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How big of a deal is the new Benghazi testimony?
Once again, conservatives are in an uproar over Benghazi. And once again, liberals say it's much ado about nothing.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has called a hearing to showcase testimony from two Benghazi "whistle-blowers."
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has called a hearing to showcase testimony from two Benghazi "whistle-blowers." Getty Images/Brendan Hoffman
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n Wednesday, Gregory Hicks, the deputy of slain U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, will testify before Congress about what happened during the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Excerpts from private testimony given to congressional investigators were made public on Monday, and the outrage from conservative politicians and writers has been fierce. How serious are the new revelations? Here, a guide:

What happened?
According to CBS News, Hicks claims that a team of special-operations forces was ready to fly from Tripoli to the besieged consulate in Benghazi, but was prevented from doing so by U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA). In the end, Stevens and three other Americans were killed when militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and AK-47 rifles stormed the compound.

"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," Hicks said, according to CBS News.

In addition, Fox News, citing unnamed sources, says Mark I. Thompson, deputy coordinator for operations in the State Department's counterterrorism bureau, will testify that he was intimidated by officials not to share his account of events, a charge that the State Department calls "100 percent false." 

"Thompson considers himself a whistle-blower whose account was suppressed by the official investigative panel that [former Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton convened to review the episode, the Accountability Review Board (ARB)," reports Fox News.

Why are conservatives angry?
White House officials have claimed that no military backup could have arrived in time. Furthermore, the administration has "insisted that nobody was ever told to stand down and that all available resources were utilized," says CBS News.

Some conservatives also claim that the Obama administration tried to cover up the attacks, pointing to initial claims by Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., that the attack stemmed from a spontaneous riot. Thompson's testimony could reportedly add weight to those accusations.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) called the recent revelations "more serious than Watergate," and predicted that Obama would lose his job over it, according to Politico.

"If ever there were grounds for impeachment, it is this," writes conservative blogger Pamela Geller. "The Obama administration stood by and did nothing while Americans were being slaughtered."

Jed Babbin at The American Spectator thinks the new testimony settles the Benghazi question: "At the risk of stating the obvious, there should be nothing more that we needed to know other than Americans were under fire. The Obama administration — Hillary herself, [former Defense Secretary Leon] Panetta, and the president — knew that was so. They did nothing."

What will the fallout look like?
Despite outrage on the Right, the story has so far failed to gain serious traction with the American public. And many non-conservative commentators say the latest revelations are a lot more of the same: Smoke and no fire. 

That Hicks' team did not make it to Benghazi is on the public record. The ARB report says that, instead, "airborne surveillance was moved over Benghazi after the attack started, that a response team arrived right before the mortar attack, and that the team was there to evacuate Americans," notes David Weigel at Slate. "What elevates this from a disagreement about tactics to a cover-up about a 'stand down' order that night?"

Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post goes further, saying the conservative obsession with Benghazi shows that "there's a real dogs-not-barking aspect to this; the continued focus on what has appeared for months to be a dry well suggests that there are no real Barack Obama (or Hillary Clinton) scandals to investigate." 

Unless these so-called whistle-blowers can offer more damning evidence of a cover-up or negligence before Congress, the issue is likely to fade from sight once more.

Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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