Live updates: Benghazi whistleblowers’ testimony

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Hearing on “Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage” led by Chairman Darrell Issa, (R-CA), Rayburn Office Building,  Wednesday, May 8th, 2013.

The U.S. State Department witnesses appearing to testify will be:

Mark Thompson: Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism, Former Marine, Counterterrorism operator

Gregory Hicks
: Foreign Service Officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission/Chargé d’Affairs in Libya

Eric Nordstrom: 
Diplomatic Security Officer and former Regional Security Officer in Libya

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson
Eric Nordstrom
Eric Nordstrom
Gregory Hicks
Gregory Hicks

 

5:15pm: Issa: “This hearing is closed, but this investigation is not over.”

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5:09pm: Lankford: We didn’t do the bare minimum security requirements we should have done. And Tripoli Embassy was even more at risk.  It is my understanding, Mr. Hicks, you asked for personnel to learn to handle a weapon so they could defend themselves, is that true.

Hicks, yes.

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5:08pm: Rep. Lankford “Has anyone been held accountable?”

Nordstrom: Not a single Libyan and not one of the 4 State Dept officials who were put on leave.

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5:06pm: Issa asks all three witnesses if they believe it’s important other whistleblowers come forward to tell what happened in Benghazi.

All three respond, “yes.”

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5:00pm: Gowdy: How was Benghazi not safe enough for the FBI to go to, but safe enough for Ambassador Stevens to go?

To Hicks: Let me be clear about this, Stevens went to Benghazi because Clinton wanted him to go? Hicks, yes.

Gowdy: And he went even though the security was below security specs that Clinton was aware of?

Gowdy: State Dept official, Sec. Clinton’s then chief of staff, Cheryl Mills was not happy Rep. Chaffetz was going to Benghazi to investigate.

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4:58pm: Rep. Maloney: British embassy closed after attack on their ambassador. Why was it important we kept our Consulate open?

Hicks: Stevens, as did Sec. Clinton, felt strongly that we make Benghazi a permanent post. They were committed to that mission.

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4:47pm: Chaffetz to Nordstrom: There were a number of security recommendations you wanted to see on the ground. Were any implemented? Nordstrom. Very few.

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4:45pm: Cummings: It’s my understanding a memo was distributed through the State Department that said anyone who wanted to talk to the ARB could do and gave contact information. “Earlier this week,” Chaffetz said the ARB was incomplete because the ARB didn’t speak to everyone involved.

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4:43 pm: Rep. Cummings to Hicks: “I’m trying to be clear.” Hicks: I was told not to be alone with Chaffetz

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4;39pm: Rep. Jordan to Issa: Everyone knows when Cheryl Mills calls she is the closest “person to Sec. Clinton.” and for the first time ever, Mr. Hicks is told he can’t give a private interview to Rep. Chaffetz.

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4:25 pm: Rep. Kerry Bentivolio to Thompson: the specially trained interagency team in Libya were from all branches of military and federal agencies, as well.

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4:22pm: Rep. Mark Meadows on the ARB report: incomplete in its analysis–in  looking to place blame on career employees, it ignored those decision makers who were to blame.

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3:20pm: Rep. Desjarlais to Hicks: What happened to you after you were told not to speak to Chaffetz?

Hicks: Asst Sec Jones visited and pulled me aside and said I needed to improve my management style, that people were upset.  I had no idea that people were upset.

Hicks: When I returned to DC, Jones issued me a blistering critique of my style. Said she didn’t understand why anyone in Tripoli would want me back.

Dr. Desjarlais: But before her visit, you were praised and complimented for your job in Libya?

Hicks: Yes.

Desjarlais: What happened afterwards?

Hicks: In light of the criticism I received, I felt uncomfortable going back to Libya. Plus my family didn’t really want me to go back.

Desjarlais to committee: We have a President who was quick to jump to the conclusion that this was a protest over a YouTube video. And we need to find out why.

Hicks: wants to clarify…”I have been demoted from deputy chief of mission to a desk officer.”

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3:15 pm: Rep. Tony Cardenas to Nordstrom on threat of sending Stevens to Benghazi.

Nordstrom: I left before the Sept. 11 attack.

Issa clarifies question…when you left would you have advised Stevens to travel to Benghazi?

Nordstrom: There were no plans for Stevens to go at that time, so we never discussed it.

Hicks describes Stevens trip to Benghazi.

Cardenas: He was committed to do his job?

Hicks: Yes, he was determined to make that a permanent facility.

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3:13 pm: Issa to Hicks: Families were allowed back to Libya. Were you planning on bringing your wife with you?

Hicks: We were happy the Libyans were stabilizing. The State Dept. was about to reach out to the American School which would have allowed me to bring my family to Libya with me.

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3:09pm: Desjarlais to Thompson: “Would a reasonable person with your experience or anyone in the State Department, for that matter,” know that minimum requirements of safety were not being met in Libya?

Thompson: Yes.

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3:06 pm: Rep. Scott Desjarlais

Nordstrom: Why were our recommendations on security never listened to?

Desjarlais: Did you have confidence in locals to provide security?

Nordstrom: It was best bad plan.

Desjarlais: I asked if you had confidence in them.

Nordstrom: No.

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3:01 pm: Rep. Steven Horsford to Issa: “Congress needs to do its job. I hope after 9 oversight hearings, we start to work on protecting our embassies.”

“Congress is making significant cuts to foreign affairs budget. I hope we properly fund our embassies so this never happens again. I urge my Republican counterparts to work on a bi-partisan plan to make the 29 recommendations of the ARB.”

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3:00pm: Hicks was never interviewed by the FBI

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2:59 pm: Meehan to Hicks: How long before the FBI arrived? Hicks: 17 days. Meehan: Crime scene unprotected? Hicks, yes.

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2:56 pm: Rep. Meehan to Hicks: Did you ever ask DC officials why Rice said what she said on the talk shows?

Hicks: Yes. Reaction was I don’t know and her tone was I “should not ask any further questions. Over the next few months, I started getting questions about my management decisions.

Plays clip of Clinton saying “what does it matter.”

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2:53pm: Rep. Connolly again.

Hicks: Our assessment was that a video was not a part of what is going on. We saw no demonstrations related to a video anywhere in the country.

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2:50 pm: Rep. Kelly asking Hicks about the Libyan C-130 plane from Tripoli to Benghazi

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2:38 pm: Rep Tammy Duckworth on what steps needed to protect our own people overseas and not depend on the host government for security.

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2:32 pm: Rep. Tim Walbergto Thompson: why were you concerned about the ARB’s unwillingness to interview you?

Thompson: We were there to respond to events on the ground.

Thompson: I had a lot I wanted to tell the board if I was given a chance to talk to them.

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2:26 pm: Rep. Mark Pocan to Issa: No smoking gun or “lukewarm slingshot.” We need to make sure these recommendations in the report or done. We as Congress have to provide adequate funding to our embassies and consulates.

Hicks: We need more training for our people that are going to these types of places.  Our diplomats have to be out on the streets. we were caught off guard in Benghazi, we had so little security there. we were basically on lockdown. I was told that our people in Benghazi were terrified of these extremists.

Hicks: We also need to develop a paradigm for analyzing and mitigating risk.

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2:23 pm: Hicks: “The President of Libya went to Benghazi at risk to his own person. He said this was an attack.” “I jumped up and down hearing him say that.”

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2:20pm: Rep Patrick McHenry: Thanks all witnesses for their service.

Rep McHenry: Was there protocol in event of protest?

Hicks, yes.

Any news of a protest in Libya that day?

Hicks, no. And Stevens would have told us.

Was there anything in connection or awareness to a YOuTube video?

Hicks: The YouTube video was a “non-event” in Libya.

 

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2:18pm: Speier: I think you deserve to have a post in a location that you desire, so where would you like to be posted?

Hicks: I have to ask my chief decision maker, my wife, on where we would like to go.

Speier: this committee will help you get to where you want to go.

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2:13 pm: Rep. Jackie Speier “we have to do a better job” of protecting embassies and consulates around the world. I am troubled Gen Ham withdrew support after a highjacking.

Speier: You said you were told not to talk to Rep. Chaffetz?

Hicks: We were told not to be personally interviewed by Chaffetz.

Speier: You said you were told not to be isolated with Chaffetz?

Hicks: That’s what I mean by “personally interviewed.”

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2:08pm: Rep. Duncan to Thompson: why were you told you weren’t ever interviewed on the events?

Thompson: I wasn’t given a reason.

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2:05 pm: Hicks testifying on political and security climate in Libya: highly unstable.

Assessment was “Libyan on Libyan” violence, not directed on foreigners. We were trying to make our consulate a permanent vs a temporary one.

In Tripoli, also unstable atmosphere.

Connolly to Hicks: If you face retaliation, I will be hear for you to come to. Hicks, thank you.

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2:00 pm: Rep. Connolly questioning Thompson on counterterrorism unit being kept out of loop.

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1:59 pm: Hicks: “ok, we are on our own, we will have to pull this off with the resources we have.”

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1:54 pm: Rep. Michael Turner

what is Col Gibson’s team why in Libya?

Hicks: They are the remaining 14 special forces assigned to protect Tripoli Embassy. On Aug 1 Sec Def changed their status to training team. On Aug 6 two members of team involved in carjacking. Weapons were used for them to escape. In light of that incident, General Ham drew down the team from 14 to 4 on the team.

Turner: So change in command and numbers reduced?

Hicks: Yes.

Turner: Why told to stand down?

Hicks: I don’t know why. We believed our people to still be in danger.

Hicks: Col Gibson was told not to board that C-130 airplane heading to Benghazi.

 

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1:51 pm: Nordstrom: I was told the recommendations on upgrades we wanted to make to Tripoli and Benghazi would not be made.

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1:48 pm: Rep. Stephen Lynch: The ARB tried to identify where the decisions made were deficient. Seems to be confusion over who made policy and security decisions. Reading from page 30 of the ARB

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1:43 pm: Rep. John Mica: I have the unclassified version of the ARB. We have responsibility under law to investigate.

Mica to Thompson: Have you ever been interviewed by the board?

Thompson: No, never.

Hicks and Nordstrom both interviewed by the board.

Hicks: I was interviewed about 2 hours, not enough time in my opinion.

Nordstrom: They stopped interviewing people who had first hand knowledge of the existing standards of the buildings. They fell short.

 

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1:34 pm: Rep. Clay on the Accountability Review Board report.

Clay: Board made 29 recommendations to improve security, including funding from Congress.

Issa to Clay: Do you remember Charlene Lamb?

Nordstrom: Lamb said resources weren’t an issue.

Clay: I was told funding was an issue.

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1:31pm: Rep Jim Jordan to Hicks…lots of compliments on how you handled events? Hicks, yes. Jordan: All that changed with the phone call from Beth ____?

Hicks: Yes, I got the impression I should stop asking questions.

Hicks: Told by lawyers and officials at State Dept not to talk to Jason Chaffetz or any of the Congressional delegation coming to Benghazi.

Jordan: Has that ever happened in your career? told not to talk?

Hicks: No, never.

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1:29 pm: Tierney people who conducted ” a real investigation” don’t question the talking points

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1:28 pm: Tierney playing video of DNI Clapper saying the attacks on Rice were unfair. Do you question if Clapper is lying?

Hicks: There was no report from US Mission in Libya that this was a demonstration.

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1:27pm: Rep. John Tierney : none of you involved in the talking points?

Thompson, I offered my services.

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1:13pm: Rep. Eleanor Norton to Thompson: Your lawyer said you wouldn’t talk to any Democrat member of this committee, so my questions are coming from information in the press.

Norton: Do you believe your counterterrorism unit was kept out of the “loop” for political reasons?

Thompson: I do not.

Thompson doesn’t understand why teams weren’t utilized.

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1:12pm: Chaffetz to Thompson: why were you not asked to deploy your team? Thompson: I have no idea.

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1:06 pm: Rep. Jason Chaffetz  how did military personnel in Tripoli react to being told to stand down. Hicks: angry. Defense attache quote: “First time in my career a diplomat has more balls than me.”

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1:05 pm: Maloney: It’s procedure in the manual that Clinton couldn’t sign every cable. She did not lie.

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1:03 pm: Maloney asking witnesses “do you agree that the proper procedure by State Dept. is that thousands of cables leave with Secretary’s name on bottom of page?”

Yes, Yes, Yes….all 3 witnesses

_______________________________________________________________ 1:00 pm: Rep. Carolyn Maloney “truly disturbing” how many Americans are attacking our own military, President, Hillary Clinton. _______________________________________________________________

12:57 pm: Rep Trey Gowdy: why would Ambassador Rice and tell falsehoods and what impact on those on ground that she contradicted Libyan President.

Hicks: Can’t say why on Rice. To second question: we wanted FBI to begin investigation in Benghazi. Afterwards, we encountered bureaucratic resistance from Libyan government. Took about 18 days to get FBI to crime scene.

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12:55 pm: Gowdy to Hicks: You were highest ranking official there behind Ambassador Stevens? Hicks Yes.  Susan Rice on the Sunday shows about demonstrations? Hicks, “was shocked, jaw dropped, I was embarrassed.”

12:54 pm: Rep. Trey Gowdy questioning: Did Libyan President ever say there was a demonstration. Hicks No. Gowdy: did Stevens say there were protests? Hicks No.

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12:51 pm: Rep. Cummings discussing the “reputations” of those who testified from DOD and Joints Chiefs that there was no time to send US Military  help to Benghazi.  Hicks said he only knows what defense attache in Tripoli told him there was help in Aviano,Italy.

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12:45 pm:  Rep. Cummings addressing the witnesses.

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12:40pm: The one medic remaining in Tripoli wanted to go to Benghazi, but they made her go to Tripoli hospital prepared to treat the wounded coming in from Benghazi.

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12:39 pm: Tripoli staff convinced Libyan’s to send a C-130 to Benghazi for further reinforcements.

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12:36 pm: Hicks: Back in Benghazi, they did not want to send response people into what was a suspected ambush at the Ansar al-Sharia hospital where Stevens body was.

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 12:34 pm: Gregory Hicks testifying.  Recalling the move of Tripoli personnel to the annexes at dawn the next morning. Did not want response team to travel through militia controlled checkpoints.

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12:31 pm: Hicks emotional, recalling how he learned from Libyan Prime Minister at 3am Stevens was dead. Taking a moment to collect himself.

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12:29 pm: Around 2 am, Hicks, in Tripoli, said Clinton called and asked him what was going on. Most of the conversation about the search for Stevens and what to do with the personnel in Benghazi.

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12:28 pm: Tripoli prepared to evacuate diplomatic personnel from annexes.

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12:27 pm: Embassy in Tripoli unaware the mission in Benghazi did not have control of Stevens body.

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12:25 pm: Phase 3 of attack when Ambassador Stevens body was recovered. Hicks said they learned body was taken to hospital controlled by terrorist group, Ansar al-Sharia who they believed was attacking the consulate

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12:23 pm:  Second phase of the evening was after resonse teams went to annex.

Tripoli response team left at midnight, arrived at 1:15am in Benghazi.

Defense attache told nearest help in Aviano Air Force base in Italy.

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12:22 pm: The response team of 6 found Sean Smith’s body, not Ambassador Stevens.  Hicks recalling bravery of men who went in a burning building with cyanide gas to rescue their colleagues.

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12:20 pm: Hicks testifying about the events the day and night of Sept 11. Reports that 60 attackers were in the Consulate at one time.

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12:18pm: Was looking to mobilize a tripoli response team to Benghazi for additional reinforcements.  The US Defense attache in Libya was in communication with DC, as well.

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12:17 pm: Called US State Dept at approx 10pm Libyan time to report attack.  Called Senior Libyan officials to report attack. Asked for immediate assistance from Libyan government.

Called Libyan military officials to ask for assistance.

Called back to DC to report the above actions had been commenced.

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12:15 pm: Arrived at the tactical operation center. Was told Consulate was breached, approx. 20 people attacking the Consulate.

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12:13 pm: Hicks: regular day until events in Cairo, Egypt. Sent text to Ambassador Stevens to ask if he was aware of events. Went home. Watched TV..9:45 Libya time (6 hour time difference), notified the Consulate was under attack.  Grabbed his phone, 2 missed calls, one from Stevens. Called unknown number and it was Stevens using another phone.

Stevens told Hicks they were “under attack.” Bad cell phone connection. Line went dead.

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12: 11 pm: Issa asks: Was initial view this was terrorist attack?

Thompson: Yes

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12:10 pm: Nordstrom very emotional

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12:08 pm: Eric Nordstrom opening statement.

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12:06 pm: Known as Ambassador Stevens “bulldog” for decisive management style.

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12:05 pm: Hicks opening statement.

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12:03 pm: Experts on response team work for deputy chief of mission

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11:59 am: Thompson opening statement.

The night of Sept. 11, 2012 was at his desk as reports came in. Knew Stevens and staff were with him at the Consulate. Wanted to deploy comprehensive special ops team to help, notified White House.

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11:58 am: Witnesses sworn in

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11:44 am: Remembering the four who died in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya:

U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens

Glen Doherty

Sean Smith

Tyrone Woods

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11:30 am: Prepared Statements of Gregory Hicks and Eric Nordstrom obtained by Fox News.

Prepared Testimony of Greg Hicks on Benghazi Attack

Mark Thompson Opening Statement Benghazi

 

 

Janeen Capizola

"And though she be but little, she is fierce." And fun! This conservative-minded political junkie, mom of three, dancer and one-time NFL cheerleader holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science. [email protected] Twitter: @JaneenBPR

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