“I said that death is a part of life, so often we have to find a way to make life a part of death.”
—Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member of the House Oversight Committee
I think the dam is about to break on Benghazi. We’re going to find a system failure before, during, and after the attacks. We’re going to find political manipulation seven weeks before an election. We’re going to find people asleep at the switch when it comes to the State Department, including Hillary Clinton. The bond that has been broken between those who serve us in harms way and the government they serve is huge — and to me every bit as damaging as Watergate. Senator Graham
Issa: Muller and Pickering declined to testify to Congress re: Accountability Review Board report
counterterror expert mark thompson says he wanted special emergency FEST team to respond to Benghazi but was told that option had been taken off the table at a meeting earlier in the night. White House previously told CBS News that’s not FEST’s purpose. However, Thompson today testified that’s precisely, in his view, the purpose of FEST.
The following is the transcript of Gregory Hicks’ testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the events of Sept. 11, 2012, in Libya.
GREGORY HICKS, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION IN LIBYA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As — as I remember September 11, 2012, it was a routine day at our embassy, and until we saw the news about Cairo – and I remember sending a text message to Ambassador Stevens saying, “Chris, are you aware of what’s going on in Cairo?” And he said no. So I told him that the embassy — in another text – that the embassy had been stormed, and they were trying to tear down our flag. And he said, “Thanks very much.” And, you know, then I went on with — with — with business.
Closed — closed the day, and I went back to my villa and was relaxing, watching a television show that I particularly like, and at 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. And it was also a — a bad cell phone night in Tripoli. Connections were weak. And I said, “OK,” and the line cut.
As I walked to the Tactical Operations Center, I tried to reach back on both of the numbers, the unknown number and the ambassador’s personal number and got no 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, and I asked one of our D.S. agents who — what number did I reach Ambassador Stevens on.
And he said, “Oh, that’s Scott Wickland’s telephone. Scott Wickland was Ambassador Steven’s agent in charge, his personal escort for that night, and was with him in the villa during the attack. So 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.
REP. DARRELL ISSA: “Please explain the annex chief so that people that don’t know as much would understand that. No, go ahead, please.”
HICKS: “OK, thank you. 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 — excuse me if I check my notes here.
This is a long — the attack unfolded in four phases or the night unfolded in four phases. The first phase was the attack on our consulate. This story is well known, I think.
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.
I spoke with a medical officer, one of our medical officers after the attack and the heroism of these individuals in repeatedly going into a petroleum based fire cannot be understated. Petroleum — according to this — to our regional medical officer, petroleum based fires emit enormous amounts of Cyanide gas. They told me one full breath of that would incapacitate and kill a person if exposed to it.
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.
Our contacts with the government in Tripoli are telling us that the ambassador is in a safe place, but they imply that he is with us in the annex in Benghazi, and we keep telling them no, the — he is not with us. We do not have his — we do not have him.
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 p.m. the — 2 a.m., sorry, 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.
The — excuse me.
Our team responded with amazing discipline and courage in Tripoli in organizing withdrawal. I have vivid memories of that. I think the most telling, though, was of our communications staff dismantling our communications equipment to take with us to the annex and destroying the classified communications capability.
Our office manager, Amber Pickens, was everywhere that night just throwing herself into some task that had to be done. First she was taking a log of what we were doing. Then she was loading magazines, carrying ammunition to the — carrying our ammunition supply to the — our vehicles, and then she was smashing hard drives with an axe.
Allen Greenfield, our management officer, was a whirlwind of activity organizing the vehicles to — lining them up, finding the drivers, making sure everybody was getting the things that they would need for the coming days.
John Martinek was a mountain of moral support, particularly to the guys who were in Benghazi, just on the phone talking them through the whole ordeal.
David McFarland on the phone constantly all the time talking to his contacts in Benghazi urging — urging them to help.
Lieutenant Colonel Phillips and Lieutenant Colonel Arnt and Lieutenant Colonel Gibson mountains of strength. I’m still in awe of them. They asked me, in one of the phone calls, when were you going to move to the annex, and I said, ”We’ll move at dawn,“ because none of our people had great experience driving the armored suburbans that we were going to have to use.
Our local staff drove for us as part of our security procedures. They of course were not there that night, and we would have to go through check points, militia check points on the way to the annex to get there, and I didn’t want our people to be going through those check points, because I didn’t know what to expect from the militias.
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.
If I could return to Benghazi a little bit and talk through Tripoli. I am sorry if I bounce back and forth.
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.
And our local staff engaged on those phone calls admirably, asking very, very good, outstanding, even open ended questions about where was he, trying to discern whether he was alive, whether they even had the ambassador, whether that person was with the ambassador, send a picture, could we talk to the ambassador?
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 bated 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 — paid me a very nice compliment. I won’t repeat it here.
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. One of the special forces with Lieutenant Colonel Gibson’s team was — was our last military-trained medic available. He had a broken foot in a cast. I still remember him walking — walking to go and get in the car with his machine gun, carrying a machine gun on his shoulder.
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 — we went her — I 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.
” …Those of us who covered the legal travails of both Clintons during the 1990s, and their rocky relationship with the investigation-inclined Republican Congress would have instantly recognized Cheryl Mills. She is a rare figure in Washington, one who put loyalty and discretion ahead of ambition. And she is ferocious.
Mills is now the counselor and chief of staff to Clinton at the State Department. In the Clinton Administration, she served as deputy White House counsel, and was one of the most influential voices behind the scenes. The internal clashes usually centered on whether to turn over what the president’s enemies were demanding, or to hunker down and fight. She almost invariably led the resistance, an inclination that Hillary Clinton shared.
Few of us outside the inner circle of the White House actually got to hear that voice until Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in the Senate. The BBC called her “the shining star of the defense team,” an assessment that just about everyone else in Washington shared.
“We cannot uphold the rule of law only when it is consistent with our beliefs,” Mills argued that day. “We must uphold it even when it protects behavior that we don’t like or is unattractive or is not admirable or that might even be hurtful.”…”
” … Pentagon officials have denied a request from a House Republican chairman for access to documents on last year’s terrorist attack in Benghazi. “I am deeply disappointed in the Department’s response and am committed to continuing the Armed Services Committee’s oversight into the tragedy at Benghazi,” House Armed Services Committee chief Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement Wednesday.
In April, McKeon asked for all classified information that went into the Department of Defense (DOD) assessment of its response to the attack, which resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. “The department has made every effort to provide the committee a comprehensive understanding of [its] actions” in Benghazi, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs Elizabeth King said in a May 1 letter to McKeon and Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.)…”
“… Obama administration officials are finally letting the attorney for a Benghazi whistleblower get a security clearance — but the clearance is at such a low level that it will probably slow the congressional probe of how the administration handled last year’s terrorist attack on the embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Victoria Toensing represents an unnamed government official who can help explain the reaction of top government officials to the jihadi attack on the U.S diplomatic site in Benghazi and killed four Americans last Sept. 11. The official may also be able to explain if officials rewrote intelligence reports and took other actions to minimize media coverage of the administration’s errors and the perceived role of Al Qaeda jihadis…
Toensing’s client will not be able to testify at public or closed-door hearings because he or she has not been able to prepare classified testimony with the aid of a lawyer, Toensing told The Daily Caller. Toensing, who previously held top-level security clearances while working as a Deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department’s anti-terrorism unit, has asked government officials to update her past clearances to let her work with her client. But the officials initially refused to provide her with the needed forms, she said…”
A source with intimate information about the events that happened on the ground in Benghazi the night the U.S. Consulate and the CIA annex was attacked by terrorists told Breitbart News that, ultimately, only the President of the United States, or someone acting on his authority, could have prevented Special Forces either on the ground or nearby from helping those Americans who were under deadly assault.
“According to the source, when the attack on the Consulate occurred, a specific chain of command to gain verbal permission to move special-forces in must have occurred. SOCAFRICA commander Lieutenant Col. Gibson would have contacted a desk officer at the time, asking for that permission.
That desk officer would have called Marine Corps Col. George Bristol, then in command of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara. From there, Bristol would have made contact with Rear Admiral Brian Losey, then Commander of Special Operations Command Africa. Losey would have contacted four-star General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. AFRICOM at the time.
“Ham answers directly to the President of the United States,” said the source. It wasn’t a low-level bureaucrat making the call, the source adamantly added. That call may have been made early in the engagement. Both Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey testified in January that they had no further communication with President Barack Obama after an initial briefing in the early hours of the Benghazi crisis, which continued through the night.
But what about then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? “I have a hard time thinking it was Hillary alone. Hillary may have tried to circumvent the counterterrorism board and deal with this. I think in order for her to tell General Ham, ‘No, you’re not going to get involved,’ she would have had to talk to the president. The president would have had to say, ‘No, take your commands from Hillary.’ He would have had said something, because Ham does not work for the Department of State; he works directly for the president,” the source explained…”
Hillary Rodham Clinton,Secretary of State; Andrews Air Force Base,Joint Base, MD; September 14, 2012
“This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable…”
” … Two of the whistle-blowers’ opening statements were obtained by Fox News, and in the statements they affirm their credentials and credibility in testifying about what happened last Sept. 11 in Libya.
“I am a career public servant,” Greg Hicks’ statement reads. “Until the aftermath of Benghazi, I loved every day of my job.” He was deputy chief of mission in Libya and became top U.S. diplomat in the country after Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in the terror attack.
The other statement, by Mark Thompson of the State Department Counterterrorism Bureau, is mostly biographical. Testimony also is due Wednesday from Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer who was formerly the regional security officer in Libya.
The administration has parried Republican allegations lately by arguing that the attack is old news, that the State Department already has investigated it and that Republicans are engaged in a political witch hunt. ..”
” … The military has conducted hundreds of assessments for battles throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. At the platoon level, an “After Action” critique is required whenever there are American fatalities. But at the highest level, there has been no military After Action assessment about Benghazi.
The fight at the U.S. consulate waxed and waned for ten hours. Yet during that time, the Marine Force Recon unit on Sigonella Air Base, 500 miles away, was never deployed and not one F-16 or F-18 was dispatched. Granted, Force Recon and fighter aircraft weren’t on alert and did not appear on the Pentagon’s official list of “hostage rescue forces.” But they were one phone call away, and no general asked for them. Ten hours provided adequate time for a range of ad hoc responses. Commanders are expected to adapt in battle.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said, “We have repeatedly stated that . . . our forces were unable to reach it in time to intervene to stop the attacks.” That is true only if the Pentagon is incapable of improvising. If you see people in a burning house, you do your best to help immediately; you don’t wait for the fire department to respond in a normal manner. If called upon, the Marines on Sigonella would have gathered whoever was on hand and piled into one of a dozen military planes parked at the base. The Benghazi airport 90 minutes away was secure; CIA operatives were standing on the runway, because they had improvised by hiring a plane and flying in from the embassy in Tripoli, 400 miles away. A fighter jet could have refueled at that airport, with the CIA providing cover. Instead, the military ordered four Special Operations soldiers at the Tripoli embassy not to fly to Benghazi and join the CIA team.
The military did nothing, except send a drone to watch the action. Defense Secretary Panetta later offered the excuse, “You can’t willy-nilly send F-16s there and blow the hell out of place. . . . You have to have good intelligence.” As a civilian, Mr. Panetta probably didn’t know that 99 percent of air sorties over Afghanistan never drop a single bomb. General Dempsey, however, knew it was standard procedure to roar menacingly over the heads of mobs, while not “blowing the hell out of them.” A show of air power does have a deterrent effect and is routinely employed.
A mortar shell killed two Americans during the tenth hour of the fight. A mortar tube can be detected from the air. The decision whether to then bomb should have resided with a pilot on-station — not back in Washington. As for the alleged lack of “good intelligence,” three U.S. operations centers were watching real-time video and talking by cell phone with those under attack. Surely that comprises “good intelligence.”…”
“… Cummings asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to “provide an unclassified response to these specific allegations” that the U.S. military had a team in Europe and could have responded quickly.
Elizabeth King, the assistant secretary of Defense for legislative affairs responded to Cummings in a letter Tuesday, saying a special force team was training in Croatia but was able to do little more than “pre-positioning” in Italy “because exact conditions on the ground in Benghazi were unknown.”
“From the moment the (team) was ordered to move, it did not stand down until after all personnel (including the fallen) had been evacuated from Benghazi in a little over 12 hours after the initiation of the attack,” King said…”
Mark Knoller | Monday, November 12, 2012 | DoD TV Pool Report
Here’s the TV Pool Report verbatim on Defense Secretary Panetta’s comments about Benghazi, spoken today in session with reporters aboard his flight to Perth, Australia:
“One of the things that we are doing right now is we are involved in an assessment btwn DOD and the state department to look at the embassies in that region and what additional steps need to be taken in order to ensure the security of our embassies. So we do need to look at how we can A, improve security and 2, be able to effectively respond if there are any threats.
With regards to Benghazi itself, I think this has been pointed out, we moved very quickly to deploy the forces that we thought were important to deal w/ the threats in the region. We deployed those forces as quickly as we could. But the problem w/ Benghazi itself is the events there were happening on rapid pace, that attack was largely over by the time of response.”
Q – more troops? “The fact is, we had them deployed to the key areas that we needed to have them move from. And you know, we have so many bases in the area, obviously Sigonella was one of those bases, but Rota as well as other bases in the region. The fundamental fact is this: in order for us to be able to move quickly –we have to have some advance notice that something is going to happen and in this case we didn’t have that. When we were informed the attack was already happening, and to be able to respond quickly when an attack is already going on, just make it very difficult to be able to move as quickly as we would have wanted to.”
Related Previous Benghazi Posts:
OUTRAGE! Obama Administration Allowed Radical Cleric to Curse US Navy SEAL Heroes at Funeral Services
Did an Imam Really Use Arabic Prayer to Covertly Damn Fallen Seal Team 6 Members to Hell During Their Funeral?
Mother of Benghazi victim: Hillary and Susan Rice told me “nose to nose” that the Mohammed video was to blame
Closed but not over…
“There Are Additional Whistleblowers Warming Up In The Bullpen.” — Trey Gowdy