In fact, Hicks said during the hearing that he was told by the Libyan president soon afterward that elements with possible terror links were thought to be behind the assault.
The veteran diplomat said his "jaw dropped" and he was both "stunned" and "embarrassed" when Rice said the attack was a response to the YouTube video.
Hicks also argued the U.S. military could have blunted the attack by scrambling intimidating military aircraft from Italy's Aviano Air Base -- an assertion denied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey when he testified before Congress in February.
Dempsey told Congress it would take up to 20 hours to scramble the aircraft to get to Benghazi; Hicks said he believed it would take two to three hours.
"I was speaking from my perspective ... on the ground in Tripoli based on what the defense attache told me," Hicks said when asked by
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight panel, asked Hicks if he had any reason to question Dempsey's assertion.
Finally, Hicks claimed four members of the military were ready to board a plane from Tripoli to Benghazi, but were prevented from doing so by their superiors.
"How did the personnel react at being told to stand down?" asked Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.
"They were furious," said Hicks. "I can only say, well, I will quote Lieutenant Colonel Gibson who said, 'This is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than somebody in the military.'"
Pentagon officials insist the members of the military in question were told not to go to Benghazi because they were not equipped for combat, and were needed in Tripoli to care for wounded headed their way.
Nordstrom said in written testimony it was "inexplicable" a a followup internal State Department review ignored "the role senior department leadership played before, during, and after" the attack.
In the run-up to the hearing, Issa trickled out testimony from the witnesses in an apparent attempt to build anticipation for the session, one of several that have occurred in Congress focusing on security at the compound and the administration's response.
Committee Democrats accused Republicans of engaging in a "smear" campaign.
"What we have seen ... is a full-scale media campaign that is not designed to investigate what happened in a responsible and bipartisan way but rather a launch of unfounded accusations to smear public officials," Cummings said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney also weighed in, telling reporters that the Benghazi attack "is a subject that has from its beginning been subject to attempts to politicize it by Republicans."
Accusation of playing politics
For its part, the State Department also accused House Republicans of playing politics with the tragedy.
"This is not sort of a collaborative process where the committee is working directly with us in trying to establish facts that would help, you know, as we look to keep our people safe overseas in a very complex environment," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on Monday.
Wednesday's hearing is another chapter in what has become an epic back and forth between Democrats and Republicans on Benghazi, partly stemming from Rice's televised comments. The comments are widely believed to have cost her a likely nomination to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
Some congressional Republicans previously sharply questioned Clinton over the administration's explanation of events and the state of security at the compound at the time of the attack.
Clinton has said that she accepted responsibility for the deaths, declaring that as secretary of state, she was "in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world."
In January, Clinton testified for more than five hours before the House and Senate Foreign Relations committees. In her testimony, she acknowledged a "systematic breakdown" on Benghazi and said her department was taking additional steps to increase U.S. security at diplomatic posts.
At one point at that hearing, Clinton barely controlled her anger as she responded to a lawmaker who pressed her on the administration's post-attack storyline.
Critics have questioned the validity of continued congressional scrutiny, especially Democrats, who say Republicans are only interested in discrediting the administration and hurting Clinton's chances if she were to run for president in 2016.
One Republican congressman, Ohio's Jim Jordan, used the hearing to criticize top Clinton adviser Cheryl Mills.