U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: February 16, 2015

Associated Press/YouTube

The Week

1.Egypt bombs ISIS in Libya after beheadings of Coptic Christians
Egypt launched airstrikes against Islamic State camps in Libya on Monday after the Islamist terrorist group released a video showing the apparent beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians kidnapped in Libya several weeks ago. The hostages, wearing orange jumpsuits, were paraded single file along a beach believed to be near Tripoli, then were made to kneel and beheaded one by one. The video bore the logo of ISIS’ publishing arm, Al Hayat.

Source: CNN, The New York Times

2.Rebels reject Ukraine ceasefire in contested town
Ukrainian separatist rebels declared Sunday that a new ceasefire did not apply in the town of Debaltseve, where much of the recent fighting has been concentrated. The truce took effect just hours earlier, and fighting stopped across most of eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the deal negotiated in talks with Russia, Germany, and France included Debaltseve. France and Germany said the deal was “generally” being observed and called for “quickly” resolving any “local incidents.”

Source: Reuters, BBC News

3.Two charged with helping Copenhagen gunman
Danish authorities have arrested two people for allegedly helping the gunman who killed two people and wounded five in two Copenhagen attacks over the weekend, police said Monday. The suspect was shot and killed after he opened fire on officers staking out a location in the city. Police did not immediately release the suspect’s identity, but said he was a Danish-born 22-year-old man with a criminal record. He was known to intelligence officials, and might have been inspired by the Islamic State, officials said.

Source: NBC News, The Guardian

4.Northeast hit with fourth blizzard in under a month
The fourth major snowstorm in less than a month slammed into the Northeast on Sunday, with blizzard warnings in effect along the coast from Rhode Island to Maine through Monday. Airlines canceled hundreds of flights, and crews struggled to keep major thoroughfares cleared even though some areas still had more than six feet of snow from the other storms. “It’s historic,” attorney Frank Libby said on a deserted Boston street. “It’s biblical.”

Source: Fox News

5.FAA rules out drone deliveries, for now
Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta unveiled long-awaited regulations on commercial drones Sunday, saying the government would not allow flights of commercial drones outside the sight of an operator, at least for now. For safety reasons, unmanned aircraft also will not be allowed near crowds. The rule means Amazon, Alibaba, and other e-commerce giants won’t be able to realize dreams of drone deliveries in the U.S. any time soon. Some businesses, including Realtors, TV producers, farmers, and bridge inspectors, could fly drones.

Source: Bloomberg, CNN

6.Jewish graves desecrated at French cemetery
Hundreds of tombstones at Jewish graves were desecrated — some painted with swastikas and Nazi slogans — in a cemetery in Sarre-Union, France, near the German border. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said via Twitter that authorities would make every effort to catch those behind this “ignoble and anti-Semitic act, an insult to memory.” France has been hit with a series of anti-Semitic attacks recently, including the attack at a Paris kosher market after the January Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Source: BBC News

7.Teenage female suicide bomber kills 16 in Nigeria
A teenage girl detonated a suicide bomb at a crowded bus station in northeast Nigeria on Sunday, killing at least 16 people. Thirty others were wounded. Most of the victims were children who had been selling peanuts or begging. No group has claimed responsibility. The bombing, however, was similar to attacks carried out by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, which has been blamed for 10,000 deaths in a year of violence aimed at imposing Islamic Sharia law.

Source: The Associated Press

8.Hackers steal $1 billion from 100 banks
Hackers have stolen $1 billion from more than 100 banks and other financial institutions in 30 countries, the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab said in a report released Sunday. Kaspersky said the thieves installed spying software on bank computers, and learned how to secretly transfer money into accounts they set up for the plot. They also had ATM machines pump out cash at specific times. They took $2.5 million to $10 million from each bank, Kaspersky said, “making this by far the most successful criminal cyber campaign we have ever seen,” Kaspersky said.

Source: Forbes, The New York Times

9. Jeff Gordon takes pole position in what could be his last Daytona 500
Jeff Gordon on Sunday won the pole position in next week’s Daytona 500. Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champ Jimmy Johnson won the second position. Gordon last month announced that this is his last full season, so next Sunday could be his last start in “The Great American Race.” For the first time in decades, drivers had to qualify in “knockout rounds,” in which they ran their qualifying lap together instead of one at a time. The controversial format resulted in wrecks and complaints.

Source: Sports Illustrated, ESPN

10.Fifty Shades of Grey sets holiday debut record
Fifty Shades of Grey broke the box-office record for the biggest release on Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day weekends. The film adaptation of E.L. James’ erotic novel raked in $81.7 million through Sunday, putting it on track to make $90.7 million in the U.S. and Canada through theMonday opening weekend. So far, this is the second biggest February debut ever, behind 2004’s The Passion of the Christ, which made $83.9 million in its first weekend.

Source: Los Angeles Times

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: July 26, 2014

Gaza residents are using the short cease-fire to salvage what belongings are left.
Gaza residents are using the short cease-fire to salvage what belongings are left. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Note: The Week was published online at 10:33 am this morning, hence the late post…

The Week

Israel and Hamas enter 12-hour cease-fire, the U.S. embassy in Libya evacuates its staff, and more

1. Israel, Hamas enter 12-hour cease-fire as death toll passes 1,000
Gaza residents are taking advantage of today’s 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire to gather supplies, inspect damaged homes, and recover bodies from the rubble. Israeli forces are continuing to search for Hamas-built tunnels; meanwhile, the Palestinian health ministry reported that the death toll has passed 1,000. The lull in fighting comes less than a day after Israeli cabinet members “unanimously rejected” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s week-long cease-fire proposal. [The Associated Press, NPR]


2. U.S. embassy in Libya evacuates staff
The State Department evacuated its staff from the U.S. embassy in Libya today due to “the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias.” The embassy, located in Tripoli, was already running with very few staff members. Heavily armed Marines drove the remaining personnel to Tunisia early this morning, with air support in the form of two American F-16 fighter jets, along with several unmanned drones. In addition to evacuating the embassy, the State Department issued a travel warning, urging U.S. nationals not to enter the country, and those already in Libya to depart. [BBC News, NBC News]


3. Russia reportedly firing across border on Ukrainian forces
Russia is carrying out artillery attacks on Ukrainian soldiers and gathering more sophisticated weaponry along its side of the border, likely to be used by separatist insurgents in the neighboring country, according to reports from Ukrainian and American officials. As the Ukrainian military has made inroads on retaking militant-controlled areas of the country in the last few weeks, Moscow has answered with drone attacks and the sending of more high-powered weaponry, such as tanks and rocket launchers, to Pro-Russia separatists. American officials say the attacks are likely meant to keep Ukrainian soldiers away from the border, which then clears the way for Russia to interact freely with the militants. [The New York Times]


4. Iran confirms arrest of four journalists
Iran confirmed the arrest of Jason Rezaian, a correspondent for The Washington Post, on Friday. Rezaian, 38, is a U.S.-Iranian dual national. He was reportedly detained on Tuesday, along with his Iranian wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who works as a correspondent for the National, a United Arab Emirates-based newspaper. Two other American citizens working as photojournalists were also detained with the couple, according to Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, director general of the Tehran Province Justice Department. The reason for the reporters’ arrest is unknown, and because the U.S. and Iran do not have a formal diplomatic relationship, negotiating a release may be difficult. [The Washington Post]


5. Australia, Netherlands to send police to Flight 17 crash site
Both Australia and the Netherlands are negotiating with Ukraine to send dozens of police to the debris field from downed Flight MH17. The Netherlands, which lost 193 citizens to last week’s tragedy, hopes to send 40 unarmed military police, while Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he intends to send an additional 100 Federal Police, to bolster 90 Defense Force troops already on the ground. Both countries’ decisions come following a week in which Russian-backed separatists, blamed for shooting down the jetliner, first tampered with and then impeded Ukrainian officials’ attempts to secure the crash site. [NPR]


6. Bose files lawsuit against Beats over headphone patents
Less than three months after Apple agreed to buy Beats Electronics for $3 million (that deal is pending regulatory approval), Bose is suing Beats for what it claims are five different patent violations. Bose filed the lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Delaware on Friday, claiming Beats’ Studio noise-canceling headphones are in patent violation for use of technologies such as “dynamically configurable ANR filter block technology.” Bose is seeking an award for damages, along with an injunction to stop Beats from selling the headphones. [Time]


7. Emergency contraceptives still effective for overweight women
The European Medicines Agency announced that Norlevo, a European drug “identical” to Plan B One-Step, would be an effective emergency contraceptive even for heavier women after all. The new report came after the EMA warned last fall that Norlevo might not work as well for women with BMIs over 25. The agency now says there “isn’t enough data to support the previous warning to women about weight.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had not issued any similar warnings about Plan B’s effectiveness. [Time]


8. Pope Francis reportedly plans visit to United States in 2015
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Caput told mass attendees at a Thursday mass in Fargo, North Dakota, that Pope Francis has accepted an invitation to attend next September’s World Meeting of Families, to be held in Philadelphia. “Pope Francis has told me that he is coming,” the archbishop said, although the Philadelphia Archdiocese subsequently released a press release noting that the Vatican has not officially accepted the invitation, and probably will not do so until about six months before the event. Still, a spokesman for the Vatican said that Pope Francis is interested in making a trip to the U.S., and that he is also considering invitations from other cities. [Catholic News Service]


9. New study shows Tylenol does not help ease back pain
Researchers published a new study which shows Tylenol and similar forms of acetaminophen may be no more effective than a placebo at treating back pain. Participants divided into three groups all reported similar variation in pain and recovery time, regardless of whether they were taking acetaminophen or a placebo. And, 75 percent of the participants reported being satisfied with their treatment results — including those given placebos. [Time, The Lancet]


10. Russians lose control of gecko-filled satellite
Russian scientists sent a satellite filled with geckos into space on July 19, with the hopes of studying “the effects of weightlessness on lizard mating.” The geckos apparently put out a “do not disturb” sign, though, because Russian space firm Progress reported on Thursday that the scientists have lost control of the satellite, which is currently set to autopilot. While the scientists can still watch videos of the on-the-lam subjects, Progress said the satellite is not yet “responding to commands.” [Al Jazeera America]


The Facts About Benghazi – NY Times Editorial

The Blue Street Journal

The New York Times Editorial Board

An exhaustive investigation by The Times goes a long way toward resolving any nagging doubts about what precipitated the attack on the United States mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The report by David Kirkpatrick, The Times’s Cairo bureau chief, and his team turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or another international terrorist group had any role in the assault, as Republicans have insisted without proof for more than a year. The report concluded that the attack was led by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s air power and other support during the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and that it was fueled, in large part, by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.

In a rational world, that would settle the dispute over Benghazi, which has further poisoned the poisonous political discourse in Washington and kept Republicans and Democrats from working cooperatively on myriad challenges, including how best to help Libyans stabilize their country and build a democracy. But Republicans long ago abandoned common sense and good judgment in pursuit of conspiracy-mongering and an obsessive effort to discredit President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who may run for president in 2016.

On the Sunday talk shows, Representatives Mike Rogers and Darrell Issa, two Republicans who are some of the administration’s most relentless critics of this issue, dismissed The Times’s investigation and continued to press their own version of reality on Benghazi.


H/t: DB for emailing me this article


5 Takeaways From The New York Times Benghazi Investigation

No doubt the Sunday Morning talk shows will be replete with GOP politicians taking a “The NY Times is not a bi-partisan newspaper…”  stance.


Al Qaeda was not involved; “Innocence of Muslims” video motivated the initial assault

An in-depth New York Times investigation published Saturday sheds new light on questions surrounding the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens. Questions surrounding the attack have become a major political flashpoint in Washington, but the report reveals a truth much murkier than either the Obama administration or its critics in the GOP-led Congress has grasped upon.

Here are five major revelations from the report:

  • Al Qaeda was not involved in the assault. It has become an article of faith for some in the GOP that the Benghazi attack was a highly orchestrated terrorist attack led by the same group that carried out the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. “It was very clear to the individuals on the ground that this was an Al Qaeda-led event,” said Michigan Republican Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, in an interview on Fox News in November. But according to the Times report, there is no evidence to support this assertion.
  • Anger at the “Innocence of Muslims” video motivated the initial assault and fueled the anger that powered the attack. After the film appeared online dubbed into Arabic in September 2012, media in Cairo played a major role in stoking the rage that led to an assault on the American embassy in Benghazi. Witnesses on the ground at the attack recount numerous ways in which leaders of the assault used the video to stoke the rage of militiamen.
  • The spontaneous response to the video stoked another attack that was already in the works, planned by smaller militia not affiliated with Al Qaeda. Evidence suggests that hardline elements within the complex web of Islamist militias operating in Benghazi, including an uneducated loner and contrarian named Ahmed Abu Khattala, had been planning an attack, though it’s unclear when they had intended to strike. The U.S. government has sought to have Khattala apprehended in order to press charges, but authorities and powerful Islamist elements in Libya have closed ranks around the hardliner.
  • American officials were overly reliant on moderate Islamist elements for protection. As the assault turned full fledged, officials called on the leaders of militias that had been publicly friendly to the U.S. to come to their aid. But when the time came, almost none turned up to rescue Americans trapped inside the compound. “Whatever happened, they were other Libyans,” said one Islamist leader who eventually did enter the compound after resisting at first.
  • Inside the compound, attackers looted and plundered wildly. Witnesses describe men taking out suits on hangers, televisions and found food. One man reportedly poured what appeared to be Hershey’s chocolate syrup into his mouth.

[The New York Times]

Al Qaeda

Al Qaeda official seized in Libya raid was ‘most wanted’ for US Embassy bombings

NBC News

The man whisked off the streets of Tripoli, Libya, Saturday was among the top remaining leaders of al Qaeda, an elusive confidante of – and computer expert for – Osama bin Laden, as well as an alleged conspirator in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings.

Anas al Libi, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed Nabih al-Ruqai’I, has over the years been reported as killed, captured or living in Iran. The U.S. has known he’s been back in his native Libya for more than two years, the latest stop on a journey that has taken him from Tripoli to Sudan, where he met bin Laden, to England, Kenya, Afghanistan and Iran before returning to Libya in the dying days of the regime of former leader Moammar Gadhafi — where he lost his son in the civil war that led to Gadhafi’s ouster and death.

On Saturday, the Pentagon confirmed al Libi had been captured.

“As the result of a U.S. counterterrorism operation, Abu Anas al Libi is currently lawfully detained by the U.S. military in a secure location outside of Libya,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little.

In the days after 9/11, al Libi was among the first names placed in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted Terrorists list with a reward of $25 million – the same amount attached to bin Laden and other senior officers of al Qaeda. It was later reduced to $5 million, but the United States’ desire to bring him to justice never waned.

“He’s one of the last guys from the East Africa embassy bombings who was still out there,” said a senior U.S. intelligence official Saturday night.

“We still wanted him,” added a second official, indicating that the Aug. 7, 1998, attacks on U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, remained a high priority in the U.S. government.

“Symbolically, the embassy bombings are for the U.S. what Munich was for the Israelis. It’s about closure,” said Karen Greenberg, director for the Center on National Security at Fordham University Law School.

Of the 21 people indicted in the embassy bombings case by the U.S. Justice Department, eight have been killed, including bin Laden, one died awaiting trial, and another eight are in jail, either convicted or awaiting trial. Al Libi was one of four fugitives until Saturday.

Continue reading here…



How The Year-Long Effort To Politicize The Benghazi Tragedy Fell Flat


Think Progress

One year ago today, on September 11, 2012, a U.S. diplomatic outpost and Central Intelligence Agency annex were attacked by extremists in Benghazi, Libya, killing four Americans, U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, U.S. foreign service officer Sean Smith, and two security personnel, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both former Navy SEALS.

While the Obama administration had been successful in degrading the capabilities of core-al Qaeda — or the terror organization’s centralized version that was responsible for the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington — the tragedy reminded Americans and U.S. allies that the threat from like-minded extremists was still alive and well.

Instead of joining to unite the country in the face of this terrible tragedy, Republicans, at first led by then-GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and later Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), turned the Benghazi attacks into a political fiasco, searching far and near for a way to hang the blame on President Obama and with the aim of damaging his political stature at the least, or at most, bringing down members of his national security team or even ultimately his presidency.

But the long, drawn-out campaign to bring down Obama turned up nothing. Everything conservatives and Republicans held up as evidence of malfeasance on the part of the Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi and its aftermath was later discredited by either facts or logic. The right’s biggest achievement throughout this whole Benghazi mess was keeping Susan Rice, who was U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time of the attacks, from being nominated as Secretary of State. But even that campaign — led by McCain — seemed to backfire as Rice is now Obama’s National Security Adviser, a position with arguably more influence on the President’s foreign policy thinking.

Media Matters has a run-down of the some of the top Benghazi myths. And throughout the GOP’s Benghazi witch-hunt, ThinkProgress has been compiling a timeline of the key events — from Romney’s first baseless attacks on Obama, the faux-scandal surrounding the infamous “talking points” delivered by then-U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, McCain’s smear campaign, and highlights of how all the GOP-led attacks on Obama were eventually fullydebunked. On January 23, during a Senate hearing on Benghazi, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scolded Republicans for politicizing Benghazi, and in this instance, for focusing on whether a protest over an anti-Muslim video sparked the attacks:

CLINTON: With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans! Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans?! What difference at this point does it make?!  It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.

We have updated the timeline which can be viewed here.

Conservatives aren’t done with Benghazi. Fox NewsTea Party types and a dwindling number of Republican hangers on in Congress keep trying to pin Obama down with something. But they’ll never find anything nefarious. Benghazi is not the next Watergate. Nor will President Obama be impeached over the matter. “The whole thing defies logic,” an exacerbated Obama said in May. “And the fact that this keeps on getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations.

“We dishonor [the four Americans killed in Benghazi] when we turn things like this into a political circus,” Obama added. “What happened was tragic. It was carried out by extremists inside of Libya. We are out there trying to hunt down the folks who carried this out, and we are trying to make sure that we fix the system so that it doesn’t happen again.”

Media Coverage Of Run-up to Iraq War · Right-wing Media

‘It is like night and day’

The Maddow Blog – By Steve Benen

From time to time, it seems as if the left and right don’t just disagree on the issues, but actually live in entirely different realities. Yesterday offered a classic example of the phenomenon.

Mediaite’s Andrew Kirell noticed this gem.

[Wednesday] afternoon on Fox, frequent guests Monica Crowley and Kirsten Powers battled over whether there is a media “double standard” in treatment for George W. Bush and Barack Obama in their respective military campaigns.

Conservative radio host Crowley insisted the “double standard” exists, pointing to her belief that in the 2003 run-up to the Iraq War, Bush faced tough criticism from a skeptical press. “When you look at the difference of that coverage and President Obama going to Libya without congressional approval and the run-up to Syria, it is like night and day,” she said.

For most of us, just reading Crowley’s words out of context, the observations may seem quite compelling. Putting aside for now how very different the situations in Iraq, Libya, and Syria are, it’s very easy to believe there really is a “double standard” in the media, with reporters applying far more scrutiny to one administration instead of the other. It really is “like night and day.”

But in Crowley’s version of reality, the observation has been turned on its head. In her world, news organizations were fierce skeptics of the conflict in Iraq, and challenged then-President George W. Bush’s claims every step of the way. What’s more, in her world, reporters are giving President Obama a free pass now.

In the alternative universe Crowley perceives, the media didn’t play a cheerleading role in advance of the war in Iraq, ignoring critics. And now, she believes, news outlets are pushing for military intervention abroad.

As you can see in the clip, she didn’t appear to be kidding.

I don’t recognize Crowley’s version of reality, but I wonder what the weather is like in her alternative universe.

Benghazi · Fox News Distortions · Fox News Lies

No Benghazi “Stand Down” Order Was Given: Another Fox Narrative Falls Apart

Media Matters

Narrative Was Pushed In 85 Fox Primetime Segments

A claim pushed dozens of times by Fox News that security forces were ordered to “stand down” during the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility collapsed after the commander of those security forces testified that he received no such order.

More than a month after the attacks in Benghazi killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, Fox began airing accusations that security forces present in Libya at the time were ordered to “stand down” by the Obama administration. Fox’s confused coverage over the months claimed that both a reaction force that was dispatched to Benghazi and suffered two casualties while trying to defend the facility, and a group of four special forces troops in Tripoli received “stand down” orders. This accusation was given new fuel after former Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks May 8 remarks made before a congressional committee appeared to confirm claims that Lt. Col. Gibson, who commanded a small team of special forces troops in Tripoli, was ordered to “stand down.” Fox baselessly speculated that either President Obama or then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gave the alleged order.

A search of the Nexis database shows that the accusation that these security forces were ordered to “stand down” was made in 85 segments on the network’s primetime shows by Fox hosts, contributors, guests, and in video accompanying news reports and commentary.

But now even Republicans are admitting that a “stand down” order was never given. According to The Associated Press, Gibson told a Republican-led congressional committee on June 26 that he was never ordered to “stand down.”

The former commander of a four-member Army Special Forces unit in Tripoli, Libya, denied 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 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.

This is not the first time the Fox “stand down” narrative has been discredited. The day before Hicks’ May 8 testimony, a Pentagon spokesman stated that there “was never any kind of stand down order to anybody.” After Hicks’ testimony, a Pentagon spokesman further explained that the security forces in Tripoli “were told to stay” in Tripoli to help with the security there. On June 12, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reaffirmed this point, telling Congress:

GEN. DEMPSEY: They weren’t told to stand down. A stand down means don’t do anything. They were told to — that the mission they were asked to perform was not in Benghazi but was at Tripoli Airport.

Continue reading here

Benghazi · House Oversight Hearings


The Blaze

May 7, 2012

The House Oversight Committee has released excerpts of their interview with Gregory Hicks, one of the two high-profile whistleblowers who will be testifying at tomorrow’s hearing. From what we have heard thus far from Hicks, his account of the events that took place between high level security and State Department officials on September 11, 2012 as a U.S. consulate in Libya was under siege differ drastically from what we have been told by the Obama administration.

CBS News reports:

According to excerpts released Monday, Hicks told investigators that SOCAFRICA commander Lt. Col. Gibson and his team were on their way to board a C-130 from Tripoli for Benghazi prior to an attack on a second U.S. compound “when [Col. Gibson] got a phone call from SOCAFRICA which said, ‘you can’t go now, you don’t have the authority to go now.’ And so they missed the flight … They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it.”

No assistance arrived from the U.S. military outside of Libya during the hours that Americans were under attack or trapped inside compounds by hostile forces armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and AK-47 rifles.

Hicks told congressional investigators that if the U.S. had quickly sent a military aircraft over Benghazi, it might have saved American lives. The U.S. Souda Bay Naval Base is an hour’s flight from Libya.

“I believe if we had been able to scramble a fighter or aircraft or two over Benghazi as quickly as possible after the attack commenced, I believe there would not have been a mortar attack on the annex in the morning because I believe the Libyans would have split. They would have been scared to death that we would have gotten a laser on them and killed them,” Hicks testified. Two Americans died in the morning mortar attack.

During an interview with CBS , Hicks says that everyone knew Benghazi was a terrorist attack “from the get-go.”

As Washington braces for the hearing Wednesday, the Benghazi attack, response and investigation is once again turning into a major scandal that conservatives lament Obama dodged in the fall shortly after the attack and amidst the presidential campaign. Jim Geraghty notes though in his column on the conservative National Review Online that Republicans should go into the hearings dedicated strictly to unearthing facts, rather than showboating.

Dear Republicans on the House Oversight Committee:

Please do not grandstand. Please do not take the time before the television cameras to tell us how outraged you are, even though what you are investigating is, indeed, outrageous. There will be plenty of time for that after the hearing. All day Wednesday, give us the facts, and then more facts, and then more facts….

On ‘Real News‘ Tuesday the panel previewed what to look for from tomorrow’s hearing, namely, if we get answers to two questions: Were military forces told to stand down? And, did the administration lie to the American people afterward about the events that took the lives of four Americans?

Watch clip here.