A Short Benghazi Primer: 3 Questions in Need of Answers

Three whistle blowers will appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday to testify about the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on an American embassy compound in Benghazi, Libya. While they will be asked many questions during the hearing, there are really only three main questions addressed during the hearing.

1) Did top-level Obama administration officials deny requests for additional security before the attack?

The Claim: Eric Nordstrom, the former regional security officer in Libya, will testify that he twice requested additional security for U.S. personnel stationed in Libya. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was one of four Americans killed in the attack, made similar requests. Those requests were denied and the U.S. State Department decided to do the opposite – reduce the number of security officers.

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White House Response: The White House does not deny that mistakes were made regarding the number of security, but says those decisions were made by low-level bureaucrats, not top-level officials. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified in January that the requests for additional security did not reach her desk.

2) Did the Obama administration refuse to send help after the attack started?

The Claim: Gregory Hicks, who was deputy secretary under Stevens, will testify that a team of special forces stationed in Tripoli could have been deployed to Benghazi, possibly in time to save the lives of Stevens and three other Americans, but they were ordered to stand down. Hicks also believes the attack could have been disrupted by flying a U.S. military aircraft over Benghazi.

White House Response: All available resources were deployed and no one was ordered to stand down. Also, no military aircraft could have made it to Benghazi in time to thwart or disrupt the attack.

3) Did the Obama administration intentionally mislead the public about what happened during the attack?

The Claim: The Obama administration misled the public when U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after the attack and said the attack was a spontaneous demonstration in response to a YouTube video. Hicks will testify that was obviously not true. Hicks was in contact with Stevens during the attack and reported that the it was a terrorist attack, not a demonstration that got out of hand.

White House Response: Rice communicated that best information that was available to her at the time. As more information came to light, the White House updated the information it delivered to the public.

Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism, will also testify. The hearings will begin at 11:30 a.m. and can be seen on C-Span 3.

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