Seventh GOP Benghazi Investigation Finds No Criminality Or Malfeasance – Eighth Inquiry Is Underway

An overview and links to findings from the previous congressional investigations
Pres. Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a ceremony upon the arrival of the bodies of Benghazi victims, Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen A. Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods, in September 2012
Pres. Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a ceremony upon the arrival of the bodies of Benghazi victims, Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen A. Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods, in September 2012

It was a classic Friday night news dump, and then some. Last Friday, which happened to be the Friday before the Thanksgiving holiday week, the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee released the findings of its investigation into the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. This was the seventh congressional investigation into the Benghazi attacks, by most counts — there have also been investigations by the FBI, the State Department and others. There is an eighth investigation underway in the House, and there will likely be more to come as Republicans take control of the Senate next year.

The Republicans’ motive for suppressing news coverage of the report is that, like the previous reports, it exonerates Pres. Obama and his administration, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, of anything remotely criminal — which is to say actionable or, more to the point, impeachable:

The CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, a Republican-controlled House committee has found. Its report concluded that there was no wrongdoing by Obama administration officials.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the two-year 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.

Immediately after 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 results of this inquiry are generally what the the other bipartisan reports laid out about the events at the U.S. Consulate in September 2012. House Republicans have also released purely partisan reports that stated the findings more harshly with the intent of fanning the smoldering rage of Fox viewers and others inside the right-wing epistemological bubble.

So far, House Speaker John Boehner and the other big-government Republicans who are driving these investigations have billed taxpayers $14 million for their folly — all while they are busy cutting food and health services for America’s poverty-stricken working class.

And the meter is still running. Earlier this year, Republicans stood up a new committee, the House Select Committee on Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi — the eighth inquiry by Congress — which will cost taxpayers an additional $3.3 million, at least.

infografix-embassy-attacks-under-bush

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) weighed in on the Republicans’ hypocrisy on Benghazi in oped in June, titled, “The Benghazi Witch Hunt”:

Nine different House and Senate committees have already investigated the attacks; 13 hearings have been conducted; 50 briefings have taken place; 25 transcribed interviews have been conducted; eight subpoenas have been issued; more than 25,000 pages of documents have been reviewed; six congressional reports have been released.

But, dissatisfied with the results of these exhaustive reviews, the GOP has now created an openly partisan panel with only one goal: to further politicize this tragedy.

Here’s what we know this new Select Committee won’t be investigating: The budget cuts that House Republicans made to security at our embassies, consulates and diplomatic posts around the world.

Between 1998 and 2013, there were at least 501 significant attacks against U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel in 70 countries, that resulted in the deaths of 586 people, including 67 Americans. During the Bush administration, there were 166 attacks that killed 116 people, including 18 Americans.

Those attacks were all terrible tragedies. The difference is that we never had a political party spend years exploiting them for political gain.

I was serving in the House in 1983 when a truck bomb exploded outside the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 American service members. It was the deadliest attack on Marines since Iwo Jima, and it came just six months after 17 Americans were killed in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

Tip O’Neill was the House speaker at the time. But rather than launching a partisan witch-hunt focused on President Reagan, the House conducted bipartisan oversight and produced a completely bipartisan report.

So what is really going on here? At least three things. First, Republicans are hoping to turn nothing into something with Benghazi, the way, for example, they ruined the housing advocacy group ACORN based on thoroughly spurious charges — in order to use the fake scandal as a pretext for impeaching the president.

Second, they hope to smear Hillary Clinton with the fake scandal in order to hobble her presidential aspirations, much the way they tried to smear her with Travelgate, Filegate, Vince Foster’s “murder” and Whitewater in the 1990s.

And, finally, they are using the murders of the three security personnel and Ambassador Chris Smith in Benghazi to raise money.

*

All the references to the six previous reports sent us looking for a list. After considerable digging online, we decided to compile our own list, which follows.

There are some damning allegations in these reports, especially, as noted, the House Republicans’ partisan findings. However, if Republicans had found real evidence of a cover-up that rose to the level of obstructing justice, or of any other criminality or malfeasance on Pres. Obama’s part, they would have impeached him long ago. The same goes for evidence against former Secretary Clinton. If they had any, it would have been made public by now.

The sorry fact is that nothing Republicans found in all these investigations rises to the level of the Bush Administrations’ criminal negligence in August 2001, a few weeks before the 9/11 attacks, when a vacationing Pres. Bush glanced over a CIA Daily Brief titled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US,” tossed it back at his briefer and told him, “All right. You’ve covered your ass now.”

Democrats did not impeach Bush over what was the most serious mistake related to national security in U.S. history. In fact, despite the fact that Bush’s incompetence and negligence led to the worst attack on U.S. soil in its history, Democrats rallied around the president after bin Laden struck.

Their behavior then contrasted with Republicans’ relentless political attacks on Pres. Obama after the Benghazi tragedy sums up the degeneration of the Republican Party in the Obama era.

Investigative Reports on the Benghazi Attacks by Congressional Committees

  1. Senate Intelligence Committee

    Report released: January 15, 2014

    Report: “Review of the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012″ [PDF]. (Update: January 2016: At some point after Republicans took control of the Senate in January 2015, the original document was removed from the Intelligence Committee’s website. Thanks to an alert reader who tracked down another copy, you can read it HERE.)

    MSNBC:

    •  There was no “stand down” order given to U.S. military assets.

    •  Various versions of the talking points do not suggest the White House edited them to cover up references to Al Qaeda or to manufacture evidence of a protest.

    •  Susan Rice was unfairly blamed for a mistake.

    •  The attack may not have been pre-planned.

  2. House Republicans’ Interim Report

    Report released: April 23, 2013

    The most damning — and purely partisan — report, the “Progress Report on Benghazi Terror Attack Investigation” was released by Republican chairmen of the House Oversight, Foreign Affairs and Armed Services, Intelligence and Judiciary committees in April 2013. (Here’s the [PDF].)

    Politico.com:

    The report lists three key findings: Reductions in embassy security levels received the highest levels of support, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, talking points about the incident were changed “to protect the State Department from criticism” and the administration defended those changes to say they were protecting classified information.

    Huffington Post:

    The top Democrats on the five committees were quick to criticize the GOP report, telling House Speaker John Boehner in a letter Tuesday that they strongly objected to the report, the politicizing of national security, and their exclusion from the investigation. They called the GOP’s findings a “partisan Republican staff report on Benghazi” that dispensed with regular House procedures “for vetting official committee reports to correct inaccuracies and mischaracterizations.”

    A month after the Republicans’ findings were released, a report by CBS News indicated that White House emails cited in the findings had been altered:

    The GOP version of [National Security Adviser Ben] Rhodes’ comment, according to CBS News: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.”

    The White House email: “We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.”

    The GOP version of [State Department Spokeswoman Victoria] Nuland’s comment, according to CBS News: The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda’s presence and activities of al-Qaeda.”

    The White House email: “The penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings.”

  3. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

    Report released: Dec. 31, 2012

    Report: Senators Lieberman, Collins Release Report on Benghazi Security Considerations

    CBS News:

    The report, titled “Flashing Red,” finds that the Defense and State departments hadn’t assessed the availability of U.S. agencies to respond in Benghazi “in the event of a crisis.”

    “Although DOD attempted to quickly mobilize its resources, it did not have assets or personnel close enough to reach Benghazi in a timely fashion,” the report says.”

    It also criticizes the administration for being “inconsistent in stating publicly (in the days following the assault) that the deaths in Benghazi were the result of a terrorist attack.”

    […]

    Finding 1: In the months leading up to the attack on the Temporary Mission Facility in Benghazi, there was a large amount of evidence gathered by the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) and from open sources that Benghazi was increasingly dangerous and unstable, and that a significant attack against American personnel there was becoming much more likely. While this intelligence was effectively shared within the Intelligence Community (IC) and with key officials at the Department of State, it did not lead to a commensurate increase in security at Benghazi nor to a decision to close the American mission there, either of which would have been more than justified by the intelligence presented.

    Finding 2: Notwithstanding the increasingly dangerous environment in eastern Libya in 2011 and 2012, the U.S. government did not have specific intelligence of an imminent attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. The lack of such actionable intelligence may reflect a failure in the IC to focus sufficiently on terrorist groups that have weak or no operational ties to core al Qaeda and its main affiliates.

    Finding 3: The absence of specific intelligence about an imminent attack should not have prevented the Department of State from taking more effective steps to protect its personnel and facilities in Benghazi.

    Finding 4: Prior to the terrorist attacks in Libya on September 11, 2012, it was widely understood that the Libyan government was incapable of performing its duty to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel, as required by longstanding international agreements, but the Department of State failed to take adequate steps to fill the resulting security gap, or to invest in upgrading the Libyan security forces.

    Finding 5: The Benghazi facility’s temporary status had a detrimental effect on security decisions, and that fact was clearly known by DS personnel in Benghazi and to their superiors who nevertheless left the American personnel in Benghazi in this very dangerous situation. The Department of State did not take adequate measures to mitigate the facility’s significant vulnerabilities in this high-threat environment.

    Finding 6: The Department of State did not adequately support security requests from its own security personnel in Benghazi.

    Finding 7: Despite the inability of the Libyan government to fulfill its duties to secure the facility, the increasingly dangerous threat assessments, and a particularly vulnerable facility, the Department of State officials did not conclude the facility in Benghazi should be closed or temporarily shut down. That was a grevious mistake.

    Finding 8: The Department of Defense and the Department of State had not jointly assessed the availability of U.S. assets to support the Temporary Mission Facility in Benghazi in the event of a crisis and although DOD attempted to quickly mobilize its resources, it did not have assets or personnel close enough to reach Benghazi in a timely fashion.

    Finding 9: Although the September 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi was recognized as a terrorist attack by the Intelligence Community and personnel at the Department of State from the beginning, Administration officials were inconsistent in stating publicly that the deaths in Benghazi were the result of a terrorist attack.

    Finding 10: As discussed earlier, the talking points about the September 11th attack in Benghazi which were issued by the Intelligence Community on September 14th in response to a request by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, were the subject of much of the confusion and division in the discussion of the attack. That confusion and division were intensified by the fact that the talking points were issued before the IC had a high degree of confidence about what happened in Benghazi and in the midst of a national political campaign.

  4. House Armed Services Committee

    Report released: Feb. 10, 2014

    Report: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Releases Report on DOD Response to Benghazi

    USA Today:

    “In assessing military posture in anticipation of the September 11 anniversary, White House officials failed to comprehend or ignored the dramatically deteriorating security situation in Libya and the growing threat to U.S. interests in the region,” according to key findings of the report….

    •  Defense Department officials believed “nearly from the outset of violence in Benghazi that it was a terrorist attack rather than a protest gone awry, and the president subsequently permitted the military to respond with minimal direction.

    •  The U.S. military’s response to the Benghazi attack was severely degraded because of the location and readiness posture of U.S. forces and because commanders lacked clarity on how the terrorist action was unfolding. Given the uncertainty over how long the attack would last, however, military commanders did not take all possible steps to prepare for a more extended operation.

    •  There was no “stand down” order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi. However, because official reviews after the attack were not sufficiently comprehensive, there was confusion about the roles and responsibilities of these individuals.

  5. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

    During testimony on Benghazi given to the Oversight Committee, which was chaired by the infamously partisan California congressman, Darrell Issa, in July 2014, a few months before the committee released its report, Republican assertions about the scandal took a beating:

    The testimony of nine military officers undermines contentions by Republican lawmakers that a “stand-down order” held back military assets that could have saved the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed at a diplomatic outpost and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya.

    The “stand-down” theory centers on a Special Operations team of four — a detachment leader, a medic, a communications expert and a weapons operator with his foot in a cast — who were stopped from flying from Tripoli to Benghazi after the attacks of Sept. 11-12, 2012, had ended. Instead, they were instructed to help protect and care for those being evacuated from Benghazi and from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli…

    Beyond questions of timing, the testimony of Rear Adm. Brian Losey, who was then Special Operations commander for Africa, also challenged the idea the team had the capacity to bolster security in Benghazi.

    Losey said there was “never an order to stand down.” His instruction to the team “was to remain in place and continue to provide security in Tripoli because of the uncertain environment.” Earlier on Sept. 11, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo had been breached as well.

    Losey questioned what the four could have done to aid the situation in Benghazi, where American personnel were preparing to evacuate as soon as possible. He said assigning the small team to defend a perimeter wouldn’t have been appropriate, and would have meant the military losing its command operation in Tripoli “for the benefit of four riflemen who weren’t even riflemen.”

    “The guy’s command and control, he’s communications, medical,” Losey recounted. “I’ve got one weapons guy with his foot in a cast. Didn’t make a lot of sense.”

    The Special Operations detachment leader’s name is omitted from the testimony transcript, but he previously has been identified as Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson. More than a year-and-a-half later, Gibson, who is now a colonel, agreed that staying in Tripoli was the best decision.

    “It was not a stand down order,” he testified in March. “It was not, ‘Hey, time for everybody to go to bed.’ It was, you know, ‘Don’t go. Don’t get on that plane. Remain in place.'”

    Report released: Sept. 16, 2013

    Report: “Benghazi Attacks: Investigative Update Interim Report on the Accountability Review Board” [PDF]

    Washington Post:

    House Republicans will begin their promised fall assault on the Obama administration’s conduct before, during and after the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, with the publication Monday of a report updating their investigation of the incident and a hearing Wednesday with testimony from a high-ranking State Department official.

    The report, prepared by majority staff for House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), focuses on what it calls “shortcomings” in the Accountability Review Board investigation of the attack in which J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three security officials were killed.

    Most pointedly, it asks why the ARB, which was convened by then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton but acted independently of the State Department, held only four mid-level officials accountable for security lapses at the Benghazi site and “downplayed the importance of decisions made at senior levels of the Department,” including by Clinton.

    Virtually all the issues raised in the report have been examined at previous hearings, although Issa has alleged that the State Department and the CIA — in charge of a second Benghazi facility attacked the same night — have withheld key documents and prevented some officials from testifying or speaking in private to committee investigators.

    In a statement Sunday night, Douglas Frantz, the assistant secretary of state for communications, said that “the idea that facts are being hidden and people shielded from questioning is wrong on its face.” Calling the response to the Benghazi attacks by the administration and the ARB “thorough and transparent,” the statement said that “twisting the facts to advance a political agenda does a disservice to those who lost their lives and those who have devoted the past year to understanding what happened” and making sure it does not happen again.

  6. House Committee on Foreign Affairs

    Report released: Feb. 7, 2014

    Report: Majority Staff Report, “Benghazi: Where Is the State Department Accountabiity?” [PDF]

    SFGate

    The House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, has concluded that there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, said Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena, the second-ranking Democrat on the committee.
    The panel voted Thursday to declassify the report, the result of two years of investigation by the committee. U.S. intelligence agencies will have to approve making the report public.

    Thompson said the report “confirms that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order (to U.S. forces) was given.”

  7. House Intelligence Committee

    Report released: July 31, 2014

    Report: Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on the U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 [PDF]

18 Comments

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  • Ronda Evans
    April 18, 2015 - 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Is this a legal use of our taxpayer money. It is time to stop the Republicans –

    Are we better off than we were 10-20-30-40 years ago? No we are not better off, and our future looks even bleaker, yet we are the wealthiest country in the world. For the last 40 years our elected officials have rained money on the 1% rich, corporations and Wall Street, our justice system has sanctioned corporations trumping individual’s rights, and our laws no longer serve the common good and general welfare of all the people. Time to rain in the legislators, and punish them for causing harm and even killing Americans: Governments, and the elected officials are violating their legal duties if they each act in a way that, collectively, is known to lead to grave harms. Landmark Dutch Lawsuit Puts Governments Around the World on Notice! 4-10-15: http://billmoyers.com/2015/04/10/landmark-dutch-lawsuit-puts-governments-around-world-notice/

  • Vernon Cole
    April 19, 2015 - 11:40 am | Permalink

    Old article, but the real question is do you trust a report from politicians that were 2,000 miles away or the word of survivors that were on the ground in Benghazi and Tripoli?

  • DMA
    April 25, 2015 - 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I think Issa has the hots for Hillary!

  • Reed Alexander
    April 25, 2015 - 7:13 pm | Permalink

    If seven investigations found no evidence of criminality or malfeasance, why would anybody (except for the most rabid conservative) think that an eighth investigation would find evidence of criminality or malfeasance? Clearly this has degenerated into a political witch hunt akin to Kenneth Starr’s Whitewater investigation during the 1990’s. A more important question to ask is why weren’t there seven investigations of the 13 Benghazi-style attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates that occurred during the Bush/Cheney administration with the loss of American lives.

  • ron
    May 19, 2015 - 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Until what’s being asked for is turned over, which it hasn’t been, the investigations won’t yield anything. Let’s start with Hillary’s server and this thing will be wrapped up quickly….and she’ll go to jail.

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  • dennis nickelson
    October 22, 2015 - 11:50 am | Permalink

    Just an observation. Isn’t it interesting that the chairman of the current House Select Committee on Bengazhi, Congressman Trey Gowdy looks a lot like Harry Potter’s nemeses Draco Malfoy. Is there some hidden signifigancy to that?

  • March 13, 2016 - 9:15 am | Permalink

    There were no republicans angry at Bush because has actually sent support when the attack started… Fucking idiots

    • Allan
      September 29, 2016 - 5:01 pm | Permalink

      But people stilled died all the same, What had been done before those attacks?

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  • Kromp
    June 17, 2016 - 5:28 pm | Permalink

    One American killed in attack on U.S. government information center in Calcutta, India, near the U.S. Consulate.
    Attack on U.S. consulate in Karachi june 14 2002. No Americans died .
    Tashkent US Embassy bombing no deaths.
    6 December 2004 Jeddah, Saudi Arabia no Americans killed.
    2 March 2006 Karachi, Pakistan Car bomb explodes outside Consulate, killing a US diplomat
    12 September 2006 Damascus, Syria Gunmen raid US Embassy no Americans killed.
    8 March 2008 Sana’a, Yemen Mortar rounds missed US Embassy no Americans killed
    9 July 2008 Istanbul, Turkey Armed attack against US Consulate no Americans died
    17 September 2008 Sana’a, Yemen A coordinated attack resulted in a 20-minute battle.1 US civilian killed.
    Not one of those attack lasted for 5 hours.
    Get your facts right.The Benghazi crew was left there to die because Obama wanted to get re-elacted.

    • Jon
      June 18, 2016 - 9:16 am | Permalink

      Then CIA Director General Petraeus — a GOP god who recently pleaded guilty to giving classified documents to his mistress — testified that there was no stand-down order.

      Back up off the pipe and get your own facts straight.

  • Trisha Tomlin
    June 28, 2016 - 7:44 pm | Permalink

    No matter how hard you try, the TRUTH is Obama & company were NEGLIGENT and WORSE LIARS and they know it.

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