Advocating on Behalf of the American Military and Defense on the War on Terror

On the night of Sept. 11, as the Obama administration scrambled to respond to  the Benghazi terror attacks, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a key  aide effectively tried to cut the department's own counterterrorism bureau out  of the chain of reporting and decision-making, according to a "whistle-blower"  witness from that bureau who will soon testify to the charge before Congress,  Fox News has learned.

That witness is Mark I. Thompson, a former Marine and now the deputy  coordinator for operations in the agency’s counterterrorism bureau. Sources tell  Fox News Thompson will level the allegation against Clinton during testimony on  Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by  Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

Fox News has also learned that another official from the counterterrorism  bureau -- independently of Thompson -- voiced the same complaint about Clinton  and Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy to trusted national security  colleagues back in October.

Extremists linked to Al Qaeda stormed the American consulate and a nearby  annex on Sept. 11, in a heavily armed and well-coordinated eight-hour assault  that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other  Americans.

Thompson considers himself a whistle-blower whose account was suppressed by  the official investigative panel that Clinton convened to review the episode,  the Accountability Review Board (ARB). Thompson's lawyer, Joseph diGenova, a  former U.S. attorney, has further alleged that his client has been subjected to  threats and intimidation by as-yet-unnamed superiors at State, in advance of his  cooperation with Congress.

Sources close to the congressional investigation who have been briefed on  what Thompson will testify tell Fox News the veteran counterterrorism official  concluded on Sept. 11 that Clinton and Kennedy tried to cut the counterterrorism  bureau out of the loop as they and other Obama administration officials weighed  how to respond to -- and characterize -- the Benghazi attacks.

"You should have seen what (Clinton) tried to do to us that night," the  second official in State's counterterrorism bureau told colleagues back in  October.  Those comments would appear to be corroborated by Thompson's  forthcoming testimony.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the counterterrorism officials'  allegation "100 percent false." A spokesman for Clinton said tersely that the  charge is not true.

Thompson's attorney, diGenova, would not comment for this article.


Documents from the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the  National Security Council, first published in the May 13 edition of "The Weekly  Standard," showed that senior officials from those agencies decided within days  of the attacks to delete all references to Al Qaeda's known involvement in them  from "talking points" being prepared for those administration officers being  sent out to discuss the attacks publicly.

Those talking points -- and indeed, the statements of all senior Obama  administration officials who commented publicly on Benghazi during the early  days after the attacks -- sought instead to depict the Americans' deaths as the  result of a spontaneous protest that went awry. The administration later  acknowledged that there had been no such protest, as evidence mounted that Al  Qaeda-linked terrorists had participated in the attacks. The latter conclusion  had figured prominently in the earliest CIA drafts of the talking points, but  was stricken by an ad hoc group of senior officials controlling the drafting  process. Among those involved in prodding the deletions, the documents published  by "The Weekly Standard" show, was State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland,  who wrote at one point that the revisions were not sufficient to satisfy "my  building's leadership."

The allegations of the two counterterrorism officials stand to return the  former secretary of state to the center of the Benghazi story. Widely regarded  as a leading potential candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in  2016, Clinton has insisted she was not privy to decisions made by underlings  about the inadequate security for the U.S. installations in Benghazi that were  made in the run-up to the attacks. And she has portrayed her role -- once the  attacks became known in Washington -- as that of a determined fact-finder who  worked with colleagues to fashion the best possible response to the crisis.

Clinton testified about Benghazi for the first and only time in January of  this year, shortly before leaving office. She had long delayed her testimony, at  first because she cited the need for the ARB to complete its report, and then  because she suffered a series of untimely health problems that included a  stomach virus, a concussion sustained during a fall at home, and a blood clot  near her brain, from which she has since recovered. However, Clinton was never  interviewed by the ARB she convened.

Fox News disclosed last week that the conduct of the ARB is itself now under  review by the State Department's Office of Inspector General. A department  spokesman said the OIG probe is examining all prior ARBs, not just the one  established after Benghazi.

The counterterrorism officials, however, concluded that Clinton and Kennedy  were immediately wary of the attacks being portrayed as acts of terrorism, and  accordingly worked to prevent the counterterrorism bureau from having a role in  the department's early decision-making relating to them.

Also appearing before the oversight committee on Wednesday will be Gregory N.  Hicks, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya at the time of  the Benghazi terrorist attacks. Like Thompson, Hicks is a career State  Department official who considers himself a Benghazi whistle-blower. His  attorney, Victoria Toensing, a former chief counsel to the Senate Intelligence  Committee, has charged that Hicks, too, has faced threats of reprisal from  unnamed superiors at State. (Toensing and diGenova, who are representing their  respective clients pro bono, are married.)

Portions of the forthcoming testimony of Hicks -- who was one of the last  people to speak to Stevens, and who upon the ambassador's death became the  senior U.S. diplomat in Libya -- were made public by Rep. Issa during an  appearance on the CBS News program "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

Hicks told the committee that he and his colleagues on the ground in Libya  that night knew instantly that Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and that he was  astonished that no one drafting the administration's talking points consulted  with him before finalizing them, or before U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice delivered  them on the Sunday talk shows of Sept. 16.

Hicks was interviewed by the ARB but Thompson was not, sources close to the  committee's investigation tell Fox News.

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