House Releases Report on Benghazi Attack
A report on the Benghazi attack by five different House committees has made the following findings. [Note this is a report issued by House Republicans including Howard McKeon chairman of Committee on Armed Services, Ed Royce chairman of Committee on Foreign Affairs, Bob Goodlatte chairman of Committee on the Judiciary, Darrell Issa chairman of Committee on Oversight & Government Reform and Mike Rogers Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence]:
Before the Attacks:
- After the U.S.-backed Libyan revolution ended the Gadhafi regime, the U.S. government did not deploy sufficient U.S. security elements to protect U.S. interests and personnel that remained on the ground.
- Senior State Department officials knew that the threat environment in Benghazi was high and that the Benghazi compound was vulnerable and unable to withstand an attack, yet the Department continued to systematically withdraw security personnel.
- Repeated requests for additional security were denied at the highest levels of the State Department. For example, an April 2012 State Department cable bearing Secretary Hillary Clinton’s signature acknowledged then-Ambassador Cretz’s formal request for additional security assets but ordered the withdrawal of security elements to proceed as planned.
- The attacks were not the result of a failure by the Intelligence Community (IC) to recognize or communicate the threat. The IC collected considerable information about the threats in the region, and disseminated regular assessments to senior U.S. officials warning of the deteriorating security environment in Benghazi, which included threats to American interests, facilities, and personnel.
- The President, as Commander-in-Chief, failed to proactively anticipate the significance of September 11 and provide the Department of Defense with the authority to launch offensive operations beyond self-defense. Defense Department assets were correctly positioned for the general threat across the region, but the assets were not authorized at an alert posture to launch offensive operations beyond self-defense, and were provided no notice to defend diplomatic facilities.
During the Attacks:
- On the evening of September 11, 2012, U.S. security teams on the ground in Benghazi exhibited extreme bravery responding the attacks by al-Qa’ida-affiliated groups against the U.S. mission.
- Department of Defense officials and military personnel reacted quickly to the attacks in Benghazi. The effectiveness of their response was hindered on account of U.S. military forces not being properly postured to address the growing threats in northern Africa or to respond to a brief, high-intensity attack on U.S. personnel or interests across much of Africa.
After the Attacks:
- The Administration willfully perpetuated a deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative that the attacks evolved from a political demonstration caused by a YouTube video. U.S. officials on the ground reported – and video evidence confirms – that demonstrations outside the Benghazi Mission did not occur and that the incident began with an armed attack on the facility. Senior Administration officials knowingly minimized the role played by al-Qa’ida-affiliated entities and other associated groups in the attacks, and decided to exclude from the discussion the previous attempts by extremists to attack U.S. persons or facilities in Libya.
- Administration officials crafted and continued to rely on incomplete and misleading talking points. Specifically, after a White House Deputies Meeting on Saturday, September 15, 2012, the Administration altered the talking points to remove references to the likely participation of Islamic extremists in the attacks. The Administration also removed references to the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya, including information about at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi. Senior State Department officials requested – and the White House approved – that the details of the threats, specifics of the previous attacks, and previous warnings be removed to insulate the Department from criticism that it ignored the threat environment in Benghazi.
- Evidence rebuts Administration claims that the talking points were modified to protect classified information or to protect an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Email exchanges during the interagency process do not reveal any concern with protecting classified information. Additionally, the Bureau itself approved a version of the talking points with significantly more information about the attacks and previous threats than the version that the State Department requested. Thus, the claim that the State Department’s edits were made solely to protect that investigation is not credible.
- The Administration deflected responsibility by blaming the IC for the information it communicated to the public in both the talking points and the subsequent narrative it perpetuated. Had Administration spokesmen performed even limited due diligence inquiries into the intelligence behind the talking points or requested reports from personnel on the ground, they would have quickly understood that the situation was more complex than the narrative provided by Ambassador Susan Rice and others in the Administration.
- The Administration’s decision to respond to the Benghazi attacks with an FBI investigation, rather than military or other intelligence resources, contributed to the government’s lack of candor about the nature of the attack.
- Responding to the attacks with an FBI investigation significantly delayed U.S. access to key witnesses and evidence and undermined the government’s ability to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice in a timely manner.
[Bold typeface is in the original document.]