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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

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May 7th, 2013
08:15 PM ET

Four Americans killed in Benghazi: Why?

On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hear testimony about the events before, during, and after the attack on Americans in Benghazi Libya on September 11 and 12, 2012. Strip away the partisan posturing - the conspiracy theories from the right and the attempts to douse the scandal by the left - and the facts and testimony about what happened at Benghazi should concern any American.

The four Americans killed last September in Libya, Ambassador Chris Stevens, information officer Sean Smith, and former navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, is not the White House's favorite topic of conversation

"Let's be clear. Benghazi happened a long time ago," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said last week.

Not that long ago – just eight months in fact, and there are still many outstanding questions from individuals with first-hand knowledge of the events, career diplomats.

"The question that we would ask is again, 'How thin does the ice need to get until someone falls through?'" former regional security officer in Libya Eric Nordstrom said before Congress last October.

Nordstrom testified about his request for 12 security agents. Why was this denied?

"What makes most frustrating about this assignment? It is not the hardships, it is not the gunfire, it is not the threats. It is dealing and fighting against the people, programs, and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me," said Norstrom. "For me the Taliban is on the inside of the building."

And what about military support on the night of the attack? The Pentagon says the closest fighter planes were too far away, with no tanker assets.

"Time, distance, the lack of an adequate warning, events that moved very quickly on the ground prevented a more immediate response," then-CIA director Leon Panetta said in February.

Sources tell CNN that tomorrow Greg Hicks, then the number two diplomat in Libya, will testify that after the first attack but before the second, four U.S. Special Forces troops in Tripoli could have reached Benghazi in a Libyan aircraft.

But the troops were told to stand down, much to the dismay of their commander who, according to Hicks, said, "'I have never been so embarrassed in my life that a state department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military.'"

That flight left an hour after the second attack on the annex, so it's not clear that would have made a difference, but it's also unclear why they were told not to go

Hicks says he "thought it was a terrorist attack from the get-go."

But the White House seemed eager to claim it was a protest of an anti-Muslim video, one that got out of hand.

"These protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said just two days after the attack.

"We have no information to suggest that it was a pre-planned attack. The unrest we've seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that Muslims, many Muslims find offensive," Carney said.

But the group around the Benghazi post was well-armed, it was a well-coordinated attack. It did not look like a spontaneous protest against a movie, even then.

"This is obviously under investigation," Carney said at the time.

The investigation continues with Wednesday's hearing on Capitol Hill.

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