Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, ended the Benghazi attack hearing on Wednesday by stating, “This hearing is closed. But this investigation is not over,” indicating more whistle blower Benghazi hearings are likely due in the future.
Following the appearance of State Department employees Gregory Hicks, Eric Nordstrom, and Mark Thompson at his hearing, Issa told reporters he is encouraging more whistle blowers who know anything about last September’s deadly Benghazi attack to step forward and talk to his Committee.
Issa told Breitbart News on Wednesday that the committee “reserves the right” to subpoena witnesses for future hearings. Issa would not specify who the Committee is currently looking to bring before its members, but a number of names have been mentioned over past weeks. The following witnesses could provide unique perspectives into what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 as well as the administration’s explanation of it immediately afterward.
Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, angrily screeching, “What difference does it make?” to Senator Ron Johnson’s inquiry about the administration’s declaration that the attack resulted from protests that got out of control over an online video. Hicks told the Oversight Committee, “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.” Hicks said that their conversation revolved around the search for Ambassador Stevens and evacuating personnel from the consulate. Her State Department lawyers, Hicks testified, did not want Hicks cooperating with the Oversight Committee investigation along with the acting deputy mission chief. Additionally Clinton put together the ARB team to investigate the State Department’s actions before during and after the attack, yet those assigned to the ARB never interviewed Clinton herself.
General Carter Ham
Ham was Commander of U.S. AFRICOM during the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post and CIA annex in Benghazi. Hicks was asked by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) who ultimately issued the “stand down” order to Lieutenant Colonel Gibson that kept military assistance from helping the Americans under attack in Benghazi. “He did not identify the person,” Hicks responded, adding that he also did not know if the “stand down order” came from Ham (the combatant commander), Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta or President Obama. Hicks also could not confirm to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) if Ham was in Washington D.C., Stuttgart or AFRICOM’s headquarters when the attack happened. Ham retired from the Army in April.
For several months Rep. Jason Chaffetz investigated the Benghazi attack for the Committee and found that he was being blocked from meeting with Hicks alone by the State Department. Hicks testified State Department general counsel Cheryl Mills became “very upset” when she discovered Department lawyers were excluded from classified briefings. They did not have appropriate clearances for the briefings held at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, given by Rep. Chaffetz and his Congressional delegation to Hicks. According to Hicks, Mills telephoned him and wanted a report about the meeting.
“A phone call from that senior a person is generally not considered to be good news,” Hicks said Wednesday. Hicks told the Committee that State Department lawyers did not want him talking to Chaffetz or anyone from the Oversight Committee without State Department attorneys present. Eventually, Hicks says Mills demoted him to another position at the State Department. Mills first worked for the Clintons on their transition team, when Bill Clinton was elected to the White House in 1992.
As Secretary of Defense, Panetta testified in February, “Soon after the initial reports about the attack, the president ordered all available DOD assets to respond to the attack in Libya and to protect U.S. personnel and interests in the region.”
Panetta went further saying, “Some have asked why other types of armed aircraft were not dispatched to Benghazi. The reason is, because armed UAVs, AC-130 gun ships or fixed wing fighters with associated tanking armaments, targeting and support capabilities were not in the vicinity of Libya, and because of the distance would have taken at least 9 to 12 hours if not, more to deploy. This was pure and simple a problem of distance and time.”
However, questions remain as to who ultimately gave the order to American military assets in or near Libya at least two times to “stand down” and not engage in the fight in Benghazi. Hicks testified that a C-130 Libyan transport had been provided and he told Colonel Gibson to give reinforcement to Benghazi to help withdraw personnel. Gibson, Hicks said, told him he was commanded to “stand down.”
Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy
Mark Thompson testified last Wednesday that the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST), the U.S. government’s only interagency on-call short notice team poised to respond to terrorist attacks worldwide, was kept from deploying to Benghazi. Thompson wrote in a September 11th, 2012 e-mail to State Department Undersecretary Kennedy’s deputy, read aloud by Chaffetz, “I am told that Pat Kennedy participated in a very senior conference call with the White House and discouraged the FEST option.” Thompson says he was told that the FEST option would be too “unsafe.” Thompson later testified that he was excluded from senior meetings about the attack when he tried to readdress it with Kennedy’s staff two days later.
Jones is the acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department. In an e-mail to Sec. Clinton on Sept. 12, a day after the attack and a few days before Rice’s Sunday TV appearances, Jones wrote, “I spoke to the Libyan ambassador and emphasized importance of Libyan leaders continuing to make strong statements,” adding, “When he said his government suspected that former Gadhafi regime elements carried out the attacks, I told him that the group that conducted the attacks Ansar Al Sharia is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.”
Jones was reportedly aware that al Qaeda affiliates were behind the attack against the compound in Benghazi, yet that information was omitted from the talking points. Furthermore, Hicks told the Committee that when he questioned Jones about why the administration decided to blame the attack on an online video that instigated a protest, Jones appeared to want to drop the subject.
“The sense I got was that I needed to stop the line of questioning,” Hicks told Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). According to Hicks, his relationship with State Department superiors began to deteriorate from there.
General David Petraeus
Petraeus voiced his frustration in an e-mail with the administration when his talking points were edited. “We couldn’t even mention the Cairo warning. But he added, “it’s their call,” referring to White House Advisors. Petraeus testified about the Benghazi attack before the House and Senate intelligence committees in late 2012, so his testimony remains classified. He was forced out of his position as CIA chief in November 2012 after it was revealed he was involved in an extra-marital affair.
Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman at the time, injected herself into the twelve revisions of the post Benghazi attack talking points. ABC News reports on an email chain, Nuland was part of, among White House, State Department and intelligence agencies illustrating how the final version went through a series of edits that wiped references to prior terror warnings in Benghazi. Nuland, in one particular e-mail correspondence, did not want to include the CIA’s reference to intel regarding the threat via al Qaeda in Benghazi and eastern Libya. That “could be abused by members (of Congress) to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either? Concerned,” Nuland wrote.
Rhodes, White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, responded to Nuland’s e-mail saying her concerns were valid and would be resolved. It should be noted that Rhodes is also brother to David Rhodes, President of CBS News. CBS News is reportedly frustrated with investigative reporter Sharyl Atikisson, who has been heavily covering the Benghazi attack, accusing Atkisson of “advocacy,” network sources told Politico. Apparently, according to reports, Atkisson “can’t get some of her stories on the air.”
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice
Rice testified behind closed doors last November to the Senate about what she knew about the administration’s handling of the attack. It still remains unclear as to who told U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to falsely claim on five Sunday television news shows that the attacks on the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi was instigated from an online video, posted by a California resident. The White House continues to pass the responsibility of the faulty information about the video to bad intelligence coming from the CIA. Rice did the same at a speech in November. Additionally Susan Rice used the revised talking points the State Department pushed for when she appeared on these shows. An interim report last month by House Republicans on five committees showed how Congress could use the original version of the talking points to criticize the administration’s handling of the terrorist threat in Benghazi before the attack in September.
Finally, below are individuals Hicks named in his testimony who are part of the U.S. Mission Libya staff. It will not be a surprise if someone on this list also appears before Congress to discuss what they know about the Benghazi attack and the administration’s attempt to explain itself afterward.
Regional Security Officer (Benghazi) – Alec Henderson
Regional Security Officer (Tripoli) – John Martinec
Ambassador Stevens’ Agent in Charge – Scott Wickland
Political Section Chief – David McFarland
Embassy Tripoli Nurse – Jackie Levesque
Management Officer – Allen Greenfield
Lieutenant Colonel Phillips
Lieutenant Colonel Arnt
Lieutenant Colonel Gibson
Mark Si (Team Tripoli)