The much awaited for House Oversight Committee hearing on the 2012 Benghazi attack, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, begins at 11:30 a.m. EST Wednesday.
In one corner, we have the conservatives, foaming at the mouth for a new reason to tear apart Obama’s shortcomings at the start of his second term. In the other corner, we have Obama’s staunch supporters who will reduce the scandal to nothing more than another right-wing conspiracy theory.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced on May 4 the three witnesses that will be testifying during the hearing:
Mark Thompson – Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State
Gregory Hicks – Foreign Service Officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission/Charge d’Affairs in Libya, U.S. Department of State
Eric Nordstrom – Diplomatic Security Officer and former Regional Security Officer in Libya, U.S. Department of State
Along with the publication of the names of these witnesses, the Oversight Committee chairman applauded the three for coming forward and answering the committee’s call to testify. These three will supposedly have “critical information” that differs from that of the Obama administration’s. The CIA’s timeline for the event has already been challenged by a manager of Blue Mountain Security, a company responsible for managing the local security perimeter at the consulate. The Pentagon has also released an official timeline through CNN of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and CIA annex on September 11, 2012 that conservatives have likened to a modern-day Watergate.
The announcement also contained a claim that there are others who have knowledge of the attack but fear retaliation from their employers. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said that the department is not attempting to silence or suppress testimony from the whistleblowers. Issa previously released an announcement stating specific issues regarding these attempts.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, “The dam is about to break on Benghazi,” and remarked that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be included in the fallout. Many have speculated that this could simply be an attempt to smear Clinton’s reputation before a potential 2016 presidential candidacy.
Hicks told CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that he believed the Benghazi assault was a “terrorist attack from the get-go.” Hicks, a 22-year Foreign Service diplomat, was the highest-ranking U.S. official in Libya after the attacks. He previously testified that the U.S. Special Operations troops were told to stand down and not board a Libyan military aircraft that was being sent in to assist during the attack.
One of the questions put forward is whether or not scrambling jets to fly over the consulate would have helped deter attackers and thus save lives. Hicks believes such an action might have prevented a mortar attack on the CIA annex in the morning. He postulated that the choice to not send a plane was due to a budget issue. Hicks called Lt. Col. Keith Phillips, an embassy defense attaché, on the night of the September 11 attack to ask about the possibility of a flyover. Hicks was told by Phillips everything was too far away that could respond; the nearest planes were at Aviano Air Base in Italy and would take a couple of hours to get off of the ground.
These are not the first people to come forward with information regarding the attack. A previous Fox news “whistleblower” story was heavily criticized by former U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer Billy Birdzell in an article responding to allegations of a scandal.
On Wednesday morning, we will see further developments in the case. Whether or not either side will budge from their current positions is yet to be determined. Obama’s advocates seem fairly set upon labeling the criticism of the administration as a conspiracy theory, while opponents don’t believe what the administration claims.
Sit tight, this will inevitably turn ugly.
The hearing will be broadcast live on C-SPAN, and can be watched here. For Twitter updates, follow along with me, @r_barthelmess.