7 Things We Learned from the Benghazi Whistleblower Hearing

images (35)By Brian Preston:

The Republicans mishandled the Benghazi whistleblowers’ hearing. What should have been stretched across several days to give the nation time to digest it all, was instead packed into a single day filled with an overwhelming amount of information. The media’s attention span is not that long. The verdict in the Jodi Arias trial came along in the afternoon and blew Benghazi off the networks, most of which didn’t want to cover it at all. Even Fox joined the drive-by media, taking Benghazi off the air in favor of the irrelevant Arias trial. Following the announcement of the Arias verdict, charges were read in the Cleveland kidnapping case. Those were aired live as well, relegating Benghazi again.

Nevertheless, for those who slogged through the entire day of hearings and ignored local crime stories, new information was there to be learned.

1. There were multiple stand-down orders, not just one. Special operations forces were told, twice, by their chain of command not to board aircraft to Benghazi to rescue the Americans then under attack. The U.S. deputy diplomat, Greg Hicks, testified that the military commander, Lt. Col. Gibson, had his team ready to go twice. They were on the runway about to board a flight to Benghazi in the middle of the attack. They were ordered to stand down and remain in Tripoli to receive wounded who would be coming out of Benghazi. One of the orders came in the middle of the attack, the other came toward the end after Hicks’ team had traveled from Tripoli to Benghazi. The fact that Hicks’ team was able get to Benghazi before the end of the assault strongly suggests that the special operations team could have made a real difference.

At the same time, the State Department’s commander on the scene, Hicks, ordered his personnel into Benghazi and went there himself. Hicks testified that Gibson never told him who issued the stand-down orders. He commented that Gibson told him that the military stand-down was a shock: “This is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than someone in the military.”

Hicks also testified that the U.S. government never even requested military overflight to support the Americans in Benghazi. The U.S. had an unarmed drone overhead and could have gotten permission to fly fighters over the scene, at least, but never asked.

2. Ambassador Stevens’ reason for going to Benghazi has been cleared up. Hicks testified that Ambassador Stevens traveled to Benghazi to fulfill one of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s wishes. Despite the fact that security was worsening in Benghazi for months leading up to the 9-11 attack, Clinton wanted to make the post there permanent. Her State Department had denied repeated requests from the U.S. team in Libya to upgrade security there, but she wanted to use the permanent post as a symbol of goodwill. Stevens was committed to that goal and told Clinton he would “make it happen.” He was in Benghazi on 9-11 furthering Clinton’s goal. She had denied requests to beef up security at Benghazi and then blamed his death on a YouTube movie. Hicks’ testimony raises the question of Clinton’s competence and grasp on reality, strongly suggesting that she put political perceptions ahead of the facts on the ground in Benghazi.

3. Clinton was briefed at 2 am on the night of the attack, was never told that a movie had anything to do with the attack by those on the ground in Libya, yet blamed the movie anyway. Hicks also testified that he was shocked when Ambassador Susan Rice blamed a YouTube movie for inspiring the 9-11 attack. He testified that he had briefed Secretary Clinton directly via phone at 2 a.m. and told her that Benghazi was a terrorist attack. He never mentioned a YouTube video, which he never once believed had anything to do with the attack. But Clinton shocked him by blaming the movie on Sept 12. She would blame it, again, while standing before the coffins of the slain Americans, on Sept. 14. During the attack, Clinton told Hicks that no help would be on the way to relieve the Americans under sustained assault.

4. Whistleblowers were intimidated into silence. Hicks testified to a pattern of behavior that leads to the reasonable conclusion that many officials within the State Department wanted him to remain silent after the Benghazi attack. He said that on the night of the attack he was personally commended both by Secretary Clinton and President Barack Obama. But he later questioned why Ambassador Rice blamed the YouTube movie, and from that point on his superior, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones, questioned his “management style” and told him directly that no one in State should want him on their team in the field again. He was eventually demoted to a desk job after having been deputy to Ambassador Stevens, and remains in that post. Hick also testified that the Accountability Review Board, convened by Clinton last fall allegedly to determine the facts of the attack, never had stenographers in the room during his tw0-hour interview. Nordstrom concurred. Thompson was not even allowed to testify to the ARB despite having direct knowledge of the attacks due to his position on the U.S. Foreign Emergency Support Team. Thompson testified that the FEST was designed to go from zero to wheels up very quickly but was not deployed at all. He wanted to tell his story to the ARB, but was not allowed to. Hicks also testified that for the first time in his career, the State Department assigned a lawyer/minder to attend witness interviews with the ARB. He also testified that Jones told him not to be personally interviewed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican House member who was investigating the attack on behalf of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee. It all adds up to a pattern of witness control and intimidation.

Read more at PJ Media

After Choking Up Earlier Clinton Shouts: ‘What Difference … Does It Make?’

225x150_HillaryLashWeekly Standard:

By Daniel Harper

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about ascertaining whether the Benghazi terror attack was the result of a protest by Senator Ron Johnson. “What difference, at this point, does it make?” Clinton shouted, seemingly losing her cool.

“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”

UPDATE: And earlier Clinton choked up:

“For me, this is not just a matter of policy, it’s personal,” said Clinton, holding back tears. “I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters. It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to lead the men and women of the State Department and USAID. Nearly 70,000 serving here in Washington and at more than 275 posts around the world. They get up and go to work every day — often in difficult and dangerous circumstances thousands of miles from home — because they believe as we believe the United States is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the earth has ever known.”

Paul to Clinton: ‘I would have relieved you of your duty’

c

BY: Washington Free Beacon Staff

RAND PAUL: One of the things that disappointed me most about the original 9/11 was no one was fired. We spent trillions of dollars, but there were a lot of human errors, these are judgment errors, and the people who make judgment errors need to be replaced/fired no longer in charge of making these judgment calls. So we have a review board. The review board finds 64 different things we can change, a lot of them are commonsense and should be done, but the question is it’s a failure of leadership that they were not done in advance and four lives were [lost] because of this. I’m glad that you’re accepting responsibility. I think that ultimately with your leaving you accept responsibility for the worst culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11. And I really mean that. Had I been president at the time and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it’s inexcusable. The thing is that, we can understand that you’re not reading every cable. I can understand that maybe you’re not aware of the cable from the ambassador in Vienna that asked for $100,000 for an electrical charging station. I can understand that maybe you’re not aware that your department spent $100,000 on three comedians who went to India on a promotional tour called “Make Chi Not War,” but I think you might be able to understand and might be aware of the $80 million spent on a consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif that will never be built. I think it’s inexcusable that you did not know about this and did not read these cables.

Hillary Speaks

AP307742013715-540x414BY:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in congressional testimony delayed for several months amid charges of a cover-up, on Wednesday again took responsibility for the deaths of four Americans during the terror attack in Benghazi and defended the Obama administration’s shifting explanation for the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.

“As I have said many times since September 11, I take responsibility,” Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure.”

On the shifting accounts by the administration about the attack, the secretary of state defended the response, claiming she had called it “an attack by heavily armed militants.”

However, the cause of the attack and the identity of the attackers and their motives was unclear, she said.

“The picture remains still somewhat complicated,” Clinton said, adding that key questions about the perpetrators “remain to be determined.”

Clinton initially said in public statements after the attack that the cause was a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim online video, a theme that critics have said fits the administration’s tendency to blame the United States, and not foreign Islamists, for sparking terrorism.

Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, were killed when several dozen armed attackers stormed and set on fire the diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

Although the attack was deliberate and coordinated, Clinton said it was not “indicative of extensive planning.”

A second attack took place at a CIA facility about a mile away. The CIA was reportedly involved in a covert arms program that may have involved shipping arms to Syrian Islamist rebels.

Read more at Free Beacon

Clinton acknowledges ‘spreading jihadist threat’

Hillary Rodham ClintonBY:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sparred with lawmakers Wednesday over what they claimed was the Obama administration’s bungled response to the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Clinton became visibly irritated several times as she rebutted claims by Republican senators that the Obama administration intentionally misled the American public about the specific events that led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) told Clinton that her response to lawmakers was not up to par.

“The answers your given this morning frankly are not satisfactory to me,” McCain said, chiding Clinton for failing to account for the administration’s lapses in knowledge.

“Were you and the president made aware of the classified cable from chris stevens that said that the united states consulate in Benghazi could not survive a sustained assault,” McCain asked. “Numerous warnings, including personally to me about the security were unanswered, or unaddressed.”

“What was the president’s activities during that seven-hour period?” McCain added, pressing for details. “On the anniversary of the worst attack in American history, September 11th we didn’t have Department of Defense forces available for seven hours.”

McCain went on to reprimand Clinton for arguing that it makes no difference whether the Benghazi compound was stormed by armed militants or attacked by protestors.

“I categorically reject your answer to Senator [Ron] Johnson about, well we didn’t ask these survivors who were flown to Ramstein [air base] the next day, that they—that this was not a spontaneous demonstration,” McCain said. “To say it’s because an investigation was going on? The American people deserve to know answers, and they certainly don’t deserve false answers.”

The American people were deceived, McCain maintained.

“Answers that were given to the American people on September 15th by the ambassador to the United Nations [Susan Rice] were false—in fact contradicted by the classified information which was kept out of the Secretary to the United Nations report who by the way in the president’s words had nothing to do with Benghazi, which questions why she was sent out to start with,” McCain said.

“Why do we care? Because if the classified information had been included it gives an entirely different version of events to the American people,” McCain continued. “If you want to go out and tell the American people what happened you should at least have interviewed the people who were there, instead of saying, ‘No we couldn’t talk to them because a FBI investigation was going on.’ ”

“The American people, and the families of these four brave Americans still have not got gotten the answers that they deserve,” McCain said. “I hope that they will get them.”

Clinton warned that America faces a “spreading jihadist threat” that is endangering U.S. assets across the globe.

Clinton became the latest in a series of high-ranking U.S. government officials to publicly recognize the immediate threat that terrorist forces pose to U.S. embassies and other American outposts in the Middle East and North Africa.

“We now face a spreading jihadist threat,” Clinton said. “We have driven a lot of the operatives out of Afghanistan, Pakistan, killed a lot of them, including [Osama] Bin Laden.”

“But this is a global movement,” Clinton said. “We can kill leaders, but until we help establish strong democratic institutions, until we do a better job with values and relationships, we will be faced with this level of instability.”

Read more at Free Beacon

State Dept. to take hot seat over Libya security

WASHINGTON The first Congressional hearing to focus on the fatal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi will be held by the House Oversight Committee this Wednesday. Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy will be the most senior U.S. official to testify before Congress’s highest ranking investigative body.

He will appear at the State Department’s behest alongside two individuals who were specifically requested by the Committee; Deputy Assistant Director for International Programs Charlene Lamb, and Eric Nordstrom, the former State Department Regional Security Officer for Libya. All three have been asked to testify by the Committee which is chaired by Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

Congress will begin to piece together the timeline of events that led up to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission, which left U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other American personnel dead. The testimony by  Kennedy will be the first direct rebuttal of recent allegations made by House Oversight Committee Chairman Issa and other officials that the State Department ignored and denied requests for additional security in Libya.

The most recent accusations come from Lt. Col. Andy Wood, the former head of a U.S. Special Forces “Site Security Team” in Libya, who tells CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson he and many other senior staff at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, “felt we needed more, not less” security personnel in the country, but were told “to do with less. For what reasons, I don’t know.”

State Department officials tell CBS News that Wood was not part of the security assessment in Benghazi and that he was stationed in Tripoli, and thus unfamiliar with the local situation in the east of the country. Wood, however, says some of the members of his own team and additional personnel from the State Department’s elite security detail – two teams which left Libya in August – would have traveled to Benghazi with Ambassador Stevens had they still been in the country. He did not say how many additional security agents might have been deployed for the Ambassador’s trip to the city, but he tells Attkisson that he has wondered if it might have made a difference on the night of the attack.

A key question that lawmakers will ask is whether the U.S. mission in Benghazi should even have been allowed to exist in a country where the central government does not have full control over internal security. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has addressed the security in Benghazi only twice in public remarks. When asked by CBS News whether the consulate had adequate security levels at the time of the attack, the secretary described the security detail as “robust.”

Read more at CBS News