Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declined an invitation to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which will take place on Thursday, regarding the Benghazi attack. But, Michael Courts, acting director of International Affairs and Trade for the Government Accountability Office, will be testifying, and so will a RAND Corp. analyst.
Clinton, “was asked to appear at House Foreign Affairs next week, and we have written back to the chairman to say that she’ll be on travel next week,” Victoria Nuland, department spokeswoman, said. She failed to answer a question regarding whether Clinton would be willing to return from Australia to address either the Foreign Affairs panel or the Senate and House closed-door intelligence committee hearings.
“The Committee plans to hold the second segment of this hearing the week of November 26, 2012 and will request Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testify before the Committee at that time,” the Foreign Affairs Committee reported in an advisory.
Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) wrote Clinton last Tuesday, calling for the State Department to respond to the panel’s requests for information on Benghazi. She wrote: “It is disappointing that we have yet to receive any response from your Department and that we are receiving more information from the press than from the Administration.”
Then too, though somewhat overshadowed by General David Petreaus’ resignation, was the news that the Department of Defense released a timeline in an attempt to reconcile its story line with that of the State Department and the CIA. This was done through an off-camera briefing, with an official who could only be quoted anonymously. A report from Fox News uncovers several discrepancies in the DOD’s purported timeline:
- The Defense Department timeline on the night of Sept. 11 begins at 9:42 p.m. local time and states, “The incident starts at the facility in Benghazi.” Right from the start, the Pentagon and the CIA timelines do not match. (The CIA timeline, which was released on Nov. 1, states that at 9:40 p.m., “A senior State Department security officer at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi called the CIA annex and requested assistance.”)
- A source at the CIA annex that night told Fox News that when they first asked to go and help, they were told to wait.
- At 10:32 p.m. (4:32 p.m. in Washington), 50 minutes after the incident began, the National Military Command Center, which is the operations center at the Pentagon where Ham is overseeing the operation, notifies Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.
- That means for nearly an hour, no one told the defense secretary and Joint Chiefs chairman that a U.S. ambassador is in peril and his personal security officer has pressed his “personal distress button” which sends an SMS signal back to the command authority in the U.S. and a U.S. embassy has been overrun by attackers.
- More calls for help – Upon returning to the annex, the CIA team and those that were rescued immediately begin taking fire and at midnight, according to sources on the ground that night, begin making radio calls for help and air support. Almost immediately, they begin taking fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
- According to a senior U.S. defense official, “This was not one long continuous fight, but two separate incidents at two separate facilities with some separation of time.”
- However, British sources who were near the consulate and annex that night tell a different story, saying there was almost continuous fire on the annex after the team fled from the consulate.
- Sometime over the next two hours, according to the official Pentagon timeline, Panetta gives the “go code” for two Marine FAST (Fleet Anti-terrorism Security) teams to prepare to leave Rota, Spain. A Special Operations force which is training in Central Europe is told to “prepare to deploy to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe (Sigonella, Sicily), and a Special Operations team in the U.S. is told to prepare to deploy to Sigonella as well.
- It isn’t until 2:53 a.m. (about five hours after the incident began) that those orders are formalized by Panetta and the teams are told they can leave.
There is also what appears to be an attempt at obstruction involving the Benghazi hearings. The documents needed in order to prepare for the upcoming hearings were made available for just two days last week – days when most Senators were out of town. According to Breitbart:
“The Obama Administration’s timing is exquisite; by making the documents available only today and tomorrow, the Senators will not be able to review them to prepare for the hearings next week. Committee staffers are also forbidden to see the material, meaning practically no one will have all the information when the hearings begin.”
A senior GOP Senate staffer was reported to have said: “Funny since no member is in town. The timing and limited access clearly demonstrates the administration cares more about playing politics with the tragedy than accepting responsibility.”