The State Department has been leaking to reporters false information to discredit Benghazi whistleblower Gregory Hicks, charged his legal counsel, Victoria Toensing, in an interview with WND.
Hicks, who testified May 8 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is the former State Department deputy chief of mission who was in Libya at the time of the Benghazi attack.
Toensing told WND the State Department has been telling reporters that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens could not reach Hicks by telephone on the night he was killed in the terrorist attack, Sept. 11, 2012, because Hicks was relaxing, watching television, and did not have his telephone with him.
“This is a total fabrication,” Toensing charged. “Telephone reception in Libya is notoriously unreliable. Sometimes you just don’t get your calls. And besides, the record will show Hicks reached Stevens by telephone within five or 10 minutes at the most after Stevens first telephoned him.”
Toensing said several reporters, whom she declined to identify, have called her to ask if the story about Hicks being AWOL at the time of the Benghazi attack was true.
“I have reason to believe the reporters calling me got their information from sources within the State Department,” Toensing added.
At WND’s urging, Toensing identified one reporter she believed had been leaking false information about her client.
“The State Department correspondent from CBS, Margaret Brennan, called me and asked if it was true my client had a history of ‘yelling at people’ within the State Department,” Toensing explained.
“Mr. Hicks is so mild-mannered I cannot imagine him yelling at anyone,” Toensing said she explained to Manning, adding that any such information the reporter obtained from State Department insiders speaking off the record should be disregarded.
After leaving voice mail messages, WND was unable to contact Brennan for comment.
Toensing told WND she believes the State Department’s motivation for spreading false information about her client is not only to discredit him but to deter others.
“The State Department is spreading this malicious information not only because they want to ruin my client’s career, but also because they want to make to make Mr. Hicks an example so no one else comes forward,” she said.
“The State Department goal is to show what they can do to people, how easy it is to ruin their careers by spreading false information.”
‘Hicks responded promptly’
According to the testimony Hicks gave the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he was in his villa relaxing, watching a television show, at 9:45 p.m. local time on Sept. 11, 2012, but he had his telephone with him.
He noted the time because Regional Security Officer John Martinec came into his villa yelling that the consulate was under attack.
“And I stood up and reached for my phone because I had an inkling or thought that perhaps the ambassador had tried to call me to relay the same message,” Hicks testified. “And I found two missed calls on the phone, one from the ambassador’s phone and one from a phone number I didn’t recognize.”
Hicks told the House committee that he punched the phone number he did not recognize and immediately got the ambassador on the other end. That is when Hicks testified Ambassador Stevens told him, “Greg we’re under attack.”
Toensing told WND Hicks reached Stevens by phone at approximately 9:50 p.m. local time, less than 10 minutes after he missed the call from Stevens.
Hicks continued his testimony to note that after reaching Stevens by phone, he walked to the Tactical Operations Center, where he tried both of the numbers, the unknown number and the ambassador’s number, only to get no response.
That’s when John Martinec was on the phone in Benghazi with Alec Henderson, the regional security officer at the Benghazi compound.
Hicks said Martinec explained the unknown number belonged to Scott Wickland, Stevens’ personal escort for the night.
At approximately 10 p.m., Hicks called the operations center at the State Department in Washington, D.C., to report the attack, according to his testimony to the House committee.
According to the State Department background briefing on the Benghazi attack issued Oct. 9, 2012, the first indication the U.S. personnel at the Benghazi compound had that they were under attack was at 9:40 p.m. local time, when the agent in the Tactical Operations Center and the agents in Building C of the Benghazi compound heard loud noises from the front gate, as well as gunfire and an explosion.
The State Department timeline indicates that there was only 15 minutes between the start of the Benghazi attack at 9:45 p.m. local time and the time Hicks called the State Department in Washington, to inform the D.C. staff that the Benghazi compound was under attack.
The timeline is consistent with Toensing’s insistence that, at most, five to 10 minutes passed between the phone call from Stevens that Hicks missed and the phone call Hicks made to Stevens, connecting with the ambassador when Hicks left his villa and went to the Tactical Operation Center at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.