Capitol Hill hearings today featured three compelling witnesses, all State Department veterans: Gregory N. Hicks, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Libya and the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat in the country at the time of the Benghazi jihad attacks; Mark I. Thompson, a former Marine who now serves as deputy coordinator for operations in the agency’s Counterterrorism Bureau; and Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic-security officer who was the top security officer in Libya.
Clearly, those that testified today appeared overall to be much more non-partisan and professional than some of the people questioning them. Anyone that watched the testimony is going to be hard pressed to label Hicks and the others as some kind of political firebrands. Tears were in the eyes of many of these whistleblowers, as they told of how their friends died while they watched.
A few questions clearly remain after today’s testimony:
1. Not once, but TWICE, there was a ‘stand down’ order made on the night of 9/11/2012. We can argue whether or not this action could have saved any lives; there is some dispute of whether the force in Tripoli could have made a difference, and whether there were other assets in the area. Only the Defense Department review of events of that night will answer that question.
However, Hicks argues that even an Air Force fly over may have pushed the rebel insurgents back. That is only his theory, however.
That said, we know the military was ready to move. According to Hicks, the deputy chief of mission in Libya, special forces in Tripoli were “furious” when they were told to stand down during the Benghazi attack. “I will quote Lieutenant Colonel Gibson,” Hicks told the House Oversight Committee in hearings today, “He said, ‘This is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than somebody in the military.’”
Mark Thompson, the deputy coordinator for operations at the State Department’s bureau of counter-terrorism during the Benghazi attacks, testified in previous testimony, that the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST)—a special unit comprised of special-operations officers, FBI officers and diplomatic security personnel—was not deployed on the evening of the attacks.
“I alerted my leadership indicating that we needed to go forward and consider the deployment of the Foreign Emergency Support Team,” Thompson said. He added that he was told that meetings had already taken place. “I was told this was not the right time to deploy the team.”
So who made the decision to stop deployment? Maybe it was the right decision, maybe it wasn’t, but 8 months after the attack, we don’t know who in the leadership made the call. I presume it was President Obama.
2. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was personally called by Hicks at 2 A.M. that night…did she issues the ‘stand down’ order herself? Is that even legal?
What is more important about this call is that at that time, he told Ms. Clinton, in no uncertain terms, that this was clearly a terrorist attack, according to Ambassador Stevens himself, who told this to Hicks as the attack was starting. Why Clinton then repeated the rhetoric that it was a ‘spontaneous protest’ days later, even at the funeral of one of the dead, remains a mystery. Some intelligence sources in D.C. remained unsure of the facts, but if your own diplomatic personnel say it was a terrorist attack…why wouldn’t you believe your own people on the ground over intelligence sources in Washington?
3. Following up on the previous, one thing is clear: The “protest” about a YouTube video was a complete fabrication by the Obama administration. There was at no moment in time any evidence that this was spontaneous or that it was instigated by the video. Not according to the people in Libya at the time.
4. There was clear push back from allies of Ms. Clinton in allowing these whistleblowers to testify to Congress. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills on multiple occasions put up road blocks and pressured the witnesses to limit their testimony. Why? If Ms. Clinton supported full openness and transparency, there was absolutely no reason for these actions.
Further worsening the appearance of this, Hicks testified that he basically has been demoted; and the demotion came only after his intent to testify and bring his version of the facts came to light. So much for whistleblower protections in the Obama Administration.
The reality is, ultimately, this testimony will do nothing on the larger scale. Liberals dismissed this testimony without every hearing a second of it, and the media will aid their wish to remain ignorant. They feel they know everything they need to know, even though there were numerous facts today that were omitted in the internal review performed by the State Department, and out right contradictions to testimony by Sec. Clinton and others. It has gone so far as the White House complaining to CBS that Sharyl Attkisson, who has done brilliant work on Benghazi, should basically be ‘shut down’. That is what transparency means to this White House and to the media today.
Furthermore, because of the lack of transparency from the White House, we don’t know who gave the ‘stand down’ order. If it was the President, he should admit it. It was clearly his right, but to pass the buck to low level staffers who should never have had that responsibility is simply unfair.
However, Republicans have failed to show an outright cover-up. The clearest we get to such a ‘crime’ is the Susan Rice debacle, with the repetitive blaming of the YouTube video for the riot instead of it clearly being, by all evidence even on the day of the attack, a coordinated terrorist event. Was this a true cover-up, or was the administration really so stupid to believe their own story? This is the most politically slanted part of the story, and my guess is neither side will accept the other’s version completely. Let us accept this much: it is reasonable to say the administration was clearly and utterly incompetent, and honestly should never have even mentioned the video in relation to Benghazi.
Ultimately, the country learned a lot about how the Obama Administration works today. The blame, when things go wrong, will never reside with the President or his key advisers, but will be displaced to low level players that have no political leverage. When those low level advisers try to tell their story, they are treated as pariahs and they are attacked mercilessly. Democrats in that hearing today had no respect whatsoever for the concept of ‘whistleblower protections’, and sadly, future whistleblowers in this administration surely will have learned that lesson; they will get no protection from this President.
As for the night of the attacks, there was poor execution for any response, and even with the ‘fog of war’, the Obama people performed poorly and in hindsight, were completely taken aback by the events. What is more disturbing is that on 9/11, one of the few days on the calendar when we should be prepared for a terrorist attack…our President and his administration were woefully unprepared.
One final point. What is also clear, and that we have long known, is that those that died that night were left alone, without enough security, and still did their duty to our country. They died as heroes.