TESTIMONY AT THE HOUSE OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE HEARING: MAY 8, 2013
Testimony at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Hearing: May 8, 2013
* May 8, 2013:
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing on
the events of Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. The witnesses are: (a)
Gregory Hicks, foreign service officer and former Deputy Chief of
Mission in Libya, who was stationed at the State Department residential
compound in Tripoli on 9/11/12; he is also a Democrat who voted
for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primary, and then for
Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 general elections; (b) Mark Thompson,
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counter-terrorism; and
(c) Eric Nordstrom, diplomatic security officer.
...[A]t 9:45 p.m. -- and all times will be Libyan times, a six-hour
time difference -- the RSO John Martinec ran into my villa yelling,
"Greg! Greg! The consulate's under attack.'' And I stood up and reached
for my phone because I had an inkling or thought that perhaps the
ambassador had tried to call me to relay the same message. And I found
two missed calls on the phone, one from the ambassador's phone and one
from a phone number I didn't recognize. And I punched the phone number I
didn't recognize, and I got the ambassador on the other end. And he
said, "Greg, we're under attack." And I was walking out of the villa, on
my way to the Tactical Operations Center, because I knew we would all
have to gather there to mobilize or try to mobilize a response....
When I got to the Tactical Operations Center, I told people that the
ambassador -- that I had just talked to the ambassador and what he
said. At the time, John Martinec was on the phone with Alec Henderson
in Benghazi, the RSO there.... I asked -- when John Martinec got off the
telephone, I asked him what was going on. And he said that the
consulate had been breached, and there were at least 20 hostile
individuals armed in the -- in the compound at the time. So I next
called the annex chief to ask him if he was in touch with the Benghazi
annex to activate our emergency response plan.... And he said that he
had been in touch with the annex in Benghazi, and they said they were
mobilizing a response team there to go to the -- to our facility and
provide reinforcements and to repel the attack.
With that knowledge, I called the operations center at the State
Department, approximately 10 p.m. to report the attack and what we were
doing to respond to it. The next thing I did was to begin calling the
senior officials in the government of Libya that I knew at the time. And
so, I dialed first the President Magariaf's chief of staff and reported
the attack and asked for immediate assistance from the government of
Libya to assist our folks in Benghazi.
I followed that up with a call to the prime minister's chief of staff
to make the same request and then to the MFA, America's director. MFA is
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The defense attache was, at the same time,
calling the leadership of Libya's military with the same purpose, to
ask them for assistance.
Once that was done, I called again to Washington to report that these
actions had been commenced. Over the night we -- over that night, that
is basically how our team operated. I was talking to the government of
-- of Libya, reporting to the State -- State Department through the
operations center, and also staying in touch with the annex chief about
what was going on.
Let me step back one minute, if I could, and say that I also discussed
with the annex chief about mobilizing a Tripoli response team, and we
agreed that we would move forward with a -- chartering a plane from
Tripoli to fly a response team to Benghazi to provide additional
reinforcements. The defense attache was also reporting through his
chain of command, back to AFRICOM and to the joint staff here in
Washington about what was going on in the country. David McFarland, our
political section chief, had just returned from Benghazi, where he had
been our principle officer for the previous 10 days. And so, he jumped
into this picture by reaching out to his contacts in -- in Benghazi and
trying to get them, at the local level there, to respond to the attack.
And he also was in touch with our local employee there, as well ...
The Benghazi response -- the consulate was invaded, the -- Villa C
where the ambassador and Sean Smith and Scott Wickland were hiding in
the safe area was set on fire. The attackers also went into another
building. They were unable to enter the tactical operations center in
Benghazi, because of improvements to that facility that had been made.
They -- Scott attempted to lead the ambassador and Sean Smith out of
the burning building. He managed to make it out. He tried repeatedly to
go back in to try to rescue Sean and the ambassador but had to stop due
to exposure to smoke.
The response team from from the annex in Benghazi, six individuals,
drove the attackers out of our compound, and secured it temporarily.
There have been estimates as high as 60 attackers were in the compound
at one particular time. There were repeated attempts by all of the RSOs
and by the response team from the annex to go into the burning building
and recover -- try to save Sean and the ambassador. They found Sean's
body and pulled it out but he was no longer responsive. They did not
find the ambassador....
A second -- it was noticed that a second wave of attackers was coming
to attack the facility. And our teams evacuated, five RSOs and Sean
Smith in one vehicle that suffered heavy fire, but they managed to break
through and get to the annex, and in -- the annex team also withdrew
from the facility and the second wave of attackers took it over.
After the second phase of the evening occurs, the timing is about 11:30
or so. The second phase commences after the teams have returned to the
annex, and they suffer for about an hour and a half probing attacks
from terrorists. They are able to repulse them and then they desist at
about 1:30 in the morning.
The Tripoli response team departs at about midnight and arrives at
about 1:15 in Benghazi. If I may step back again to Tripoli and what's
going on there at this point. At about 10:45 or 11:00 we confer, and I
asked the defense attache who had been talking about AFRICOM and with
the joint staff, "Is anything coming? Will they be sending us any
help? Is there something out there?" And he answered that, the nearest
help was in Aviano, the nearest -- where there were fighter planes. He
said that it would take two to three hours for them to get onsite, but
that there also were no tankers available for them to refuel. And I
said, "Thank you very much," and we went on with our work.
Phase III begins with news that the ambassador -- the ambassador's body
has been recovered, and David McFarland, if I recall correctly, is the
individual who began to receive that news from his contacts in
Benghazi. We began to hear also that the ambassador has been taken to a
hospital. We don't know initially which hospital it is, but we --
through David's reports we learned that it is in a hospital which is
controlled by Ansar Sharia, the group that Twitter feeds had identified
as leading the attack on the consulate.
We're getting this information as the Tripoli response team arrives in
Benghazi at the airport. Both our annex chief and the annex chief in
Benghazi and our defense attache are on the phone during this period
trying to get the Libyan government to send vehicles and military --
and-or security assets to the airport to assist our response team.
At this point, this response team looks like it may be a hostage rescue
team, that they're going to -- we're going to need to send them to try
to save the ambassador who is in a hospital that is, as far as we know,
under enemy control....
About 12:30 at the same time that we see the Twitter feeds that are
asserting that Ansar Sharia is responsible for the attack, we also see a
call for an attack on the embassy in Tripoli. And so we begin to - we
-- we had always thought that we were in -- under threat, that we now
have to take care of ourselves and we began planning to evacuate our
facility. When I say our facility, I mean the State Department
residential compound in Tripoli, and to consolidate all of our personnel
in -- at the annex in Tripoli. We have about 55 diplomatic personnel in
the two annexes.
On that night if I may go back, I would just like to point out that
with Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith in Benghazi there are five
diplomatic security agents -- assistant regional security officers. With
us in -- in our residential compound in Tripoli, we have the RSO John
Martinek, three assistant regional security officers protecting 28
diplomatic personnel. In addition, we also have four special forces
personnel who are part of the training mission.
During the night, I am in touch with Washington keeping them posted of
what's happening in Tripoli and to the best of my knowledge what I am
being told in Benghazi. I think at about ... 2 a.m. ... 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. And, I briefed her on
Most of the conversation was about the search for Ambassador Stevens.
It was also about what we were going to do with our personnel in
Benghazi, and I told her that we would need to evacuate, and that was --
she said that was the right thing to do.
At about 3 a.m. I received a call from the prime minister of Libya. I
think it is the saddest phone call I have ever had in my life. He told
me that Ambassador Stevens had passed away. I immediately telephoned
Washington that news afterwards, and began accelerating our effort to
withdraw from the Villas compound and move to the annex....
And so we moved at dawn. We arrived at the annex, at least my group I
think at about 4:45 perhaps, maybe 5 a.m., and a few minutes later came
the word of the mortar attack....
The Tripoli team was -- basically had to stay at the Benghazi airport
because they had no transport and no escort from the -- the Libyans.
After the announcement of Chris' passing, military-escorted vehicles
arrived at the airport. So the decision was made for them to go to the
annex. One of the -- before I got the call from the prime minister,
we'd received several phone calls on the phone that had been with the
ambassador saying that we know where the ambassador is, please, you can
come get him....
Because we knew separately from David that the ambassador was in a
hospital that we believe was under Ansar Sharia's call, we -- we
suspected that we were being baited into a trap, and so we did not want
to go send our people into an ambush. And we didn't.
We sent them to the annex. Shortly after we arrived at the annex the
mortars came in. The first was long. It landed actually among the
Libyans that escorted our people. They took casualties for us that
night. The next was short, the next three landed on the roof killing
Glen and Tyrone, and severely wounded David.
They didn't know whether any more mortars were going to come in. The
accuracy was terribly precise. The call was the next one is coming
through the roof, maybe if it hit -- two of the guys from team Tripoli
climbed up on the roof and carried Glen's body and Tyrone's body down.
One guy, Mark Si, full combat gear, climbed up there strapped David, a
large man, to his back, carried him down a ladder and saved him.
In Tripoli, we had -- the defense attache had persuaded the Libyans to
fly their C-130 to Benghazi and wanted to airlift -- we had -- since we
had consolidated at the annex, and the Libyan government had now
provided us with external security around our facilities, we wanted to
send further reinforcements to Benghazi.
We determined that Lieutenant Gibson and his team of special forces
troops should go. The people in Benghazi had been fighting all night.
They were tired. They were exhausted.
We wanted to make sure the airport was secure for their withdrawal. As
Colonel Gibson and his three personnel were -- were getting in the
cars, he stopped. And he called them off and said -- told me that he
had not been authorized to go. The vehicles had to go because the
flight needed to go to Tripoli -- I mean, to Benghazi. Lieutenant
Colonel Gibson was furious. I had told him to go bring our people home.
That's what he wanted to do ... So the plane went. I think it landed
in Benghazi around 7:30. The other thing that we did was -- and I -- and
I want to mention Jackie Lavesk's name in this hearing. She was our
nurse. We initially thought that we would -- that she should go to
Benghazi.... Jackie, I -- I -- I refused to allow her to go to Benghazi,
because I knew we had wounded coming back. I knew David was severely
wounded. And I knew others were wounded as well. And Jackie had just
made terrific contacts with a hospital in town. And so, we sent ... her
to that hospital to start mobilizing their E.R. teams and their doctors
to receive our wounded.
So when the charter flight arrived in Tripoli, we had ambulances at the
hospital -- at the -- at the airport waiting. Their doctors were ready
and waiting for our wounded to come in, to be brought in to the
operating room. And they certainly saved David Oven's leg. And they may
have very well have saved his life. And they treated our other wounded
as well, as if they were their own.
night that I was involved in this incident, I was at my desk at the
end of the day when the first reports came in that indicated that we
had an attack going on at our diplomatic facility in Benghazi. In
that facility, we knew we had our ambassador and we had his security
personnel. Later, when I heard that the situation had evolved to them
going to a safe haven, and then the fact that we could not find the
ambassador, I alerted my leadership, indicating that we needed to go
forward and consider the deployment of the Foreign Emergency Support
Team [FEST].... I notified the White House of my idea. They indicated
that meetings had already taken place that evening, that had taken
FEST out of the menu of options. I called the office within the State
Department, that had been represented there [at the White House
meeting], asking them why it had been taken off the table and was
told that it was not the right time [because it might be too unsafe],
and it was not the team that needed to go right then....
The other thing that I
pointed out is that with the tyranny of distance – at least 8 or 9
hours to get to the middle of the Mediterranean – we needed to act
now and not wait. There is sometimes the hesitancy to not deploy
[sic] because we don't know what's going on. One definition of a
crisis is, you don't know what's going to happen in two hours, so you
need to help develop that situation early....
We live by a code. That code says you go
after people when they're in peril, when they're in the service of
their country. We did not have the benefit of hindsight in the early
hours, and those people who are in peril in the future need to know
that we will go get 'em, and we will do everything we can to get them
out of harm's way. That night unfolded in ways that no one culd have
predited when it first started. And it is my strong belief, then as
it is now, that we needed to demonstrate that resolve even if we'd
still had the same outcome.
GOWDY: [Just hours after the attack] the president of Libya …
labeled it an attack by Islamic extremists, possibly with terror
HICKS: Yes sir....
GOWDY: Did the president of
Libya ever mention a spontaneous protest related to a video?
GOWDY: When Ambassador Stevens talked to you perhaps
minutes before he died, as a dying declaration, what precisely did he
say to you?
HICKS: He said, “Greg, we're under attack.”
Would a highly decorated career diplomat have told you or Washington,
had there been a demonstration outside his facility that day?
Yes sir, he would have.
GOWDY: Did he mention one word about a
protest or a demonstration?
HICKS: No sir, he did not.
So fast-forward, Mr. Hicks, to the [September 16, 2012] Sunday talk
shows and Ambassador Susan Rice. She blamed this attack on a video.
In fact, she did it five different times. What was your eaction to
HICKS: I was stunned. My jaw dropped. And I was
GOWDY: Did she talk to you before she went on the
five Sunday talk shows?
HICKS: No sir.
GOWDY: You were the
highest-ranking official in Libya at the time, correct?
GOWDY: And she did not bother to have a conversation with you
before she went on national television.
HICKS: No sir.
So Ambassador Rice directly contradicts the evidence on the ground in
Libya, she directly contradicts the president of Libya, she directly
contradicts the last statement uttered by Ambassador Stevens.
Mr. Hicks, who is Beth Jones?
HICKS: Beth Jones is the acting
assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the State
GOWDY: I want to read an excerpt from an email she
sent [on September 12], and you were copied on it.... This is from
Miss Jones to you [Hicks], to counsel for Hillary Clinton, to
Victoria Nuland, to Mr. Kennedy [U.S. State Department's Under
Secretary of State for Management, Patrick F. Kennedy]. Near as I can
tell, to almost everyone in the State Department. And I'm going to
read from it: “I spoke to the Libyan ambassador and emphasized the
importance of Libyan leaders continuing to make strong statements.
When he said his government suspected that former Qadhafi regime
elements carried out the attacks, I told him that the group that
conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic
terrorists.... Mr. Hicks, I want to know two things. Number 1, why in
the world would Susan Rice go on five Sunday talk shows and
perpetuate a demonstrably false narrative? And secondarily, what
impact did it have on the ground, in Benghazi, the fact that she
contradicted the president of Libya?
HICKS: As for the first
question, I cannot provide an answer, but perhaps you should askl
Ambassador Rice. As to the second question, at the time, we were
trying to get the FBI to Benghazi to begin its investigation. And
that talk show actually provided an opportunity to make that happen.
Afterwards, we encountered bureaucratic resistance for a long period
from the Libyans.... It took us an additional 18 days, maybe, to get
the FBI team to Benghazi....
REP. Jason CHAFFETZ: Mr.
Hicks, I want to go back to that first plane from Tripoli [which]
included 7 rescue-team members, including two U.S. military
personnel. That plane then returns to Tripoli. And the first rescue
team that is there is now really engaged in the attack. You have no
idea, is my understanding, as to when the attack is going to end. So
the second rescue team [which included 4 U.S. military special-forces
personnel] is preparing to go.... And yet these military personnel do
not operate under your authority, and your permission is not enough
for them to go. Explain to me again exactly what happened.
Again, we determined that we needed to send a second team from
Tripoli to secure the airport for the withdrawal of our personnel
from Benghazi. |
CHAFFETZ: But were any of these U.S. military
personnel not permitted to travel on a rescue mission from Tripoli to
HICKS: They were not authorized to travel.
What happened with those personnel?
HICKS: They remained in
Tripoli with us. The medic went with the nurse to the hospital to
lend his skills to the treatment of our wounded.
CHAFFETZ: How did
the personnel react to being told to stand down?
HICKS: They were
furious.... I will quote Lt. Col. Gibson. He said, “This is the
first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than somebody
in the military.”
CHAFFETZ: … Where did the stand-down order
HICKS: I believe it came from either AFRICOM [United
States Africa Command] or SOCAFRICA [Special Operations Command
JORDAN: All that [praise and support
from the Obama administration] seems to change [after] the phone call
you got from Beth Jones [after Susan Rice went on the five Sunday
talk shows] ... because you asked Beth Jones what?
HICKS: I asked
her why the ambassador had said there was a demonstration, when the
embassay had reported only an attack.
JORDAN: And again, what kind
of response did you get from Beth Jones when you asked that
HICKS: She said, “I don't know.” … The sense I got
was that I needed to stop the line of questioning.
[A]s I read the transcript, it seems to me that it [tension between
Hicks and his superiors in the Obama administration] came to a head
in phone calls you were on with lawyers from the Department of State
prior to Congressman [Jason] Chaffetz [a member of the House Oversight
and Government Reform Committee] coming to visit in Libya [to get an
on-the-ground assessment of the attack]. Is that
HICKS: Yes sir.
JORDAN: And tell me about those
conversations, what those lawyers instructed you to do on Mr.
Chaffetz's visit to Libya.
HICKS: I was instructed not to allow
the RSO, the acting deputy chief of mission, and myself to be
personally interviewed by Congressman Chaffetz.
JORDAN: So the
people at State told you, don't talk to the guy who's coming to
HICKS: Yes sir.
JORDAN: … You’ve
had [dozens and dozens of] congressional delegations come to various
places you’ve been around the world. Has that ever happened …
Have you ever had anyone tell you don’t talk with the people from
Congress coming to find out what took place?
… And isn't it true that one of those lawyers on the phone call
accompanied the folks in the delegation and tried to be in every
single meeting you had with Mr. Chaffetz and the delegation from this
HICKS: Yes sir, that's true.
JORDAN: Tell me what
happened when you got a classified briefing with Mr. Chaffetz. What
happened in the phone call that happened after that?
lawyer was excluded from the meeting because his clearance was not
high enough, and the delegation had insisted that the briefing not be
limited by –
Did the lawyer try and get into that briefing?
HICKS: He tried,
yes, but the annex chief would not allow it, because the briefing
needed to be at the appropriate level of clearance.
had a subsequent conversation after this classified briefing that the
lawyer was not allowed to be in, with you and Mr. Chaffetz and others
in that delegation, and you had another conversation on the phone
with Cheryl Mills [counselor for the Department of State and chief of
staff to Secretary Clinton].... She is as close as you can get to
Secretary Clinton. Is that accurate?
HICKS: Yes sir.
And tell me about that phone call you had with Cheryl
HICKS: She demanded a report on the visit –
Was she upset by the fact that tis lawyer, this babysitter, this spy,
whatever you want to call him, was not allowed to be in that
HICKS: She was very upset.
this goes right to the person next to Secretary Clinton. Is that
HICKS: Yes sir.
there any evidence when you were there, in Libya, on that day
[September 12], that this was a protest?
HICKS: No, there was
none, and I'm confident that Ambassador Stevens would have reported a
protest immediately if one appeared on his door....
there anything in connection to a YouTube video? Was there any
awareness that the events occurred because of a YouTube video?
The YouTube video was a non-event in Libya.
MCHENRY: And did you
know about that within a couple of days, or the day of?
MCHENRY: And so, did you report to anyone in Washington,
within the first couple of days, that there was a protest in
connection to a YouTube video?
HICKS: No, the only report that our
mission made through every channel was that there had been an attack
on our consulate.
MCHENRY: Not a protest.
MCHENRY: … Would you have said the things that
Ambassador Rice said?
HICKS: Not after hearing what President
Mugariaf said, especially considering the fact that he had gone to
Benghazi himself, at great personal and political risk. And for him
to appear on world television and say this was a planned attack by
terrorists is phenomenal. I was jumping up and down when he said
that. It was a gift for us, from a policy perspective, from my
perspective, sitting in Tripoli.
MCHENRY: And did that occur
before September 16th?
He said that on the same talk shows with Ambassador Rice.
HICKS: When Assistant
Secretary Jones called me after the talk show [the shows on which
Susan Rice had appeared on September 16], I asked her why she [Rice]
had said there was a demonstration, when we had reported that there
was an attack.
GOSAR: … And her reaction was?
reaction, again, was “I don't know,” and it was very clear from
the tone that I should not proceed with [this line of questioning]
GOSAR: Did you receive any negative feedback based on
HICKS: Over the next month, I began to receive
counseling from Assistant Secretary Jones about my management style,
things that I basically was already doing on the ground but
nevertheless I implemented everything that she asked me to do.
Hillary Clinton's infamous question (from her January 23, 2013 testimony), “What difference at this point does it make?”
He then asks Hicks to answer that question.
Magariaf was insulted in front of his own people, in front of the
world. His credibility was reduced. His ability to lead his own
country was damaged. He was angry. A friend of mine who ate dinner
with him in New York during the UN season told me that he was still
steamed about the talk shows two weeks later. And I definitely
believe that it definitely affected our ability to get the FBI team
quickly to Benghazi.... It was a long slog of 17 days to get the FBI
team to Benghazi, working with various ministries to get, ultimately,
agreement to support that visit.... But at the highest levels of the
[Libyan] government, there was never really positive approval.
… Was the crime scene secured during that time [the 17
HICKS: No it was not. We repeatedly asked the government of
Libya to secure the crime scene and prevent interlopers, but they
were unable to do so.
MEEHAN: Did you have confidence in the ability of the locals in
the country who were purportedly designed to provide security for
you? Did you have confidence in there ability to provide
NORDSTROM: I think, to put it succinctly, it was the best
bad plan. It was the only thing we had.
MEEHAN: … Did you have
confidence in that?
MEEHAN: Did you report
that, at any point in time, to officials in Washington,
NORDSTROM: We did. We did note the training deficiencies in
particular. That was something that was always there. Certainly we
had also raised the issue of doing some sort of counter-intelligence
vetting of the people that worked for us. Ultimately that was turned
down, even though we wanted it ...
After Congressman Chaffetz's visit, did you feel any kind of shift in
the way you were treated?
HICKS: Yes, again, I did.... Prior to
[Chaffetz's] visit, Assistant Secretary Jones had visited, and she
pulled me aside and, again, said I needed to improve my management
style and indicated that people were upset. I had had no indication
that my staff was upset at all, other than with the conditions that
we were facing. Following my return to the United States, I attended
Chris's [Stevens'] funeral in San Francisco and then I came back to
Washington. Assistant Secretary Jones summoned me to her office and
she delivered a blistering critique of my management style. And she
even exclaimed, “I don't know why Larry Pope would want you to come
back.” And she said she didn't even understand why anyone in
Tripoli would want me to come back.
DESJARLAIS: But yet, right
after the attack, and before the attack, you had [received] all kinds
of praise for your leadership. You got a call from Secretary Clinton.
You got a call from the president, praising you for your service and
how you handled things. Was there a seminal moment, in your mind, to
when all this praise and appreciation turned into something
HICKS: In hindsight, I think it began when I asked a
question about Ambassador Rice's statement on the TV shows.... I was
angry with the way I'd been criticized. I thought it was unfounded. I
felt like I'd been tried and convicted in absentia, but I decided I
was going to go back and try to redeem myself.
is your job right now?
HICKS: I am a foreign-affairs officer in
the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs.
DESJARLAIS: A far
cry from where you were and your level of capabilities.
sir.... I accepted an officer of what's called a “no-fault
curtailment.” That means that there would be no criticiam of my
departure of Post, no negative repercussions … The job now is
a ... demotion. “Foreign-affairs officer” is a
designation that is given to our civil service colleagues who are
desk officers. So I've been effectively demoted from deputy chief of
mission to desk officer.
Nordstrom, can you tell me what the role was of the February 17th
Martyrs' Brigade in protecting the consulate in Benghazi?
Certainly. That was the unit, for lack of a better term, that was
provided to us by the Libyan government.
FARENTHOLD: Were you
aware of any ties of that militia to Islamic extremists?
Absolutely. We had that discussion on a number of occasions, the last
of which was when there was a Facebook posting of a threat that named
Ambassador Stevens and Senator McCain, who was coming out for the
elections. That was in the July time frame. I met with some of my
agents and also with some annex personnel. We discussed
FARENTHOLD: Mr. Hicks,... do you believe the February 17th
militia played a role in those [September 11, 2012] attacks, was
complacent [sic] in those attacks?
HICKS: Certainly elements of
that militia were complicit in the attacks. The attackers had to make
a long approach march through multiple checkpoints that were manned
by February 17 militia.
WOODALL: Thinking back to early
July 2012. Do you recall your back-and-forth with Charlene Lamb
WOODALL: What did you think
of that decision-making process? Were those decisions that Ms. Lamb
was making, or were those decisions that were being kicked up to a
NORDSTROM: It was unclear. I think largely DASS [Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State] Lamb. But one thing that struck me throughout the
entire that I
was in Libya was a strange decision-making process.... Certainly I
felt that anything that DASS Lamb was deciding certainly had
been run by undersecretary Kennedy.
WOODALL: … Did you receive
an explanation for why that request [for additional scurity] was
denied, that satisfied you?
NORDSTROM: I didn't.... I perceived
that it was some sort of – explained to me that it would be somehow
embarrassing or politically difficult for State Department to
continue to rely on DOD, and there was an element of that. That was
never fully verbalized. But that was certainly the feeling that I
got, going away from those conversations.
WOODALL: … What was
the nature of your conversation with the ambassador [Stevens], that
this was such a serious issue, that rather than leaving it with a
“No” on back channels, he wanted to elevate that?
That's exactly what it is. In fact, I recall all the way back to our
first meeting with Congressman Chaffetz and the chairman, that was
the question that I think they posed to me: “If you knew she was
gonna keep saying no, why did you keep asking?” Well, because it
was the right thing to do, and it was the resources that were needed.
And if people, also, on the other side, felt that that was the right
thing to do, to say no to that, they could at least have the courtesy
to put that in the official record.
WOODALL: And did you receive
any feedback back from Washington, whether a direct response to that
cable, or a back-channel response to the fact that you elevated it to
this front-channel process?
NORDSTROM: By the time that we sent
the one in July, no, we did not receive a response. In fact, that
cable, as I understand, was never responded to, which is something
that is relatively unheard of in the State Department. When you send
a request cable for anything, whether it's copiers or manpower, they
get back to you. Prior discussions – back-channel ones – yes, I
had a number of conversations with my regional director and also DASS
Lamb, where it was discouraging, to put it mildly, that, “Why
do you keep raising these issues? Why do you keep putting this
WOODALL: And if you can characterize it, then, between
a non-response or a disagreement, when it comes to issues of security
for American personnel on the ground in Libya, were you rceiving a
non-response from Washington, or was there disagreement in Washington
with your assessment of levels of need on the ground?
I'd largely get a non-response. The responses that I did get were:
“You don't have specific targeting. You don't have specific threats
against you. The long and short of it is, you're not dealing with
suicide bombers, incoming artillery, and vehicle bombs like they are
in Iraq and Afghanistan, so basically stop complaining.”
COLLINS: [Regarding a March 28 cable from Nordstrom, requesting more
security for the Benghazi mission]: Did you expect Secretary Clinton
to either have read or be briefed about that cable?
Absolutely. I certainly expected, given that she had an involvement
in the security process. If I could take a step back: By virtue of
having the SST teams there, because they were a Department of Defense
asset, the process required for that is something called an exec sec.
That exec sec is literally a request from one Cabinet head to
another, in this case, State to DOD. That request must be signed by
the Cabinet head, Secretary Clinton. She would have done the initial
deployment request, plus an extension in the fall, and a second
extension in February. She also came out to post, toured our
facilities … and saw the lack of security there.... She was briefed
by the country team as she visited the site. We also saw, later,
there was the attacks against the facility. Certainly there's a
reasonable expectation that her staff would have briefed her on those
MEADOWS: Mr. Thompson, you had talked earlier
about the deployment of the FEST team, and you said that you thought
it was important to do that. Were there any other agencies, other
than you, that thought that was important?
THOMPSON: Yes, the
Federal Bureau of Investigation and DOD specifically … People who
are a normal part of that team that deploy with us were shocked and
amazed that they were not being called on their cell phones, beepers,
etc. to go....
DESANTOS: When you spoke
with Secretary Clinton at 2 a.m., did she express support for giving
military assistance to those folks in Benghazi; i.e., did she say
that she would request such support from either the Secretary of
Defense or the President of the United States?
HICKS: We actually
didn't discuss that issue. At the time, we were focused on trying to
find and hopefully rescue Ambassador Stevens. That was the primary
purpose of our discussion. [The] secondary purpose was to talk about
what we were going to do in Tripoli, in order to enhance our security
there.... The first two attacks [in Benghazi] had been completed, and
there was a lull in Benghazi at the time.... We knew the situation
was in flux.
ISSA: Mr. Hicks, 2 in the morning, the
Secretary of State calls you personally.... Did she ask you about the
cause of the attack? Did she ask about videos? Did she ask about
anything at all that would have allowed you to answer the question of
how Benghazi came to be attacked, as far as you knew.
don't recall that being part of the conversation.
ISSA: So she
wasn't interested in the cause of the attack, and this was the only
time where you talked directly to the Secretary, where you could have
told her or not told her about the cause of the attack.
Yes, that was the only time when I could have. But, again, I had
already reported that the attack had commenced and that Twitter feeds
were asserting that Ansar Sharia was responsible for the
ISSA: You didn't have that discussion with her only
because it was assumed that since you'd already reported that the
cause of the attack was essentially Islamic extremists, some of them
linked to al Qaeda.
I saw Secretary Clinton four and a half months after the attack in
Benghazi, testify before the United States Congress that she didn't
make the security decisions, you made the security decisions, Mr.
Nordstrom. You're the regional security officer on the ground. You
were the chief security person. You're the ones that made the
security decisions. True of false?
NORDSTROM: The response I got
from the regional director, when I raised the issue that we were
short of our standards for physical security was that my quote,
“tone,” was not helpful.
CHAFFETZ: Is it true or false: The
security decisions on the ground in Libya were made by
NORDSTROM: I would have liked to have thought, but apparently
CHAFFETZ: Mr. Hicks, when you heard and saw that, did you have
a reaction to it? What's your personal opinion?
HICKS: When I was
there, I was very frustrated by the situation – at times, even
frightened by the threat scenario that we were looking at, relative
to the resources that we had to try to mitigate that threat
JORDAN: Mr. Nordstrom you testified in October
 there were 200 and some security incidents in Libya [during]
the 13 months prior to the attack. Is that correct?
JORDAN: Repeated attempts to breach the facility
there. You repeatedly asked for additional security personnel and it
was denied. Correct?
NORDSTROM: That's correct.
only denied, but it was reduced. Correct?
JORDAN: And then four and a half months after it all
happens, the Secretary of State says you were responsible for the
security situation in Libya.