House panel issues new Benghazi report, questions 9/11 preparations

White House officials either failed to comprehend a deteriorating security situation in Libya before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, or ignored it, according to a new report by the House Armed Services Committee leadership. 

This was one of six major findings in the report, that will be released Tuesday morning. 

Although actions had been taken to secure other diplomatic facilities in anticipation of that day, such as in Yemen, no similar measures were taken in Libya, committee staff said on background. 

"It remains unclear why particular having done their security reviews prior to Sept. 11 that this administration chose to beef up its posture in certain parts of the region, and not in others … such as Libya and northern Africa," said the staff member. 

Since there was no "imminent" threat perceived in Libya, the State Department had favored a reduction in security personnel, the staff said. Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, similarly did not perceive a threat and did not posture forces in the region for an attack.

"Changes in the military’s force posture to be able to respond to an attack was not made, at least in the region around Libya," a staff member said.

As a result, there were no F-16 fighter jets, armed drones or attack helicopters in the region that could assist in any kind of response, the staff said. 

The House investigation also found that Pentagon officials believed from the very beginning of the attack that terrorists were involved, and when they informed the president, he gave them "minimal direction" to respond, the committee staff said. 

However, due to the location of forces that could respond, and some lack of clarity as to how long the attack would last, the military did not take all possible steps to prepare for extended operations, they said. 

There was no stand down order to forces in Tripoli, Libya, staff said. 

Democrats on the committee said the report, produced by House Armed Service Republicans, "should finally bring an end to the politicization of the heinous attacks on brave Americans in Benghazi."

"While Republicans in both the House and Senate have continued to attack the motivations and actions of those who serve in our country’s national security apparatus, this Republican prepared report clearly states that the Department of Defense responded appropriately, quickly, to the best of its ability at that time, and that no 'stand down' order was ever issued," they said in a statement.