(Author’s note: This article was originally published in May 2013, mostly transcribed directly via the Benghazi hearings. We’re republishing to remind everyone what the Benghazi eyewitnesses experienced in 2012, and no, we will never let this go until/unless justice is served.)
Witnesses (aka “whistleblowers”) Greg Hicks, Eric Nordstrom and Mark Thompson, gave their testimony on Wednesday in the beginning phases of the Benghazi hearings. Their sometimes-explosive statements exposed what most of us already believed: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Susan Rice and everyone in between lied and tried to cover up the fact that Benghazi was an Islamic terrorist attack.
And no, it had nothing to do with a video.
The first witness who testified was Gregory Hicks. On September 11, 2012, Hicks says he got a call from told Ambassador Stevens saying “We’re under attack” and then the line went dead. Hicks says he went to the Tactical Operation Center and asked a DS agent what was happening and was told the “consulate had been breached”. Hicks asked the Annex Chief about a response and was told they were “mobilizing”.
Hicks said he called everyone from the U.S. State Department to the governmental heads of Tripoli and Libya asking for assistance. David McFarland, political chief, reached out to his Benghazi contacts at the local level to respond to the attack.
Hicks talked about the consulate being invaded; buildings were set on fire by “approximately 60 attackers”. The fire in the consulate was a petroleum fire, which produces cyanide gas. Hicks said, “One full breath of that is incapacitating”. He was told that Ambassador Stevens was taken to a hospital that he later learned was controlled by the group who led the attack.
“At 12:30 a.m. Twitter feeds are saying the attack was happening because of Ansar al-Sharia”, said Hicks. Around 3 a.m., Hicks stated that he got “the saddest call of my life” from Libya saying Ambassador Stevens had died. Hicks testified that he had been “continuously calling” Washington throughout the night and early morning. He also said he was “in awe” of his team in Tripoli and that one of his female staff assistants was heroically “smashing hard drives with an ax”. He said they finally left for the Annex at dawn.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) was on fire when questioning Hicks.
Rep. Gowdy: Did the President of Libya tell you it was a terrorist attack, in real time?
Rep. Gowdy: When you saw the Sunday talk shows saying it was an attack based on a film or spontaneous protests, what did you think?
Hicks: My jaw dropped.
(So here’s the real deal. When Republicans questioned the witnesses, they were respectful and were simply trying to find out why our four Americans were needlessly slaughtered. When Democrats questioned the witnesses–especially in the case of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)– they only used the word “attack” when referring to Democrat politicians being “attacked” by Republicans. They would start with compliments but then almost every one of them launched into desperately trying to “save” Clinton and Rice. I personally wish someone had worked as hard to protect our four dead Americans, as the Democrats are now trying to protect their Democrat reputations, but I digress…)
Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) asked each witness if the embassies in Benghazi and Tripoli were secure–they each said no, they were weak, adding that the only person who had the authority to add or waive security requirements would have been Secretary of State Clinton.
Witness Gregory Hicks told Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) that originally everyone, including Barack Obama himself, called Hicks to say he had did a great job—until Hicks began criticizing Susan Rice for her comments about the attacks being a result of the video. Then he got a berating phone call from Beth Jones who basically told him to “stand down”.
Rep. Jordan: So the people at State told you don’t talk to the people investigating?
Rep. Jordan: Have you ever had anyone tell you not to talk to Congress?
Rep. Jordan: Isn’t it true one of those lawyers tried to be in every meeting with you?
Rep. Jordan said Hillary Clinton’s Second-in-Command was “upset” that their lawyer couldn’t be in one of the classified briefing because he didn’t have security clearance. Rep. Jordan ended his questioning by saying that the higher-ups had reprimanded Hicks because he wouldn’t help them “cover this up”.
Rep. John Mica (R-FLA) questioned each witness about how they were interviewed soon after the attacks. Witness Mark Thompson reiterated the fact that many had raised issues about security breaches to buildings prior to 9/11/12 but that the decisions not to reinforce them were decided “in Washington”.
Gregory Hicks said Hillary Clinton knew via a phone call at 2 a.m. what was happening and that he “assumed” she understood it was a terrorist attack.
Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Virginia) was aggressive and accusatory in his questioning of the witnesses, much like a bully defense lawyer. Regardless, the witnesses were each calm and levelheaded throughout their testimony.
Prior to the 9/11 attacks and after the Libyan elections, Hicks said that although their security situation was extremely weak, he believed things would soon be moving in the right direction. Under the direction of Secretary of State Clinton they were trying to make Benghazi a “permanent post”; however security for both Benghazi and Tripoli embassies continued to be weak and things were becoming unstable because of “Islamic extremists”. They were all trying desperately to strengthen security, sending “daily security reports” but the U.S. continued to decline their requests.
“Did the security people not consider the date of 9/11…as a high-security type date and that they should be prepared?” Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) asked.
After the attacks, Hicks said although he was interviewed for approximately 2 hours, he was never given the opportunity to read the classified report to see if his testimony had even been included. Rep. Issa seemed genuinely surprised by this, saying witnesses are usually able to read and review their own testimony.
Next, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) asked witness Gregory Hicks about the YouTube video and “spontaneous protests”. Rep. McHenry asked, “Was there any mention of the YouTube video?” “The YouTube video was a non-issue in Libya,” Hicks replied.
Hicks said the President of Libya himself told him–while the attacks were happening on 9/11–that it was a terrorist attack. Hicks said he was “shocked” when on Sept. 16 he started seeing talk shows repeatedly talking about the YouTube video.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) again tried to blame GOP Congress for not giving our military enough money to protect our embassies.
(Side note: Does anyone on earth really believe that if the GOP had been aware that our embassies in Benghazi and Tripoli were in danger and needed extra security that they wouldn’t have immediately given it to them?)
Gregory Hicks: “If we are put in the situation of extremists, we should have the ability to protect ourselves.”
Eric Nordstrom: “We were asked if we needed machine guns. If we are at the point where we need machine guns, my question is why are we there?”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was next to question Gregory Hicks.
Rep. Chaffetz: Did we, the night of the attack, ask for aircraft to fly over Libya?
Hicks: A UAV was flying over Libya and it had permission to be there.
Rep. Chaffetz: Did we have permission to fly an unmanned drone over Libya?
Chaffetz: Would Libya have granted permission if we had asked?
Chaffetz ended his questioning by stating, “If there’s any chance that we could get military there, then we would ask permission in advance. There was never an attempt to get that aircraft over there…It is stunning that our government…couldn’t get a tanker in the air!”
Gregory Hicks said Rice was “curt” when he called to ask why she was claiming the attacks were due to video. After playing a clip of Hillary Clinton’s “What difference does it make” video, Gregory Hicks was asked how that comment made him feel.
“What difference did it make?” Hicks said. He added that even the President of Libya was upset about the “Sunday talk shows” because his own credibility was damaged. Although the Libyan president had already stated—during the attacks–that it was Islamic terrorism, the Obama administration continued perpetuating the lie about the video.
Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Penn) said, “I am struggling to find out how we had our American ambassador in a marginally secure embassy on 9/11…It appears it must be signed off by the Secretary of State.” Rep. Meehan said that instead of increasing as requested, security had been reduced. Witness Eric Nordstrom agreed.
“Again, that’s one of the questions I had,” Nordstrom said. “Why were these decisions we made turned down?” Nordstrom said instead of the State Department supplying extra security as requested, the Benghazi embassy had to rely on local Libyans to “protect” them. They all became concerned when in February there was an escalation of Facebook postings about Islamists threatening Ambassador Stevens and John McCain.
Rep. Meehan questioned witness Gregory Hicks about this.
Rep. Meehan: Did you have confidence in the ability of these locals to protect you?
Rep. Meehan: Did you report that to DC?
Hicks: We did. Normalization to us was moving toward being a normal embassy instead of being under siege or in a hostile environment surrounded by threats…
Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) said under the circumstances and as 9/11 approached, he was “stunned” the State Department wouldn’t provide extra security and instead relied on local Libyans–unstable people with possible terrorist ties.
Rep Scott desJarlais (R-Tennessee) talked about how witness Gregory Hicks was initially praised by everyone from Clinton to Obama but then they all turned on him. DesJarlais asked when they began criticizing him.
“It was when I questioned Rice’s comments about the YouTube video,” Hicks replied.
Gregory Hicks—who should be deemed a hero by the world—added that soon after criticizing Susan Rice, he was demoted to “desk officer”.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Georgia) asked Gregory Hicks if security is currently being amped up overseas or if they’re continuing to deny the necessity. Hicks said he believes there is “still more that needs to be done.”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) spoke directly to the victim’s families and said they will “not stop asking questions” until all have been answered.
Mark Thompson said that other witnesses were “shocked and amazed that they were not being called” by the State Department.
Next, Rep. Gowdy (R-SC) asked about a damning e-mail sent by Ambassador Rice.
“Are you aware of any crime scene that improves with time?” Gowdy asked, followed by laughter.
Gowdy the asked each of the witnesses if they believed that Susan Rice’s lies about the video resulted in a lack of immediate response by the FBI. Each of them said, “Yes”.
Rep. Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked the witnesses if at any time they were able to get the security they needed; they said no. Nordstrom said he was upset when he heard Hillary Clinton’s testimony saying she didn’t make the decisions for security clearance and that it was “up to them”. She told Nordstrom that his “tone was not helpful”.
“I find it stunning,” Nordstrom said, “that 4 1/2 months after the attack Hillary Clinton still says ‘it wasn’t us, it was them'”. Rep. Chaffetz’ voice cracked as he talked about the four slaughtered Americans who should have been evacuated–but weren’t.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who was continually trying to shift the blame to “anyone other than a Democrat” asked Hicks, “Why did we need to stay in Benghazi?” His answer was that they needed to stay as a “symbolic gesture to support the dream of the people of Benghazi to have a democracy.” He added that Ambassador Stevens was also well aware that the “Secretary herself” wanted to make Benghazi a permanent post.
When being told that on 9/12 the FBI was “waiting for safety clearance” to go to Benghazi to investigate, Rep. Trey Gowdy said, “I’m trying to figure out how Benghazi wasn’t safe enough for the FBI to go there but it’s just fine for diplomats to stay there?”
Gowdy pointed out the fact that they were in Benghazi because of Secretary Clinton and it was also “below specs” because of Clinton.
“You have made a compelling case today for why it is important to other countries that we tell the truth. All three of you have made a compelling case why it is important for the government to tell the truth to our own citizens. So if anyone wants to know what difference does it make, it always makes a difference whether you can trust your own government. To the families, I don’t care whose careers are ruined we will find out what happened.”
Rep. John Mica (R-FLA) talked about how our Americans in Benghazi had “pleaded” for additional security and were instead given less. He talked about how it seemed they were “whitewashing the folks at the higher pay grade” and that the witnesses ended up taking the blame.
Eric Nordstrom’s response–and for me, the most devastatingly sad comment of the day, was that they were standing in a building that was under attack and were basically told they were “on their own”.
My summary of the hearing is that the three very brave witnesses confirmed what we all believed: everyone in the Obama administration lied about Benghazi. They lied and then tried to cover it all up. And after hearing their Democrat foot soldiers today, it’s apparent they are going to try to perpetuate their lies and cover ups and divert attention as long as they possibly can. “It was the stingy GOP Congress at fault!” and “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is”…
And I promise you–if the people responsible for Benghazi were Republicans, I would be writing this same summation word for word. Despite what the Left is saying, this isn’t about politics; this is personal. This is about accountability, and taking responsible for your actions, and nothing more.
Here is my interview with Sen. Ron Johnson, the man responsible for causing Hillary Clinton to say, “What difference does it make?” We spoke in 2013 at the David Horowitz Freedom Center event about the hearings.