What Did Obama Know and When Did He Know It?
By Matthew Vadum
Congressional testimony this week showed the appalling lengths to which the Obama administration went to cover-up its mishandling of last fall’s terrorist attack at the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, but President Obama’s precise role in the cynical operation remains hidden.
Americans still don’t know what President Obama knew and when he knew it. We don’t know what exactly he did when he learned on Sept. 11, 2012 that U.S. officials in Benghazi were under attack. Obama may have gone to bed while the attack was in progress, leaving others in the administration to develop a politically expedient cover story calculated to get the Obama administration past the finish line last Election Day.
Obama’s advisers, with the president’s consent or not, opted to tell lies to get their man reelected, and to deal with the consequences of those untruths later. They knew they could count on the mainstream media to snooze on the job and dismiss the investigation to come as a partisan witch-hunt.
The manufactured storyline emphasized Obama’s increasingly hollow claim that “al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead.” It allowed the president to escape much needed scrutiny about his lame approach to national security and the threat that Islamism poses to the United States.
Although three State Department whistleblowers testified Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the testimony of one witness in particular was especially unfavorable to the Obama administration.
During the hearing, star witness Gregory N. Hicks, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya during the attacks, explained to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) that U.S. military personnel were not allowed to come to the aid of U.S. officials in Benghazi, a mere 400 nautical miles away.
“They remained in Tripoli with us,” Hicks said. “The medic went with the nurse to the hospital and his skills to the treatment of and care of our wounded.”
Chaffetz asked how the personnel reacted to being ordered to stand down.
“They were furious,” Hicks answered. “I can only say, well, I will quote [Army] Lieutenant Colonel [Steve] Gibson — he said ‘this is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than somebody in the military.’”
Hicks testified that in his opinion U.S. military forces could have responded in time to the attacks in Benghazi had they been permitted to do so.
The U.S. defense attaché indicated around 10:45 p.m. on the night of the extended firefight between doomed consular officials and Islamic terrorists that U.S. soldiers could have been on site in Benghazi within a maximum of three hours, Hicks said.
The attaché said that U.S. African Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff made it known that they had military assets in the area capable of responding, Hicks said.
Former U.S. Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods lost their lives at about 2 a.m. when the consulate was subjected to mortar fire.
Because Hicks’s assertion that there was a stand-down order contradicted Senate Armed Services Committee testimony Feb. 7 by U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) publicly demanded yesterday that the nation’s top uniformed military commander come back to Capitol Hill to offer new testimony about the Benghazi saga.
“I asked [Dempsey] directly,” Graham told Fox News.
“Were there any military assets in motion, to help folks in Benghazi, [that were] told to stand down? And what did Greg Hicks say? That Lieutenant Colonel Gibson — a DOD employee, a member of the Army — was in Tripoli, ready and willing to go to Benghazi, preparing to go to Benghazi, and was told to stand down.”
“Clearly,” Graham said, “our chairman of the Joint Chiefs’ rendition that no one was told to stand down is now in question.”
Fox News asked Pentagon spokesman Major Rob Firman to comment. “They weren’t told to stand down. They were simply told not to go to Benghazi. They were told to go to the airport in Tripoli to provide security there,” he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Seiber, a spokesman for the Joint Staff, said in a separate interview that if Dempsey were to testify again, his remarks “will not change.”
Graham also said he wanted Cheryl Mills, who was then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s legal counsel and chief of staff, to testify about Benghazi, and wanted Clinton recalled as a witness for further testimony. (Joel Pollak helpfully notes that while Clinton may have misled Congress in her previous testimony, she did not do so under oath.)
At the Wednesday hearing Hicks also testified that he never believed the attacks were prompted by a hilariously low-quality anti-Islam video on YouTube. It remains unclear who authored the now-infamous talking point but some evidence points in the direction of Obama speechwriter Ben Rhodes.
Hicks said no one from the consulate reported that the assault on the consulate was related to protests over an anti-Islam video, the Obama administration’s invented explanation for what led to the attack.
Hicks said he spoke to U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens by telephone not long after the mission was besieged. Stevens’s last words to him were, “Greg, we’re under attacks,” Hicks testified.
When Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice helped spread the phony cover story on Sunday TV talks shows five days later, saying that the video sparked the assault, Hicks testified that he was “stunned. My jaw dropped. And I was embarrassed.”
Hicks said he had asked Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones why Rice had blamed the attacks on the video. “She said, ‘I don’t know,’” Hicks said in his testimony.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked, “But was it like you shouldn’t be asking that question, you should be quiet, we don’t want to talk about that? Was that the sense you got?”
“The sense I got was I needed to stop the line of questioning,” Hicks responded.
Hicks recounted that Clinton’s then-chief of staff chewed him out over an unauthorized meeting he had with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).
Hicks gave Chaffetz a classified briefing without a lawyer from the State Department being present, contrary to Clinton’s orders. Mills, whom evidence established told witnesses not to cooperate with congressional investigators, was “upset,” Hicks said.
An emotional Hicks expressed dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s approach to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2012, and what followed them.
“I am a career public servant,” Hicks said. “Until the aftermath of Benghazi I loved every day of my job.”
At this point it appears that only partisan leftists, useful idiots, the naive, and the ill-informed profess the belief that run-of-the-mill governmental incompetence explains the administration’s disgraceful behavior on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center.
Chances are Republicans in Congress will not drop this critical issue and that this week’s testimony from State Department officials who were bullied and intimidated by the Obama White House is only the beginning.