(CNSNews.com) – An attorney whose firm represents two Benghazi whistleblowers said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, lied to the Senate when he said there was never a “stand down” order during the Benghazi attack on Sept. 11, 2012.
“What was fascinating is that he explained his lie to them,” Joe DiGenova, an attorney representing one of the whistleblowers, told CNSNews.com.
“He actually said they were sent to Tripoli. They were needed in Benghazi,” said DiGenova, a former U.S. attorney, now with the Washington firm of DiGenova & Toensing. “They were told not to go to Benghazi, because their mission was Tripoli. I call that a stand down. He doesn’t. He can live with whatever he wants to think, but people died. In my opinion, what he did was lie.”
During testimony to the Senate Budget Committee last Wednesday, Dempsey said, “They weren’t told to stand down. A ‘stand down’ order means don’t do anything. They were told that the mission they were asked to perform was not in Benghazi, but was at Tripoli airport.”
This is contrary to what Gregory Hicks, former number two State Department diplomat in Libya, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the terrorist attack on the Benghazi compound that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Hicks told Congress that after the first attack, a security team left Tripoli for Benghazi with two military personnel and that four members of a special forces team in Tripoli wanted to go in a second wave but were told to stand down.
Hicks and Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant Secretary of State for Counterterrorism, both testified to Congress in May about the State Department’s response to the Benghazi attack.
DiGenova represents Thompson. DiGenova’s wife and law partner Victoria Toensing represents Hicks.
The Joint Chief’s chairman stands by his testimony on the matter, said Col. Dave Lapan, spokesman for Dempsey.
“I would just say that Gen. Dempsey stands by his testimony, and he believes that no stand down order was given,” Lapan told CNSNews.com. “As he testified before the Senate, the special operations team was directed to remain in Tripoli and to provide assistance to the wounded who were coming back from Benghazi, and they were not told to stand down.”
DiGenova said the administration has not been straightforward on Benghazi and other matters.
“The issue is trust and the continuing lying of this administration in every conceivable context in every branch of the government. It’s unbelievable,” DiGenova said. “It is remarkable. It is absolutely remarkable that they can lie with impunity and the media thinks nothing of it.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) asked Dempsey during the Senate Budget hearing on June 12, “Mr. Hicks testified that he believed the stand-down order came from AFRICOM or Special Operations Command in Africa. Gen. Dempsey, can you help me understand who issued the stand- down order and what happened there, why the special forces that wanted to go with, I understand it -- under Colonel Gibson in Tripoli -- were told not to go and who gave them that order from there? They wanted to go and help in Benghazi on that night.”
Dempsey said he was prepared for the question.
“There were two different groups of— it was six people, not all working for the same command,” Dempsey said. “Two of them were working with Joint Special Operations
Command. They were co-located with another agency of government in Tripoli, and four were working under the direct line of authority of Special Operations Command Europe or AFRICOM – AFSOC, and it was the four you're speaking about. The other two went.
“The other four -- by the time they had contacted the command center in Stuttgart, they were told that the individuals in Benghazi were on their way back and that they would be better used at the Tripoli airport -- because one of them was a medic -- that they would be better used to receive the casualties coming back from Benghazi, and that if they had gone they would have simply passed each other in the air, and that's the answer I received,” Dempsey continued. “So they weren't told to stand down. 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.”
During a May 8 House oversight hearing, several House members asked Hicks about the stand down order.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked, “How did the personnel react to being told to stand down?”
Hicks responded, “They were furious. I can only say -- well, I will quote Lieutenant Colonel Gibson. He said, ‘This is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than somebody in the military.’”
Chaffetz followed, “So the military is told to stand down, not engage with the fight. These are the kind of people willing to engage. What did -- where'd that message come down? Where'd the stand-down order come from?”
Hicks replied, “I believe it came from either AFRICOM or SOC [Special Operations Command] Africa.”
During that same hearing, Rep. Ronald Desantis (R-Fla.) asked, “And Mr. Hicks, I’d -- just to go back and get this. Even though you believed help was needed, there was a SOF [special operations forces] unit, special operations units ordered to stand down, correct?
Hicks answered, “Yes.”
Desantis followed, “And even though you thought air support was needed, there was no air support sent?”
Hicks answered, “No air support was sent.”