Why Harp on Benghazi?
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Shifting blame to our dead ambassador is wrong on the facts. I know—I was thereBy Gregory N. Hicks
Last week the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued its report on the
The report states that retired Gen. Carter Ham, then-commander of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) headquartered in
Chris wanted the decision postponed but could not say so directly. Chris had requested on July 9 by cable that
However, on July 13, State Department Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy refused the Defense Department offer and thus Chris's July 9 request. His rationale was that Libyan guards would be hired to take over this responsibility. Because of Mr. Kennedy's refusal, Chris had to use diplomatic language at the video conference, such as expressing "reservations" about the transfer of authority.
Chris's concern was significant. Transferring authority would immediately strip the special forces team of its diplomatic immunity. Moreover, the
Chris described an incident in
During that video conference, Chris stressed that the only way to mitigate the risk was to ensure that
Chris understood the importance of the special forces team to the security of our embassy personnel. He believed that by explaining his concerns, the Defense Department would postpone the decision so he could have time to work with the Libyan government and get diplomatic immunity for the special forces.
According to the National Defense Authorization Act, the Defense Department needed Chris's concurrence to change the special forces mission. But soon after the Aug. 1 meeting, and as a complete surprise to us at the embassy, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed the order without Chris's concurrence.
The SenateIntelligence Committee's report accurately notes that on Aug. 6, after the transfer of authority, two special forces team members in a diplomatic vehicle were forced off the road in
Because Mr. Kennedy had refused to extend the special forces security mission, State Department protocol required Chris to decline Gen. Ham's two offers to do so, which were made after Aug. 6. I have found the reporting of these so-called offers strange, since my recollection of events is that after the Aug. 6 incident, Gen. Ham wanted to withdraw the entire special forces team from
When I arrived in
I was interviewed by the Select Committee and its staff, who were professional and thorough. I explained this sequence of events. For some reason, my explanation did not make it into the Senate report.
To sum up: Chris Stevens was not responsible for the reduction in security personnel. His requests for additional security were denied or ignored. Officials at the State and Defense Departments in