Three witnesses from the State Department told a House panel not enough was done to prevent the deaths of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans in the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
"None of us should ever again experience what we went through in Tripoli and Benghazi," Gregory Hicks, the former deputy of mission in Libya, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday.
"I got the ambassador on the other end, and he said, 'Greg, we are under attack,' Hicks recalled.
The line went dead, and Hicks, who was at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, said he wanted to dispatch a U.S. Special Forces team to Benghazi. But the team was ordered to stand down.
"How did the personnel react to being told to 'stand down'?" Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, asked Hicks.
"They were furious," Hicks replied.
The Pentagon says the team was needed elsewhere to fortify the embassy in Tripoli and would not have made it to Benghazi in time.
Several hours after talking to the ambassador, Hicks said he took another call.
"I think it's the saddest phone call I've ever had in my life. He told me that Ambassador Stevens had passed away," Hicks said.
One of the whistleblowers, former regional security officer Eric Nordstrom, spoke out against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's testimony earlier this year about the administration's initial description of the attack.
"Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they'd go kill some Americans, what difference, at this point, does it make?" Clinton asked during a Senate hearing in January.
Nordstrom told lawmakers Wednesday it mattered very much.
"What happened prior, during, and after the attack matters -- and it matters to my colleagues, to my colleagues at the Department of State," he said.
The witnesses also said the administration's blaming of a YouTube video for the attacks didn't make sense and that they faced intimidation for questioning that line.
The GOP says much more will come to light in future hearings.
"This hearing opened the floodgates, but there are many, many more hearings we have to go through to find out the truth and find out why the truth became a lie," Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said.
"It's about the government lying; it's about people being in harm's way feeling abandoned," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., charged. "And we've got to repair that trust and hold somebody accountable."
"With responsibility and power comes accountability, and there has been none in Benghazi; that's about to change," he warned.
Republicans say the hearing showed politics played a role in how the Obama administration responded before the November presidential election. The White House denies that claim.