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With all the intelligence available at the time, Hillary Clinton should have realized the risks Ambassador Christopher Stevens and others faced from extremist groups in Benghazi, Libya, according to a long-awaited U.S. House committee report on the attack that left Stevens and three others dead in 2012.
The report from the “Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi, Libya,” was released Tuesday. In addition to taking Clinton to task for her actions, the findings also say the Obama administration failed in nearly every way it could to protect American diplomats in Benghazi that night.
The report points out failures in military response, and slams Clinton, who was secretary of State at the time, and the State Department for acting in a “shameful” manner in failing to turn over emails from her private email server as the attack was being investigated. The report said because it did not have the emails, it was “impossible” to know everything about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that left four Americans – Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith and former Navy Seals Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, dead.
The 800-page report comes after a two-year investigation into the events of that night.
What’s in the report
Here are some of the report’s findings:
1. Despite President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s clear orders to deploy military assets, nothing was sent to Benghazi, and nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost 8 hours after the attacks began. [pg. 141]
2. With Ambassador Stevens missing, the White House convened a roughly two-hour meeting at 7:30 PM, which resulted in action items focused on a YouTube video, and others containing the phrases “[i]f any deployment is made,” and “Libya must agree to any deployment,” and “[w]ill not deploy until order comes to go to either Tripoli or Benghazi.” [pg. 115]
3. The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff typically would have participated in the White House meeting, but did not attend because he went home to host a dinner party for foreign dignitaries. [pg. 107]
4. A Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) sat on a plane in Rota, Spain, for three hours, and changed in and out of their uniforms four times. [pg. 154]
5. Five of the 10 action items from the 7:30 PM White House meeting referenced the video, but no direct link or solid evidence existed connecting the attacks in Benghazi and the video at the time the meeting took place. The State Department senior officials at the meeting had access to eyewitness accounts to the attack in real time. The Diplomatic Security Command Center was in direct contact with the Diplomatic Security Agents on the ground in Benghazi and sent out multiple updates about the situation, including a “Terrorism Event Notification.” The State Department Watch Center had also notified Jake Sullivan and Cheryl Mills that it had set up a direct telephone line to Tripoli. There was no mention of the video from the agents on the ground. Greg Hicks—one of the last people to talk to Chris Stevens before he died—said there was virtually no discussion about the video in Libya leading up to the attacks. [pg. 28]
6. The morning after the attacks, the National Security Council’s Deputy Spokesperson sent an email to nearly two dozen people from the White House, Defense Department, State Department, and intelligence community, stating: “Both the President and Secretary Clinton released statements this morning. … Please refer to those for any comments for the time being. To ensure we are all in sync on messaging for the rest of the day, Ben Rhodes will host a conference call for USG communicators on this chain at 9:15 ET today.” [pg. 39]
7. Minutes before the President delivered his speech in the Rose Garden, Jake Sullivan wrote in an email to Ben Rhodes and others: “There was not really much violence in Egypt. And we are not saying that the violence in Libya erupted ‘over inflammatory videos.’” [pg. 44]
8. According to Susan Rice, both Ben Rhodes and David Plouffe prepared her for her appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows following the attacks. Nobody from the FBI, Department of Defense, or CIA participated in her prep call. While Rhodes testified Plouffe would “normally” appear on the Sunday show prep calls, Rice testified she did not recall Plouffe being on prior calls and did not understand why he was on the call in this instance. [pg.98]
9. On the Sunday shows, Susan Rice stated the FBI had “already begun looking at all sorts of evidence” and “FBI has a lead in this investigation.” But on Monday, the Deputy Director, Office of Maghreb Affairs sent an email stating: “McDonough apparently told the SVTS [Secure Video Teleconference] group today that everyone was required to ‘shut their pieholes’ about the Benghazi attack in light of the FBI investigation, due to start tomorrow.” [pg. 135]
10. Susan Rice’s comments on the Sunday talk shows were met with shock and disbelief by State Department employees in Washington. The Senior Libya Desk Officer, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, State Department, wrote: “I think Rice was off the reservation on this one.” The Deputy Director, Office of Press and Public Diplomacy, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, State Department, responded: “Off the reservation on five networks!” The Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications, Bureau of Near East Affairs, State Department, wrote: “WH [White House] very worried about the politics. This was all their doing.” [pg. 132]
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