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Benghazi Congress Hearings LIVE: Whistleblowers Give Testimony Over Libya Failures

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Benghazi Testimony: Emerging Lines of Future Questioning

There are several minor issues are coming up that are not important as the committee grinds on but there are several major lines of questioning that are probably going to be focused upon by House Republicans in further testimony. Today’s testimony did not provide any smoking gun that many Republicans were hoping for that would link what happened in the Benghazi to an Obama administration cover-up. But expect them to keep asking question about:

1. The Security Team Lead by Colonel Gibson

Gregory Hicks claims that the 4 person team in Tripoli was given a “stand down” order when they were ready to go. He was asked if he knew who gave this order to stand down and he responded that it did not know. The Pentagon issued a statement that the team was not ready for battle and that their transit to Benghazi would have taken them there when the fighting had been over. Do not expect Congressional Republicans to be satisfied it. 

2. The Initial Administration Response 

Several member of the committee asked about the administration’s initial response. They focused on remarks made by Susan Rice on news talk shows that the attack was a result of a protest that turned violent. Later the administration would state that is was an terrorist attack. There were several times when the witnesses were asked about their reaction to the confusion. Several Republicans on the committee maintain that this confusion is actually a political cover-up. Intelligence officials claim that it was merely faulty intelligence and confusion from the initial attack.

3. The nature of the security in the Benghazi compound

There were several questions about the status of the Benghazi compound and how it was inadequately defended due to its status as a temporary encampment despite being in high threat zone. Although it’s less attractive as a talking point, it may prove a way to link Clinton directly to the whole affair. Or it could just be a genuine organization failure.

4. The Non-deployment of the Foreign Emergency Support Team

Mark Thompson repeated brought up that that a State Department team known as the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) was not deployed and repeated wanted to know why. Several Republicans wanted to know why it was not as well. FEST is not a military unit, it mostly acts as a support team that acts as advisers. Expect questioning to come about the lack of its deployment.

Don’t worry there is more testimony to come!

Benghazi Testimony: Questions About The Security Team and Thompson's Testimony

Colonel Gibson’s team is now under examination. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) wants to know what happened to. The security team was withdrawn down from 16 to 4 months before the attack.

Hicks is now commenting about the attacks and the order given to Colonel Gibson’s to stand down. Rep. Turner brings up a USA Today article that has a Pentagon claim that no stand down order was given. Hicks disagrees with that circumstance.

Hicks then answers that after he realized the stand down order he knew that him and his team would have to get through this on his own.

Rep. Connolly (D-Virgina) brings up other testimony that contradicts Thompson's testimony of being cut out of the loop. Chairman Issa says that the committee will address it in a future meeting.

Benghazi Eric Nordstrom and Gregory Hicks Questioning: Questions About Interviews and Encampments

Rep. Mica (R-Fla.) goes back to the Accountability Review Board report. He asks Mark Thompson if the ARB interviewed him. He says they did not.

Hicks was asked if he was interviewed and says he had a two hour interview. He felt the initial was incomplete but he did receive a follow-up interview.

Nordstrom was interviewed and he says that the interview was through and professional. Mica then asks him about decisions made about security of the diplomatic context and said that they were not consulted on them.

Hicks was then asked about and said that he was unable to contest these decision before the attack occurred.

Rep. Lynch (D-Mass.) fresh off a primary loss, asks Nordstrom about the lack of security at the Benghazi attack due to it being considered a temporary encampment. Nordstrom says that he agrees and that he would like to ask why it was considered a temporary encampment for so long and did not get upgraded due to being in a high threat zone.

Benghazi Testimony: Talking Points and Budget Cuts

Rep Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is trying implicate that there was State Department was covering up.

Gregory Hicks said that he was told to not to talk to Rep. Chaffetz by state department lawyers. Jordan is implicated that this is proof of a cover up. It may be due to security clearance issues or other things but expect it to become a talking point. 

Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.) is bringing up Congress’s failure to increase embassy security. House Republicans cut hundreds of millions from embassy security budget over the past few years, a fact they really really do not like talk about.

Benghazi Testimony: Tierney Asks About Rice

Red. Lankford (R-Oka.) pursued a line of questioning on the embassy security but nothing shocking emerged.

Re. Tierney (D-Mass.) talks about the Accountability Review Board that reviewed the Benghazi attack. He points out that it made 29 reviews.

He then went into the conflicting reports and the charge that the Administration politically changed the talking points

He brought up previous testimony in which several intelligence official’s testified  Susan Rice’s talk inform of the news shows was a genuine mistake based on faulty information. Hicks had no reason to say that the testimony was a lie

Tierney makes reference to the time the Chairman Issa revealed classified information during a hearing and it had to be shut down.

Benghazi Testimony: Mark Thompson Get Support From Chaffetz But is Grilled Under Norton

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked Gregory Hicks about a military team getting delayed due to lack of authorization. Hicks answered that a team had gotten delayed.

Then Chaffetz claimed the commanders that could have given authorization were in Washington and not Stuttgart. Hicks said that he did not know that answer to that question.

Chaffetz then brought up an e-mail that Mark Thompson had received about a foreign support team. Thompson claimed that he was cut out of the loop.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton revealed the Mark Thompson has refused to talk any Democratic members of the committee.

She brought up that a quote that suggested counterterrorism bureau was pushed out of the loop for political reasons. Mark Thompson said that it was not pushed out for political reasons but was still pushed out of the loop.

She then brought up previous testimony that contradicted Thompson’s testimony, as it stated that part of the counterterrorism bureau was consulted on the deployment of the foreign support team.

Thompson claimed that the specific part of the bureau that was different from the one consulted should have been consulted.

Benghazi Testimony: Rep. Gowdy and Maloney Play Politics

Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has started bringing in the confused initial response to the attacks up.

Gowdy asked Hicks about response from the State department. In particular he focused upon Susan Rice’s news show appearance. Hicks said he was stunned.

He then proceeded to read an e-mail that was sent one day after that claimed that the attack may have had terrorists connections. He asked if an FBI responce was delayed.

Hicks said that the was FBI team was sent but then encountered Libyan red tape.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) attacked Chairman Issa over an embarrassing bluster that he made were he claimed that former Sec. of State Clinton signed a note reducing embassy security as a smoking gun. She asked the witnesses if the actual standard procedure was for most State Dep. correspondence have her signature automatically applied.

They all answered in the affirmative.

Bengazi Testimony: Cummings Provides Context

Rep. Cummings asked Gregory Hicks about comments that he made about statement concerning a flyby. Hicks expressed the opinion that the Air force could have deployed planes in 2-3 hours to do a flyby to ward of the mortar attack

Cummings brought up testimony of the Chairmen of Joint Chiefs of Staff. They claimed it would take over 20 hours to get there, as the planes were not readied.

Hicks claimed that the he was going on numbers given by his defense attaché and did not say that the he disagreed with the Joint Chiefs.

Cummings brought up former DoD Secretary Pannetta’s testimony. Pannetta testified that it would have taken 9-12 hours for aircraft assets to be deployed

Hicks again went to what his defense attaché told him and did not disagree with former DoD Secretary’s testimony.

Cummings then noted the Republicans on the committee issued a report in the April that they cleared the DoD from any wrongdoing. 

Benghazi Testimony: Gregory Hicks and Mark Thompson Testimony

Mark Thompson gave a brief response to Chairman Issa’s question on whether he thought it was a terrorist’s attack, “Yes.”

Issa then proceeded to ask Gregory Hicks for his timeline of that attack.

Hicks said that the day of the attack was a routine day until they say news of the earlier Cairo embassy-storming attempt. He informed his superior, Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens of the attempt.

Later in the day he received a message the attack had started. He went to the tactical operations center, while on the phone with the ambassador. The call was cut due to poor cell performance. After reaching the center, Hicks received more information about the attack and next called the annex chief to activate their emergency response team.

He then called the operations center at the State Department to report the attack and their response. He then called senior officials in Libya to request assistance from the local government. After that was done he reported it to Washington.

According to Hicks, the night unfolded in four phases. There was an attack on the diplomatic annex. The villa was invaded were several of the casualties were. The 6 person response team from Bengazhi managed to temporarily clear the diplomatic compound. The body of Shawn Smith was pulled out during this time. There was a second wave of attackers and the teams evacuated to another location.

The second phase commenced when the team returned to the annex later in the night. They suffered several probing attacks but repelled them. The Tripoli response team begins to arrive during this phase.

Phase three is when the ambassador’s body was recovered. Reports came out that the ambassador was taken to hospital that was suspect to be controlled by Islamic militants. Hicks received conflicted reports of the location of the ambassador. He then received reports that the embassy in Tripoli was under attack and the staff prepared to evacuate. He is also keeping Washington informed

At 2:00 A.M. he receives a call from Sec. of State Clinton; They mostly talked about the search of the ambassador and the need to evacuate. Clinton agrees with evacuation. The PM of Libya called around 3:00 A.M. to inform Hicks of the ambassadors’ death. Hicks immediately telephoned Washington of the news.

The team destroyed all of the information in the annex as is standard US diplomatic procedure. They decided to evacuate at dawn and arrived at another compound. The mortar attack started when they arrived. The attack killed several. 

Hicks claims that they were in them process of evacuating to a plane but the security officer who was in charge did not have authorization to go ahead.

Benghazi Hearings: Opening Statments

The opening statements of the witnesses, Mark Thompson, Gregory Hicks, and Eric Nordstrom were brief.

Mark Thompson described his initial recollection of the attacks. He mentioned a foreign support team consisting of people from multiple government organization that he wanted to be deployed. He described the team as “glue” that would have linked the embassy personal with other government organization. He also pointed out that it would have taken 8 to 9 hours for the team to arrive. The team would have provided information to government organization to prevent confusion.

Gregory Hicks simply outlined his career and some of the accolades he received before and after the attack

Eric Nordstrom outlined his career, as the Regional Security Officer for Libya. He thanked the committee for their efforts to find out the timeline of the attack. Nordstrom was visibly chocked up when he described the people who died in the attack.

The committee’s question and answers with the witnesses are coming up nest.

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Benghazi Congress Hearings LIVE: Whistleblowers Give Testimony Over Libya Failures

Benghazi is back.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will finally take questions from members of Congress on Wednesday about the deadly terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Lawmakers have long wanted Clinton's full accounting of the September 11 assault that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Clinton will take questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 9 a.m., and the House Foreign Affairs Committee at 2 p.m.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has promised to grill Clinton over the Benghazi attack. Paul and the GOP appear to have legitimate reasons for pressing Secretary Clinton — including evident oversight on security for the Benghazi mission.

On a recent trip to Israel, Paul told Business Insider: "I think she has to accept responsibility for Benghazi … That's the problem with government — government is anonymous and so no one is accountable. The reason you want somebody to be accountable is that you don't want someone to make that decision again." 

"She needs to be held accountable for it, and I think she needs to answer questions for it," Paul said.

Some of the toughest questions before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are expected to focus on the Obama administration's slow-to-evolve public explanation of the attack, which triggered an uproar in the middle of a presidential election campaign.

Both committee hearings will likely also ask Clinton about diplomatic security, which the State Department has since re-examined at posts located in overseas hot spots. Agency officials have acknowledged shortcomings and promised changes.

State Department officials acknowledged that "mistakes occurred" regarding the security situation in Libya, and pledged the department is taking immediate action to correct "systemic problems" that may have prevented the department from preempting the attacks.

"We've learned some very hard, and painful lessons in Benghazi, and all are acting on them," said William Burns, deputy secretary of state, during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We have to do better. We owe it to our colleagues who lost their lives in Benghazi."

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