It also criticized the State Department for relying too much on unreliable local militias for security in Libya and for being lulled by the absence of specific warnings of an imminent attack, rather than responding to the general security environment, which had been deteriorating for some time in eastern Libya.
At the White House on Wednesday, administration spokesman Jay Carney sought to downplay the relevance of the hearings.
“This administration has made extraordinary efforts to work with five different congressional committees investigating what happened before, during and after the Benghazi attacks, including, over the past eight months, testifying in 10 congressional hearings, holding 20 staff briefings and providing over 25,000 pages of documents,” Mr. Carney said.
“As The New York Times reported this morning, much of what the witnesses were expected to raise in the hearings today has already been addressed both in hearings and in the accountability review board report,” he added.
But the review board did not consider the question of what officials said about the attacks afterward.
Mr. Hicks was closely questioned by a number of lawmakers about what he and other officials knew about the attacks in the days after it unfolded — in two stages over seven hours on the night of Sept. 11. And, in particular, if there was any indication of a protest against the anti-Islam video in Benghazi that day — as many news accounts later claimed.
That was why, he told lawmakers, he was so shocked to hear Mrs. Rice contradicting a statement from Libyan President Mohamad Yusef al-Magariaf, that the attack had been instigated by foreign extremists who has come to Libya for that purpose and been planning it for some time.
Mrs. Rice and her defenders have said that she relied on “talking points” prepared by intelligence officials that, even five days after the attack, reflected the continuing confusion and uncertainty about how the attack unfolded and who might have been involved.
Mr. Hicks told lawmakers that neither anyone involved in preparing the talking points, nor Mrs. Rice herself, had spoken with him before her TV appearances.
“She did not bother to have a conversation with you before she went on national television?” asked Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican.
“No, sir,” replied Mr. Hicks.
Questions months earlier
Mr. Nordstrom told the House committee that, more than eight months before the attacks, he asked why facilities in Tripoli and Benghazi had been occupied despite not meeting legally required security standards.