When Ambassador Chris Stevens was planning to visit Benghazi last September, the February 17 Martyrs Brigade, which the State Department had hired to help protect Americans there, delivered a message: They were no longer going to support the movement of U.S. personnel in the city -- including the movement of Stevens.
"In addition," said a report released last week by the chairmen of the House committees on Foreign Relations, Oversight, Armed Services, Judiciary, and Intelligence, "on Sept. 8, 2012, just days before Ambassador Stevens arrived in Benghazi, the February 17 Martyrs Brigade told State Department officials that the group would no longer support U.S. movements in the city, including the ambassador's visit."
A footnote in the report attributes this information to an internal State Department email. The footnote says: "Email from Alec Henderson to John B. Martinec, 'RE: Benghazi QRF agreement,' (Sep. 9, 2012, 11:31 p.m.)."
Martinec was then the State Department's regional security officer (RSO) at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli and, thus, the ambassador's top security adviser.
Despite this email, Stevens went ahead with his trip to Benghazi, arriving there on Sept. 10. At the time, there were three State Department diplomatic security officers deployed on temporary duty at the department's Benghazi mission. Stevens brought another two with him from Tripoli -- bringing the total State Department security contingent in Benghazi to five people.
"The Board found that Ambassador Stevens made the decision to travel to Benghazi independently of Washington, per standard practice," said the State Department's Accountability Review Board report released on Dec. 18."
"Plans for the ambassador's trip provided for minimal close protection security support and were not shared thoroughly with the embassy's country team, who were not fully aware of planned movements off compound," said the ARB report.
On Oct. 10, 2012, the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee took testimony from Eric Nordstrom, who served as the RSO at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli from Sept. 21, 2011, until July 26, 2012 -- leaving the country six weeks before the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack. The committee did not take testimony from John Martinec, who was RSO at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli on Sept. 11, 2012.
Nor has any congressional committee taken testimony from the five State Department Diplomatic Security officers in Benghazi with Stevens on Sept. 11, 2012.
Why not? These are American heroes. Why can't America hear their stories?
"The board determined that U.S. personnel on the ground in Benghazi performed with courage and readiness to risk their lives to protect their colleagues, in a near impossible situation," said the State Department ARB report.
"While our country spent Sept. 11, 2012, remembering the terrorist attacks that took place 11 years earlier, brave Americans posted at U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, were fighting for their lives against a terrorist assault," said a report released on Dec. 30 by the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
On Friday, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa publicly released a letter he sent to Secretary of State John Kerry detailing a number of ways the State Department was interfering with his committee's investigation of Benghazi. These included refusing to give the committee unfettered access to Benghazi-related documents and declining to even advise would-be State Department whistleblowers that they have a legal right to talk to Congress.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., has proposed a plan to end State's stonewalling. He is the principal sponsor of legislation to create a House Select Committee on the Terrorist Attack in Benghazi. This committee would be comprised of members of both parties and have full power to subpoena documents and compel testimony from personnel in the State Department and other government agencies.
Already, 134 House Republicans -- a majority of the Republican caucus -- have joined as co-sponsors of Wolf's legislation.
"It is clear that the administration just wants the issue of Benghazi to go away, but I sincerely hope that Congress will not aid this White House cover-up of the mistakes made by high-level members of the administration that cost four brave Americans their lives," Wolf said Tuesday.
The December 2011 issue of State Magazine -- the State Department's in-house publication -- proudly named the diplomatic security agents who traveled with Chris Stevens to Benghazi that year when he established a special mission there during the Libyan revolution. Any American with an Internet hookup can look up the identities of these State Department heroes -- and even see photographs of some of them.
But, as of today, the State Department has only named four of the Americans who were in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. These are the four the terrorists succeeded in murdering: Stevens, Information Management Officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
The State Department's surviving heroes of Sept. 11, 2012, remain anonymous.
With the majority of House Republicans co-sponsoring Wolf's legislation for a special committee, the only thing standing between the American people and the real story of Benghazi is a leadership decision from House Speaker John Boehner.
Boehner must impanel this special investigative committee so it can compel the administration to tell the full truth about Benghazi.