Benghazi report: State worried about image of Marines marching through city

Benghazi report: State worried about image of Marines marching through city
© Getty Images

New details in a report released Tuesday by the House select committee investigating the deadly Benghazi attack showed that senior State Department officials debated whether responding with U.S. Marines in uniform would appear to be an invasion.

Marines ordered to rescue Americans under siege at a diplomatic compound were told to change in and out of uniform four times.   

"We were told multiple times to change what we were wearing, to change from cammies into civilian attire, civilian attire into cammies, cammies into civilian attire," the commander of a Marine Fleet Anti-Terrorist Security Team (FAST) platoon testified to the committee, referring to camouflage fatigues. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"There was also some talk of whether or not we could carry our personal weapons," he added. 

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), a member of the committee, said Tuesday the committee never got to the reason the Marines were ordered in and out of uniform. 

However, he said, there was a "big debate" among State Department officials who worried Marines wearing uniform would make it look like an "invasion." 

"The State Department didn't want it to look like it was an invasion of Libya. They were hypersensitive to looking like there were Americans coming into Libya when this was truly a terrorist haven," Pompeo said on "The Hugh Hewitt Show." 

"Somehow, they had this idea that a big American force in uniform would present some risk that the Libyans would protest, because we were invading their country," he said. "And there was this debate back and forth about what the appropriate attire was for going to rescue Americans while our embassy was burning and mortars were falling in Benghazi." 

According to the report, the debate occurred during a two-hour emergency video teleconference during the attack, which was led by White House chief of staff Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughFormer Obama officials willing to testify on McCabe's behalf: report Trailer shows first look at Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE. Then-Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats ask judge for quick ruling on McGahn subpoena Hillary Clinton: 'Every day Stephen Miller remains in the White House is an emergency' The Memo: Centrists change tone of Democratic race MORE and top Defense officials were also on the call, which was focused on rescuing the Americans at the embassy. 

The long-anticipated Republican report also said troops remained motionless for hours after then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered forces to deploy to Benghazi. Only an unarmed drone made it to the diplomatic compound during the attack. 

“The response to the attacks suffered from confusion and misinformation circulating between the agencies,” the report claims, “underscoring that no one effectively took charge of the U.S. government’s response.”

The State Department pushed back against the suggestion that the debate over uniforms caused any delay.

"Concerns about what they wore had no bearing on the timing of their arrival," deputy spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

This report was updated at 11:05 a.m.