Skip to main content

Obama has explaining to do on Benghazi

By Jason Chaffetz, Special to CNN
updated 6:18 PM EDT, Sat May 11, 2013
Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, arrives for a House committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 8. State Department employees testified about the terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/12/africa/gallery/libya-us-consulate-attack/index.html'>View photos of the attack.</a> Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, arrives for a House committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 8. State Department employees testified about the terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. View photos of the attack.
HIDE CAPTION
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jason Chaffetz: Testimony this week on Benghazi contradicts administration's initial narrative
  • He says 3 diplomats' firsthand testimony cast doubt on veracity of administration's account
  • Rep. Gowdy said an email showed State Dept. knew Islamists, not video, behind attack
  • Chaffetz: Administration has repeatedly misdirected, thwarted Congressional investigators

Editor's note: U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz represents Utah's 3rd Congressional District.

Washington (CNN) -- In testimony that sharply contradicted the Obama administration's initial narrative of the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, three witnesses shared firsthand accounts this week of what happened before, during and after the attack.

The three testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, recounting the horrific events that took the lives of four heroic Americans that day at the U.S. Consulate. Much of what we have known about Benghazi to this point has come from Obama administration sources. The accounts of these brave witnesses raise troubling questions about the veracity of what we've been told by official sources since the attack took place.

Jason Chaffetz
Jason Chaffetz

The first contradiction pits former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's explanation of security conditions at the compound against that of Eric Nordstrom, the former regional security officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. In his testimony Wednesday, he repeated assertions he'd made to Congressional investigators last year that his recommendations to upgrade security were ignored at the highest levels.

Yet roughly four months after the attacks, Clinton told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that "specific requests and decision making" on security "rest with the security professionals."

Even more disturbing was the discrepancy over what happened during the attack. The official story in the Accountability Review Board (ARB) report concluded there was no "undue" denial of support or assets. Yet we heard testimony from Deputy Chief of Mission Greg Hicks that four special operations military personnel in Tripoli were preparing to go to Benghazi on a rescue mission when they were told to stand down. This is jarring, taken against then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's claim in February that "time, distance, the lack of an adequate warning. . . prevented a more immediate response."

Opinion: Benghazi hearing's real target: Clinton in 2016

Furthermore, the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST), which the State Department's website calls "the United States Government's only interagency, on-call, short-notice team poised to respond to terrorist incidents worldwide" was not called into action.

For nearly two weeks after the attack, the Obama administration continued to peddle the story that it began as a demonstration against a video and got out of hand -- a claim that is now universally understood to be false. But at Wednesday's hearing, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, quoted what he said was an internal e-mail dated the day after the attack in which Assistant Secretary of State Beth Jones told the Libyan ambassador that Islamic group Ansar al-Sharia was responsible for the attack.

The video claim was pure fiction, but Hicks testified that he was reassigned to a lower-level position after he questioned it. (A State Department spokesman maintains that Hicks was not subjected to retaliation.)

Carney: No major changes made to points
Paul on Libya: There may be more to this
Benghazi: Politics over truth?

More troubling than the initial video claim, however, is the allegation of serious flaws in the report issued by the Accountability Review Board, convened by Clinton, whose members include retired diplomat Thomas R. Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All three career diplomats who testified Wednesday complained about the report, which they said was incomplete and assigned blame to the wrong personnel.

As Congressional investigators have tried to get answers, the State Department has thrown up roadblocks. For example, Hicks testified that the State Department sent a lawyer from Washington in an unsuccessful attempt to ensure that I did not speak to him privately during my visit to Libya after the attacks.

These concerted efforts by the State Department to conceal information from Congress should raise red flags.

We have four dead Americans. To date, nobody has been captured or killed. The terrorists are still on the run. And we have an increasing number of contradictions between what we were led to believe and what the witnesses say actually happened. It's hard to take any refutations of the testimony seriously given the impeccable credentials of the witnesses and the despicable record of misdirection from this administration.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of
Jason Chaffetz.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016.
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT