After two years and $7 million, Republicans on the House Benghazi Committee have released their long-awaited report on the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Libya — a report that concludes then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not directly at fault for the events that led to the deaths of four American citizens.
The report did slam the Obama administration for its handling of the aftermath of the attacks, citing a combination of bureaucratic inefficiency, personal error, and willful ignorance of intelligence for the bungled response. But the committee's findings do not directly indict Clinton for the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, or find that she willfully ignored calls for security, charges that Republicans have continuously leveled at her.
In fact, the report barely focuses on Clinton at all, but rather reveals a more comprehensive timeline of events based on interviews with eyewitnesses and senior intelligence officials.
Among the revelations in the Committee's 800-page report is that the CIA missed real-time intelligence about the situation on the ground that led the agency to bungle its response to the incident. The government then misled the public about what had happened in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.
"It is not clear what additional intelligence would have satisfied either [State Department aide Patrick] Kennedy or the Secretary in understanding the Benghazi mission compound was at risk — short of an attack," the report says.
Donald Trump, among other Republicans, has aggressively pushed the theory that Clinton slept through a 3am phone call on the night of the attacks and her inaction directly led to the death of Americans. Nothing in the report corroborates this account, although that is unlikely to change Trump's and many other Republicans' narrative of what happened.
The report also includes evidence that goes against the official government narrative provided at the time. The US government initially thought the attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi was caused by a "spontaneous protest" over an anti-Islamic film that sparked demonstrations across the Muslim world after it was uploaded to YouTube earlier in 2011. But according to the report, that version of events was not reflected in any of the eyewitness accounts.
"Obama Administration officials, including the Secretary of State, learned almost in real time that the attack in Benghazi was a terrorist attack," Republican Representative Jim Jordan said in a statement upon the release of the report. "Rather than tell the American people the truth, the administration told one story privately and a different story publicly."
The report is the final result of a two-year investigation led by Republicans that has dogged Clinton both on and off the campaign trail. Last October, Clinton testified before the Benghazi panel in a hearing lasting almost 11 hours and yielded no definitive conclusions on what role she played, if any, in contributing to the attack.
The Clinton campaign was triumphant in the response to the report on Tuesday. "The Committee report has not found anything to contradict the conclusions of the multiple, earlier investigations," the campaign said in a statement. "This report just confirms what Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and even one of Trey Gowdy's own former staffers admitted months ago: the 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."
The Committee's investigation has been deeply partisan. Democrats have said that the Republican-led inquiry has been a witch hunt, pointing to rogue members of the Republican Party, including a former Benghazi committee investigator, who have split from the general party's narrative.
Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called the report "shameful" in a statement issued Tuesday.
"The committee took two years to complete this blatantly political report, six months longer than the 9/11 Commission. They squandered $7 million of taxpayer funds and diverted significant Defense Department, State Department and intelligence community resources," she said. "And what do we have to show for it? Yet another report that finds no wrongdoing by Secretary Clinton."
Democrats released their own report before the Republican version came out Tuesday morning, which they say "debunks many conspiracy theories about the attacks."
"We have been hampered in our work by the ongoing Republican obsession with conspiracy theories that have no basis in reality," said the Democratic report. "Rather than reject these conspiracy theories in the absence of evidence — or in the face of hard facts — Select Committee Republicans embraced them and turned them into a political crusade."
Since dictator Muammar Qaddafi's death, Libya has been locked in a bloody civil war. The resulting chaos has left the North African state open to infiltration by the Islamic State, which has moved in to violently put down civil uprisings and seize control of key roads leading to the country's central oil fields.
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