Eyewitnesses to September’s deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya told a congressional committee Wednesday that State Department officials had blocked efforts to aid Americans under fire and later tried to conceal al Qaeda’s involvement.

Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism at the State Department, told the politically charged hearing that on the night of the attack he was stopped from mobilizing a foreign emergency support team that was specially equipped and trained to deal with emergencies like the one in Benghazi.

Thompson said White House officials told him directly that the emergency team would not be deployed because “it was not the right time and it was not the team that needed to go right then.”

Thompson was among three State Department whistleblowers testifying before the Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as part of lawmakers’ ongoing effort to determine whether the U.S. government could have done more to save the lives of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans killed during the Sept. 11 attack.

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