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Benghazi panel criticizes Clinton's actions in new 800-page report
The House Select Committee on Benghazi released an 800-page report on Tuesday that is filled with new criticism of Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of State who is now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
The report, after more than two years of work and $7 million in expense, does not fundamentally alter the public's understanding of the attacks, which left four Americans dead and has stirred controversy throughout President Obama's time in office.
But the analysis includes new facts sure to be seized upon by the administration's critics and which are likely to serve as points of attack against Clinton during the general election.
Clinton herself is chided more for her actions before and after the night of the attack, rather than in the heat of the moment itself.
Clinton and other officials did not adequately heed concerns about the growing extremism in Benghazi and other parts of Libya, the report concluded.
"It is not clear what additional intelligence would have satisfied either [Undersecretary of Management Patrick] Kennedy or the secretary in understanding the Benghazi Mission compound was at risk-short of an attack," the report claimed.
"The intelligence on which Kennedy and the secretary were briefed daily was clear and pointed-Al Qa'ida, al Qa'ida like groups, and other regional extremists took refuge in the security vacuum created by the Libya government and its inability to take command of the security situation."
After the violence occurred, the report accuses her of knowing that it was sparked by extremist militia members but nonetheless blamed it on an anti-Muslim video responsible for other protests.
The day after the violence, Clinton told Egypt's prime minister that U.S. officials "know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film.
"It was a planned attack - not a protest," she added.
In public, however, Clinton and other senior officials appeared to conflate the violence with the video for days to come.
Then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice caused a stir when she appeared on multiple Sunday political shows offering a performance scoffed at even by government officials.
"I think Rice was off the reservation on this one," one senior State Department official working on Libya wrote in an email after her appearances.
"Off the reservation on five networks!" responded another official.
In a statement, the Clinton campaign blasted the report as a partisan-driven exercise filled with conspiracy theories.
"The Republicans on the House Benghazi Committee are finishing their work in the same, partisan way that we've seen from them since the beginning," Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement.
"In refusing to issue its report on a bipartisan basis, the Committee is breaking from the precedent set by other Congressional inquiries into the Benghazi attacks. And in leaking out select portions from their report in the middle of the night, without even allowing some of the committee's own members to see it, the Republican members are clearly seeking to avoid any fact-checking of their discredited, conspiracy theories.
Fallon also noted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) comments last year saying that the Benghazi panel was put together to bring down Clinton's poll numbers.
"This report just confirms what Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and even one of Trey Gowdy's own former staffers admitted months ago: this Committee's chief goal is to politicize the deaths of four brave Americans in order to try to attack the Obama administration and hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign," Fallon said.
Among the report's new revelations is the notion that Ambassador Chris Stevens, one of the Americans killed, was in Benghazi with the aim of erecting a permanent diplomatic post, to replace the temporary one that came under fire.
Military orders also appeared to have gotten lost or misinterpreted on their way down the chain, the report claims.
And details were lost about which responsibilities fell to the Pentagon, which were in the hands of the State Department and who - if anyone - needed to be evacuated.
"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."
Troops remained motionless for hours after then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered forces to deploy to the scene of the violence.
At one point, a platoon of U.S. Marines changed into and out of their uniforms four different times as they waited to be deployed, due to changing orders about "the image that would present" of having uniformed U.S. forces marching through the city.
Additionally, the Libyan forces that eventually evacuated the surviving Americans from the CIA annex were in fact former loyalists of deposed strongman Moammar Gadhafi and not militia groups with a previous relationship with the U.S.
In the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks, Stevens and State Department information management officer Sean Smith died when their diplomatic compound came under attack. Former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods died from mortar fire hours later, at a nearby CIA annex.
Scrutiny over the terror attack has dogged the Obama administration for the last four years and in the process has become a byword for scandal on par with Watergate.
Critics suspect the Obama administration of having turned a blind eye to security, failing to come to the victims aid and then misleading the public in the aftermath.
The episode has become political weight for Clinton in particular. Her presumptive Republican opponent, Donald Trump, has hammered her for "bad judgment" and suggestions that the violence was sparked in protest to an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube. The video was the source of protests elsewhere in the Muslim world, but the Benghazi attacks were spearheaded by a member of a radical Islamist militia.
Committee Democrats attempted to get out ahead of the report on Monday, by releasing their rebuttal analysis and dozens of interview transcripts a day early.
In their analysis, Democrats acknowledged that the committee had uncovered additional details about the 2012 violence but maintained that nothing altered the underlying narrative supported by previous investigations.
The committee's Tuesday release accomplishes a key goal of Gowdy's by ensuring it is public before the party nominating conventions next month. The conventions had been an informal deadline for the committee to release its report, and a delay would likely have been seen as the committee inserting itself into the campaign season.
"Now, I simply ask the American people to read this report for themselves, look at the evidence we have collected, and reach their own conclusions," Gowdy said in a statement on Tuesday morning. "You can read this report in less time than our fellow citizens were taking fire and fighting for their lives on the rooftops and in the streets of Benghazi."
This story was updated at 10:15 a.m.