As the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya raged on for more than seven hours, a team of U.S. special forces in Tripoli was blocked from flying in to attempt a rescue, according to a top American diplomat who was in the region.
In previously secret testimony given by Gregory Hicks — the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya — to congressional investigators last month, Hicks revealed two possible courses of action that could have saved American lives that night: allowing U.S. special forces to enter Benghazi and flying a fast-moving U.S. military aircraft over the scene of the attacks.
“So Lieutenant Colonel Gibson, who is the [Special Operations Command South Africa] commander, his team, you know, they were on their way to the vehicles to go to the airport to get on the C-130 when he got a phone call from SOCAFRICA which said, you can’t go now, you don’t have authority to go now,” Hicks told congressional investigators, “and so they missed the flight,” which would have gotten the team inserted prior to the second attack on the CIA annex.
CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson reported on the exchange Monday afternoon, noting that “[n]o assistance arrived from the U.S. military outside of Libya during the hours that Americans were under attack.” The claim that U.S. forces were called off from their attempts to reach the besieged compounds is a direct contradiction of the Obama administration’s claim “that nobody was ever told to stand down and that all available resources were utilized,” Attkisson noted.
Hicks — who briefly became America’s top diplomat in Libya once Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed that night — also told investigators that an intimidating presence by an American military aircraft could have been enough to scare off the attackers and save lives.
“I believe if we had been able to scramble a fighter or aircraft or two over Benghazi as quickly as possible after the attack commenced, I believe there would not have been a mortar attack on the annex in the morning because I believe the Libyans would have split. They would have been scared to death that we would have gotten a laser on them and killed them,” Hicks said.
In excerpts of an interview that aired on CBS Sunday, Hicks revealed that he knew the attack was “a terrorist attack from the get-go.”
Hicks said he immediately sought answers to why U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice characterized the attack as the spontaneous result of an unruly protest while making the rounds on the next week’s Sunday shows.
Hicks will appear before a public congressional hearing on Benghazi this Wednesday.