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“STAND-DOWN” ORDERS CONFIRMED
by Sharon Rondeau
(May 8, 2013) — Following the hearing on Wednesday which included testimony from three diplomats regarding the events of September 11, 2012 in Benghazi, Libya in which four Americans were killed, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa told the public that “This hearing is over, but the investigation is not.”
Issa stated that the whistleblowers “will be protected by this committee,” as had been stated by both Issa and ranking member Elijah Cummings during the hearing. Issa disputed some of the findings of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) to examine the facts and make recommendations appointed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Issa said that the ARB “did not assign blame beyond mid-level management” within the State Department but implied that responsibility actually went much higher.
Issa said that the authors of the ARB report, Amb. Charles Pickering and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, have not been willing to give testimony to the Oversight Committee.
A State Department counterterrorism expert, Mark Thompson, testified that he had asked to speak with the members of the ARB but was not granted an interview. Clinton herself was not interviewed, but rather, advised as to when the report was completed.
The third witness, Eric Nordstrom, said he agreed with the recommendations of the ARB and was pleased to hear that many of them had been implemented.
The hearing began shortly after 11:30 a.m. EDT with opening remarks from Issa and Cummings and ended at approximately 5:30 p.m.
Two of the witnesses who testified became emotional when recalling their slain co-worker and friend, Amb. Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the September 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi. Stevens’s information officer, Sean Smith, was also killed, as were former Navy SEALS and contract CIA employees Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
Republicans Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz showed clear emotion while asking questions of the witnesses and in criticism of the State Department’s response to the attack. Chaffetz cited a passage in the ARB report which contended that all Americans working in the Benghazi compound had been evacuated to safety.
Whistleblower Gregory Hicks, who was deputy chief of mission prior to Stevens’s death, revealed that he received “a demotion” after the events in Benghazi. His testimony about how the night of September 11 had unfolded illustrated that he had risked his life to ascertain that those working under him at the embassy in Tripoli were safe. Hicks had become the charge d’affaires after Stevens was killed. He was later told not to have any “private interviews” with Chaffetz when he traveled to Libya on a fact-finding mission.
Unexpectedly, Hicks was told by Clinton’s second-in-command, Cheryl Mills, that he needed to improve his “management style” following praise from Clinton and Obama for his acumen and bravery directly after the attack. The reprimand came after Hicks asked United Nations Amb. Susan Rice why she said on five Sunday talk shows that the Benghazi attack stemmed from a protest over an anti-Islamic video.
Despite his many years of experience and awards for his work, Hicks was unemployed for a period of time following the attack and now works in what he described as “a desk position” which a new foreign service officer might occupy.
Democrats on the committee, including Cummings, attempted to catch the witnesses in inconsistent testimony by quoting from their publicly-released statements and comparing them to the testimony given to the committee. Rep. Carolyn Maloney refused to believe that the military had not done everything possible to mount a rescue mission of the Benghazi compound once they knew it was under attack, citing that members of her family have served in the military.
Hicks confirmed that two “stand-down” orders were given to military teams whom he had summoned to go to Benghazi to help those besieged inside the compound and to assist the following day. He said that Lt. Col. Gibson, who had been prepared to lead one of the teams, had been “furious” when he was told he did not have authorization to do so. When asked, Hicks said he did not know the ultimate source of the orders.
Former military members have stated that only Obama as commander-in-chief could have issued a stand-down order, as emergency contingency plans would have been set in motion once the attack was made known.
On the evening of September 11, Obama reportedly told then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey to take necessary action to keep Americans safe and then retired for the evening.
The U.S. Constitution designates the president as also the commander-in-chief “of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States…”
Last fall, it was reported that Ham had sought to defy the stand-down order and was immediately replaced by his subordinate, who was later confirmed as AFRICOM’s permanent commander.
Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely (Ret.) told Newsmax in a radio interview on Wednesday that “The White House is guilty of employing ‘Chicago-style tactics” to quash the true story behind the deadly attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.” Vallely applauded the hearing today but added, “…believe me, there’s more in the background that hasn’t even been brought forth.” He said that the Obama regime is involved in a “conspiracy” which “goes all the way to the White House, down through State Department, into the CIA, into the Department of Defense.”
Obama has been charged with treason against the United States on multiple occasions which have not been acted upon to date. With more information about the attack in Benghazi becoming public, the possibility of his leaving office or being impeached has arisen.
In a different context, Obama suggested at a recent press conference that he “just pack up and go home.”