Benghazi committee's final report finds 'tragic failure of leadership'

By Allen Cone  |  Updated June 28, 2016 at 12:09 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 28 (UPI) -- House Republicans' Select Committee on Benghazi offered new details about the 2012 attack of the U.S. Embassy in its final report, released Tuesday, but no new direct wrongdoing by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The 802-report, prepared by the Republican majority on the committee, blamed the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department for not realizing security risks in the Libyan city.

The report noted there was intelligence leading up to the attacks that the diplomatic consulate and CIA annex were not safe. Clinton and Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy should have realized that, according to the report.

"What we did find was a tragic failure of leadership -- in the run-up to the attack and the night of -- and an administration that, so blinded by politics and its desire to win an election, disregarded a basic duty of government: Tell the people the truth," the report said. "And for those reasons, Benghazi is and always will be, an American tragedy."

The report also faulted the U.S. government for a slow response after the attack.

"Despite President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's clear orders to deploy military assets, nothing was sent to Benghazi, and nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost eight hours after the attacks began," the report said.

The report confirmed previous findings that U.S. military forces stationed in Europe couldn't have reached Benghazi in time to rescue the personnel who died.

The Sept. 11, 2012, attack killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Pompeo of Kansas wrote a 48-page addendum to the report that was more directly critical of Clinton.

"The evidence shows, and shows rather strongly, that they misled the American people and said, 'We can't tell the truth, we can't talk about how bad the security situation was, we can't talk about the fact that this was a terrorist attack ... so let's say it was caused by the video,'" Jordan told CNN.

Democrats have criticized the select committee's investigation as politically motivated against Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and the $7 million in expenses a waste of taxpayer money.

Democrats on the committee released a sharply different view in its report Monday, including defending Clinton and noting their concerns were often ignored by the Republicans on the committee.

Last fall, Clinton testified for 11 hours before the committee. She said that Stevens had originally chosen to serve in Benghazi because "he understood America had to be represented there at that pivotal time." Witnesses also testified that Stevens was planning for a visit by Clinton one month later.

The Republican majority of the committee found that Stevens traveled to the U.S. mission to fill a temporary staffing gap and work to make Benghazi a permanent diplomatic post.

Committee members criticized the lack of protection for Americans there.

"We expect our government to make every effort to save the lives of Americans who serve in harm's way," Pompeo said in a statement released with the report. "That did not happen in Benghazi. Politics were put ahead of the lives of Americans, and while the administration had made excuses and blamed the challenges posed by time and distance, the truth is that they did not try."

Another committee member, Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama, also blasted the Obama administration.

"Our committee's insistence on additional information about the military's response to the Benghazi attacks was met with strong opposition from the Defense Department, and now we know why," she said in a statement. "Instead of attempting to hide deficiencies in our posture and performance, it's my hope our report will help ensure we fix what went wrong so that a tragedy like this never happens again.

"They stuck by that message publicly even though privately they were conveying the truth to everyone and saying it was a terrorist attack."

The report gave details on the aftermath of the attack.

With Stevens missing, the report noted, "the White House convened a roughly two-hour meeting at 7:30 p.m., which resulted in action items focused on a YouTube video, and others containing the phrases '[i]f any deployment is made,' and 'Libya must agree to any deployment,' and '[w]ill not deploy until order comes to go to either Tripoli or Benghazi.' "

The report said the vice chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff was not at the meeting because he went home to host a dinner party for foreign dignitaries.

The committee spent two years and more than $7 million investigating the attack. More than 107 witnesses were interviewed.

"When the Select Committee was formed, I promised to conduct this investigation in a manner worthy of the American people's respect, and worthy of the memory of those who died," Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said in the report. "That is exactly what my colleagues and I have done.

"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. 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."

In their report, Democrats on the committed concluded that "the U.S. military could not have done anything differently on the night of the attacks that would have saved the lives of the four brave Americans killed in Benghazi."

Democrats acknowledged, as previously known, that "security measures in Benghazi were woefully inadequate as a result of decisions made by officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security." But it concluded, "Secretary Clinton never personally denied any requests for additional security in Benghazi."

The Clinton campaign continued to fault the Republicans on the committee Tuesday, calling it "a partisan sham since its start."

Reacting to the GOP report early Tuesday, State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told NBC News: "We have made great progress towards making our posts safer since 2012. We have been working to respond to the extensive findings and recommendations of the independent Accountability Review Board, closing out 26 out of its 29 recommendations."

Recommendations from the House Select Committee on Benghazi

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