Skip to main content

Obama has explaining to do on Benghazi

By Jason Chaffetz, Special to CNN
May 11, 2013 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
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
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1458 GMT (2258 HKT)
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1137 GMT (1937 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 1650 GMT (0050 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2041 GMT (0441 HKT)
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1209 GMT (2009 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT