GOP Benghazi report faults security, no new Clinton claims

2016-06-28 18:31
The interior of the burnt US consulate building in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi following an attack on the building on 11 September. (Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)

The interior of the burnt US consulate building in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi following an attack on the building on 11 September. (Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)

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Washington - Republicans on the House Benghazi Committee harshly faulted the Obama administration on Tuesday for lax security and a slow response to the deadly 2012 attacks at the US diplomatic outpost in Libya. But they produced no new allegations about then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

The attacks, which killed four Americans, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens, have been repeatedly cited by Republicans as a serious failure by the administration and by Clinton, who now is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

But the committee's 800-page report, released by Republican members, offered no "smoking gun" about Clinton's role. Panel chair Trey Gowdy has said the report was not aimed at her, though Democrats have accused the committee's Republican majority of targeting her throughout.

The report from the two-year, $7m investigation does include severe criticism of the military, CIA and administration officials for their response as the attacks unfolded the night of September 11, 2012, and their subsequent explanation to the American people.

In the aftermath, "you didn't know that a single US military asset did not meet a single designated timeline", Gowdy told reporters. "Think about that for a second."

"Nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost eight hours after the attacks began," Gowdy said at a news conference. The report documents that the US was slow to send help to the Americans "because of an obsession with hurting the Libyans' feelings", he said. The report also portrays a "series of heroic acts by Americans under attack".

Military leaders have testified repeatedly that they didn't have intelligence information on what was happening or the resources on alert to respond in time to the two attacks, hours apart.

Political fodder

The Libya attacks became immediate political fodder, given their timing in the weeks before Obama's re-election, and that has not abated despite seven previous investigations. There has been finger-pointing on both sides over security at the US diplomatic outpost in Benghazi and whether the White House initially tried to portray the assault as a protest over an offensive, anti-Muslim video, instead of a calculated terrorist attack.

The GOP report offers no major revelations, but that won't quiet the criticism of Clinton from conservatives, likely Republican rival Donald Trump and other detractors.

Republican insistence that the investigation was not politically motivated was undermined last year when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that the House committee could take credit for Clinton's then-slumping poll numbers.

In response to the report, Clinton's campaign said it had "not found anything to contradict the conclusions of the multiple, earlier investigations".

Committee Democrats released their own report on Monday saying that while the State Department's security measures in Benghazi the night of September 11, 2012, were "woefully inadequate", Clinton never personally turned down a request for additional security. Democrats said the military could not have done anything differently that night to save the lives of the Americans.

On Tuesday, the panel's Democrats denounced the Republicans' report as "a conspiracy theory on steroids - bringing back long-debunked allegations with no credible evidence whatsoever". The statement added: "Republicans promised a process and report that was fair and bipartisan, but this is exactly the opposite."

The State Department also issued a statement on Tuesday, saying that the "essential facts" of the attacks "have been known for some time", and have been the subject of numerous reviews, including one by an independent review board.

Spokesperson Mark Toner said the department had implemented most of the recommendations of the independent review board and was continuing to expand security at its facilities and improve its threat assessment.

"We have made great progress toward making our posts safer since 2012," Toner said in a statement. "Our priority continues to be carrying out our national security mission while mitigating the risks to our employees."

Toner said the department cooperated extensively with the House panel, providing more than 50 current and former employees for interviews and over 100 000 pages of documents.

Read more on:    hillary clinton  |  libya  |  us

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