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Hearing bombshells

"Hearing bombshells" Continued...

“If you haven’t been allowed to read the classified ARB report, how do you know your testimony was used properly?” asked Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.

“I don’t,” Hicks responded.

OGR ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md.—while saying he is “glad these whistle blowers are here”—questioned the motives of Republicans on the committee, especially Chairman Darrell Issa of California. At least three Democrats blamed the Benghazi attacks on GOP budget cuts, although Issa emphatically refuted the accusation.

Prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, officials in both Benghazi and Tripoli requested additional security for the embassy and consulates, but the State Department denied those requests. Some of the diplomatic officials, including Hicks, were so concerned for their safety that they requested permission to receive training on how to handle guns.

In sworn testimony at a hearing in January, Hillary Clinton said the requests for more security never reached her desk. But a line of questioning on Wednesday by Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., cast serious doubts on that claim:

Lankford: “Mr. Hicks, when you arrived in July, did the facilities in Benghazi meet the minimum OSPB [Overseas Security Policy Board] security standards set by the State Department?”

Hicks: “According to the regional security office—at the time in Tripoli, John Martinek—they did not.”

Lankford: “What about the facilities in Tripoli?”

Hicks: “Again, according to the regional office, John Martinek, they were very weak.”

Lankford: “Were they close to meeting the standards?”

Hicks: “No, sir.”

Lankford: “Mr. Nordstrom, before you left as RSO [Regional Security Officer], did the facilities have the number of security personnel that you had requested?”

Nordstrom: “No, they did not.”

Lankford: “There are a very, very small number of facilities worldwide that are considered by GAO [Government Accountability Office] critical or high threat level for personnel in our different embassies and consulates. Tripoli and Benghazi—were they listed as high-threat level?”

Nordstrom: “They were.”

Lankford: “By statute, who has the authority to place personnel in facilities that do not meet minimum OSPB standards?”

Nordstrom: “… Since we were the sole occupants of both of those facilities, Benghazi and Tripoli, the only person who could grant waivers or exceptions to those is the secretary of state [Hillary Clinton].”

Lankford told me after the hearing he was pleased with the information the committee gathered. He said many more questions remain, such as who ordered Special Operations troops to stand down, and why security was so poor that diplomats had to request weapons training.

A Rasmussen poll released last week found 78 percent of Americans think it’s important to find out the truth about what happened at Benghazi. Only 32 percent gave the Obama administration credit for sufficiently explaining the attacks.

Republicans on Wednesday vowed to continue the investigation, specifically calling for testimony from the men who produced the ARB report in December: Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering. Issa said both man have so far refused to appear before the committee.

“This hearing is closed,” Issa said as he banged the chairman’s gavel, “but this investigation is not over.”

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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