Commander denies Benghazi stand-down
WASHINGTON — The former commander of a four-member Army special forces unit in Tripoli, Libya, denied on Wednesday that he was told to stand down during last year's deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
In a closed-door session with the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson said his commanders told him to remain in the Libyan capital of Tripoli to defend Americans in the event of additional attacks and to help survivors being evacuated from Benghazi.
“Contrary to news reports, Gibson was not ordered to ‘stand down' by higher command authorities in response to his understandable desire to lead a group of three other special forces soldiers to Benghazi,” the Republican-led committee said in a summary of its classified briefing with military officials, including Gibson.
Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in two separate attacks several hours apart on the night of Sept. 11.
Republicans insist that the Obama administration is guilty of a cover-up of the events despite a scathing independent report that faulted the State Department for inadequate security at the diplomatic mission. They have accused the administration of misleading the American people about the cause of the terrorist incident during the heat of a presidential campaign, blaming a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islam video.
In nearly nine months since the attack, GOP lawmakers have repeatedly asked why the military couldn't get aircraft or forces to Benghazi in time to thwart the second attack after the first incident that killed Stevens.