'This Week' Exclusive: Gregory Hicks on Benghazi

Top U.S. diplomat Gregory Hicks gives his first-hand account of the Benghazi attacks.
9:31 | 09/08/13

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Transcript for 'This Week' Exclusive: Gregory Hicks on Benghazi
We're talking about people being killed by gas, and you want to go talk about benghazi. Absolutely want to talk about ben gas -- benghazi. Four americans lost their lives. We don't deserve to drag this into yet another benghazi discussion is whether or not the congress is going to stand up for international norms. One year later, the attack on the u.S. Consulate in benghazi is still a political football. For the americans on the ground, it was a story of heartbreak and the struggle to survive. Greg hicks was the diplomat in charge that night. The only officer who has spoken out about that harrowing night. An abc news exclusive. I have been perplexed and frustrated with the way it's all played out. To me, this is a simple story. Ambassador stephens went to benghazi to do his job. To do what he knew secretary clinton wanted him to do. And he was attacked while he was there. And the american staff in benghazi and in tripoli responded as we have been trained to do in an amazing way to save the lives of our people in benghazi. Unfortunately we lost four people in the line of duty. Let's take a look back at the events of that night. You're home in tripoli at 9:45. Yes, 9:45 tripoli time, 3:45 washington time. Regional security officer comes running into the house and says the consulate's under attack. I immediately look at my telephone, and I see a missed call. I called back on that number, and I get the ambassador. And the ambassador says, greg, we're under attack. Chris stephens. Chris stephens, and I say, okay. And the line is cut. That's it. And that's all. We're under attack. Yes. You knew there were a lot of bad guys in country. We knew that. You were worried about the overall security situation and the amount of protection both the embassy and the consulate had. Yes. And the ambassador had been concerned about that. He had been concerned. He sent a cable in july requesting that our security personnel situation not change. You had a special security team in place. Right. Then it was reassigned. Exactly. On the night of the attack, there were five diplomatic security agents, they were with ambassador stephens and sean smith. There were at least 20 hostile attackers in the compound. Months earlier, the state department said in the event on an attack on the vulnerable benghazi mission, they would respond if the annex, run by the cia. I know you can't say, but we know of the cia facility, and we know that the cia facility was getting better protection and more security than the diplomatic facility. The numbers are clear. About twice as many. In terms of trained security providers. What did you tell washington? I called washington after i talked to the annex chief and told them the consulate was under attack, that the -- you used the word attack? I did use the word attack. That there were at least 20 armed intruders in the compound, and that help was on the way from the annex. Had you heard anything earlier in the day about protests, or worried about the reports because of the video? No, it was a non-event, the video, in libya. And we had heard nothing about protests. The building had been set on fire by the attackers. And our diplomatic security agents there were heavily outnumbered. About an hour after the attack began, the heavily armed cia team arrived at the mission. They began trying to find the ambassador and sean smith who were unable to get out of the burning building. After tremendous efforts in exposing themselves to serious harm, they did find sean and pulled him out, unfortunately he was already dead. As this is happening with -- what are you saying to washington? Reporting back every 15 or 20 minutes. State department? State department operations center. Exactly. By this time, there's a send -- second wave of attackers and lootors coming to the compound. Many more -- dozens. Dozens, perhaps hundreds. No way the ten or 11 guys can hold that off. Evacuate, ram their way out, immediately brought under fire, including heavy machine gunfire. The entire group now heads back to the annex, but they have not found ambassador stephens. When they get back to the annex, they come under attack there. This is an ongoing battle. Did you ask for reinforcements? I had spoken to the defense attache, I canned for the defense, what help is coming? Fighters, but could be two or three hours. It was clear it was going to be a long time before help came. So I made sure people knew they were going to have to hold out. As the battle raged at the cia annex, a crowd overruns the now abandoned mission. Some libyans locate the ambassador clinging to life and rush him to a local hospital. In the meantime, reinforcements from tripoli, military and cia security has arrived at the benghazi airport. 3:00 a.M.9:00 p.M. Washington time, I get the call from the prime minister that ambassador stephens is dead. What did he tell you? He just says, I'm very sorry, greg, to tell you this, but our friend chris has passed on. I think those were his words. There was deep remorse in his voice when he said it. And you? For me it -- I think it's the saddest, saddest moment in my career. Honestly. With the news of his death, the security team from tripoli heads to the annex. And soon after they get there, the attack on the annex is renewed. And then the mortars come in. Those are the rounds that killed ty and glenn. Since this happened, we have seen the top pentagon officials at the time, the top military officials said there was just no way to respond if time. Military assets could not get there. I don't know exactly what was available. I still don't quite understand why they couldn't fly aircraft over to benghazi. When I was a kid, I grew up watching western movies. And, you know, the cavalry always came. I just thought that they would come. You've had, you know, quite a journey yourself in this last year. Decided to speak to congress back in may. Since then, it appears you have been in something of a career limbo inside the state department. That's correct. That's true. The state department said this was an assignment you requested, getting the same pay as before, but do you feel you're being punished for speaking out? Yes. I feel that I have been punished. I don't know why I was punished. I don't know why I was shunted aside, put in a closet, if you will. Does the state department know you're speaking out now? No. They don't know I'm here. Then why talk? Because the american people need to have the story, and ambassador chris stephens, sean smith, ty woods and glenn dougherty's names should be remembered by every american. The sacrifices that they made. Could those four american heros have been saved? Sadly I think the ambassador and sean smith, maybe not. Ty and glenn of course were killed in the mortar attack that took place eight hours after the initial attack. It's possible they could have been saved I think. What's the best way to honor the memory of the four diplomats and security professionals who lost their lives that night? We can't forget them. And we need to make sure that the people going out into the world on our behalf have the tools that they need, and the resources they need, to do the job that they have been asked to do for the people of the united states. Greg hicks right there. In response to his contention he's punished, the state department sent us a statement which reads in part, the state department has not punished mr. Hicks in any way. We appreciate his exemplary service on the evening of september 11 president. His departure from libya was entirely unrelated to his

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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