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US team was stopped from going to Benghazi, former diplomat says



Published: Tue, May 7, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Four members of Army special forces ready to head to Benghazi, Libya, after the deadly assault on the American diplomatic mission had ended were told not to go, according to a former top diplomat.

Gregory Hicks also argued in an interview with Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that if the U.S. military had flown aircraft over the Benghazi facility after it came under siege it might have prevented the second attack on the CIA annex that killed two CIA security officers.

Excerpts of the interview with the former deputy chief in Libya were released Monday in advance of Hicks’ testimony on Wednesday before the panel.

The Sept. 11, 2012, assault killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Nearly eight months later, Republicans insist that the Obama administration is guilty of a cover-up of the events despite a scathing independent report that faulted the State Department for inadequate security at the diplomatic mission.

Hicks’ comments and the hearing are likely to revive the politically charged debate in which GOP lawmakers and outside groups have faulted former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a possible presidential candidate in 2016.

After the first word of the attack in Benghazi, a seven-member security team, including two military personnel, flew from Tripoli to Benghazi. Upon their arrival, they learned that Stevens was missing and the situation had calmed after the first attack, according to a Pentagon timeline released last year.

Meanwhile, a second team was preparing to leave on a Libyan C-130 cargo plane from Tripoli to Benghazi when Hicks said he learned from the Libyan prime minister that Stevens was dead. The Libyan military agreed to transport additional personnel as reinforcements to Benghazi on its cargo plane, but Hicks complained the special forces were told not to make the trip.

“They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it,” Hicks told GOP committee staff. Pressed on why, he said, “I guess they just didn’t have the right authority from the right level.”

Defense officials said Monday that four members of Army special forces were in Tripoli on Sept. 11, 2012, as part of a regular training mission. The officials said they were trying to track down information about the Libyan cargo plane and could not verify whether or not the special forces were told not to get on the plane.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said it is normal procedure for U.S. service members to get permission to fly on another country’s military aircraft.

That flight left Tripoli after the second attack on the CIA annex that killed two security officers — Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Hicks also contended that if the U.S. military has scrambled jet fighters after the first attack that it would have prevented the mortar attack on the CIA annex around 5:15 a.m.

“I believe the Libyans would have split. They would have been scared to death that we would have gotten a laser on them and killed them,” Hicks said, according to the excerpts.

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other military leaders have said there wasn’t enough time for the military to respond as the events in Benghazi occurred too quickly — a point reinforced by the Pentagon on Monday.

“The fact of the matter remains, as we have repeatedly indicated, that U.S. military forces could not have arrived in time to mount a rescue of those Americans who were killed and injured that night,” said Pentagon press secretary George Little.

At the State Department on Monday, spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the committee’s work appeared to have political aims rather than ensuring the protection of U.S. diplomats serving overseas.

“It certainly seems so, so far,” he replied when asked if the department believed the investigation to be driven by partisan politics. “I mean, this is not sort of a collaborative process where the committee is working directly with us and trying to establish facts that would help as we look to keep our people safe overseas in a very complex environment.”

Democrats on the committee said Monday they have been excluded from the investigation.

Ventrell said the department had not seen the full transcript of Hicks’ statements to committee investigators and could not comment until it had or until after his testimony on Wednesday.


Comments

1redeye1(4713 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Hiliary and Obammy should be tried for treason. Then they both should be hanged immediately

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