Benghazi Hearing: Gregory Hicks Describes Consulate Attack

House Oversight Committee seeks to determine if Libya attack could have been prevented.
54:41 | 05/08/13

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Transcript for Benghazi Hearing: Gregory Hicks Describes Consulate Attack
This is a special report from ABC news. Hello everyone I'm Tanya Rivero a New York with an ABC news digital special report it is back to -- got the on the hill today the house oversight committee will hear some more testimony on the attack on the US consulate that killed a US ambassador and three others. And that testimony could contradict what has been said before by the White House. Gregory hicks deputy -- at the Libyan mission and second in command to ambassador Christopher Stephens. Who died in the attack will be speaking before a house oversight committee. In just a few moments on whether more could have been done to prevent the September 11 2012. Attacks -- right now we're gonna bring -- ABC's digital journalist covering the Pentagon Louis Martinez to help. But all this into perspective and and get some background the Obama administration had originally said this attack with a spontaneous event an offshoot of an ongoing protest then backtracked on those statements a few weeks later. Revealed it was indeed a deliberate terrorist attack Republicans of course immediately confronted the White House and insinuated that some sort of cover up happens. The White House doesn't -- about what attracts. That's correct -- and that's all that whole discussion about whether it was an act of terrorism whether as a result of this a spontaneous protests outside the consulate in the Ghazi develop into talking points discussion famous Susan Rice appearance on the Sunday talk shows. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- I'm because -- their number one they're playing it too far away equipment need to get to the teams with a special operations teams were too far away as well the candidate will be accountability review board launched by the State Department. Headed by Tom Pickering former diplomat. And general Mike Mullen former chairman of the land of the and the Joint Chiefs of Staff determined that the military response was appropriate. And actually even went beyond what they could've done that night and it also said that that -- found fault and now with what led to the events of that night. But that's a whole other issue what you're seeing today. It is a response to that from the Republicans on this committee who have presented new witnesses. Who claim that there were special courses on military personnel in on the ground in Tripoli who could have been sent to Ben -- aboard a Libyan aircraft. And that is a -- that's being made by the deputy chief of mission Gregory hicks of you're seeing who is the number two official at the embassy in Tripoli when things were. Aren't in right now what our you know obviously -- Well let's listen in for a moment this isn't what has Manuel will come back in just a secondary. A note that average are opening statements and their unusually short. So I'm not worried about the five minutes but we are here to hear from you so take the time you -- you need to. Tell your story. We will listen. And the ordinary time is five minutes -- take a little less you take a little more. This this hearing is about hearing from you on your experience. Mr. Thompson. Mr. chairman. Ranking member of the members of the committee and and please put your microphone a little closer. Thank you. Thanks for this opportunity to tell a story. As served as chairman indicated. I came to the department. Sixty and a half years ago. As a marine. Transitions. And have been on the activities that he's he has already described. The night that I was involved in this incident I was at my desk. At the end of the day when the first reports came in. That indicated that. We had -- going on at our diplomatic facilities in -- -- In that facility. We knew we had our investor and we had his security personnel. Later. When I heard that the situation had evolved to. Then going to a safe haven. And then. The fact that we could not find -- pastor. I averted my leadership. Indicating that we needed to. Go forward. And consider. The deployment of the foreign emergency support team. That particular team is an inner agency team. It's. Been represented is something that the State Department -- deploys it does not. The deputies committee -- the National Security Council deplores that organization. But. I want -- debt considered. I notified. The White House. -- the idea. They indicated that meetings had already taken place that evening that. Had -- fest out of the menu of options. I called the office within the State Department that had been represented there. Asking them quite had been taken off the table and was told that it was. Not the right time and it was not the a team that needed to go right then. Let me explain a team a lot of more. If it is comprised of the leadership from my office. It is comprised of professionals from special operations command. From diplomatic security from the intelligence community from FBI. It is -- holistic. Comprehensive. Organization. That -- is designed to go forward to embassies just as we did as indicated in 1998 in East Africa. As we've done in the other places indicated USS Cole another hostage situations. It is designed. To. Be the glue and the connective tissue that -- gets all the options on the table for the decision makers. Decision makers and in my line of work are the chief of mission. And if the authorities back here in Washington that make the decisions of what where we send people in harm's way. It doesn't mean it has a -- it it has a it reverse ability to it. The other thing that act a pointed out where is that with the tyranny of distance. At least eight or nine hours to get to. The middle of the Mediterranean. We needed to act now and not wait. There is sometimes the hesitancy. To not. It deployed because we don't know what's going on. When definition of a crisis is you don't know what's gonna happen in two hours so you need to help develop that situation early. We have a robust -- sweet an airplane that we trick or transported on it is -- flown by my yes so come colleagues. It is -- and work to do just this mission and is designed to carry a comprehensive team. -- a conflict or crisis and to help the investor and work for the investor and or the chief of mission. To. Handle that crisis and to make sure he or she has the best information possible. To make decisions and to make recommendations back to Washington and those same representatives make. Their views known back to their parent organizations. To that when we do have deputies committees and principal committees meetings at the White House. We have. -- situation. In which everyone is is using the most two up to date information. And so that we can figure out -- -- what we have to do security wise what we have to do intelligence wise what we have to do. With the military what we have to do to put diplomatic wise what we have to do on the public affairs front. That works for the chief of mission and I can't emphasize that enough we are not there to -- soon any activities. They're the experts. On -- Team. Or know that the real experts are in the embassy. And they work for the chief of mission to do that. My time is drawing to a close -- and there and await your questions. Thank you TX. -- mister chairman. They can we really will have to you're pretty soft spoken get that little closer and at -- -- thank you mr. chairman thank you ranking member. The key members of the committee. I'm a career public servant. Until the aftermath of Ben Ghazi. I loved every day of my child. In my 21 years of government service prior to Tripoli I earned the reputation. For being an innovative policy maker. Who got the job done. I was promoted quickly and received numerous awards. People who work for me -- my leadership in management skills highly. Back to master's degrees from the University of Michigan and applied economics. And modern near eastern and north African studies. I have served my country extensively in the mideast. Besides Libya but served in Afghanistan. Bahrain Yemen Syria. And the Gambia. I speak fluent Arabic. In -- rain and when she opposition contacts. Gave me advanced warning. Of impending attacks on our embassy in anti government anti American demonstrations. Allowing us to prepare and avoid injuries to staff. I learned that knowledge of local conditions and strong connections. With the local population. Or is important is the strength and height of walls. One reason I'm here. Is because I have pledged. The foreign service as part of my campaign to be state vice president of the American Foreign Service Association. That none of us should ever again experience. What we went through in Tripoli and in -- on 9/11 2012. After I arrived in Tripoli as deputy chief of mission on July 31 2012. -- fast became known as the ambassadors Bulldog because of my decisive management style. In the days immediately after the -- -- attack the president and secretary of state praised flight performance over the telephone. President Obama wrote Libyan president -- Garcia off expressing confidence in my abilities. Deputy secretary burns and general -- Told me how much they appreciated. How I handled the night of the assault and its aftermath. I receive written notes accommodation from undersecretary Wendy Sherman and from executive secretary. Stephen mall. In coming charge -- Larry Pope. Told me personally. That my performance was near heroic. In February 1991. By sworn oath to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States. I'm here today to honor that of -- look forward to answering your questions fully and truthfully thank you very much. Acute and understand that some of those combinations of letters are in your opening statement and for all the witnesses. All all extraneous material or other -- assertions -- placed in the record on your behalf. -- -- -- Morning chip. Good morning chairman -- -- ranking member Cummings another distinguished members of the committee. For the benefit of the new committee members by name mister Nordstrom and I currently serve as a supervisory special agent. With the US Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Since September 2012 I've being enrolled in long term language training in preparation for my next assignment. As chairman Dyson noted -- served in federal law enforcement since January 19961. As a customs inspector. Before joining the US department state. -- served in domestic and overseas postings including Washington DC Honduras Ethiopia India and most recently. The regional security officer at the US embassy in Tripoli. All of those assignments have been assignments in which I've faced. The threat of criminal or terrorist. Attacks. I held the last position as are sold from September 21 2011. And until July 26 points while. As the regional security officer or are so what the US embassy in Tripoli served as the principal security advisor to US -- masters he gene Krantz. And Chris Stevens on security and law enforcement matters. I want to thank the committee again for the opportunity to appear. Provide further testimony in support of your inquiry into the tragic events of September 11 2012. I would also like to thank the committee for your continued efforts in investigating all the details and all the decisions. Believe the attack -- our diplomatic facilities. Specifically. The committee's -- to uncover what happened prior during and after the attack matter. It matters to me personally. And it matters my colleagues and to my colleagues at department state. It matters to the American public. For whom we serve. And most important -- -- Excuse -- It matters to the friends and family. But wouldn't. The master stevens' Sean Smith's -- story Tyrone woods who were murdered on September 11 2012. In addition my testimony before this committee in October 2012 I also met with the FBI. Senate homeland security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The department's accountability review board and I discussed my experiences -- with all of them. I'm proud of the work that our team accomplished in Libya under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. The protection of our nation's diplomats. Our embassies and consulates and the work -- there is -- deserving of the time that this committee. Other congressional committees and accountability review board and no doubt future review efforts we'll invest in making sure that we get this process right. Thank you mr. chairman and members of the committee for the opportunity to appear before you today I stand ready to answer any questions you might. Thank you now recognize myself for. Quick round of questioning. Mr. Thompson. Arms and mr. Thompson. You went through a process of things that you. Observed. And how you try to activate your team. Did you do so because you had an initial view of whether this was a terrorist attack or something else. And please be brief -- our amusement yes. Okay thank you. Mr. hicks. As the principal officer. And while -- higher you know once the ambassador had been murdered the highest ranking officer. On September 11. From the moment that you unexpectedly became the -- day. America has heard many accounts -- what happened. We've never heard accounts from a single person who was in Libya that night. He will be the first person who observed it in your own words take as much time as you want. Please take us through. The day of September 11 from whatever time. You want to -- -- Through when you first heard from ambassador Stevens. And through that. Hours and days immediately following that if you would so we could have an understanding. For the first time from somebody who was there. Thank you mr. chairman and as as I remember September 11 two point twelve it was. They routine day at our embassy. And until we saw the news about Cairo. And I remember. Sending a text message to investors Stevens. Saying Chris are you aware of what's going on in Cairo. And he said. No. That's alive told him that the embassy another text that the embassy had been stormed. And they were trying to Teradata -- and he said thanks very much. And that I went on with with with business. Closed and closed the day and I went back to my Villa and was relaxing watching television show that I particularly like. And at 9:45 PM and all times will be -- times. This six hour time difference. We are so John Martin that ran into my Villa. -- Greg Greg the consulates under attack. And I. Stood up and reach for my phone because side. Had an inkling -- thought that perhaps investor try to call me to relay that same message and I found two missed calls. On the phone one from the investors on one from a phone number I didn't. Recognize. And I -- the phone number I didn't recognize. And I got to ambassador on the other end. And he said Gregg were under attack. And ice was. Walking out of the Villa on my way to tactical operations center -- I knew we would all have to gather there to mobilize them or try to mobile as a response. And it was also a bad cell -- night in Tripoli. Connections were weak. And I said okay in the line -- As I walked to the tactical operations center I tried. To. Reach back on both of the numbers the unknown number and the ambassador's personal number and gotten no response. I -- I got to the tactical operations center. Told people that the ambassador. That I just talked to the ambassador what he said. Time John -- -- was on the phone with Alex Henderson in. The Gaza in the aren't so there. And I asked one of our DS agents who what number did I reach investor Stephens on. -- it though that Scott -- Clinton's telephone. Scott what -- was ambassador stevens' agent in charge his personal escort for that night. And was with him in the Villa during the attack. So -- asked. When John Mark neck. Got off the telephone I asked him. What was going on -- -- that. The consulate had been breached and there were at least twenty. Pop -- style. Individuals arms. In the in the compound. At the time. So -- next called the NX chief. To ask him if he was in touch with the -- Ghazi NX. Two. Activate our emergency response plan. Please explain the -- chiefs of -- People -- don't know is much would understand that. Now go ahead please OK thank you. And he said that he had been in touch with the NX in -- Ghazi and they said they were mobilizing. A response team. There to go to. The to our facility and provide reinforcements and to repel the attack. With that knowledge -- called the operations center at the State Department -- 10 PM. To -- report the attack and what we were doing to respond to it. The next thing I did was to. Begin calling the senior officials in the government of Libya that I knew at the time. And so lifestyle first. President -- -- chief of staff and reported the attack and asked for immediate assistance from the government of Libya to assist. Our folks in Benghazi. I follow that -- with a call to the prime minister's chief of staff to make the same request and then to the MFA. Americas director. -- -- -- ministry of foreign affairs. The defense that tocchet. Was at the same time calling. The leadership of Libya's military. With the same purpose to ask them for assistance. And once that was done. I called again to Washington to report that -- act actions had been. Commenced. Over the night. -- over that night that is basically how our. Team operated. I was talking to the government a live of Libya. Reporting to this -- -- the State Department through the operation center. And also staying in touch with the NX chief about what was going on. Let me step back one minute if I could. And say that I also discuss with the NX chief about mobilizing. A Tripoli response team. And we agreed. That we would move forward with. K. Chartering a plane from. Tripoli to fly a response team to -- -- to provide additional reinforcements. The defense -- shape. Was also reporting through his chain of command back to. -- -- -- to the joint staff here in Washington. About what was going on in the country. David McFarland. Our political section chief. Had just returned. From Ben Ghazi where he had been our principal officer. For the previous ten days. And so he jumped into this picture by reaching out to his contacts. In thin cotton -- -- Ghazi. And trying to get them at the local level there to respond. To the attack. And he also was in touch with our local employees there. As well. Excuse me but -- Check my notes here this along. The attack and folded in four phases -- the night unfolded in four phases the first phase. Was the attack on our consulate. The story is well known I think. The Ben Ghazi responding to be. Console was invaded. The Phyllis C where the ambassador and Sean Smith and Scott what we're clan war. Hiding in the safe area. Was set on fire. The attackers also went into another -- when it into another of buildings. They were unable to issue -- the tactical operations center in -- -- because of improvements to that. Facility that had been made. They. Scott attempted to lead. The ambassador and Sean Smith out of the burning building he managed to make it out. He tried repeatedly to go back again to try to rescue Sean. And the ambassador but had to. Stop due to -- exposure to spoke. The response team from. The NX and Ben Ghazi six individuals. Drove the attackers. Out of our compound and secured it temporarily. They've been estimates as high as sixty. Attackers were in the compound of one particular time. There were repeated attempts by all of the RSS and by the response team from the -- To. Go into the burning building. And recover. And tried to save Sean and the ambassador. They'd found -- body and pull that out. But he was no longer responsive. It did not find the ambassador. And I spoke with a medical officer one of our medical officers after after the attack. And the heroism of these individuals. In repeatedly going into the petroleum but based fire cannot be understated. Petroleum according to this tour regional medical officer patrolling -- fires -- Mitt. Enormous amounts of cyanide gas. They told me that wonderful breath of that would incapacitate and kill a person. If exposed to it. The second it was -- it was. Noticed that a second wave of attackers. Was. Coming to. Attack the facility. And it. Our teams. Evacuated. Five are -- and Sean Smith in one vehicle which suffered heavy fire. But they managed to break through and -- get to the NX. And in the NX team also withdrew from the facility and the second wave of attack attackers took it over. After the the second phase of the evening occurs. At the timing is about 1130. Or so. The second phase -- -- -- after the teams have returned to the NX. And they suffer for about an hour and a half probing attacks. From. From terrorists. They are able repulse them and then they desist -- about 1:30 in the morning. The Tripoli response team. Departs at about midnight. And arrives. At about 115. -- -- -- -- a step back again to Tripoli in what's going on there at this point. -- about. 10:45. Or 11 o'clock. We can for. And I asked. The defense -- we've been talking with -- for calm and -- The joint staff. Is anything coming. Will they be sending us any help is there something. Out there. And he answered that. The nearest help was enough -- The nearest there where there were fighter planes. They said that it would take two to three hours. For them to. Get on site but that there also were no tankers available for them to refuel. I said thank you very much. And we went on with our work. Phase three. Begins with. News that the ambassador. Ambassadors body has been recovered. And David McFarland. A -- Paul correctly. He is the individuals who begin to receive that news from his contacts and been Ghazi. And we begin to hear also. That. The investors been taken to a hospital. We don't know initially which hospital -- this but we. Through David's reports. We learned. That it is in a hospital which is controlled violence -- Sharia. The group that. Twitter feeds had identified as leading the attack on the consulate. We're getting this information as the Tripoli response team arrives. In -- Gaza at the airport. Both are NX chief in the NX chief and Ben Ghazi. And our defense -- attention -- are on the phone during this period trying to get the Libyan government to stand vehicles. And military. When -- -- security assets. To the airport. To assist -- our response team. At this point. This response team looks like it may be. A hostage rescue -- That they are going to we have we are going to need to send them. To try to save the ambassador who is in a hospital that is. As far as we know under enemy control. Our contacts with. The government in Tripoli are telling us. That. The ambassador is in a safe place but they imply that he is with us and in the -- acts in the Gaza. And we keep telling them know. The he is not with us we do not have -- we do not have him. About 1230. At the same time that we see the Twitter feeds that are asserting that. And so Russia -- is responsible for the attack we also see a call for an attack. On the embassy in Tripoli. And so we begin to. We we had always thought that we were hidden. Under threat but we now have to take care of ourselves. And we begin planning to evacuate our. Facility. When I say our facility I mean the State Department residential compound. In Tripoli and to consolidate. All of our personnel. In. At the NX. In Tripoli. We have about 55. Diplomatic personnel. Indeed to. And -- On that night if I may go back -- just like to point out. That with -- Stephens and Sean Smith and -- Ghazi there are five. Diplomatic security agents assistant read regional security officers. With us in in our residential compound in Tripoli. We have the RSO John -- -- three. Assistant regional certain security officers protecting 28 diplomatic personnel. In addition we also have four. Special forces personnel. Who are part of -- Training mission. During the night -- in. Touch with Washington group. Keeping them posted. Of what's happening. In. Tripoli intended to best of my knowledge would have been told in. -- -- I think about 2 PM. The sector to 2 AM sorry the secretary -- secretary of state Clinton called me. Along and along with her senior staff -- -- on the phone. And -- Asked me. What was going on and I briefed her on developments. Most of the conversation was about search from -- Stevens. It was also about. What we were going to do. With our personnel and -- -- And I told her that we would need to evacuate. And that was the right -- she said that was the right thing to do. About 3. AM. I received a call from the prime minister -- I think it's the status phone call. I've ever had in my life. And he told me that. -- Stephens. Had passed away. -- immediately. Telephone Washington. That news afterwards. And again. Accelerating our effort to. Withdraw from that -- compound and move to. And he. -- -- He's been to -- Our team responded with. Amazing. Discipline. And courage in Tripoli. And organizing. The withdrawal. -- vivid memories of that I think the most. Telling though. Was. Of our communications staff. Dismantling our to our -- our communications equipment to take with -- two. The NX and destroying the classified communications capability. Our office manager. -- Pickens. Was everywhere that night just. -- yourself into some task that had to be done. First she was taking a walk of what we were doing its -- she was. Boating magazines. Carrying ammunition to the carrier ammunition supply -- that our vehicles. When she was smashing hard drives. With -- -- -- -- -- -- management officer was a whirlwind of activity organizing the vehicles. Two lining them up finding the drivers. Making sure everybody was getting. The things that they would need. For the coming days. John -- Nicholas. A -- of moral support. Particularly to the guys who -- in Gaza this on the phone talking them through the whole ordeal. David McFarland. On the phone constantly all the time talking. To his contacts have been -- urging urging them. To help. -- Phillips and technical art. The -- Carl Gibson. Mounds of strength. -- -- There's still -- all them. They asked me and one of the phone calls. When. We -- going to move to the NX. And they said we'll -- it -- Because. None of our people. Had great experience driving the armored. Suburban -- that we would we're going to have to use. Our local staff true for -- as part of our security procedures. Of course we're not there that night. And we would have to go through checkpoints militia checkpoints. On the way to the NX to get there. And I didn't want our people to be going through those check points. I didn't know what to expect from the malicious. And so we moved to -- And we arrived at the NX least -- group I think -- about. 445 perhaps may -- fired him. A few minutes later came the word of mortar attack. If I could. Returned in Gaza a little bit. Talk to -- and -- by bounce back and forth but. The. Tripoli team. Was basically. Had to stay yet. -- -- Gaza airport because -- no transport. And no escort from. The the after the announcement of Chris is passing. Military escort and vehicles arrived. At the airport. So the decision was made. For them to go to the -- One of the. Before -- got the call from. The prime minister -- received several phone calls on the phone that. Have been with the ambassador. Saying that. We know where the ambassador is pleased you can come get him. And our local staff engaged on this phone calls. Admirably. -- -- Very very. Outstanding -- an open ended questions. About where was he trying to decide discern. Whether he was alive would you let whether they even had the ambassador. -- that person was with the ambassador. Send a picture could we talk to the ambassador. Because. We knew separately from David that the investor was in a hospital. That we believed was under -- especially his call we we suspected that we were being. Baited into a trap. And so we did not want to us and our people. Into an ambush. And we didn't we sent them to. The NX shortly after they arrived at the -- the mourners came in. First mortar round as long it landed actually among the Libyans who escorted our people. They took casualties from -- slept that night. -- that the next was short. The next three landed on the on the roof. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- They didn't know whether any more. Mortars were going to come in. The accuracy was terribly. Precise. The call was the next one is coming through the roof. Media to head. To the guys from -- Tripoli they climbed up on. The the roof. He carried Clinton body in two -- -- down. One guy. -- -- -- Full comeback here. Climbed up there. Strapped David Tobin whose it. Large man. To his back. Carried down the latter. -- In Tripoli. We had the defense attache. Had. Persuaded. The Libyans. The flight -- C 130. Two. -- -- We wanted to airlift Rick and since we had consolidated. At the -- And living government has now provided us with an external security around our facilities. We. -- to descend further reinforcements. To. -- -- we determined that the technical Gibson and his team of special forces. Troops should go. People in the -- had been fighting all night. Tired they were exhausted. Wanted to make sure the airport was secure for -- -- -- Has. Carl Gibson in this three personnel world we're getting in the chorus. He stopped they -- them off instead told me that. It not been authorized to go. The vehicles. Had to go because flight needed to go to Tripoli I -- to Ben -- Lieutenant Carl Gibson was furious. I told him to go bring our people home. That's what you want to do. -- is very nice compliment -- -- repeated. So plane went. -- it landed in the Gaza -- -- thirty. The other thing that. We did was -- and in want to mention Jacqui and asks name. In this -- she was our nurse. We initially. Thought that we would. That she should go to the Ghazi. One of the special forces with lieutenant colonel Gibson's team. Was was our last military trained medic available. -- a broken foot. -- -- still remember him walking for a walk and to go in and get in the car with his. Machine gun carrying. A machine gun on the -- The Jackie. To refused. To allow her to go. I think -- because I knew we had wounded coming back -- -- David. With severely wounded and -- others were wounded as well and Jackie had just. Made. Terrific contacts with a hospital. In town. And so we sat with center -- -- -- to that hospital to start mobilizing. There he or teams and their doctors to. Receive our wounded. So when the charter flight. Arrives in Tripoli. We had -- ambulances. At the hospital at that at the airport waiting. Their doctors were ready and waiting for our wounded. To come in. To be brought in to the operating room. And they certainly -- David ovens -- and they may have very well let's take his life. They treated -- other wounded as well. As if they were their own. Mr. hicks. I know Europe. The days that followed but I think we all need to -- just a little which -- told us so. We could -- there and mr. Cummings is recognized. Thank you very much. Again to all of -- we appreciate. -- being here to you mister -- U. Describe. What happened -- night. They just reminded mean. The high course. The high cost. That is a buying. So many -- our focus. We've been listening to -- off an emotional testimony being given to the house oversight committee on the attack on the US consulate and Ben -- that killed -- US ambassador and three others. We've listened -- to Gregory hicks most recently the deputy chief at the Libyan mission. As well as Mark Thompson acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism and Erik Nordstrom. The diplomatic security officer and former regional security officer in Libya both -- and Nordstrom had moments where they were quite choked with emotion. We're gonna bring back ABC's digital journalist covering the Pentagon Louis Martinez hi there -- Anytime now so if Republican congressman Darrell ice I was looking for Gregory hicks -- statements to incriminate the White House and some way do you think that happened. I'm not quite sure about that but I think when one thing is certain is that his testimony is just gripping. In very deliberate tones you heard him described. Minute by minute almost exactly what happened that night in two -- in Tripoli and in -- -- he kept -- shifting back and forth. You can tell it in that event took an emotional toll on him and you can tell that the committee is -- as well. When -- handed it off to he's a democratic counterpart. Elijah Cummings you heard Cummings is tone as well as very serious -- an on year Cummings was. It really critical of ice or even holding this hearing. I talked about how this was a partisan. Hearing that this -- partisan driven. Com and you can kind of gathering yet get a shift there after hearing a lot of takes testimony and that obviously he. -- for what and when they had the US team went through that night ending -- Absolutely -- listening to hicks described the phone call that he made with ambassador Stephen set just before. He found out later that he had been killed -- was. Very emotional testimony. I -- -- -- there are a host of brand new details from what happened that night that have been revealed by I'm mr. -- -- talked about the phone call he received from Secretary Clinton he talked about the initial number of attackers had twenty -- that number rose to forty to sixty. Just whole variety of one the first person details because even though he was in Tripoli he was on he was in constant communications with the officials in Benghazi. With the the security officer who was locked up. And the operations center getting free things from them and obviously that phone call that 3 AM phone call he received from the Libyan prime minister informing him. That -- ambassador Chris Stevens had died that's. Obviously very powerful and again in branding detail that we just had not heard. Through the investigation -- was conducted by ambassador Pickering and Mike Mullen. -- through the other hearings that we heard from back in January with us former secretary Hillary Clinton. So definitely. Details he can sell he could tell it weighs on him and it and -- on Erik Nordstrom -- our security officer at the bit at the embassy in Tripoli. They were both struggling with the memory is that throughout their testimony. Also found -- gripping his. Description of getting his team out safely that seemed like -- narrowed very harrowing account as well. Analyzing that and that's actually some money and the many details were talking about. The treaty eight prior to his testimony. Ice congressman I -- -- talked about how. -- is gonna talk about the -- additional military team is going to be sent there. Two -- -- you heard about how the initial team went out there. On what they were trying to do. I'm how they gathered altogether but any other detail that has come out of this hearing is what was going back. What was going on in Tripoli at the embassy. That there was an effort an evacuation effort underway there as well. That because of the security situation and disguising it felt it was appropriate to move to a more secure area the -- Now this is you heard him talk about this special forces team before that they wanted to get on that split means he won thirty overcoming the just before we went on near the Pentagon released new details about that -- team. Until today they had been told us they weren't aware of what I sat and -- and -- talking about. But now they confirm there was this forming a special operations team there there was -- on a training mission and that their main -- that night was to ensure. The safe passage of the diplomats from their facilities and to this panics -- now you -- Hicks described how the colonel was furious when he got the word he was getting his -- to -- to the airport. To flattening guys and you he's furious because he was told he didn't have the authority what we heard from -- -- officials just before we went on year is that. The reason they were told not to go is because it was felt it was more important for them to ensure the protection of the American civilians still left being left behind. In Tripoli. There was certainly continue to worry about the safety of anyone still -- on the ground at that moment at the -- I think -- I think you're -- and there's been -- lowering its stress on what Hillary Clinton you. What what about to the attack. What she may have done before hand and part of this is the question that venerated because of the accountability -- candidly review board. That -- started by the a State Department they never interviewed Hillary Clinton as part of their investigation. That has been a focal point four. People who have been raising questions about the state state department's handling both before and during and after -- -- attack. They. The heads of the ARB as it's called have said that they didn't really need to injury Hillary Clinton Republicans on this committee. And other conservative critics who say what they needed to because she head of the department other factors that have been raised about to Hillary Clinton and Obama have revolve around. Her signature on a cable -- involving weather and security -- to be beefed up. At the consulate. Prior to the attack. What we found out from senior State Department official last night is -- That is a pro forma signature is basically an autograph. Is required by law to -- -- -- cables. And that it's her signature and -- Even though she may not have seen -- cable or not and goes out on last year and when one point four million cables. From the State Department to its diplomatic missions -- Around the world certainly this has the potential to be a lasting partisan issue Willie Martinez thank you so much for joining us from the Pentagon today. Thanks -- for now I'm Tanya Rivero in New York in this has been an ABC news digital special report. This has been a special report from ABC news --

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

{"id":19135792,"title":"Benghazi Hearing: Gregory Hicks Describes Consulate Attack","duration":"54:41","description":"House Oversight Committee seeks to determine if Libya attack could have been prevented.","section":"Politics","mediaType":"Default"}