WASHINGTON — When the House Oversight Committee held its hearings on the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three others, a local congressman was a participant.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, was one of the panelists Wednesday at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s “Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage” hearings. The committee questioned three State Department witnesses: Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism; Gregory Hicks, Foreign Service officer and former deputy chief of mission/chargé d’affairs in Libya; and Eric Nordstrom, diplomatic security officer and former regional security officer in Libya.
During the deadly attack, U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department official Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed.
“There were three takeaways from the hearing,” Jordan said Friday. “The first, without question, the hearing confirmed what everyone suspected, that Ambassador [Susan] Rice misled the American public.”
Five days after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Rice insisted it was a political demonstration against an obscure YouTube video that turned violent rather than a terrorist attack.
“We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this [attack] was premeditated or preplanned,” Rice told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
This contradicts an email sent by Beth Jones, the acting assistant secretary for Middle Eastern affairs at the State Department, to Hicks and other top administration officials. In it, she fingered Ansar al-Sharia, a radical Islamic terror group, as the perpetrator behind the attack.
That email was sent Sept. 12, four days before Rice made her rounds on the Sunday talk shows claiming the YouTube video was the cause of the attack.
The second takeaway Jordan said of the Wednesday hearing was the link to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and State Department lawyers telling Hicks, the No. 2 diplomat in Libya, not to cooperate with congressional investigators.
During the course of the four-hour hearing, Jordan spent about five minutes questioning Hicks about the order, which he said was unprecedented in his 22-year diplomatic career:
Jordan: “As I read the transcript, it seems to me that it came to a head and phone calls you were on with lawyers from the Department of State prior to Congressman [Jason] Chaffetz, [R-Utah], coming to visit in Libya. … Tell me … what those lawyers instructed you to do on Mr. Chaffetz’s visit to Libya."
Hicks: “I was instructed not to allow the [regional security officer], the acting deputy chief of mission, and myself to be personally interviewed by Congressman Chaffetz.”
Jordan: “The people at State told you, ‘Don’t talk to the guy who is coming to investigate’?”
Hicks: “Yes, sir.”
Jordan: “You’ve had several congressional delegations come to various places you’ve been around the world. Has that ever happened where lawyers get on the phone to you prior to a congressional delegation coming to investigate — a time when we’ve had four Americans lose their lives — have you ever had anyone tell you, ‘Don’t talk with the people from Congress coming to find out what took place’?”
Hicks also told Jordan one of the lawyers who called him tried to be with Hicks during every meeting he had with Chaffetz, but there was one classified meeting the lawyer could not attend because his security clearance was too low. Hicks said Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, called him upset the attorney was not permitted in the meeting.
“The third and maybe the most important takeaway was that [U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.,] said we need more hearings,” Jordan said. “And all the evidence suggests there needs to be.”
Cummings is the ranking Democrat on the committee.
Jordan said there could be a fourth takeaway, and that is the question of who ordered Lt. Col. Gibson to stand down and not allow Special Forces, who were an hour away in Tripoli, from responding to the attack, according to Hicks.
“We need to know who gave that order,” Jordan said.
Hicks has paid a price for being a whistle-blower on the Benghazi affair. Hicks, who now works as a State foreign affairs officer for government affairs, says he has been “effectively demoted from deputy chief of mission to desk officer.”
“I am a career public servant,” Hicks said. “Until the aftermath of Benghazi, I loved every day of my job.”
“Here’s a guy with 22 years of outstanding service to our country, 22 years outstanding service, praised by everybody who counts — the president, the secretary, everyone above him — and yet now they’re obstructing him because he won’t help them cover this up. He’s an honorable man here telling the truth. Now he’s getting this kind of treatment from the very people who praised him before,” Jordan told Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., at the hearing. “This is why this hearing is so important.”
Jordan said there needs to be more hearings, and there will be.
“I love what [Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.,] said, ‘There is no statute of limitations on finding the truth,’” Jordan said.