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House intel panel debunks many Benghazi theories


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House intel panel debunks many Benghazi theories


NOV. 21, 2014 5:22 PM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week. Many of its findings echo those of six previous investigations by various congressional committees and a State Department panel. The eighth Benghazi investigation is being carried out by a House Select Committee appointed in May.

The attacks in Benghazi killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith, and two CIA contractors, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty. A Libyan extremist, Ahmed Abu Khatalla, is facing trial on murder charges after he was captured in Libya and taken to the U.S.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Republicans criticized the Obama administration and its then-secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016. People in and out of government have alleged that a CIA response team was ordered to "stand down" after the State Department compound came under attack, that a military rescue was nixed, that officials intentionally downplayed the role of al-Qaida figures in the attack, and that Stevens and the CIA were involved in a secret operation to spirit weapons out of Libya and into the hands of Syrian rebels. None of that is true, according to the House Intelligence Committee report.

The report did find, however, that the State Department facility where Stevens and Smith were killed was not well-protected, and that State Department security agents knew they could not defend it from a well-armed attack. Previous reports have found that requests for security improvements were not acted upon in Washington.

"We spent thousands of hours asking questions, poring over documents, reviewing intelligence assessments, reading cables and emails, and held a total of 20 committee events and hearings," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the committee's chairman, and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the ranking Democrat, in a joint statement.

"We conducted detailed interviews with senior intelligence officials from Benghazi and Tripoli as well as eight security personnel on the ground in Benghazi that night. Based on the testimony and the documents we reviewed, we concluded that all the CIA officers in Benghazi were heroes. Their actions saved lives," they said.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who serves on the intelligence panel and the Benghazi select committee, said, "It's my hope that this report will put to rest many of the questions that have been asked and answered yet again, and that the Benghazi Select Committee will accept these findings and instead focus its attention on the State Department's progress in securing our facilities around the world and standing up our fast response capabilities."

Some of the harshest charges have been leveled at Rice, now Obama's national security adviser, who represented the Obama administration on Sunday talk shows the weekend after the attack. Rice repeated talking points that wrongly described a protest over a video deemed offensive to Muslims.

But Rice's comments were based on faulty intelligence from multiple agencies, according to the report. Analysts received 21 reports that a protest occurred in Benghazi, the report said 14 from the Open Source Center, which reviews news reports; one from the CIA; two from the Defense Department; and four from the National Security Agency.

In the years since, some participants in the attack have said they were motivated by the video. The attackers were a mix of extremists and hangers on, the investigation found.

"To this day," the report said, "significant intelligence gaps regarding the identities, affiliations and motivations of the attackers remain."


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When the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee concluded in late November that there had been no intelligence failure before the 2012 attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, it threatened to pry from Republicans one of their favorite vehicles for sniping at the Obama administration and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Rand Paul does not appear to be willing to let that happen.

The junior Kentucky senator and likely presidential candidate attacked the committees findings in an op-ed that is part first-stage-of-grief and part letter to Clinton.

Benghazi was the definition of an intelligence failure, Paul begins, dismissing the entire committee report as unserious.

It was, in fact, one of the worst intelligence failures in our history, a strategic blunder that resulted in the murder of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans The ultimate blame lies with the Obama administration and more directly with Hillary Clinton who oversaw this tragedy during her tenure as secretary of state.

Paul then asks of the persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies noted by the Associated Press, None of these accusations contain even a modicum of truth?

Later, Paul quotes Clintons notorious line, What difference, at this point, does it make? referring to what served as the catalyst for the attacks, an anti-Muslim video or a push by radical Islamists. It makes huge difference, Mrs. Clinton, Paul writes. This new Benghazi intelligence report is little more than a C.Y.A. attempt designed to protect incompetent politicians and government agents at the expense of justice for the victims of September 11, 2012 And yes, Hillary, it still matters.

Asked on what intelligence Paul has based his conclusion that the Republican-led committees findings were incorrect, his senior aide, Doug Stafford, deflected by saying, Senator Paul doesnt believe the questions have all been answered, nor does he believe those responsible for this failure have been held accountable, especially Secretary Clinton.

Asked, then, whether Paul is under the impression that the House Intelligence Committee and its Republican chairman fell prey to White House Benghazi propaganda, Stafford said: We dont have any comment on why the House Intelligence Committee issued a bad report, only that they did.

Paul has consistently used Benghazi as a device to stake out high ground on foreign policy. He broaches the subject of Benghazi with ease, almost as if its become its own form of small talkand its not hard to figure out why he doesnt want to let it go.

For one thing, Benghazi allows Paul to attack Clinton without having to acknowledge why hes doing itwere he to win the Republican nomination, he would likely face Clinton in the general election.

Senator Paul doesnt believe the questions have all been answered, nor does he believe those responsible for this failure have been held accountable, especially Secretary Clinton.

But perhaps more important than that, taking the the-government-is-hiding-the-truth-from-you position on Benghazi permits Paul to appeal to the base he inherited from his father, former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul: conspiracy-prone libertarians. Its a group that sometimes expresses skepticism about the younger Paul he is, after all, the more mainstream (i.e., willing to sell out) version of his father. In his own words, he is just libertarian-ish, more likely to stake out positions outside the mainstream than the average Republican but ultimately someone who may muddy his own convictions in an effort to appeal to generic right-wing primary voters.

Infowars.com, an entertainingly deranged conspiracy-mongering website run by Bill Hicks-lookalike Alex Jones, a friend of the Paul family, seemed to praise Paul for not buying into the House Intelligence Committees Benghazi report, with the screaming headline Rand Paul Slams Benghazi Cover Your Ass Report.

Paul is not the only one unwilling to accept the committees findings.

In the latest Weekly Standard can be found an editorial under the headline The Benghazi Whitewash. It claims that the parts [of the report] that arent damning are a classic Washington whitewash and one of the central facts confirmed by the report is an indictment of the mainstream media coverage of Benghazi.

The publication chides National Journals Ron Fournier, Politicos Michael Grunwald, and The Atlantics Conor Friedersdorf for taking the committees report to mean what the committee reported.

Perhaps to Pauls dismay, he has an ally in Sen. Lindsey Graham, with whom he has frequently sparred.

On CNNs State of the Union on Sunday, Graham said the committee is full of crap.

While Paul will likely continue to address Clinton via Breitbart, Stafford said he is eagerly awaiting the result of the Select Committee on Benghazi, led by Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy. Senator Paul looks forward to having more information brought forward about Benghazi and the failures of this administration, particularly Secretary Clinton.


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