Ambassador Christopher Stevens was in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, the day he died in a terrorist attack, because Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered him there, according to an exclusive statement given to WND by the attorney representing Gregory Hicks, the former State Department deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affairs who was in Libya at the time of the attack.
Victoria Toensing, legal counsel to Hicks, told WND that Hillary Clinton had given Stevens direct instructions to prepare the CIA compound in Benghazi to be upgraded to the status of a U.S. diplomatic mission and Stevens, in complying with Clinton’s wishes, was in Benghazi the first time he had the opportunity to do so, cognizant of the need to visit the site before the end of the fiscal year, on Sept. 30, 2012.
“Stevens was in Benghazi because Clinton told him to go there,” Toensing explained.
Hicks’ attorney also charged the Accountability Review Board, or ARB, headed by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Michael Mullen, was a cover-up designed to contain blame for the Benghazi terror attack at a level below Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the State Department.
On page 34 of its unclassified final report, the ARB stated: “The Ambassador chose to travel to Benghazi that week, independent of Washington, as per standard practice.”
This, Toensing charged, is a complete misrepresentation of the truth despite the attempt of her client, Gregory Hicks, to explain in his testimony to the ARB that Stevens went to Benghazi on Clinton’s specific and go to Benghazi before Sept. 30, 2012, to establish Benghazi as a permanent State Department facility.
Why was Stevens in Benghazi?
The sworn testimony Hicks gave the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on May 8, 2012, supports Toensing’s contention that Stevens was in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, because Clinton had ordered him to go there and he was running out of time to comply with her request.
Under questioning from Rep. Lankford, R-Okla., Hicks explained: “According to [Ambassador] Chris [Stevens], Secretary Clinton wanted Benghazi converted into a permanent constituent post. Timing for this decision was important. Chris needed to report before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, on the physical and the political and security environment in Benghazi to support an action memo to convert Benghazi from a temporary facility to a permanent facility.”
Hicks explained the directive came from the State Department Office of Near Eastern Affairs, headed by Acting Assistant Secretary Beth Jones, that funds were available to be transferred to Benghazi from a State Department fund set aside for Iraq available, provided the funds transfer had been obligated by September 30.
He further testified that in May 2012, during his exit with Secretary Clinton following his being sworn in as U.S. Ambassador for Libya, Stevens promised he would give a priority to making sure the U.S. facility at Benghazi was transformed into a permanent constituent post.
Under further questioning directed by Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., Hicks explained Stevens further delayed his trip to Benghazi because of security concerns expressed by State Department Regional Security Officer John Martinek.
“The two planning meetings we had with the ambassador about his trip to Benghazi, the RSO John Martinek raised serious concerns about his travel,” Hicks explained. “Because of those concerns, the ambassador adjusted his plans for that trip.”
Hicks detailed in response to Martinek’s concerns, Stevens mad three modifications to his plan to visit Benghazi in September 2012.
“First, he agreed he would go in a low-profile way and his trip would not be announced in advance,” Hicks continued. “We would not do any planning of meetings until right before he went. And second, he eventually decided to shorten his trip. He had initially planned to go on October 8, he went on the 10th instead to narrow the time frame he would be in Benghazi. The third step he took was the one public event that he planned would take place at the very end of his trip, just before he left.”
Hicks also explained Stevens wanted to make a symbolic gesture to the people of Benghazi that the United States “stood behind their dream of establishing a new democracy.”
Additionally, he wanted to have the Benghazi complex upgraded to a permanent constituent post, so Secretary Clinton could make this announcement in her planned visit to Libya before the end of 2012.
Hicks told the committee Stevens did listen to advice, but he was very determined and committed to doing his job.
“He went there [to Benghazi] to do his job,” Hicks testified. “He felt he had a political imperative to go to Benghazi to represent the United States there in order to move the project to make the Benghazi consulate a permanent constituent post.”
Toward the end of the hearing, the chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked Hicks to summarize his testimony on why Stevens went to Benghazi.
“At least one of the reasons Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi was to further the Secretary’s wish that that post become a permanent constituent post and that he was also there because we understood the Secretary intended to visit Tripoli later in the year,” Hicks reiterated. “We hoped that she would be able to announce to the Libyan people the establishment of a permanent constituent post in Benghazi at that time.”
Hicks emphasized that the State Department was aware of increased risks posed by Islamic extremists in eastern Libya and that Stevens was aware the Benghazi compound did not meet State Department security requirements.
Still, despite the security risk, Stevens was determined to comply with Clinton’s wishes to visit Benghazi prior to her planned visit to Libya.
The ARB report a ‘cover-up,’ attorney charges
The unclassified ARB final report on page 18 states: “Ambassador Stevens was scheduled to remain in Benghazi until September 14, and his visit was timed in part to fill the staffing gaps between TDY [Temporary Duty Assignment] principal officers as well as to open an American Corner at a local school and to reconnect with local contacts.”
Hicks testified to the House oversight committee that in direct contrast to this ARB claim, the State Department in Washington was fully aware of the plans Stevens made to go to Benghazi, the reasons he was going there, and his planned activity while there.
“The ARB unclassified final report was incomplete in that the reason for Stevens being in Benghazi was known to Hicks, but the ARB ignored the testimony Hicks gave on this point,” Toensing further explained to WND.
Hicks elaborated on this point by commenting to the House oversight committee that when he told the ARB the reason Stevens went to Benghazi, Ambassador Pickering looked visibly upset and asked, “Does the 7th Floor [where the office of Secretary of State Clinton is located] know about this?”
Toensing also explained to WND no stenographer was present at the ARB to record the testimony of witnesses, so no verbatim transcript could be made of each witness testimony; instead, the ARB took merely took notes of witness testimony.
She further objected the ARB never permitted Hicks to review the notes regarding his testimony so he could suggest corrections and point out any omissions; nor did the ARB allow Hicks to review the notes taken of his testimony and sign off on their accuracy.
“Everybody is missing that the ARB is a big story here,” Toensing said, explaining she was turned down or canceled on more than one network television interview, including ABC and CNN, when producers learned she wanted to expose ARB deficiencies. “The ARB not only omitted the reason Stevens went to Benghazi, when my client had explained to the ARB the reasons, the ARB actually put in a false statement regarding why Stevens was there the night of the attack.”
Toward the conclusion of the House hearing on May 8, Hicks and Eric Nordsrtom, the State Department regional security officer in Libya during the attack, both argued the ARB had assigned blame for the Benghazi tragedy to lower-level State Department officers when they realized Secretary Clinton was fully involved in the decision to send Stevens to Benghazi despite the security concerns.
“The most obvious deficiency in the ARB report was Secretary Clinton was never interviewed for the investigation,” Toensing said.
In an editorial Toensing wrote that was published by the Weekly Standard on May 12, she elaborated on this point: “She [Clinton] is mentioned only once in the [ARB] report, as the person who convened the Board. If, as Clinton herself has said, she took full responsibility for what happened in Benghazi, her decisions and decision-making process are materially relevant for investigating what happened before and during the night of September 11, 2012, and preventing what went wrong from ever happening again.”