A former U.S. military officer who was a special adviser on counterterrorism to Adm. Mullen told The Washington Times that the fighters would have needed refueling to make it back from Benghazi and that they would not have taken off if a tanker was not available.
“Without tankers in the air or on the tarmac ready to go, you can’t do it,” said retired Col. Thomas F. Lynch, now a research fellow at the National Defense University. “Standard operating procedure is not to send pilots out on one-way missions.”
Mr. Hicks also said that four U.S. special operations forces in Tripoli were told that they could not fly to Benghazi the following morning aboard a C-130 that the Libyan military had provided.
He said their commanding officer, a lieutenant colonel, “got a phone call from [Special Operations Command, Africa] which said, you can’t go now, you don’t have authority to go now. And so they missed the flight.”
Mr. Hicks said there was no doubt the Libyan authorities would have approved an overflight by fighters or indeed the insertion of special operations forces.
“I believe that the Libyans were hoping that we were going to come bail them out of this mess,” he said. “And, you know, they were as surprised as we were that the American military forces that did arrive only arrived on the evening of Sept. 12th” -— the day after the attack.
Mr. Issa has said Mr. Thompson, the deputy for operations at the State Department’s counterterrorism bureau, told investigators that his bureau was “cut out of the loop” on decision-making that night. Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, who was head of the bureau at the time, rejected that charge Monday.
“This charge is simply untrue,” Mr. Benjamin said in a statement. “Though I was out of the country on official travel at the time of the attack, I was in frequent contact with the department. At no time did I feel that the bureau was in any way being left out of deliberations that it should have been part of.”
Mr. Hicks also is expected to testify that he knew immediately that the assault was a terrorist attack rather than the result of a spontaneous demonstration, as Obama administration officials initially and inaccurately claimed it had.
• Susan Crabtree contributed to this report.