Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., questions a witness during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's hearing on Benghazi on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 8, 2013. House Republicans insist the Obama administration is covering up information about the deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year, rejecting administration assurances to the contrary and stoking a controversy with implications for the 2016 presidential race. Credit: AP
During Wednesday's highly anticipated Benghazi hearings, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) questioned Greg Hicks, former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, about the Obama administration's response to the deadly attack. The South Carolina congressman also read a previously unreleased email sent by a State Department official identifying a terrorist group as the perpetrators of the attack the day after it occurred.
Hicks said he was "embarrassed" that the attack was initially blamed on a YouTube video.
"So hours after our ambassador and three others are killed in Benghazi, the president of Libya says it was an attack with possible terror links, correct?" Gowdy asked.
"Yes sir, that is what I recall," Hicks replied, adding that the Libyan president did not make any mention of "spontaneous protest" related to a video.
"When Ambassador Stevens talked to you, perhaps minutes before he died, as a dying declaration, what precisely did he say to you?" Gowdy pressed.
"He said, 'Greg, we are under attack,'" the whistleblower recalled. Ambassador Christopher Stevens also did not make any reference to a spontaneous protest, he said.
Gregory Hicks (L), Foreign Service Officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission/Charge d’Affairs in Libya, and Eric Nordstrom, Diplomatic Security Officer and former US State Department Regional Security Officer in Libya, listen during a hearing of the House Committee On Oversight and Government Reform on Capitol Hill May 8, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee held the hearing to investigate the events and response to a 2012 attack on one of the United States's diplomatic compounds in Benghazi, Libya. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
When asked about U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice going on Sunday talk shows and blaming the attack on a ridiculous anti-Muslim YouTube video "five different times," Hicks said he was "stunned."
"My jaw dropped and I was embarrassed," he added.
Hicks also said Rice made no attempts to talk to him before speaking on TV Sunday, despite the fact that he was the highest ranking official in Libya at the time.
Gowdy later read an excerpt from an email sent by Beth Jones, the acting assistant secretary for Middle Eastern affairs at the State Department, to Hicks and other top U.S. officials. The email was sent on Sept. 12, 2012, one day after the attack.
"Some of these emails, even though they are not been classified, have not been released," Gowdy explained. "Including the one I am about to read from."
"I spoke to the Libyan ambassador and emphasized the importance of Libyan leaders continuing to make strong statements," the email read. "When he said his government expected that former Ghadafi regime elements carried out the attacks, I told him that the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists."
Again, that was the day after the attack and long before the YouTube video was blamed.
Watch Gowdy's entire line of questioning below: