Nightly News   |  May 08, 2013

Pentagon wouldn’t send more forces to Benghazi, diplomat says

In what became an emotional hearing on Capitol Hill, Gregory Hicks testified Wednesday that he and a defense attaché tried to send four more special forces to Benghazi and pleaded for air support -- but was told to stand down. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> today. the emotional testimony about the attack on the u.s. consulate in benghazi . and the after math of that evening which has been consumed ever since by controversy. today we heard a chilling account of what really happened in libya. our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell following it all from our d.c. newsroom tonight. andrea, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. washington is used to politically charged hearing. what was different today was the sheer emotion as we heard from ambassador stevens 's second in command. gregory hicks, a career diplomat was holding down the fort at the embassy in tripoli last september 11 when he reached ambassador chris stevens in again geo.

>> i got the ambassador on the other end. he said, greg, we're under attack.

>> reporter: the line went dead. he called the government. libya's prime minister called at 3:00 a.m .

>> i think it's the saddest phone call i have ever had in my life. he told me that ambassador stevens had passed away .

>> reporter: today emotions were still raw.

>> it matters to the american public for whom we serve and most importantly -- excuse me. it matters to the friends and family of -- ambassador stevens , sean smith , glen doherty and tyrone woods who were murdered on september 11 , 2012 .

>> reporter: after hearing last fall and winter a damning report by an independent review board hillary clinton took the blame in january.

>> i take responsibility.

>> reporter: today republicans said clinton and the review board didn't go far enough with that admission.

>> i find it stunning that four and a half months after the attack secretary clinton still has the gall to say it wasn't us.

>> reporter: as the attack raged on and a second assault on a cia outpost hicks testified he and a defense attache tried to spend more special forces to benghazi and pleaded for air support but the pentagon told them to stand down.

>> i will quote lieutenant colonel gibson. he said it was the first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than somebody in the military.

>> reporter: the pentagon says f-16s were hours away and couldn't have gotten there in time.

>> of all the irresponsible allegations levelled over the past two weeks, this is the most troubling. based on what our military commanders have told us, this allegation is simply untrue.

>> reporter: today hicks said he told secretary clinton as it was happening that it was a terror attack , not a demonstration and that he's been demoted for speaking out. the state department tonight denies punishing anyone and says congress has withheld the money to protect outposts like benghazi . brian?

>> andrea mitchell in washington tonight.