 AM, May 9, 2013



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•    By GERRY SHIELDS & GEOFF EARLE, Post Correspondents
    Last Updated: 3:45 AM, May 9, 2013
    Posted: 1:12 AM, May 9, 2013

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