JERUSALEM — A central part of Hillary Clinton’s testimony to the legislative committee investigating the Benghazi attack is directly contradicted by the Pentagon expert who led the U.S. military’s efforts to supplement diplomatic security in Libya.
Repeating an assertion she has previously made, Clinton stated unequivocally at Thursday’s hearing that there were no recommendations from anyone within the government to close the U.S. special mission in Benghazi despite security threats.
Clinton stated “there was never a recommendation from any intelligence official in our government, from any official in the State Department or from any other person with knowledge of our presence in Benghazi to shut down Benghazi, even after the two attacks that the compound suffered.”
“And perhaps, you know, you would wonder why, but I can tell you that it was thought that the mission in Benghazi, in conjunction with the CIA mission, was vital to our national interests,” she added.
Clinton made a similar statement during a 2013 hearing when she responded to a question from Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz, by asserting that no one within the government ever recommended the closure of the U.S. facility in the Libyan city.
In her 2013 testimony, Clinton stated: “Well, senator, I want to make clear that no one in the State Department, the intelligence community, any other agency, ever recommended that we close Benghazi. We were clear-eyed about the threats and the dangers as they were developing in eastern Libya and in Benghazi.”
Clinton’s testimony on both occasions is contradicted by Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, the chief point man in the U.S. military’s efforts to coordinate diplomatic security in Libya.
Wood testified that he personally recommended the Benghazi mission be closed, as documented in the 46-page House Republican report probing the Benghazi attacks.
Page six of the report cites security concerns, including more than 200 attacks in Libya, 50 of which took place in Benghazi, including against the U.S. mission there.
States the Republican report: “These developments caused Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who led the U.S. military’s efforts to supplement diplomatic security in Libya, to recommend that the State Department consider pulling out of Benghazi altogether.”
The report said Wood “explained that after the withdrawal of these other organizations, ‘it was apparent to me that we were the last [Western] flag flying in Benghazi. We were the last thing on their target list to remove from Benghazi.'”
With additional research by Joshua Klein.