Andrew rightly points out that, among the very interesting news that came out of the Benghazi hearing was the revelation that the State Department’s Gregory Hicks, then the No. 2 American official in Libya, spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at 2 a.m. on the night of the attack. Just to flesh that out a bit, Hicks said he briefed Clinton and her senior staff on what was happening on the ground at the time. As Andrew notes, no one mentioned the Internet video — which Hicks testified was a “non-event” in Libya. More significant, Hicks and the other American officials in Tripoli knew that the government facility in Benghazi was under terrorist attack. Minutes after the siege started, Hicks spoke with Ambassador Stevens himself, who told him, “We are under attack.” From then on, Hicks and other State officials in Tripoli were furiously working their contacts in Benghazi to learn what was happening on the ground there, and Hicks was reporting these details, in real time, to the State Department in Washington.
Even more important, at the time that Hicks spoke directly with Clinton, the most urgent problem was that Ambassador Stevens was missing and, worse, Hicks was hearing that Stevens had fallen into the hands of Ansar al-Sharia — the local al-Qaeda affiliate which orchestrated the attack (and which Hicks referred to in his testimony as “the enemy”). When Hicks was directly briefing Clinton, the specific concern was the Stevens might be at a hospital in Benghazi that was under the terrorists’ control. In fact, at the time, Hicks was thinking that the reinforcements that were trying to get to Benghazi from Tripoli might have to function as a “hostage-rescue team” — i.e., go to the jihadists’ hospital and try to rescue the ambassador. It was not until an hour later, at 3 a.m., that Hicks learned Stevens had been killed (in a call from the Libyan prime minister).
To sum up: State’s main guy on the ground in Libya tells Clinton in Washington that State’s people in Benghazi are under attack by the local al-Qaeda franchise, Ansar al-Sharia, which might have captured the U.S. ambassador. Yet, over the next few days, with what we now know to be monumental input from the State Department, the Obama administration purges references to Ansar al-Sharia from the talking points that it uses to explain the attack to the American people. Instead, it concocts a story claiming the anti-Islamic Internet video was the culprit.
Our friend Hugh Hewitt and the Daily Beast’s superb reporter Eli Lake have opined that it is likely a recording of the 2 a.m. phone call exists in the archives of the NSA or the State Department. Assuming this is so, if Secretary of State John Kerry, Clinton’s successor, does not think there was any real news in what we learned at Wednesday’s hearing, then surely he should have no objection to disclosing any recording to Darrell Issa’s committee and to the public, right? And if there is not a recording, it should be no problem to disclose any notes taken by Clinton or her senior staffers, right?
By the way, what is being called “the 2 a.m. phone call” with Hicks was 2 a.m. Tripoli time. In Washington, where Clinton and her staffers were, it was only 8 p.m. We don’t know much about what President Obama was doing that night, but it has been reported that he called Clinton at 10 p.m., two hours after she was briefed by Hicks, in order “to get an update on the situation.” Shortly after she spoke with Obama, press outlets began reporting that Clinton had put out a press statement on the Benghazi attack, which included the following:
Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation . . .
No news here, move along . . .