Benghazi investigation: No wrongdoing by Clinton, ‘failure to foresee’ threat
The US consulate main entrance in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. (AFP/Abdullah Doma)
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A House report released Tuesday on an attack on the US mission in Libya found no evidence of wrongdoing by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but indicates her failure to foresee the threat.
The 800-page report by the House Select Committee on Benghazi led by Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy included new details about the night of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks.
It accused the Obama administration of failing to grasp the level of risk in the Libyan city that led to the deaths of four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Clinton told the committee last year that she was aware of the dangers in Libya but that there was no credible intelligence indicating a planned attack.
The report claimed, however, that intelligence about a potential attack existed but Clinton and her aides failed to realize the risks posed to the mission compound.
"It is not clear what additional intelligence would have satisfied either [Clinton aide Patrick] Kennedy or the Secretary in understanding the Benghazi mission compound was at risk -- short of an attack," the report said. Kennedy served as assistant secretary of state for management – a post he currently holds.
It criticized the US military for not establishing outposts in Benghazi to quickly deploy forces in case of an attack.
“The assets ultimately deployed by the Defense Department in response to the Benghazi attacks were not positioned to arrive before the final lethal attack,” the committee report said.
“The fact that this is true does not mitigate the question of why the world’s most powerful military was not positioned to respond.”
The report also noted that forces ordered to be deployed had not left their stations at the time of the final attack.
Along with the State Department and the military, the CIA missed the looming threat despite warnings and wrote faulty intelligence reports after the attack, according to the report.
It was not CIA- or Pentagon-supported militia groups that evacuated the embassy and the CIA annex during the attack but a group of loyalists of deposed Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, it said.
“The forces, known as Libyan Military Intelligence, arrived with 50 heavily-armed security vehicles,” the report said.
The Libyan Military Intelligence was not part of the Libyan government that the Obama administration supported.
“Libya Military Intelligence -- whom the CIA did not even know existed until the night of the attacks -- were comprised of former military officers under the Qadhafi regime who had gone into hiding in fear of being assassinated, and wanted to keep their presence in Benghazi as quiet as possible so as to not attract attention from the militias in control of Benghazi,” the report said using an alternative spelling for the former Libyan leader.
The mission’s security was contracted to a militia group named the “February 17 Martyrs Brigade” that was recommended by the Libyan interim government.
According to the report, the group informed diplomatic security agents two days before the Ambassador Stevens was scheduled to arrive that it would “no longer provide off-compound security”.
The report also indicated that an internal investigation by the State Department allowed Clinton to choose who would investigate its actions.
Clinton sparred with the report saying that after two years, the committee did not find anything to contradict an independent Accountability Review Board she commissioned while she was secretary of state.
"I'll leave it to others to characterize the report but I think it's pretty clear it's time to move on," she said at a campaign event Tuesday. "The best way to honor the commitment and sacrifice of those we lost is to redouble our efforts to provide resources and support that our diplomats ... deserve."
Clinton’s campaign said the committee was trying to politicize the death of Americans in Libya to hurt her presidential campaign.
By Kasim Ileri