Three State Department whistleblowers told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday that bureaucratic wrangling led to the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012 that left four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, dead.
The whistleblowers included Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of Mission and Charge d’Affairs in Libya; Eric Nordstrom, diplomatic security officer and former State Department regional security officer in Libya; and Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for Counterterrorism.
Inadequate security, combined with substandard building requirements at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, resulted in the tragedy, Hicks’ testified.
A seven-member security team was dispatched from Tripoli to Benghazi as soon as reports emerged that the diplomatic mission was under attack. Stevens was reported missing by the time the team arrived, according to a timeline provided by the Defense Department last year.
As the assault unfolded, four Army Special Forces members, part of a second team, were told not to go although they were poised to board a Libyan C-130 bound for Benghazi as early as 1:45 a.m.
“They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it,” Hicks said.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), R-S.C., pressed Hicks on whether Stevens had told him about a demonstration outside the consulate the afternoon before his death.
Stevens had made no mention of any demonstration before the consulate was attacked, Hicks said. He was “shocked and embarrassed” when U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on five Sunday morning talk shows the following Sunday to say that the attack had been the result of protests against the “Innocence of Muslims” video.
Gowdy then disclosed the contents of an email sent to top State Department officials the day after the attack saying Ansar al-Shariah was responsible. The email from Beth Jones, acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, was sent to then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“When he (the Libyan ambassador to the United States) told me that former elements of the Gaddafi regime was responsible, I told him that the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Shariah, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists,” the email said.
Rice’s comments hindered the FBI investigation into the Benghazi attacks because it made getting the Libyans to cooperate more difficult, Hicks said.
Fellow whistleblower Nordstrom testified that the Benghazi consulate was considered temporary and was not built to the specifications needed for a high-risk area.
Nordstrom blamed Clinton for the less-than-secure design of the Benghazi consulate, saying she was the only person who could grant waivers to except it from the standards put in places following the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
All three witnesses placed responsibility for the inadequate security at the Benghazi mission on the higher ups at the Departments of State and Defense.