A congressional committee led by South Carolina’s US Rep. Trey Gowdy has released findings from its investigation into the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
The report criticizes how federal agencies and the State Department responded after four people were killed an attack on the diplomatic compound and on a secret CIA facility. It also questions why no military assets were sent in response to the attack, despite clear orders from President Barack Obama and then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and why “none of the relevant military forces met their required deployment timelines.”
It does not make any new accusations of wrongdoing against then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But Republicans on the committee pointed to numerous public statements by Clinton that “some have sought justify this vicious behavior… as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet,” while privately telling the Egyptian prime minister that it was a “planned attack,” that “had nothing to do with the film.”
During a question-and-answer session with reporters Tuesday, Gowdy would not give his own opinions on the findings. “I hope my fellow citizens would read this report, not for me, but for those who sacrificed and those nameless, faceless Americans who uncontrovertibly saved other American lives that night.”
Gowdy also tried to avoid commenting specifically on Clinton in his remarks — arguing that she was only part of the investigation and report. “Speaker (John) Boehner asked me to find out what happened to four of our fellow citizens and I believe that is what I have done,” he said. “If you, at the end of reading that report, can conclude that it is about one person instead of about four people (those killed in the attacks), I will be shocked.”
Democrats on the committee attacked the report’s release, arguing the $7 million spent was unnecessary and merely an effort to undermine Clinton’s run for president. “We have been hampered in our work by the ongoing Republican obsession with conspiracy theories that have no basis in reality,” the committee’s Democratic members said in their own report released a day earlier. “Rather than reject these conspiracy theories in the absence of evidence — or in the face of hard facts — Select Committee Republicans embraced them and turned them into a political crusade.”
Gowdy dismissed those criticisms, arguing Democratic members had never taken the select committee’s investigation seriously. “Color me shocked that they are critical of our report,” he said. “All five of them voted not to form the committee, they threatened not to participate, and for the most part they did not.”
But Democrats on the panel said they were also blocked from questioning some witnesses and were not allowed to see the report until its release Tuesday.
The report also reveals that Ambassador Chris Stevens was in Benghazi, despite security concerns, to help lay the groundwork for a future visit by Clinton to the country. According to testimony from State Department staffers, Stevens hoped Clinton would be able to announce the diplomatic mission in the city had become a permanent consulate.
It was also highly critical of various White House briefings in the attack’s aftermath, when there continued to be a focus on possible protests despite no word from State Department staff that such protests had occurred that day. The report also released documents suggesting that several high-ranking Obama Administration and Pentagon officials did not even seem to realize a second attack was occurring on the CIA facility until it was over. Libyan militia eventually helped the Americans evacuate to a plane at the Benghazi airport.
The report recommends improved communications between agencies so that security and emergency responses can be improved at overseas diplomatic facilities. It also called for Diplomatic Security personnel to undergo better training and to maintain a constant state of readiness while in “high threat environments.” Another recommendation was for military leaders craft better timelines to respond to terrorist attacks in the Mideast and North Africa. Another recommendation was to no longer use intelligence personnel in drafting “talking points” and to keep their focus on analysis.