“Divine right went out with the American Revolution and doesn't belong to the White House aides. What meat do they eat that makes them grow so great?” — Sam Ervin, Chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee, 1973
I wasn’t going to blog about today’s hearing on Benghazi conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform but the more I reflected on what I saw and heard the angrier I became so I had to relive my blood pressure by attacking the keyboard.
At 11:00 am (PDST) I turned on my TV to the HD channel for Fox News and began watching the hearings with Chainman Issa’s opening remarks paying tribute to Ambassador Chris Smith, State Department IT specialist Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty and the introduction of the witnesses.
After Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) finished his remarks he turned the microphone over the Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) the ranking minority member. As soon as Rep. Cummings began his long statement my blood began to boil up and I knew this was going to be a very partisan hearing. Before continuing in the spirit of disclosure Rep. Issa used to be my Congressman and I have met with him twice in his D.C. office at the Rayburn House Office Building.
For almost 15 minutes Rep. Cummings did nothing but trash Rep. Issa, the committee, and Republicans. He called Issa a liar and a grandstander who was conducting this hearing for political purposes to embarrass the White House and Hillary Clinton.
Cummings remark we nothing short of bulling. They were childish, petty, mean, and beneath the dignity of a representative of “We the People.” His extremely partisan remarks set the tone and course for the other 16 Democrat member of the committee. They were not interested in getting to the facts of the terrorist attacks last September 11th in Benghazi. They were only interested in making speeches in order to protect Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Here a portion of Hick’s testimony that directly contradicts what Rep. Cummings said about the military being ordered to stand down:
“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 -- paid me a very nice compliment. I won't repeat it here.
Another despicable example of this was a statement made by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) She spent her full amount of allocated time attacking Republicans and Issa. She claimed he was attacking the military, the State Department, The Defense Department, The President, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “from the great state of New York.”
Much of this did not really make too much difference as Fox and C-Span were the only ones covering the hearings. CNN and MSNBC were enthralled with the goings on in Cleveland with the kidnapping of the three girls. ABC, NBS, and CBS stuck with their daily line-up of soap operas and women’s talk shows.
Unlike the 1973 Watergate Hearings where the Democrats were in the majority and controlled the Senate Watergate Select Committee the Republicans, led by Senator Howard Baker, were as much concerned to get at the truth as the Democrats. It was Baker who coined the famous line: “What did the President know, and when did he know it?" Both Democrats, led by Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina, and Republicans were aggressive and thorough in their questioning of witnesses like Jeb Magruder, John Dean, James McCord Jr., John Mitchel, John Halderman, and John Ehrlichman as they peeled away the layers of the onion of the scandal. But, it was an unknown civil servant and retired military officer, Alexander Butterfield. Butterfield was responsible for maintaining the historical records of the Nixon Administration, which included the operations of the secret taping system which Nixon had installed in the White House. When Butterfield informed the committee of the secret taping it was like a bomb going off and all the layers had been removed and the involvement of Richard Nixon was revealed. This was a bipartisan effort coved on a daily basis by ABC, NBC and CBS with plenty of analysis on their nightly and Sunday news programs. In fact the media could not get enough of Watergate.
This is a far cry from Benghazigate. No one died in Watergate, but 4 people were murdered in Benghazi. This does not seem to affect the Democrats as their only concern is to protect Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and senior State and Defense Department officials such as the State Department’s Patrick Kennedy and Daniel Benjamin both who have been less than honest
When Mark Thompson of the State Department Counterterrorism Bureau testimony was contrary to the previous testimony of Benjamin, regarding the State Department’s efforts to cut Thompson out of the loop, one of the Democrats on the committee basically called Thompson a liar.
Thompson has claimed that Clinton and a key aide effectively tried to cut the department's own counterterrorism bureau out of the loop that night.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney denied the claim on Monday.
Daniel Benjamin, who ran the department’s Counterterrorism Bureau at the time, also put out a statement Monday morning strongly denying the charges.
“I ran the bureau then, and I can say now with certainty, as the former Coordinator for Counterterrorism, that this charge is simply untrue,” he said. “Though I was out of the country on official travel at the time of the attack, I was in frequent contact with the Department. At no time did I feel that the Bureau was in any way being left out of deliberations that it should have been part of.”
His sort of adversarial approach, by the Democrats, to the witnesses went on throughout most of the day and was only interrupted when they wanted to make a speech.
Americans have endured eight months of purposeful opacity from Obama administration officials on Benghazi.
In summation here are the six key points I learned from today’s testimony:
- Two "stand-down" orders were given while the Benghazi attacks were in progress.
- The "protest" about a YouTube video was a complete fabrication by the Obama administration.
- Cheryl Mills, Clinton's lawyer at the State Department, told witnesses not to speak to House investigators.
- The diplomatic personnel on the ground acted with incredible, unheralded heroism.
- Democrats came to rebut the eyewitnesses with talking points.
- The mainstream media will do all they can to protect President Clinton and Hillary Clinton
The key question remains unanswered:
What did President Barack Obama do when he learned the consulate was under attack, and why?
Here are 5 Key things to take away with you as the investigations move forward:
5. State Department Official Fingered Terror Group Day After Attack
One of the biggest points of contention in the Benghazi investigation has been: Why did the Obama administration initially blame the terrorist attack on a YouTube video when there was no apparent evidence to support that theory?
During the House Oversight Committee hearing on the Benghazi attack, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) read from an email sent by Beth Jones, the acting assistant secretary for Middle Eastern affairs at the State Department, to Benghazi whistleblower Gregory Hicks and other top administration officials. In it, she fingered Ansar al-Sharia, a radical Islamic terror group, as the perpetrator behind the attack after the Libyan government speculated that they might be ex-Gadhafi forces.
The email was sent the day after the attack on Sept. 12, 2012 — well before the Obama administration started pushing the YouTube video narrative.
“I spoke to the Libyan ambassador and emphasized the importance of Libyan leaders continuing to make strong statements,” the email read. “When he said his government expected that former Gadhafi regime elements carried out the attacks, I told him that the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.”
Gowdy said the email was previously unreleased, but not classified.
4. Who Is Lt. Col. Gibson?
Benghazi whistleblower Gregory Hicks repeatedly brought up a man by the name of Lt. Col. Gibson. Other than the fact that he was a Special Operations Command (SOC) Africa commander, we don’t know much else about him.
But more importantly, we don’t know what else he knows about the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2012. On the night of the Benghazi attack, Gibson was “furious” when a stand down order was given, preventing Special Forces from intervening in Libya, Hicks testified.
Hicks said Gibson wanted to bring the Americans trapped in Benghazi home, but was unable to act. Does Gibson know who personally issued the stand down order? Does he know how far up the chain of command the order originated?
These are questions to keep in mind as the investigation proceeds.
3. Benghazi Witness Told Not To Speak With Congressional Investigator Alone
Hicks on Wednesday also revealed that he was told by Obama administration officials not to talk with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) unsupervised.
A State Department lawyer accompanied the delegation and tried to be in every single meeting he was involved in, Hicks claimed.
Chaffetz, who traveled to Benghazi after the attack to investigate, also claimed back in October that the administration assigned a State Department attorney to follow him in his every “footstep” during his investigative trip.
2. Whistleblower ‘Effectively Demoted’ After Questioning Benghazi Talking Points
Gregory Hicks told members of Congress that he has been “effectively demoted” from his position as deputy chief of mission shortly after he questioned United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice’s explanation that the Benghazi attack was the result of a spontaneous protest sparked by a YouTube video.
Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission under murdered U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, now holds the title of foreign affairs officer in the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs.
“In hindsight I think it began after I asked a question about Ambassador Rice’s statement on the TV shows,” Hicks said, after being asked what the “seminal” moment had been in all of his new professional criticism.
1. There Was A Stand Down Order
Though some the details are still fuzzy, someone issued a stand down order that prevented Special Forces from traveling to Benghazi to intervene after the attack.
Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission for the U.S. in Libya and the highest ranking official in the country at the time of the Benghazi attacks, testified that either AFRICOMM or SOCAFRICA issued the stand down order, though he didn’t have a name or where the command originated.
Hicks said Lt. Col. Gibson, a Special Operations Command (SOC) Africa commander, was “furious” after receiving the stand down order. “Lt. Col. Gibson was furious. I had told him to go bring our people home. That’s what he wanted to do,” he said.
However, the burning question remains: Who, with the appropriate authority, actually gave the stand down order? And why?
Ever since Sept. 11, 2012, when Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the Obama administration has done its best to confuse and conceal what actually happened. After Wednesday’s, testimony from the three career State Department officials Americans may finally start to get the real story.
Hillary Clinton's role in Benghazi is particularly damaging because it risks becoming the signature legacy of her tenure at the State Department. Despite racking up an exhaustive travel record, Clinton had few actual achievements to show for her four years as Secretary of State — a burden as she contemplates her 2016 ambitions."
To get all of the facts and peel away all of the layers of the onion Speaker Boehner will have to get a spine and appoint a select committee special committee, similar to Watergate and Iran-Contra, with an unlimited budget and subpoena power. Without such an action by the Speaker I seriously doubt we will ever get the full truth of events leading to September 11th, what happened in Benghazi that night, and the cover-up that followed. To paraphrase the words of Howard Baker “what did the President know, and what did he do about?” It does matter and we the people deserve to know.
For video clips of Hick’s responses to questions click here