Gregory Hicks was the Deputy Chief of Mission on the ground in Tripoli the night of September 11, 2012 when our Benghazi
compound and the secret CIA Annex was attacked. In January 2014, Hicks hit back against those blaming Ambassador Chris Stevens for his own death. He refers to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, saying that the Committee interviewed him professionally and thoroughly, but the information below, on why Chris Stevens was forced to refuse military protection did not make it into the report. Three things of grave importance (full story below):
1) When control was transferred from Stevens to the military under General Carter Ham, our military lost all diplomatic immunity,
2) The NDAA mandated that Chris Stevens had to approve of any change in the special forces mission. Panetta approved it without Steven’s concurrence,
3) In the same week Stevens was told that Ham would take charge, two special forces teams were forced off the road in Libya. They escaped due to training and skill, but the incident forced Stevens to do what he had to do, let Ham withdraw them from the area until some protective agreement with Libya could be reached.
Chris’s concern was significant. Transferring authority would immediately strip the special forces team of its diplomatic immunity. Moreover, the U.S. had no status of forces agreement with Libya. He explained to Rear Adm. Charles J. Leidig that if a member of the special forces team used weapons to protect U.S. facilities, personnel or themselves, he would be subject to Libyan law. The law would be administered by judges appointed to the bench by Moammar Gadhafi or, worse, tribal judges. ~ Gregory Hicks
The report states that retired Gen. Carter Ham, then-commander of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, twice offered to “sustain” the special forces security team in Tripoli and that Chris twice “declined.” Since Chris cannot speak, I want to explain the reasons and timing for his responses to Gen. Ham. As the deputy chief of mission, I was kept informed by Chris or was present throughout the process.
On Aug. 1, 2012, the day after I arrived in Tripoli, Chris invited me to a video conference with Africom to discuss changing the mission of the U.S. Special Forces from protecting the U.S. Embassy and its personnel to training Libyan forces. This change in mission would result in the transfer of authority over the unit in Tripoli from Chris to Gen. Ham. In other words, the special forces would report to the Defense Department, not State.
Chris wanted the decision postponed but could not say so directly. Chris had requested on July 9 by cable that Washington provide a minimum of 13 American security professionals for Libya over and above the diplomatic security complement of eight assigned to Tripoli and Benghazi. On July 11, the Defense Department, apparently in response to Chris’s request, offered to extend the special forces mission to protect the U.S. Embassy.
However, on July 13, State Department Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy refused the Defense Department offer and thus Chris’s July 9 request. His rationale was that Libyan guards would be hired to take over this responsibility. Because of Mr. Kennedy’s refusal, Chris had to use diplomatic language at the video conference, such as expressing “reservations” about the transfer of authority…
During that video conference, Chris stressed that the only way to mitigate the risk was to ensure that U.S. military personnel serving in Libya would have diplomatic immunity, which should be done prior to any change of authority…
Chris understood the importance of the special forces team to the security of our embassy personnel. He believed that by explaining his concerns, the Defense Department would postpone the decision so he could have time to work with the Libyan government and get diplomatic immunity for the special forces.
According to the National Defense Authorization Act, the Defense Department needed Chris’s concurrence to change the special forces mission. But soon after the Aug. 1 meeting, and as a complete surprise to us at the embassy, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed the order without Chris’s concurrence…
When I arrived in Tripoli on July 31, we had over 30 security personnel, from the State Department and the U.S. military, assigned to protect the diplomatic mission to Libya. All were under the ambassador’s authority. On Sept. 11, we had only nine diplomatic security agents under Chris’s authority to protect our diplomatic personnel in Tripoli and Benghazi…
To sum up: Chris Stevens was not responsible for the reduction in security personnel. His requests for additional security were denied or ignored. Officials at the State and Defense Departments in Washington made the decisions that resulted in reduced security. Sen. Lindsey Graham stated on the Senate floor last week that Chris “was in Benghazi because that is where he was supposed to be doing what America wanted him to do: Try to hold Libya together.” He added, “Quit blaming the dead guy.”
Mr. Hicks served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli from July 31 to Dec. 7, 2012. Read the entire story at WSJ
This is the first time that a diplomat has more balls than someone in the military. ~ Gregory Hicks
We did nothing to protect our military in one of the most dangerous spots on the face of the earth. Ambassador Chris Stevens was beaten into submission and sentenced to death by the State Department and the Department of Defense, before he was beaten, tortured and died in Benghazi. Find my complete Benghazi database here.