Sunday, November 23, 2014

It’s Time To Put Benghazi Nonsense To Rest

Ken O’Brien

The latest findings, released Friday, into the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, has refuted claims that there was a cover-up or that officials didn't do all they could at the time to save the four Americans killed that night.

The declassified two-year investigation by the Republican-dominated House Intelligence Committee, which conducted an exhaustive probe into the incident, debunked claims that the White House cooked up phony talking points for then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice. 

The report did find that the State Department was unable to protect the facility in eastern Libya where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed, but also contradicts many of the charges leveled at the Obama administration in the days and years following the attacks.

Among its findings, the report says CIA personnel responded not just well, but heroically; that there was no "stand down" order, as some critics have claimed; there was no intimidation of witnesses by superiors; there was no intelligence failure prior to the attack; and that a "mixed group" of individuals, including some linked to al Qaeda, participated in the attack.

But perhaps the most significant conclusion is its finding that Rice's talking points -- a key focus of the Benghazi Select Committee empaneled by House Speaker John Boehner -- were not part of an attempt to conceal the severity of the incident.

According to the report, early intelligence that the attacks were sparked by an Internet video was "not accurate," but not intentionally so. And the report holds that the process that produced Rice's now-infamous talking points were flawed, resulting in errors rather than deliberate lies. Indeed, the report determined that the CIA had not sorted out the conflicting intelligence until two days after Rice appeared on television claiming the attacks stemmed from a protest.

In a joint statement accompanying the release of the report, Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), said its probe was extensive:
For over two years, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence exhaustively investigated the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi Libya. 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. 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.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the Intelligence Committee and the Benghazi Select Committee, said in a statement that the new document should finally close the door on the conspiracy chatter.

"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," Schiff said.

So far the Benghazi Select Committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), has held one hearing focusing on the issue of securing diplomatic facilities. 

The House Armed Services Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the State Department's independent review board have all come to similar conclusions, even before the House launched its Benghazi panel.

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