On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Reform Committee, chaired by Representative Darrell Issa (CA-R) held a hearing on the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. It’s the ninth time a congressional committee has held a hearing investigating the circumstances of the attack and the Obama Administration response in the hours and days that followed.
Testifying before the committee were Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission for Libya; Eric Nordstrom, the regional security officer posted to Libya; and Mark Thompson, the deputy coordinator for operations in the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism.
During the hearings, Hicks gave a detailed description of the events as they unfolded on September 11 from his perspective at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya. He recounted how the prime minister of Libya called to inform him that Ambassador Stevens had died, saying it was “the saddest phone call” of his life.
Hicks also said that a four-man Special Operations team based in Tripoli was preparing to fly to Benghazi to attempt to help those under attack, but it was told by the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command Africa to not make the trip. State Department and Pentagon officials later explained that the team would not have reached Benghazi in time and were needed to defend the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.
Congressional Republicans have argued the hearings and their ongoing investigations into the Benghazi attacks as a necessary attempt to find out what mistakes were made that led to the death of a U.S. ambassador — as well as if Obama Administration officials attempted to downplay the attack in the weeks after it occurred for political reasons.
“I think the dam is about to break on Benghazi,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC-R) posted on his Facebook page. “We’re going to find a system failure before, during and after the attacks. We’re going to find political manipulation seven weeks before an election. We’re going to find people asleep at the switch when it comes to the State Department, including Hillary Clinton.”
Democrats have countered that the Republican efforts are simply an attempt to manufacture a controversy that will smear President Obama and damage the 2016 presidential aspirations of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.