WASHINGTON — For the first time since the attacks on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi last year, an on-the-ground survivor testified before Congress about his experience the night four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed by Islamic terrorists.
Testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission/chargé d’affairs in Libya, struck a somber tone as he recalled exchanging text messages with Stevens at the outset of the attacks, then learning he had been captured.
“About 3 a.m., I received a call from the prime minister of Libya,” Hicks recalled during the hearing, speaking slowly and softly. “I think it’s the saddest phone call I’ve ever had in my life. He told me that Ambassador Stevens had passed away.”
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform called its hearing, “Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage.” Others testifying on Wednesday include Mark Thompson, the acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism at the Department, and Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer and former regional security officer in Libya.
Republican committee Chairman Darrell Issa asked Hicks to tell his story. Hicks described the confusion when learning of Stevens’ capture.
“We began to hear also that the ambassador has been taken to a hospital. We don’t know initially what hospital it is… We learned that it is in a hospital which is controlled by Ansar al-Sharia, the group that Twitter feeds had identified as leading the attack on the consulate.”
Hicks said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called him at about 2 a.m.
“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called, along with her senior staff who were all on the phone,” he said. “And she asked me what was going on, and I briefed her on the developments, most of the conversation was about the search for Ambassador Stevens. It was also about what we were going to do with our personnel in Benghazi. And I told her we would need to evacuate. And she said that was the right thing to do.”