American Special Forces soldiers were preparing to board the C-130 that would fly them on a mission to rescue Americans under attack by terrorists in Benghazi on Sept. 11 last year, but they were stopped by a last-minute order from somebody higher up in the U.S. government, House investigators have learned.

“So Lieutenant Colonel Gibson, who is the SOCAFRICA commander, his team, you know, they were on their way to the vehicles to go to the airport to get on the C‑130 when he got a phone call from SOCAFRICA which said, you can’t go now, you don’t have authority to go now,” Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during an interview last month, The Washington Examiner has learned.

The committee released excerpts of the interview ahead of a congressional hearing that will take place on Wednesday.

“They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it,” Hicks added.  “So, anyway, and yeah. I still remember Colonel Gibson, he said, ‘I have never been so embarrassed in my life that a State Department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military.’  A nice compliment.”

He added that  “at that time, the third attack, the mortar attack at 5:15, had not yet occurred, if I remember correctly.”

Hicks also said that he was told repeatedly throughout the night that no military airplanes could fly over Benghazi as a show of force.

“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,” he said.  “They would have been scared to death that we would have gotten a laser on them and killed them.”

The Defense Department timeline of the attack states that two former Navy Seals, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods — medics by training — were killed during the 5:15 am attack as they defended the diplomatic team. Without Woods and Doherty, their were no medical staff on the scene. The special forces team would not have arrived before the second attack, but they wold have brought a medic to Benghazi.

Hicks is certain that the special forces team was needed. “We fully intended for those guys to go, because we had already essentially stripped ourselves of our security presence, or our security capability to the bare minimum,” he said in the interview.

When asked “what rationale” he was given to explain why the special forces team was ordered not to board that transport, Hicks replied “I guess they just didn’t have the right authority from the right level.”