Benghazi panel faults Clinton

Greg Nash

The House Benghazi Committee on Tuesday released its long-awaited report into the 2012 attacks in Libya, reigniting the debate over Hillary Clinton’s role in the security failure as secretary of State.

The more than 800-page report, which cost $7 million and was more than two years in the making, painstakingly faults the Obama administration for its actions before, during and after the terrorist assault that killed four Americans.

{mosads}The report directs some of its strongest criticism at administration officials — including Clinton, now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. It says they conflated the Benghazi attacks with a YouTube video that launched a protest in Egypt, even though diplomatic security agents in Libya unanimously testified that “there was no protest” at the compound.

“This in itself is a disqualifying act of deception,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said.

Yet the report appeared to contain no “smoking gun” showing gross negligence on the part of Clinton or other officials before or after the attacks.

Clinton, who testified before the Benghazi Committee for more than 11 hours last year, brushed aside the report as finding “nothing” new, while her campaign slammed it as containing “discredited conspiracy theories.”

“I’ll leave it to others to characterize this report, but I think it’s pretty clear it’s time to move on,” Clinton said during a campaign event at a tech training facility in Denver.

The Benghazi panel’s report specifically castigates Clinton for not adequately heeding concerns about the growing extremism in Benghazi and other parts of Libya after the American-led ouster of Moammar Gadhafi.

“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,” wrote Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Benghazi Committee, and other authors of the report.

“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.”

One of the new revelations in the report is that Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed by the fire that swept through the diplomatic compound, was in Benghazi with the aim of erecting a permanent diplomatic post.

Clinton herself was interested in visiting Libya that October, the investigation found, potentially to coincide with the announcement of a permanent U.S. facility in the country.

The report also casts blame on the military’s response to the attacks, saying orders about quickly deploying troops to Libya were lost or misinterpreted while forces at the compound and a nearby CIA annex fought off the attackers themselves.

“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 compound, the report said.

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 concerns in Washington about “the image that would present” of having uniformed U.S. forces marching through the city.

The State Department pushed back Tuesday against suggestions that its confusion about what outfits to wear delayed the troops’ deployment. 

The House panel’s investigation also found that the U.S. military had no way of getting troops to Benghazi quickly. United States Africa Command, which has responsibility for Africa, is actually based in Germany, with the nearest available platoon based in Spain.

The one asset that did deploy to Benghazi was a team of CIA security officials from Tripoli, who apparently were deployed without the knowledge of Panetta or other senior administration officials. 

The team’s deployment was “orchestrated solely by the CIA Chief of Station in Tripoli,” the report said.

The Benghazi attacks killed Stevens and State Department information management officer Sean Smith, who died from smoke inhalation. Former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods died from mortar fire hours later, when extremists followed the security agents back to a nearby CIA annex and continued their assault.

Scrutiny over the terror attacks has dogged the Obama administration for the last four years, becoming a byword for scandal and a major motion picture.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, seized on the report to batter his general election foe.

“Hillary Clinton’s Presidency would be catastrophic for the future of our country. She is ill-fit with bad judgment,” he tweeted.

Republicans heralded the new details unveiled by their investigation.

“I wanted to be able to tell Ty Woods’s widow the truth about the military response. I wanted to be able to tell Sean Smith’s mother the truth about the security leading up to it,” Gowdy told reporters. “And I am at peace that we have more information than the other committees had, and we could have had more had we had just a tiny bit of cooperation from the other side.”

Democrats stood by their argument that the investigation was a fruitless pursuit that failed to dig up incriminating evidence about Clinton. Their point appeared to gain momentum late last year, when prominent Republicans including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) linked the committee’s creation to Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Gowdy repeatedly refused to accuse Clinton of wrongdoing during a press conference on Tuesday, but two other members of the committee, Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), had no such reservations.

The two lawmakers released an additional 48-page supplement making pointed criticisms of Clinton. Pompeo called her behavior “absolutely” “morally reprehensible.”

Committee Democrats attempted to get out ahead of the report by releasing their rebuttal analysis and dozens of interview transcripts a day early.

In their analysis, Democrats acknowledged the committee had uncovered additional details about the 2012 violence but maintained that nothing altered the underlying narrative constructed by previous investigations. 

In releasing its report Tuesday, Gowdy ensured that the investigation wrapped up before the parties’ nominating conventions next month. Though Gowdy never formally set such a deadline, a delay would likely have been seen as the committee seeking to sway the election.

“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.”


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